I don't get that excited about the perennial calls for civility in politics. Treating others with respect is important, and I certainly have no problem with political discourse that's even friendly and good-humored. But it's not clear that the latter serves any purpose beyond itself—that it builds understanding or encourages useful moderation or enables compromise. Chatting may be generally preferable to yelling, but it's not really a solution to division and gridlock. I do, however, appreciate timely reminders that our neighbors include those we disagree with.
So it sounds like Tony Perkins--whose relative civility we both acknowledged and declined to be overly impressed by last week--will accept a dinner invitation from gay rights activist Jennifer Chrisler, who is married to a woman. Chrisler's invitation to Perkins followed Dan Savage's to Brian Brown, of the anti-same-sex-marriage National Organization for Marriage.
On Sunday night I went to hear Dan Savage speak about the It Gets Better Project. The last time I saw him was 2003, if memory serves, in front of a crowd of perhaps a hundred. At one point Savage took a break from promoting his new book Skipping Toward Gomorrah to refer his audience to the now-famous New Republic cover story "The Liberal Case for War" (against Iraq). It was a good talk, funny and engaging, and it made a striking contrast with his Sunday appearance.
Our August 23 cover story on monogamy and Dan Savage has gotten a lot of feedback, both positive and negative. Benjamin Dueholm offers a nuanced take on the ways the popular sex columnist is beating pastors at their own game--and the ways Savage's ethical worldview falls short. Some readers seem too stuck on the first point--"the Christian Century believes we should be instructed by an advice columnist," crows Joe Carter at First Things--to hear Dueholm out on the second.
While Dan Savage, an atheist, wouldn't put it this way, the popular sex columnist exegetes rules about relationships with the precision of a rabbi or canon lawyer. Pastors should pay attention.