The following represents an ongoing collection and aggregation of objections raised concerning LGBT/religious conservative dialogue specifically (see here for a list of positive possibilities). More broadly, Phil Neisser and Jacob Hess have written elsewhere about more general objections to crossing the socio-political divide – including the following:
- Not Wanting to Fight.
- Not Wanting to Be Distracted From the Fight.
- Needing the Other Side to Be Monsters.
- Not Wanting to Risk Changing Our Convictions.
- Not Feeling Knowledgeable Enough.
- Feeling Like We’ve Heard Enough from ‘Those People.’
- Not Wanting to Waste Time.
- Feeling Too Darn Busy!
While all these concerns and barriers may still apply to this specific conversation, we’ve particular observed some particular worries and objections in this discussion worth talking about – described below. Although the goal here isn’t to respond or ‘counter’ all the objections, in some cases notes are added by way of response. By surfacing these concerns, the hope is to make space for a broad conversation about them. In virtually every case, we believe these issues can and do have satisfying answers.
- Isn’t there a deeper agenda at play here?
Liberal concern: Dialogue reflects a covert attempt at evangelizing and retaining people in homophobic institutions.
- “This ‘build a bridge’ strategy seems to be a common technique. It’s yet another in the bag of tricks that stealth evangelism uses.” (2)
- “I don’t even think some kind of reconciliation is truly his goal [the leader of a dialogue organization]” writes another – “His goal is to get everyone to believe in Jesus together. He is a true evangelical seeking to recruit people for the faith (or in this case prevent them from leaving). The “bridge-building” is just a tool for that”(3)
- “I think that he is coming from a good place, but one should always be wary of evangelicals bearing gifts” (1)
- “At first it was such a heartwarming expression of love that I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the organizers. However, it soon seemed, to me, that their goal was to ‘keep’ gays in the church” (15)
Under the guise of a support group, another commentator said this dialogue organization “is a vehicle of the church to propagate their perverse teachings regarding gay people. (15). Others described this as a “soft version of homophobia” (2) or “homophobia with a hug” (2) and a “kinder gentler” form of discrimination (2) – with another calling it “the same old hate in a brand new bag…all wrapped up in a new bright shiny lie” (in Badash, 2011).
Conservative concern: Dialogue reflects a covert attempt to subvert religious conviction with a new narrative of sexuality. As one individual writes, “In my experience, when Christians ‘dialogue’ with homosexuality activists, the ‘gay’ activists usually end up winning the most concessions and biblical values are compromised” (LaBarbera, 2014).
This kind of agenda suspicion is common in larger dialogue efforts. As discussed elsewhere, it’s common to see dialogue as a liberal or conservative tool. On one hand, conservative-leaning people sometimes see public calls for dialogue as part of the ‘liberal agenda’ for changing society – as some kind of an “educational tool” being used exclusively to “promote diversity, social justice, and social change.” And on the other hand, liberal-leaning people can see dialogue as reinforcing the status quo norms – pointing to historical instances where a simple invitation to ‘talk’ has functioned to placate the angry, subvert intended action or muffle dissent.
On the concern about others trying to ‘change you,’ in dialogue – most people who experience authentic dialogue find this not to be the case. For instance, speaking of his years of experience in these dialogue events, one gay-identifying man writes, “I am just as gay—and just as Christian—going into these occasions as when I leave them. If anything for me, they are opportunities to become more authentic in both regards. Andrew creates a safe and welcoming space where people of all stripes can enter these important conversations.”
2. Why would you talk in a space (or with someone) where gay rights hasn’t been openly affirmed?
- “Tell me homosexuality isn’t a sin, and we’ve got ourselves a chat. Don’t, and we don’t–cuz then I already know who you are” (Shore, 2012)
- “At this point, I cannot imagine what it is you and this group offers to gay and lesbian people, since you will not stand for their equality. How can you “affirm that all people are worthy of dignity, fair treatment, kindness, and respect” but refuse to promote it? That’s just empty words. You say you want to “build relationships,” but it’s not a relationship of equals…and your organization is not interested in doing what’s needed to change that” (10)
- “I really think [this dialogue leader] does want better LGBT/Church relations. He just doesn’t understand that this first requires the church to accept and affirm LGBT people, their relationships and their families….the process of reconciliation can’t begin without that affirmation” (7)
[Why would you talk in a space (or with someone) where homosexuality is welcomed and celebrated?]
- “[The leader of this dialogue organization] largely sidesteps any engagement with the question of whether the authors of Scripture treat homosexual practice as a [serious] sexual offense. Instead, he claims to have found eternal principles… that ‘bridge the GLBT and Christian communities,’ ‘stop the fight,’ and enable the two sides to ‘understand [their] differences'” (Gagnon, 2010)
- “When Paul encountered the case of the [sinful] man at Corinth he did not say, “Let’s stop the fighting over what Scripture says…and try to find eternal principles that will help us bridge our differences” (Gagnon, 2010)
- Isn’t anything less than a direct and vigorous affirmation of gay rights immoral (suspicious, ridiculous, a cop-out, etc.)?
- “Supporting us in a limited fashion is not enough! [This dialogue effort] is a way to continue the bigotry without opening minds in a lovie dovie way. If [you] cannot see this then they are blind to the facts and to the issues of the LGBT community! We don’t need ‘pretend’ allies and ‘limited love’, we need support for our rights as a community and individuals. If [you] cannot do this then they need to just go away!” (15)
- “We are not simply askingfor kindness, we are demanding full equality” (Adamson, 2012b)
- “To illustrate to absurdity of [the dialogic] position consider this. Would the [dialogue organization], if it existed at the time, take this same ‘bridge building’ and neutral stance regarding discrimination in our country based on race? Would he stand in the middle of the racist and hate filled churches that used their religion as a cover for their lack of humanity on one occasion, urging them to have a conversation with the ethnic minorities they had condemned, suppressed, abused and killed, and then journey over to the African American communities and ask them to engage in the same conversation, all while never condemning racism for all of its inherent evil, hate and immorality? When you look at it that simply, the reality is quite clear. It is time for this man to take a stand against what is wrong and champion that which he believes to be good” (4)
- “I would hope that you would expect someone who claimed to understand, love, and support you to fight for your equality. To take your hand and sit with you in that seat on the bus. To help you carry those books into that segregated school. To order that drink for you from the man who hates you. I would hope that you would expect for that person to speak up in defense of your rights – especially to those in power. I would hope that you would expect that person to walk with you down the aisle on the day of your wedding and celebrate with you as you commit to cherish forever the one you love most in this world. You want to build a bridge? This is your chance” (Adamson, 2012a)
[Is anything less than direct rejection of homosexuality moral?]
- “[This dialogue leader]’s cozying up to the GLBT community comes at too great a cost: shutting up as regards what Scripture has to say about homosexual practice (and, worse, misrepresenting it), while gay Christians and their homosexualist supporters continue to press their case for accepting homosexual relationships (to say nothing about the full-court press of the broader secular society). [His] approach differs not only from that of Paul but also from that of Jesus. Jesus reached out to ‘sinners and tax collectors’ but did not shut his mouth to economic exploitation and sexual impurity. He called people to repentance for these and other sins” (Gagnon, 2010)
- “[This dialogue group’s professed] love is a truncated love at best; functional hate at worst, if it encourages the offender to view his sinful actions as no big deal” (Gagnon, 2010)
- “If Scripture indicates that ongoing homosexual behavior jeopardizes inheritance of eternal life even for professed believers (and it does indicate precisely that), then withholding that information from a prospective convert from the homosexual community is not a kindness or favor.” (Gagnon, 2010)
- By not taking a stand and attempting to occupy the middle ground, aren’t you supporting the oppressors and evading a higher responsibility?
- “When it comes to the issue of LGBT equality, there is no middle ground. There can’t be. The Christian/LGBT issue is a moral And moral issues are by definition about right and wrong. And this particular moral issue is one of no small consequence. There couldn’t be more at stake with it” (Shore, 2012b)
- “No matter how strenuously he or she might deny it, any Christian who fails to forthrightly and unambiguously assert that there is nothing whatsoever inherently immoral about same-sex relationships haschosen a side in this conflict. They’ve chosen to perpetuate the maligning, ostracizing, and degradation of gay people by Christians” (Shore, 2012b)
- “The bridge-building shtick strikes me as ineffective at best (toward facilitating real change or reconciliation) and disingenuous at worst. People can agree-to-disagree about sin and theology all day long, and that’s fine, but agreeing-to-disagree about civil rights is not a morally neutral position to take. What does it matter if the [dialogue proponents] are ‘nicer’ about their lack of commitment to equal rights for LGBT people?” (2)
- “After witnessing a lifetime of millions of gay men being ridiculed, beaten-up and sometimes killed…it is impossible for me to accept that there is a valid ‘other side’ to this discussion ” (1)
**Note: This is an especially common concern. Dialogue does not require one to acknowledge the “validity” of another side – or to respect another’s positions. Rather, the aim is to understand the other side – even and especially when we find the others’ views repugnant. In doing so, we often come not to respect others’ (crazy, dangerous, invalid) views, so much as to respect the humanity of those who hold them.
- Might this dialogue be doing harm by giving legitimacy to positions that don’t deserve it – thus, enabling oppression?
- “Christians to Gays: You are horrible people who are going to hell.
Gays to Christians: No we’re not.
[Dialogue groups]: You’re both right.
Me: WTF?” (1)
- “The problem is that he saying that both sides… have equally valid points and that they should just get along with each other and be nice. That’s a huge, huge issue in American discourse…leading “to media outlets giving voices to all kinds of fringe groups because everyone, no matter how crazy, is treated like they have a legitimate opinion that’s worth listening to on a national stage. This may work in academic circles when debating things that don’t really affect anyone. It certainly doesn’t work when the topic is civil rights. Sometimes one side is simply wrong and doesn’t have any or few valid arguments” (1)
- Others raise concerns that these kinds of dialogue efforts “enable the oppressors” (1, 3, 4) by “validating their viewpoint” (4) – treating “both sides as equally having equally valid, viewpoints and wants everyone to just agree to disagree. It’s really disgusting.(3)
**Note. Although the opportunity to be heard represents a kind of legitimacy-granting (e.g., “you’re not so crazy that you don’t deserve to be listened to and taken seriously”), as noted above, there is no expectation, anticipation or prediction that participants in dialogue give legitimacy or credence to the views of other participants. Once again, dialogue is not about validating, respecting, agreeing, reconciling or even agreeing this is ‘your truth.’ Rather, it is about hearing out seriously and thoughtfully what exactly another sees and experience that to be (even and especially if that seems dangerous, wrong and misguided).
Nonetheless, this concern can remain – and is important to explore. As one commenter said:
“So, instead of fighting back against the lie-riddled rhetoric of those who seek to use the machinery of the state against us and to deny us equal access to its provisions, we should just smile sweetly and say, ‘I understand how you feel, and why you hate me, but I love you. Now please, continue comparing me to pedophiles and murderers and passing laws that allow discrimination against me at work and in public accommodations.’ Kisses!”
As reflected here, dialogue feels like a weak-sauce and pitifully naive approach for life or death matters. Advocacy and fighting, to be clear, is not mutually incompatible with dialogue. It’s also important not to misunderstand that dialogue asks no one to lay aside passion, conviction or frustration. Instead of asking us to suppress these things, dialogue actually offers a place where we can explore them in the light of day.
- Might this kind of dialogue sooth consciences and distract people from larger changes needed?
- “These dialogue people use fuzzy, non-committal language that ultimately serves no purpose beyond allowing Christians to feel better about maintaining their conviction that homosexuality is a sin” (Shore, 2012a)
- “Those who persist in doing nothing more than ‘elevating the conversation’ succeed in doing nothing more than alleviating the pangs of conscience that Christians on the right should be encouraged to feel for clinging to their convictions that same-sex relationships are an abomination to God” (Shore, 2012b)
- “…then you don’t have to look at the bigger picture which is precisely how intractably intertwined anti-LGBTQ prejudice and discrimination are with Christianity” (2)
- “It sends a message that you’re not really homophobic just because you think Gay folks should not get married” (15)
- Might this kind of dialogue provide political “cover” for religious conservatives – taking the pressure off and conveying a false impression of openness?
- “There are Christians who feel they should be able to discriminate. And not taking a stance on it gives them cover to continue to do that” (1)
- “Since these groups and persons are no threat to the church (they don’t talk or push politics, ect.) the church gains a double win. Good press AND a place to hide silent on the issue. A place where they don’t have to address concerns or problems…a place to remain stagnant, our rights are put on hold and our communities remain toxic. Meanwhile people start relieving pressure on the church to address LGBT issues..” (15)
- “In my opinion, [this dialogue group] should either be the quiet and constant support from within, or be the energized, fully-affirming voice that is needed outside. But by trying to be both, it is diluting the external pressure that institutions like the church and [conservative local] government NEED to feel. They NEED to know that” (Adamson, 2012b)
- “The reason I believe, and agree, that [this dialogue effort] is bad for the LGBT community is that it sends a message that you can ‘support’ the gay community without really supporting it” (15)
- “[This dialogue group] is misrepresenting the church not only to the gays, but to the world. And if they are making the church seem a little more progressive, a little less austere, a little more focused on loving everyone “(15)
- Might these dialogues convey a false message of openness from conservatives to the gay community – which, in turn, may lead to actual harm?
- “In the end, who is benefitting from [this dialogue organization’s] actions? One could argue that the gays connected to the church are, because of those flashes of feeling accepted and loved. But feeling accepted and loved is not the same as being accepted and loved, and in fact when one has the former and lacks the latter, it can be dangerous. It’s a sense of false security. It leads to complacency. It leads to a failure to improve one’s situation. It keeps us from rocking the boat.
- “Just so long as nobody starts pushing for anything politically. Just so long as the group is handing out hugs and Band-Aids instead of social change and policy re-writes. And sadly, too many gays are simply accepting their hug and going back to quietly cry in the corner, believing the lie that at least someone out there is fighting for them” (15)
- Given how much emotional work this seems to require, it’s hard to see the benefits to the gay community. Aren’t these groups happier not talking to each other?
- “Few gay people I know have had the experience of how real dialog can make this better for everyone. Most gays don’t get that far: we reject bigots, and move on. Convincing others of who you are is just TOO MUCH WORK, and in our experience is very often not worth the undertaking, esp. w/strangers….most of my friends have no need to build bridges, less and less so now. We just befriend the younguns, they get it” (2)
- “Where is this requirement for connection coming from? It certainly isn’t coming from the LGBT community – Or, as far as I can see, from conservative Christianity. As a gay man I would be perfectly content if I never had to see or talk to another conservative Christian as long as I live. And I should imagine that most conservative Christians would be quite happy never to have anything to do with me. So why do we need to connect?” (2)
- With so little hope of progress, why even go there?
- “It will do nothing to bring about reconciliation. It can’t. The two points of view are irreconcilable. Why not accept that and let everyone move on with their lives?” (2)
- [One response to the initial workshop proposal on the D&D listserv] – “Here’s the thing to remember about D&D: not everything is meant to be kissing buddies with everyone.”
- “These differences are not actually bridgeable …there will be no lasting or substantial ‘peace’ between the LGBT community and the Mormon church….no real accommodation, no ultimate accommodation…One or the other side will win, or neither will, and the battle will go on forever…this is a fight to the death.”
Sources and Citations
(1) Public comments in response to: Andrew Marin, April 14, 2013, My Response to Dan Savage’s Accusations about The Marin Foundation in the New York Times
(2) Public comments in response to: Tony Jones April 15, 2013 Dan Savage vs. Andrew Marin
(3) Public comments in response to: Jim Burroway April 15th, 2013 The Problem Of Lukewarm
(4) Public comments in response to: Hemant Mehta April 14, 2013 Why Straddling the Fence on LGBT Issues Doesn’t Work: Andrew Marin’s Response to Dan Savage
(7) Comments on: Cohen, Ego (July 14, 2010) The Marin Foundation – still banging.
(10) Public comments in response to: Heidi Weaver September 25, 2013 A Response to Our Critics
(11) Public comments in response to: Heidi Weaver Sept 27, 2013 A Response to Our Supporters
(15) Public comments in response to: Jonathan Adamson Oct 10, 2012 “Mormons Building Bridges” is bad for the LGBT community
(16) Reddit comments “Mormon‘s Building Bridges” organization turns out to be not so great.
Adamson, Jonathan (October 10, 2012). “Mormons Building Bridges” is bad for the LGBT community
Adamson, Jonathan (October 20, 2012). Mormons Building Bridges Revisited
Badash, David (October 8, 2011). Dan Savage Does Not Hate You. Gay Agenda News
Gagnon, Robert A. J. Truncated Love: A Response to Andrew Marin’s Love Is an Orientation
LaBarbera, Peter (March 22, 2014). Chick fil–A CEO Dan Cathy Sells Out – Heeds Advice of ‘Gay’ Activist to Retreat on Pro–Natural–Marriage Advocacy
Landau, Christopher, (September 24, 2011) BBC World Service, Chicago Why conservative Christians flock to a Chicago gay bar
Love Boldly (2012). Love Boldly Testimonials
Marin, Andrew (July 15, 2010). Part 3: Note to Skeptics
Marin, Andrew (August 3, 2012) My Quick Thought on Chick–Fil–A. Red Letter Christianity.
Marin Foundation (2010) “Get involved”: Living in the Tension Gatherings.
Marin Foundation (2010) Guide to Creating and Sustaining The Marin Foundation’s Living in the Tension Gatherings 2nd Edition
Merritt, Jonathan, (June 24, 2013). Christians, sexuality, and the exodus of Exodus: An interview with Andrew Marin.
Shore, John (June 10, 2012). “It’s no sin to be gay.” See how easy that was, Andrew Marin?
Shore, John (June 11, 2012). Christians and LGBT Equality: There Is No Middle Ground
Signorile, Mike (July 13, 2010). More on False Prophet Andrew Marin, The Gist
Visitor Count: 1,903 views