Restoring Political Civility with Richard Mouw

“Restoring Political Civility: An Evangelical View” with Richard Mouw was as hard as any show in my memory to produce, edit, script — and even to justify, as news unfolded while we were creating it.

I have known Richard Mouw for 15 years and interviewed him on this program in its early days. Other Evangelical Christian leaders have been more visible in American political and media life: Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard, James Dobson, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, and on the more progressive side Jim Wallis and Richard Cizik. I have followed them, but I have also always kept my ear and eye on quieter figures like Richard Mouw. As president of Fuller Theological Seminary, with more than 4000 students from 70 countries and over 100 denominations, he is training generations of Evangelical and Pentecostal pastors and global leaders.

And in this political season, in which values have once again — and with a new edge of hysteria — come to be a rallying cry for viciousness, I wanted to speak with him again. A book he first wrote in 1992, Uncomon Decency, has just been released in a revised version with the subtitle, “Christian Civility in an Uncivil World.” Mouw has long been a kind of bridge person — theologically conservative on some issues and more progressive on others — but he most fervently insists that the way people are treated is a greater measure of Christian virtue than the positions one takes.

I’ve wondered rhetorically how our political life would have evolved differently if the Christian re-emergence into politics in the late 20th century had modeled a practical love of enemies. My own deepest despair at present is not about the vitriol and division per se — as alarming as they are. It is about the fact that we seem to be losing any connective tissue for engaging at all, on a human level, across ruptures of disagreement. Across the political spectrum, many increasingly turn to journalism not for knowledge but to confirm individual pre-existing points of view. What we once called the red state, blue state divide is now more like two parallel universes where understandings of plain fact are no longer remotely aligned. This leads to a diminishing sense of the humanity of those who think and live differently than we do. And that is the ultimate moral slippery slope, for everyone on it and for the fabric of our civic life.

Richard MouwRichard Mouw lays out the imperative to all kinds of Christians for gentleness, reverence, humanity, and “honor” of the different other at the heart of the Bible and the life of Jesus. But this is not a feel-good plea for harmony. Even as he calls for civility and gentleness, Mouw reasserts his public and private opposition to gay marriage and civil unions. The civility he calls for would not minimize difference, at least at the outset, but would create a different space for discussing and navigating it — indeed for bringing differences into public life with virtue and vitality of expression. Picking up on a phrase coined by Christian historian Martin Marty, Richard Mouw builds upon this idea of “convicted civility.”

We had impassioned and difficult discussions on our production team about his ideas, and the complications and contradictions they present. When he says that, as a Christian, he sees other human beings as “works of divine art,” can that genuinely apply to a person whose sexual identity he defines as fundamentally wrong? And then, in the thick of creating this show, the Rutgers student Tyler Clementi committed suicide — one of a string of suicides of gay youth. This sharpened a question of whether religious views condemning homosexuality — however civilly expressed — inevitably fuel hateful, even fatal, behavior.

With all of this on my mind, I was struck by an open letter the Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler wrote in direct response to those teen suicides. Though Mohler is to the right of Richard Mouw theologically and culturally, his letter takes an unexpectedly kindred tone. Mohler leads the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and one of the most conservative. He spends the first few paragraphs of his statement reiterating his firm theological conviction that homosexuality is a sin. But in words that echo a search for a new way of “convicted civility,” Mohler confesses, “Much of our response to homosexuality is rooted in ignorance and fear.” And he asks, of the faithful and of his church leaders, “What if Tyler Clementi had been in your church? Would he have heard biblical truth presented in a context of humble truth-telling and gospel urgency, or would he have heard irresponsible slander, sarcastic jabs, and moralistic self-congratulation?” I read in Mohler’s statement a profound shift of tone, if not of position — and an opening to new ways of being.

This all drives towards a question I pursue in so many of my conversations: How does social change happen? We will not all be “on the same page,” as Americans like to be, on sexuality or many other issues for generations to come. The 21st century has opened up questions Western civilization thought it had put to rest. Some of them are intimate and raw, terrifying in every life at some point and therefore all the more unsettling when we are forced to ponder them out in the open together. Same-sex marriage is but the tip of an iceberg of human redefinition: What is relationship? What is marriage? What is friendship? What constitutes a family? In this messy moment, we retain our rights and responsibilities as human beings and citizens to discern our truths and live by them. But we have no choice, at the same time, if we want this to end well, to search for new ways to discern our multiple truths while living together.

Richard Mouw suggests that we need to start some of our conversations again from the beginning, certainly the conversation about sexuality. He believes that only by naming our hopes and our fears, articulating them among ourselves, revealing them to each other, can we begin to recreate something called a common life, which can contain, and not be destroyed by, our differences. I want to believe him, to believe that this is one answer to the question of how social change happens. If I didn’t believe that a new kind of conversation can also be a starting point for walking forwards together — living together, differently — I would not do what I do.

And yet, maybe another reality we have to live with is that these critical new conversations will start small, in many places, compelling us to connect dots for a while in lieu of convening the sweeping dialogue we might hope for. I’d point to a few that we’ve pulled together at onBeing.org with this show, including Albert Mohler’s letter in its entirety as well as a Religion Dispatches report about an historic meeting between a senior Mormon elder and LGBT Mormons.

1990 Ordination of Gay and Lesbian PastorsWe’ve also posted a piece we admire by fellow journalist Sasha Aslanian titled “Sex, Death, and Secrets” — featuring an interview with two lesbian pastors who’ve experienced a roller coaster ride of discernment within their own denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

And we’ve posted another kind of contribution to civility, an act of care for “despairing LGBT kids who are being bullied and harassed, kids who don’t think they have a future” — Dan Savage and Husband Terry from "It Gets Better" Projecta video project called “It Gets Better” that was created by syndicated columnist Dan Savage and his husband Terry. Both come from families with conservative religious roots, and we see photographs that bespeak the embrace they’ve both received as members of these families. They are photographs of love that has overcome convictions — or chosen to live in a gracious, loving tension alongside them. This too is possible. Please add your thoughts, stories, and pictures — your dots, if you will — to this difficult, dispersed, essential conversation.


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24Reflections

Reflections

Having grown up in an ultra-conservative corner of the American South, I have learned the hard way that trying to have a "constructive dialogue" with fundamentalist Christian bigots is utterly pointless. When figures like Richard Mouw deny large swathes of humanity their basic human rights and dignity, the only proper response is to tell them they are wrong, and to point them in the right direction. It should be obvious to anyone with a libido that the gender you are attracted to is not a matter of choice, and that people who are gay can only live full and happy lives when their partnerships are accepted by the wider community.

I don't much believe in heroes, but if I had one, Martin Luther King would be at the top of my list. His reaction to calls for greater patience on the part of black people who were being denied their civil rights are relevant to the debate over gay rights today:

'We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."'

*Convicted civility* = yet more evangelical bullsh*t.

Two points for Richard Mouw:
1. Why is evangelical Christianity always late? Denouncing slavery: late. Equal rights for non-whites: late. Equal rights for women: late. And now equal rights for homosexuals: absent. When will you show up for this one? Late again or never?
2. By your own admission in this interview, evangelical Christianity has imagined, exaggerated, and outright lied about many of the evils they claim threaten our world. So if we cannot trust evangelical Christianity to play honest and fair about their imaginary devils, have you ever stopped to wonder whether they're exaggerating and imagining their god, too?

If you read your history you would know that evangelical Christians are the ones who lead the way in freeing the slaves, both in this country and earlier in England -- look up William Wilberforce and John Newton.

"I’ve wondered rhetorically how our political life would have evolved differently if the Christian re-emergence into politics in the late 20th century had modeled a practical love of enemies."

I've wondered myself what this program would have evolved to be if it had modeled a practical love of its enemies.

The enemies (or as some involved with the show might prefer, the Other) I have in mind are the ones once again attacked, however quietly, in Ms. Tippett's post and, more loudly, in comments here, and who have never been treated on this show with the love shown for people with more liberal views.

I don't think the people who run this show have even an inkling, let alone a full and vivid sense, of how entrenched and pervasive their biases and prejudices are and how thoroughly they have shaped and damaged the show.

"Across the political spectrum, many increasingly turn to journalism not for knowledge but to confirm individual pre-existing points of view. What we once called the red state, blue state divide is now more like two parallel universes where understandings of plain fact are no longer remotely aligned."

Being (the show) has contributed to this. The unmistakable liberal slant, the continual implicit and explicit opposition to certain conservative elements, and the implicit and explicit promotion of liberal views, has inhibited understanding and love of the enemy, and kept the enemy from joining in the project. Being has gathered an audience who largely share its polarized view and has largely left out those who do not. Look at the comments here and elsewhere on the site for unmistakable evidence of this, and of the fact that preaching love for the enemy while not practicing it doesn't work.

This show seems to have taken a special interest in reaching out to atheists and others who are on the liberal fringe of belief. That's a good thing, but it's not hard because so many of them share the same liberal views the show has, which oddly often unify and divide more than spiritual values (perhaps a sign of which values have the deeper hold in our culture). I don't know if the show sees these fringe believers as lost sheep, but there's no question the real lost sheep for this show are the conservatives it's opposed to. Reaching them might require leaving the 99 others for a time, but the call is clear. In losing self by loving the enemy the show can find itself, and help the audience to do the same.

A couple more illustrations:

"We had impassioned and difficult discussions on our production team about his ideas, and the complications and contradictions they present. When he says that, as a Christian, he sees other human beings as “works of divine art,” can that genuinely apply to a person whose sexual identity he defines as fundamentally wrong?"

This appears unreflective. Does Mouw see this as a contradiction, or as any more of a contradiction than the view that humans are both divine beings and fallen beings in respect to things other than sexual orientation as well? Does anyone at Being understand his position, let alone that of more conservative believers? If so, shouldn't it be acknowledged instead of simply assuming there is a contradiction special to his views?

"I want to believe him, to believe that this is one answer to the question of how social change happens."

This also appears unreflective. It appears what you want to believe is that Mouw and others will be open to come around to your views, not that you will be open to change. Why isn't the implicit certainty underlying this viewed as a fundamentalism?

(One more point to reflect on. The Christian view is that God is Love, not Civility. I'm not sure the latter can be substituted for the former, nor that the former doesn't sometimes violate the latter. The New Testament suggests otherwise.)

Hmmm. Can't edit my post with either of my browsers, so I'll just add that when I say Being (the show) doesn't model love of certain kinds of conservatives, I mean the show excludes and suppresses them and their views, that they and their views aren't well understood nor is much effort made to understand them on the show except as the Other, that they are often criticized in ways no others are, not always correctly and even when others are deserving of similar criticism, and in short that there is an obvious, powerful and persistent bias against them. None of this bias is consistent with love (though criticism may be). I refer to people like Glenn Beck, Franklin Graham, and the less progressive figures Ms. Tippett lists in her column above, and their followers and fellow travelers--mostly not only well known people but an entire class of believers.

If anyone doubts the show's clearly polarized approach hasn't had the polarizing effects Ms. Tippett seems to fear on the audience, a survey of the comments so far ought to be a good clue.

You state that the show reaches out to atheists. Let me tell you, most atheists I know, me included, find the show to be all about emotions and feelings and is ignorant of science and dismissive of morality separate from religion. The atheists that I know think that the host is probably a sweet woman but the show is about a bunch of superstitious make believe that really doesn't impress us.

You criticize the show for not being open to change. There is no need to be open to change if the change means being wrong. Mouw is wrong. Even more wrong than Tippet.

Martha, you are of course illustrating my point. The people commenting on this show are more polarized and more certain of their views than the faith community as a whole, and are not about to really listen to anyone else's views about this.

And why should they? This show doesn't fundamentally challenge their certainty about this or give them good reason to listen; rather it mainly reinforces the certainty and projects its own lack of openness. That is, the openness is to allowing the Other side to change, a very limited openness. "Let's be open to them getting that speck out of their eye eventually" seems to be the attitude. Ms. Tippett's post above is practically an apology for even talking to Mouw. This isn't the openness expected of the Other. And to those less liberal than Mouw there is even less openness, and something quite other than love.

One price for this is a largely polarized audience that leaves out a large portion of the faith community. It also prevents the audience from understanding its own views as well as it should, due to lack of questioning and opposed ideas.

To clarify one reason there should be more openness on both sides instead of only the Other side, as a spiritual matter it cannot be inferred from the APA or nature or anything else that purports to be objectively settled that homosexuality isn't contrary to God's ultimate purposes for creation. That's a theological question, a faith issue, not a purely scientific one. You may object to such issues on general grounds, but this show is all about stuff that science only enters into partially. I see no evidence that Mouw rejects any finding of science.

As for what you say about how atheists view this show, that doesn't conflict with anything I said about the show reaching out to atheists.

Richard Mouw prefaces his civil, controlled, and honeyed speech with the statement that he believes that homosexuality is a sin. This is hardly a side he takes. It is a profoundly negative judgment of another person, extended to millions.

Richard Mouw talks at the end about a "common life" that we should have a "flourishing common life." How can we do that when the welfare of gay people is denied? How can one say, "I love you and want to support your welfare, but I don't support gay marriage." ? If one wants to support a truly pluralistic society one can't deny basic civil rights to one large group. If one rejects this as a legitimate right, then one denies the other's humanity and citizenship. THAT is why homosexuals will still argue that Richard Mouw is homophobic. What difference does "civility" make if in the end the other is denied full citizenship? Of what practical use is "civility" ? I wonder, why won't Richard Mouw, in the name of shalom, respect and civility, say something along the lines of "I may disagree with you, but I fully support your humanity and citizenship and therefore will support your civil right to get married." ? Otherwise, the world will continue to go 'round and 'round, spinning and spinning and becoming more and more polarized.

Krista, I so admire your drive toward civility, even in situations where it may be futile. The gay teen suicides are symbolic to me of a spurting gash in the aorta of our society delivered by the violence of bigotry. While I fully agree that we need to engage in a civil dialogue, it is a little like having a trauma surgeon worry about a cat scratch on the arm of his exsanguinating patient. With due respect, it is difficult to put any credence in positive motives of your guest when he feels so justified in his bigotry. Now is the time for emergency surgery to repair this trauma. This needs to be done lovingly and from the bottom up. It is a pity that instead of using his pulpit to heal his community Mr. Mouw has chosen to propagate bigotry.

I listened to your show with Mouw and question how can anyone believe that it is civil to say gayness is a sin and expressing your love for a person of the same sex will doom you to hell. No matter how pretty you say it, this is cruel and uncivil and just plain wrong.

I am tired of this. I am tired of patronizing Christians who believe they are dealing with gays with love and kindness, all the while believing that if the gay person acts on their feelings they are sinning and going to hell. What dissonance!

Mouw was a supporter of civil rights. The bible allowed for slavery, but Mouw knows that slavery is wrong. Why is he treating gays different from blacks? Does he believe gayness is a choice? If so, he is uneducated. If not a choice, how can it be a sin?

Mouw, you are stuck in the past. No matter how polite you are you are not being civil and your discourse is cruel.

I was impressed with the Richard Mouw discussion (and Krista was very good, as usual). He did allow Krista to move the topic along and in certain directions. I didn’t expect him to approve of gay marriage. That was not the point. The reflective and non-defensive nature of this conversation was a big part of the point.
This is a very difficult subject and was handled with the delicacy that it deserves. I found myself thinking how hard his message must be for people to assimilate in our culture just now. I was thinking that it would require a much slower pace (the time needed to reflect on and let people be themselves) and real courage to appreciate the notion of a ‘common good’.
Today’s media (TV) doesn’t stress that idea enough. In fact, it would be a good thing if Krista could get some media people on to talk about the ‘common good’ and why the media has such a divisive bent today – not how, but why. I did notice a commercial on NBC that is currently running and is a reminder that we are all one in our diversity. This is, a least, a part of what Mr. Mouw discussed on the show.
Krista, please keep up the excellent work. It means a lot to me knowing that these discussions mean so much to you and are handled with such care.

I'd appreciate correction from someone who knows more about Mouw's views, but I think there may be some confusion here about his views on homosexuality, which he unfortunately wasn't invited to clarify. Mouw does view homosexual sex as contrary to God's purposes. I don't know if he regards homosexual orientation as sinful, but it seems likely enough in some sense. That doesn't imply he sees it as a choice, as some view unchosen inclinations as sinful. (Catholics, Mormons and many others opposed to homosexual behavior do not view the orientation as a sin. The distinction is one many have no patience with, not without some reason, but it's still an important one for understanding the views of others.)

But here's the point. If Mouw does see homosexual orientation as sinful, he seems not to regard the sexual orientation of everyone else as not sinful. He explicitly rejects calling homosexual orientation abnormal while calling the rest normal. He believes none of us is "normal." He is a Calvinist, after all, and keenly attuned to what he regards as a very general spiritual depravity, right alongside divine grace.

That won't satisfy Mouw's critics, of course, but those who want to understand his view may find it helpful.

Some here seem to feel that Mouw is morally wrong to have the beliefs he does, that he isn't only mistaken but shows some moral defect for having those beliefs. I think that's an overly simplistic view relying on several assumptions that may not stand rational scrutiny. In general, moral disagreements don't imply moral defects, even if there is real harm at stake. It should be kept in mind that Mouw also believes real harm is at stake. It is possible for people of good will to disagree about even things this important.

Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler asked, "What if Tyler Clementi had been in your church?" But exactly what sort of church is Mohler talking about? Tyler Clementi could not possibly have been in a Southern Baptist church -- at least not in a way that would have allowed him to present himself as a gay person -- because the Southern Baptist Convention ousts churches that have gay members. From the Associated Baptist Press 6/23/09: "It took messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting...only 30 seconds to sever a 125-year relationship with a prominent Texas congregation because of the church's perceived toleration of gay members. . . . The messengers chose overwhelmingly to dismiss Broadway Baptist Church...." Why? Because the church had debated the possibility of including pictures of same-sex couples in the church's membership directory. (Ultimately, they chose not to.)

Similarly with Royal Lane Baptist Church, it was asked to remove itself from affiliation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas for the simple reason that the church added to its website a single sentence that served to welcome gays by describing its congregation as "a vibrant mosaic of varied racial identities, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and denominational backgrounds." (Associated Baptist Press, 3/17/10) That was too much for Baptist denominational officials. Ouster was their version of civility.

So . . . exactly what Southern Baptist church is Al Mohler imagining that Tyler Clementi could have been welcome in?

I don't get it. Mohler is calling for change, and your response is to criticize him because change is needed?

First things first. It seems to me that, before you can credibly call on churches to better their interactions with gay and lesbian persons in their midst, you need to start by welcoming them into your midst -- and welcoming them just as they are as children of God. So long as the Southern Baptist Convention has an official policy of not wanting to affiliate with churches that are welcoming of gay people, and in fact acts to oust churches when it becomes apparent that they are indeed trying to be welcoming of gay people, then it doesn't make a lot of sense for a high Southern Baptist spokesperson to talk about how churches should interact with gay people in their midst.

I agree that the love Mohler calls for requires being welcoming. He actually directly addresses one of the most common things that may make gays feel unwelcome:

Yet, when gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are also right. Much of our response to homosexuality is rooted in ignorance and fear. We speak of homosexuals as a particular class of especially depraved sinners and we lie about how homosexuals experience their own struggle. Far too many evangelical pastors talk about sexual orientation with a crude dismissal or with glib assurances that gay persons simply choose to be gay. While most evangelicals know that the Bible condemns homosexuality, far too many find comfort in their own moralism, consigning homosexuals to a theological or moral category all their own.

He adds, "Even long before they may hear or respond to the gospel, they need to know that they are loved and cherished for who they are."

I don't agree with you that the SBC has an official policy of not wanting to affiliate with churches that are welcoming of gay people. The policy, as you probably know, is rather to exclude churches that "act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior." That was the policy applied to the church that had an internal division over posting photos of gay couples and the like.

I don't know if the policy is any different at the state level in Texas, but the case you cite there involved more than a statement of being a vibrant community, etc. That case also involved gay deacons and a pastor whose view was that homosexuality isn't a sin.

http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.a...

Those of you who are slanderously denouncing Mouw are, quite frankly, being hypocrites.

I understand that anyone who says they believe homosexuality is a sin is offensive. But when you curse at him, call him names, and espouse hate against him, how are you different than the evangelical Christians you think you are so very different from.

Consider: If someone tells you he is a Christian, do you not automatically characterize him and instinctually demonize him for what you perceive him to be? How is that different than a Christian doing the same thing to someone when they learn he or she is homosexual.

It is not.

As long as you spew venom and hate, you are fertilizing the ground of the hateful movements on the "other side." They become hateful, so you do, and the cycle continues.

When did it become unacceptable for people to respectfully disagree? There are people who, for example, I think are crappy moms. I disagree with the way they do things, the way they raise their kids. But I don't have to cruelly embarrass, attack or hate them. I live my life in the way I want and try to affect positive change when and where I can. I know many Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin who also believe that bullying, cruelty and hatefulness against homosexuals is EQUALLY sinful.

They don't like your lifestyle, and you don't like theirs. Mouw is advocating a respectful and sensible discourse on this, and you are attacking him. I think it's a good rule to always think, when one is criticizing someone, if they could make the EXACT same criticism of your behavior. If so, then reconsider.

Someone has to be bigger here. Someone has to stop the hate. When we put up these walls of stereotypes and violent hateful emotions, no one makes progress. Many evangelical christians have dehumanized homosexuals; many liberal Americans have dehumanized evangelical Christians. How is this productive? How does this help accomplish the goal of equality for all?

It doesn't. So stop reacting to someone's title and start considering where you can meet and find common ground. Treat each other with basic respect and dignity. Stop creating monsters out of what you don't understand.

I am a strange creature because I am a socially liberal native of the deep South. I love my friends who are evangelical Christians and I love my friends who are gay. It makes me angry to see willful ignorance, but too often, we only talk about the willful ignorance of the conservative/evangelical. If you can't get past your anger (that is often really justified, I understand) to stop being ignorant of what the people in the Christian community who *want* to reach out are saying, you are abandoning the cause of equality in favor of hate and revenge. And that just means that those who would continue to persecute remain in the drivers seat.

Reach out. Accept Christian leaders who speak out for knowledge, understanding and respect. Swallow your anger and see it for what it could be: real progress.

Wow. No incivility here. I will never understand why people engage in a voluntary activity, like listening to a radio show, if they hate it so much.

Something I've been trying to wrap my head around since I heard the show: Mouw said something pretty interesting, and I wish could be explored further. He said "I do worry about what's happening in our culture. I do worry about the ongoing, I think, very bad effects of the sexual revolution.." I'd love to really hear him take that apart.

I should probably be clear here, since I am writing and you can't see my face or hear my voice-I am perfectly sincere in this. I really want to know what that fear is all about. I think Mouw is a deep thinker, and clearly defies many of the negative stereotypes associated with conservative Evangelicals, so I don't think his position is born of ignorance, or sublimation, or anything so easily mocked by enlightened, secular folk like me. But it is a real, palpable fear, and it is one that I don't fully understand.

I'm in my mid-40's, and my entire life has been, more or less, post-sexual revolution. And if I had to make a list of the top 20 threats to civil society right now, I'm not sure that the "very bad effects of the sexual revolution" would be on the list. I do have a child, and maybe when she is approaching her teens I will feel differently, but right now it is not on my very long list of "stuff I worry about regularly".

I think when Mouw said that, he might have assumed that everyone would understand what he means. And maybe this is fairly obvious to people older than I, who were adults before and after the sexual revolution. Maybe they experienced and witnessed horrors during the 70's that someone like me, who was in grade school, can not begin to imagine. And maybe they can draw a straight line between the sexual revolution and a lot of the things that are on my top 20 list of threats, in a way that I can not.

Again, I am not trying to be sarcastic or disrespectful, or hopelessly obtuse. I would really love to hear someone like Mouw, who is in my opinion (I know, obviously not the majority opinion here) intellectually credible, really dig into that.

Mary, you are not alone in this longing to understand exactly what he meant by saying that. During our editorial sessions, this question came up as well. The best I can do is intuit and put words in his mouth, which isn't fair to him or you.

No doubt some of this will ring a bell. Conservative Christians characteristically believe in traditional "family values," especially where they coincide with biblical teaching. In the Bible, sex outside of marriage is a serious sin, and there's enough talk there about the evils of infidelity and the good of upholding marriage relations to suggest that God puts a lot of importance in marriage and family relations. Marriage is regarded as a divine institution.

On what might be regarded as a higher or more abstract spiritual level, there is in the New Testament a strong streak of suspicion of the things of this fallen material world, including the carnal. The New Testament concept that the body is a temple is interpreted partly in terms of sexual purity, and sex is regarded as having deep spiritual ramifications. Sex lacking the proper spiritual and marriage foundation is viewed as corrupting of the soul and the community, while sex within that framework is viewed as a divine gift and integral part of God's plan for us. Carnal lust, i.e. sexual desire outside the divine spiritual and marriage framework, is typically viewed as a false substitute for and corruptor of divine desire and Love.

The sexual revolution took the opposite side on almost every point. Sex was typically viewed as desirable outside of marriage, as a casual thing for the here and now, and marriage was devalued as an institution. The results of the sexual revolution included a steep rise in divorce rates with a fall in marriage rates, and an apparent increase in sex outside of marriage. It also saturated the culture to a higher degree than before with consumerism and entertainment based on sexual lust.

In addition to the profound spiritual damage conservative Christians believe this has caused, they also believe it has caused more down-to-earth damages, including less stable family and personal relations and whatever social problems are associated with those, ranging from increased psychological damage for adults and children to AIDS and other STDs.

They also associate the sexual revolution with a rise in abortions caused by more sex outside of marriage and more casual attitudes about the whole reproductive process, including the divine nature and full human status of the fetus.

I've been thinking about this show since I first heard it. It's clear that Krista admires and respects Mouw, and he her, I think. But I'm always a little confused when I hear that she is confused. She is perplexed, "When he says that, as a Christian, he sees other human beings as “works of divine art,” can that genuinely apply to a person whose sexual identity he defines as fundamentally wrong? " But she also knows that Mouw believes that human beings, while they are works of divine art are, at the same time, flawed because of sin. The one assertion does not cancel the other. So I am confused about her confusion. Or does she mean simply that she does not like that notion, does not agree with it? I'm confused.