If I wanted to attend a doctoral-level course in gracious patience, I would want it to be taught either by Doug Wilson, or Thabiti Anyabwile. (Happily for us, both are beginning a public dialogue on race and slavery; more on that another time, perhaps.)
As to Doug, whenever I've seen him in debate, he's the soul of unflappable patience. This quality is on display in his, er, "debate" with Andrew Sullivan. Now, you'll note I didn't hypertextualize that as is usual in blogs. That's because I do want to issue a warning: I don't particularly recommend that you listen to it. It is painful listening. Most times the case for homosexual "marriage" is given voice here, and every time the audience gives voice, you can feel IQ points gushing out your ears. In my case, I don't have them to spare, so it was less fun than a colonoscopy.
But if you insist, or if you may figure into the public debate on homosexual "marriage," you've been warned: here y'go. Don't blame me.
My purpose isn't to analyze the entire debate, though I'll throw out my impressions. Others have offered post mortems. I would say that Doug Wilson won the debate in terms of graciousness and providing anything resembling a rational case. But... and I can't tell you how reluctant I am to say this... I don't think he won the day. I found myself extremely reluctantly agreeing with Sullivan (ow, that hurt) that Wilson should not have kept his positive case for his position for the end of the debate. I think he needed a stronger case.
I have to rush to clarify that I am not saying, implying nor thinking "I would have done a better job." I just found myself wishing that Wilson had. But in that Wilson eloquently posed and insisted on an unanswerable question that is rationally devastating for Sullivan's position ("Any argument for your demand that we call homosexual pairings 'marriage' equally validates polygamy"), he scored a body-blow. Also, he kept raising the central "By what standard?" question. And I love that Doug preached the Gospel.
But it's taken a half-dozen graphs to come to my point: I fear Wilson was in an unwinnable situation. He was debating almost sheer emotion, a flood of emotional purging and manipulation. Almost all Sullivan had was (literal) sob-stories, emotion, and untrammeled subjective self-reporting. Witness this fact: with great emphasis and gravity, Sullivan insisted, "Believe me, I have deeply searched my conscience and my heart" — adducing it as if it were the trump-card, the final winning argument. As if it were, in fact, an argument at all. And both he and the audience clearly felt that all this was more than sufficient, while Wilson's emotionally cool responses fell far short of resonating or convincing.
To be clear: I refer to Sullivan's argument; not to Sullivan. Andrew Sullivan is a bright man, articulate and passionate and emotionally very evocative. I refer to his position, his case, his presentation. In terms of truth and content and logic, it's a disaster, an absolute trainwreck. Wouldn't matter if it were enunciated by Buckley or Plato or Shakespeare: it's a mess.
Sullivan insistently repeats a case that I'll paraphrase thus:
"I am a Christian, God made me this way, God loves me as I am. I am happy the way I am, this is my identity. I have hopes and dreams. I am a victim. When I told my father I was a homosexual, he wept and wept [voice breaking]... because of all the suffering he knew I'd been through without his help. So now why do you want to deny me of personhood, of my hopes, of my future, when my God accepts me and wants me to be happy? Why do you want to persecute me and rob me of fundamental rights that you enjoy, that everyone should have — just like people such as you did to blacks, to slaves? Shouldn't I be able to love and live and have hopes and dreams? Aren't I as worthy as anyone? Besides, look at divorced straights. Why do you want to condemn me to misery and hopeless despair and promiscuous irresponsibility and government assistance?"I know exactly what most of you are thinking. You're thinking the same as I. You want to dive in on the first statement ("I am a Christian"), and dismantle it. Then proceed to the next ("God made me this way"), and then the next and the next and the next...
And in so doing, we come off as uncaring, loveless automatons, religious bigots, the whole nine.
Maybe that's just the way it has to be. Someone has to be the adult in the room. God's truth mustn't, shouldn't and can't be flushed just because it "won't work." But is it simply a doomed enterprise?
It may be. The wise man says, "When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, The foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest" (Prov. 29:9). One thinks of this often, listening to the Wilson/Sullivan debate. The wise man is "cool," while the fool is molten passion.
Is the key in the famous paradox of Proverbs 26?
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.How would that work, in this debate? The entire case for homosexual "marriage" rests on the narcissism that drives our culture: affectio ergo sum, "I feel, therefore I am." We see it in the constant cry, "You must follow your heart." Well, the homosexual's heart tells him all sorts of things. As did Ghandi's. As did Hitler's. As did David Livingstone's. As does the rapist's, the philanthropist's, the child molestor's, the neurosurgeon's. As does yours. As does mine. (This is why in our day any explanation of Christ's true saving Gospel has to involve exposing our culture's false gospel at some length.)
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
So again I ask: how do we respond to sheer verbalized emotion that fixes on facts and logical arguments like a caddisfly larva does with gravel and twigs? Do we construct a rational argument expressed in emotional terms? How would that go? Like this?
I care very much about the miseries felt by homosexuals. Nobody should live in despair and hopelessness, or be cruelly oppressed. But is giving someone what he asks for always the most loving thing? Here is an addict. All he wants is more meth, more heroin. Shall I give it to him? He will tell me that he needs it, that he is miserable without it. He will tell me that it makes life hurt less, makes him happy. If I withhold the drug, he will be angry with me, he will be in pain... but would I not be more loving? After all, I know that every use moves him closer to illness and death and ruin.
Or again, consider the young man who just doesn't want to get a job. He wants me to support him. He doesn't feel like working. I have enough; aren't I obliged? If he doesn't work, he'll be unclothed, unfed, and eventually homeless.
Or here's the fat person. He hates being fat, he hates being called "fat." He implores me to call him "thin, lean and buff." He would feel so much better if I would just call him "thin, lean and buff." Why won't I? Why won't I give him what he wants? Doesn't he have the right to be happy just like everyone else, just like all the actually thin, lean and buff people? Is it unloving of me to refuse his request? Does my refusal cause him pain?
But is pain always bad and unloving? Aren't those pains motivators? Aren't they built into the universe by God to say in effect, "This is no way to live. There is a better way"? And is it not possible that the pains and frustrations of the homosexual are of the same sort — and that if we remove each obstacle, we are only speeding him towards self-destruction?
I want an answer that is loving, compassionate, and true. The only way to answer those questions is if I have an authority that is itself the epitomy of love, compassion, and truth.
Which I do. So let me explain:...Would that move us forward?
One problem: it isn't a secular argument.
So should we simply abandon secular arguments? Is this the watershed issue that shows our culture how bankrupt the path of autonomous narcissistic secularism really is? When (Sullivan to the contrary notwithstanding) the pedophiles and incestuous and polygamous who now cheer the "gay" "marriage" crowd knock at the door for their entrance using the same emotionalism, and we find ourselves fresh out of responses?
As a card-carrying Pyromaniac, I don't much like ending with a question. But there it is.