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Christianity Today takes on Newsweek

The editorial board of Christianity Today goes after the editor of Newsweek, Jon Meacham as well as its religion editor, Lisa Miller for the magazine's "biblical" defense of same-sex marriage. Here's an excerpt from the CT editorial:

Toward the end of his column, Meacham makes one last desperate attempt to sideline religious conservatives. He argues, "History and demographics are on the side of those who favor inclusion over exclusion." Meacham is a historian, so surely he knows how often that line has been used, often in the most evil ways. Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were sure history and demographics were on their side. As were Lenin and Stalin. Closer to home, and in Meacham's living memory: The free-love, drug-obsessed '60s generation was a social experiment that millions believed was leading us to a new, open, and joyful society. Instead, it left countless teens and 20-somethings wasted, lonely, diseased, and dead. When a writer pulls out the "history and demographics" rhetoric, you know he is at the end of his rope. He is at a loss as to how to counter the argument and logic of his opponents. Instead, he tries to intimidate them with historical determinism: "It's going to happen whether you like it or not, so just surrender!"

All this would be infuriating and insulting if it weren't finally laughable and sad. It suggests one of three things.

It could mean that Meacham and Miller are simply ignorant of the nuanced and careful biblical arguments that religious conservatives have made. But this is doubtful, since as journalists of the topic, they have surely been immersed in the literature.

It could suggest they simply don't understand the subtleties of the biblical arguments. But this can't be, because they are clearly bright people in other respects.

Or it means they have found themselves hamstrung by the richer, nuanced, and thoughtful biblical defense of traditional marriage. And they find themselves utterly incapable of responding to it on its own terms.

And so ironically, even before the first word of Miller's religious case for gay marriage has been read, Meacham has conceded that it is not a case at all, but a simple assertion. And while they both claim they are arguing against exclusiveness and for inclusivity, they have managed to exclude from this crucial national conversation a significant proportion of the American population who happen to believe there is a strong biblical case for traditional marriage.

The one thing we biblical conservatives will never do, however, is exclude people like Meacham and Miller from any conversation that matters to us. So, we invite them to sit down with us, or someone from our world, to have a biblical, intellectually rich conversation about marriage—if they really are interested in being serious about this crucial topic.

For CT, that is real tough stuff. You can read the whole thing here.

Comments (12)

These responses are very useful to Christians who think that moral argument should be addressed reasonably. Miller argued that Scripture supports the goodness of gay marriage, we argue it does not, and I think we have the better of the argument.

But do these replies have wider significance? Let's look at who Miller's article originally aimed at. Not secularists, who don't give a hoot what the Bible says. Who then? It can only be Christians. But the weakness of the argumentation means they are aiming at a particular type of Christian, one for whom the arguments don't really matter, only the desired conclusion.

I don't think this kind of Christian is going to be swayed by CT's arguments (barring grace, which I cannot exclude!). In fact, Miller's article is designed to maintain them in their ignorance, to send their consciences to sleep. And I fear that many are happy to be sent to sleep.

For CT, that is real tough stuff.

I'm rather surprised. Maybe there's hope for the NEA, too.

I think that Newsweek's people were a little worried that they might find people on their doorstep protesting if they exegeted the scriptures any differently. I only wish the Christian community was as energetic at the abortion clinic...oh they were until the orgainizers got with hit with RICO.

That is tough stuff: Playing the Hitler card, the Stalin card, and the "free-love, drug-obsessed '60s generation" card all within just a few lines of each other!

That may be a valid criticism, Mr. DeRose. Meanwhile, what did you think of Newsweek's biblical defense of gay marriage?

I'm not finding much for fans of good arguments to cheer on either side of this debate.

Okay. I guess a non-answer is better than none.

I'm just waiting for Deepak Chopra to weigh in on this...

Keith, I think CT was playing those cards as a reductio ad absurdum. That is, Meacham played the ad populum chronos card and CT showed that it's wrong to play it since it leads to moral absurdities.

"But the weakness of the argumentation means they are aiming at a particular type of Christian, one for whom the arguments don't really matter, only the desired conclusion."

Liberal Protestants writing for liberal Protestants (and, I suppose, their Evangelical and Catholic imitators).

I have a hunch that the dynamics of this debate mirror many others in this past century. The establishment storyline goes like: Enlightened mainline Protestants aim to reform the world, but are opposed by both backwoods Fundamentalists and superstitious, bigoted Catholics!

Secularists have largely adopted the same storyline, but that shouldn't blind us to the liberal Christian influence. And the mainline Protestants weren't even always wrong, as evidenced by their involvement in the Civil Rights movement.

But of course I'm just going on a hunch. Am I off base? What are the best sources for understanding the influence of mainline Protestantism?

Of course, if Meacham really wants to go the demographic inevitability route, perhaps he ought to look at actual Episcopalian membership trends vs evangelical ones, or at the reproductive fecundity of secularists and elitist liberal "Christians" vs traditional Christians.

Has it occurred to anyone but me that the whole argument of the article is basically a non-sequitir? Even if Scripture were ambiguous on the morality of homosexual acts, how would this lead us to the position that Scripture would sanction homosexual marriage? It seems that in order to bridge that chasm, you need not only an exegesis of sexual ethics from Scripture, but also of sacramental marriage to go with it. It's not clear to me that Meacham and Miller have done that.

After all, the case for traditional marriage is not limited to the disapprobation of sodomy. A same-sex but celibate marriage can not be squared with traditional understandings of sacramental Christian marriage either. Meacham and Miller are aiming at the desacrilization not merely of sex, but of marriage itself, and it is this broader issue which is at stake.

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