I don’t agree with Sarah Posner on much of anything, but she is fun to talk to.  As we both followed the recent scrums about the nature and extent of religious liberty with considerable interest, we decided that a conversation would be fitting and good.

What followed is an hour of sparring that is, I think, worth your time.  Thanks for watching.  Feedback (good or bad) is most welcome.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. Matt,

    I really enjoyed this conversation – thanks for posting it.

    I’m astounded that Sarah doesn’t see the path from a national affirmation of same sex marriage to a national removal of tax exemption status for religious institutions which do not affirm same sex marriage or homosexuality. I find her connection between the gay rights movement and the women’s suffragist movement to be flimsy and I would like for her to have been pushed harder on that point. Where does she see those comparisons made? I’d like to know.

    Moreover, the gay lobby (GLAAD, HRC, ACLU, and their allies at Salon, HuffPo, Jezebel, etc) are far more antagonistic toward people of faith than was the “feminist lobby.” Take the recent example in Canada where a lesbian businesswoman walked into a Muslim owned barber shop and demanded a haircut. This woman set herself up to have cause to bring the offending Muslim business owner before the government just as the gay couples in Colorado and New Mexico who sued the baker and the photographer. These businesses were targeted for the lawsuits that the gay lobby is using to shape law in this country.

    Every year the nation’s top law schools hold a lavender graduation, a special graduation for law students who are LGBTQIA or allies of the cause and have set for themselves the goal of advancing “gay rights” through cause-lawyering (among other means). Similarly, there is the Lavender Bars, an official state bar related entity for licensed attorneys who are dedicated to the advancement of gay rights. There exists no such parallel for women, for racial minorities, or for people of faith. The point being, there is a clear intention among the gay rights lobby to advance their agenda through the very sort of targeted lawsuits that Sarah so casually dismisses. We have precedent for it in the cases I’ve already mentioned and we have an entire generation of people who are dedicating their legal careers to advancing “gay rights” through similar cause lawyering.

    Sometimes, you just wonder if people are paying attention. Let’s hope conservative churches and institutions aren’t living under similar delusions.


  2. Nice job dancing on that ledge. I didn’t find your performance disappointing because, at the moment, I wouldn’t have done any better. But the whole thing is very … unsatisfactory. I think we still need to frame our whole approach to the gay rights issue differently than the American religious right has done over the last three decades. Unfortunately, my thinking on this hasn’t led to any satisfactory conclusions. It’s probably time to find them.

    Do we want to live in a society where business owners are punished for honestly trying to follow their religious beliefs? No. Do we want to live in a society where a gay couple arranging a wedding has to settle for a second rate wedding because of religious social ostracism? I say no. Do we want to live in a society where it is the government’s job to fix the religiously motivated social ostracism of cake bakers? No. Should we EVER use the word “persecution”? Yes, when discussing believers who are imprisoned or murdered in the third world.

    I’ve been following your series on the subject. You’ve done a good job asking quite of few good questions (some of which are not often asked). But now the real work begins. It’s time to move this one off that ledge. Dimidium facti qui coepit habet.


  3. Social traditionalists lost on both the gender front and the race front. But today, those who oppose women’s equality are merely viewed as antiquated, if not comic. By contrast, those who oppose racial equality are simply viewed as evil. So, I suppose it’s worth asking what the difference is.
    I’d suggest that the difference lies in the way that these two separate battles were settled. On women’s rights, traditionalists agreed to a reasonable compromise at a fairly early stage. Once it became apparent that the battle would be lost, traditionalists raised the white flag and negotiated a reasonable peace at a time when they still had some bargaining power.
    That didn’t happen on race, at least not in most parts of the South. Instead, segregationists dug in their heels, and vowed to fight desegregation tooth and nail. Litigation raged for more than 15 years. Segregationists determined that they would refuse all opportunity to compromise, fight to the bitter end, and accept desegregation only when forced upon them.
    How we handle loss says something about how we view the victors. When we fight to the bitter end, even after the outcome of the game is clear, it suggests that we view the victors as less worthy than ourselves. So, we make sure that we extract a pound of flesh or two, committing hard, pointless fouls even when the game is effectively over.
    So, I’d suggest that the difference between how we view sexists and racists lies in how the culture concluded that they viewed women and blacks, respectively. Because the opponents of sexists reached a negotiated peace early, it suggested that they viewed women as having similar worth as human beings. The culture therefore saw no need to further stigmatize them. But the story was different for the racists. Because they fought to the bitter end, it suggested they viewed their opponents as having less worth as human beings. Therefore, the culture felt the need to stigmatize racism in a way that it didn’t stigmatize sexism.
    Therefore, regarding same-sex marriage, I’d say that the ball is largely in the hands of the social conservatives. They still have a reasonable amount of leverage with which to cut a deal. But it’s clear that they’re going to lose. If they keep fighting to the bitter end, I suspect that society will come to stigmatize those views, believing that the refusal to make peace reflected a need for social exclusion.


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