Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sacramento Presbytery and the President of Fuller Theological Seminary's Newsweek article

In a letter placed on Sacramento’s Presbytery web site, Moderator David Rue, gives his introduction concerning dialogue to commissioners. He is thinking of Saturday’s debate on 08- B and is hopeful that the Presbytery will find healing while in discussion.

This is part of the push toward Dialogue vs. debate that I wrote about yesterday. In the letter, Rue points to the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, Dr. Richard Mouw, an Evangelical, as a model of one who wishes to dialogue with those who disagree with his position.

Turning to an article found in Newsweek (Feb. 9, 2009) Rue writes:

“This month another Angeleno [resident of Los Angeles] pleads with the nation in his essay, ‘Less Shouting, More Talking,’ in Newsweek (February 9, 2009.) His name is Richard Mouw, a self-acclaimed evangelical, a proponent of Prop 8, and a virtual unknown. Reminding us that through talking, we have worked our way out of hopelessly deadlock [ed] impasses at other times, he suggests we again talk. He says, ‘I support the democratic process and believe that civil society is at its best when people with different perspectives engage in a mutually respectful dialogue.’"

I believe this quote, taken out of context, is meant to back up the kind of false dichotomies that can be seen in the paper "Dialogue vs. debate.”

But the content of Mouw’s article is not concerned with the difference between debate and dialogue nor do I believe that the author of the Newsweek piece would define debate in the same manner as the Dialogue paper does.

Mouw, as his article’s title implies, is concerned with the kind of argumentation that reaches an unhealthy level of insult and even violence. He writes about the insults he received because he is pro proposition 8. “I've been on talk shows where people phone in to call me a fascist or equate me with those who burned accused witches at the stake.”

Mouw also writes of those who are willing to shout insults at each other from both sides. He writes of seeing, “angry confrontation between two groups at an intersection in” his home town. “Both sides were carrying signs: one set supporting proposition 8—the ban on same sex marriage—and the other opposing it. The two groups were angrily shouting and gesturing at each other as I passed by.” He writes of his tears.

Mouw also uses his article to explain his reasons for being pro proposition 8. He writes:

While my views about sexuality are shaped by my religious convictions, I know that I cannot simply quote the Bible in arguing for public policy. Not every sin ought to be made illegal. But in this case, the issues go deep. For many of us, "normalizing" same-sex marriage comes down to deep concerns about the raising of our children and grandchildren. What will they be taught about sexual and family values in our schools? How will they be affected by the ways the entertainment media portray people with our kinds of views? And will we even be allowed to counter these influences in our homes and churches without being accused of ‘hate speech‘?”

Mouw is certainly calling for respectful dialogue. He wants everyone to hear what the other person is saying. That is also a part of debate. And debate does not mean that we need to raise our voices, our fist, or use insult. Importantly, using either debate or dialogue should not mean that we need to temporarily suspend our beliefs as the dialogue paper insists.

I am almost certain that Mouw would not temporarily suspend his beliefs; an impossible action for a Christian since it is the Holy Spirit which gives faith. And I am almost certain that it is Mouw’s faith that allowed his tears at the sight of shouting people on both sides of the Proposition 8 divide.


Anonymous said...

A couple of suggestions - 1)The issues of Marriage & Families are at the very heart of the Hebrew and Christian faiths [the relation between God and God's people];
2)Overwhelming money and media forces that are mobilized by any "side" really constitute very powerful "weapons" designed to overwhelm public opinion, even if it is called "discussion".

Viola Larson said...

Anonymous, those are good points, but I only allow identified comments on my blog. If you return please leave your full name city and state.

Viola Larson
Sacramento, Ca