A few years back, you may recall a “Beer Summit,” held at the White House, where President Obama served as mediator between a notable college professor from Harvard who was wrongfully arrested by a local police officer due to the suspicion that he may have been involved in burglaries. This event seemed helpful in reconciling two seeming intractable parties.
There may be lessons we could learn from that episode, applied for a new day. This week, Mozilla Firefox CEO, Brendan Eich, was forced out of his job after gay activists protested a donation Eich made to Proposition 8, an initiative designed to uphold marriage as the union of a man and woman.
Of course, we all know his crime: He dared to dissent from the intractable dogma of the sexual liberation movement. His crime? Eich held a view of marriage almost universally held (even President Obama) before the last few years.
Aside from the laughable irony, this episode signals a tipping point where something must be done to accommodate those with serious disagreements about human sexuality. What’s needed is a civil public square where different points of view are tolerated. This perpetual showdown just isn’t sustainable.
Now, I’m not sure what we’d call it, given my Southern Baptist affiliation, but there needs to be something like a Beer Summit 2.0. Perhaps a Root Beer Summit?
Perhaps the President doesn’t need to intervene, though he has struck a conciliatory tone about the intentions and motives of those who disagree on marriage. But what if the noblest of leaders representing conservative Christians sat down with leaders from the LGBT movement and hashed out a plan for peaceful coexistence between the two camps?
I don’t have the specifics on what the outcomes should look like, perhaps a statement of mutual respect and principles to abide by. Something like:
- LGBT persons are deserving of dignity and respect. So, too, are conservative Catholics and evangelicals.
- Christians need to proudly affirm that all LGBT persons are made in the image of God.
- LGBT activists and organizations need to affirm that Christians do not hold their beliefs about sexuality and marriage for reasons motivated by animus.
- LGBT persons should not be turned away from services or jobs that have nothing to do with their sexuality.
- Christians should not be forced to lend their skills, talents, or trades to practices or ceremonies that they object to.
- Christian organizations, with explicitly Christian doctrines in their charter, should not be pressured to hire people whose sexual views violate evangelical dogma.
- Explicitly gay-affirming organizations should not be pressured to hire those who espouse traditional views of marriage and sexuality.
That’s just a start. Of course, this would demand a great deal from avowed adversaries. It assumes a level of magnanimity on the part of gay rights leaders that may be unachievable. I admit this. My great fear is that even the “mainstream” of the LGBT organizations propagandize against Christians in such a way as to make any possible compromise unlikely. But whether we succeed or not, it’s a worthy pursuit. It is an opportunity to be peacemakers, a vocation Christ calls of us.
I have grave concern about the future of Christian-LGBT interaction. Something must be done, and Christians, in the spirit of obedience to a God who first loved us, ought to be willing to extend a modicum of neighborly love and initiate these conversations individuals like Russell Moore, Jim Daly, Rick Warren, and Tim Keller. On the other side, perhaps Chad Griffin of Human Rights Campaign, Anderson Cooper, Andrew Sullivan, and Brandon Ambrosino.
What’s the feasibility of my proposal? I don’t know. But I fear the corrosive effects of the events like the Mozilla episode and what it portends for civil society and pluralism. These disputes pit Americans against Americans; not just Christians against gays.
A great lesson of history is this: when an oppressed minority finally gains the upper hand, it typically overreaches, going to extremes to subjugate their enemies to groveling in the dust. In these events, détente is rarely reached. Instead, embattlement and entrenchment merely passes on to the next generation.
As Christians, one of the most loving things we can bring to society is an advocacy for genuine civic pluralism. But we’ll need the other side to play, too.
I genuinely don’t want gays to feel that their identities have to be concealed. And I don’t want to live in exile in my country for my views on marriage. Something has to be done.