Richard Mouw —
Restoring Political Civility: An Evangelical View

Richard Mouw challenges his fellow conservative Christians to civility in public discourse. He offers historical as well as spiritual perspective on American Evangelicals' navigation of disagreement, fear, and truth.

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is president of Fuller Theological Seminary and a professor of Christian Philosophy and Ethics. He is the author of Uncommon Decency.

Pertinent Posts


The first lesbian couple ordained without the blessing of the ELCA discuss coming out, falling in love, losing jobs then gaining them, and feeling God work through them during the AIDS crisis and their hospice chaplaincy. A guest contribution from Sasha Aslanian.

Selected Readings

A Civil Hug

"That little encounter reminded me that civility takes work. It takes spiritual work. Sometimes the Lord makes that point for us by sending someone to give us a hug!"

Between the Boy and the Bridge - A Haunting Question

An open letter from Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler. He writes in direct response to the recent teen suicides. While maintaining his biblical stance against homosexuality, he asks his fellow Christians how they would have received Tyler Clementi in their church.

About the Image

'I really like this picture myself… Because I sat in front of these two girls, and they where so lovely to each other. They talked so kindly — kind voices. They held each others hands. They seemed to be deeply in love with each other, or having a close and warm friendship. The red haired girl was keeping the spirit up. The muslim girl was so very tired. It was also intelligent talk inbetween the two of them. And I think they where so beautiful — so beautiful together.'

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Having briefly spoken with Krista following her lecture in Chicago on October 14, I can attest to her own gentleness and inviting ways. A lady who was tired listened to the thoughts of this stranger and shared more of her own. Thank you, Krista. You inspired me to subscribe to the podcast of Being. Having listened to the interview with Richard Mouw, I was helped by his analysis of evangelical history. Its marginalization in the 20th century, he says, helped fuel efforts like the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority, with the goal of taking the country back from the cultural changes that threatened to subvert the evangelical notion of righteousness. What he didn't address, at least not directly, was the effect that effort has had on the nation's political discourse. The phrase "taking the country back" is being used by everyone from Tea Partiers to left-wing Democrats. What it means is: "We're going to restore our agenda to a central place in the life of the nation." But the pluralism that is emerging means that our national life will have to be collaborative, if the republic is to endure. Current electoral politics denies this possibility, as candidates demonize each other in hugely expensive advertisements. I would have appreciated it if Mouw had examined the decision by evangelicals to use the Republican Party as a vehicle for their aspirations, and the corresponding decision by Republicans to utilize evangelicals to deliver votes. It wasn't, and isn't, that cut and dried, but something very much like that has happened. As a parish pastor, I often say to confused parishioners who approach me for guidance, "Today's Republican Party is not the party of Lincoln or even of Eisenhower." How can we decouple religion from partisan politics, or can we? It seems to me that a healthier role for religion would lie along the lines suggested by Reinhold Niebuhr and others--to call government to be an agent of justice, and justice requires balancing competing interests. What could evangelicals do to help us get there? What would they have to give up? Would it be, in Niebuhrian terms, the pretension that anyone can take the country back, since it belongs to all of us? What would other Christians have to give up? Could it be, in Christ's image, the readiness to point out the splinter in the Other's eye while ignoring the log in our own?

When listening to the thoughts in your program on tolerance, I was reminded of a reflection on tolerance I once head: Tolerance is one step away from loathing. I think you were closer to where I want to focus when you suggested compassion as our goal.

I listened to your guest today and wanted to believe that perhaps there was room for finding some sort of common ground with Evangelical conservative Christians and those of us who believe in a tolerant secular human world, especially on the topic of sexual orientation. Perhaps less shouting would help. However, I read the letter from the Southern Baptist minister, and I suspect that there is a falsity in the welcoming and imploring tone of your guest. In the letter (which I understand was not written by your guest) there was an appeal somewhat hidden within the language that conservative Christians should not single out homosexuals as a special kind of sinner. Although perhaps that would be a step toward finding a Christian tolerance, it is still telling another human being that they are morally wrong for being who they are. Both the letter and your guest fail to address the fact that Evangelicals and other Christians, most who claim to be fundamentalist readers of the Bible, still choose which of any litany of sins listed in the Bible to condemn and which to ignore. Slavery is recognized in the Bible and the Bible was used to support the American institution of slavery until Americans finally reached a consensus that support of slavery was truly evil. So while more "tolerant" Evangelicals want to suggest that we be civil, they still want to define homosexuality as a sin and therefore unworthy of (and in fact dangerous to) equal protection of the law under the US Constitution. I fear that your guest wants those of us who do understand that in America, and in our own spirituality, GLBT Americans have equal rights, to be tolerant of what is at its very heart an intolerant position of Evangelical Christianity. How is this different from asking 19th century abolitionists to allow Christians, under what even today's Evangelical conservative Christian fundamentalists agree was a false view of Christianity, to "own" slaves. I appreciated the quote involving false gods and false devils. But in the name of tolerance, those of us who truly believe in human liberation and human rights for all, must be cautious of being tolerant of those who stand against those rights and that liberation. I was taught in my Sunday School that the devil does not always appear as a red horned monster but more often appears as a smooth talking seducer. In my spirituality, the sin is to fight, or talk, or seduce, against human liberation and human rights. I can be somewhat civil to persons such as your guest who are fellow citizens, but I cannot find common ground for to do so is to compromise other people to his faith's condemnation - whether quiet or angry, condemnation just the same - and to his faith's efforts to deny in our secular civil society rights to GLBT American citizens. Perhaps he can succeed in toning down the loud, hateful lunatic fringe within his religion, e.g. Fred Phelps, and hope that this is where he directs his efforts. But ultimately, he shares Reverend Phelps beliefs that homosexuality is a sin of great enough magnitude to oppose equal protection of the law to my fellow citizens who are GLBT. Peter Barr You may publish my unedited comments with my name (but only unedited.)

I only want to respond to your comment on "...the Bible was used to support the American institution of slavery..."
Yes, that is true but not the whole truth. First, not all slavery proponents were Christian or used the Bible to justify it. Second, "Americans finally reached a consensus.." that slavery was evil due to Christians. Full stop! The abolitionist movement was started by Christians and used the Bible to justify WHY slavery was immoral and inhuman. Charles G. Finny was an evangelical pastor who essentially started the abolitionist movement with his passionate sermons against slavery. Lyman Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe and William Lloyd Garrison are just a few of the more famous Christian abolitionists.

To get into the relationship between the slavery issue and LGBT issue and the continual connection that is made by some is a whole other can of worms that would take too long to write.

Thank you so much for your show this morning. My partner Paula and I listened to it over breakfast and it brought tears to both our eyes. We both care deeply about the questions and conversations raised and each try, in our own ways, to "build a flourishing common life, even while holding deep disagreements" with others, and to try to do so with compassion and civility. Paula is a psychology professor at the local university (University of MN-Duluth), I'm a musician (singer & songwriter) and community organizer.

What I wanted to share with you is a song that touches on the conversation of societal and religious response to the inclusion/exclusion of GLBT people in communities of faith. First I must tell the story behind the writing of the song. One evening following a concert in Auburn, Alabama, a woman approached me with a request: Would I consider writing a song about the Knoxville, TN church shooting that took place in 2008 during a Sunday morning service at a Unitarian Universalist congregation. I said I would consider her request, and could she please send me any background info she had on the incident.

The woman was a history professor at Auburn University, and had previously lived in Knoxville and was a member of that congregation. Though she had not been present the day of the shooting, several of her friends were. Somehow, she believed, a song could help name and address what had happened, build awareness and keep conversation and action around such tragic events alive. It was another "language" to talk about the issue.

I took her request to heart, and back home, read as much background on the incident as I could find. When reading & listening online to stories & reactions surrounding the church shooting, I was immediately struck by the imagery of the gun entering into the sanctuary hidden in a guitar case. A weapon of hatred in the guise of an instrument of harmony. As a gay person, I was also struck by the fact that a hatred of gays was in part what fueled the tragic shooting. The gunman targeted that particular church because of its progressive views and its open and accepting stance toward GLBT people.

One day on a walk, I was struck by these parallel images: the guitar case carrying the gun, and the Bible, carrying passages that are used as a weapon against GLBT people, and those who would dare to openly welcome them. Some time later, an editorial in our local paper "greeted" my partner Paula and me as we were sipping our morning coffee. It was titled "Local View: Gospel can bring change into homosexuals' lives", written by a medical doctor and former pastor. Later that morning I sat down with my guitar and started this song that I wish to share with you today.

The more personal side to the songwriting story, is that all this came during the months leading up to our wedding, and that in itself had been filled with working through deep disagreements with beloved family members, struggling to "navigate disagreement" in a loving yet honest and remaining true to oneself way.

As I've learned more in depth about what happened at the UU in Knoxville--and even more so now as I reflect on the recent suicides among gay youth-- it makes me realize that such rhetoric (as espoused by the editorial) is in fact a killing rhetoric, regardless of whether the person writing the editorial was aware of this. The use of the Bible in such a way may or may not provide an actual shotgun, but it arms people with a prejudice that induces and perpetuates fear, hatred and violence. I was struck by the title of the editorial ("Gospel Can Bring Change into Homosexuals Lives"). I grew up immersed with the stories of the gospel. They are very familiar to me. The chorus of the song is an attempt to name the "change" of lifestyle I feel the teachings of the gospels were talking about.

I'll include a video link below to the song itself.

Thanks again for raising such courageous and important conversations,

Sara Thomsen

In Islam we are taught that we should "argue in a way that is best" meaning use the most effective method. Is screaming "I'm right and you're wrong!" ever highly effective? I doubt it. What is most often effective is being authoritative. I do not agree with many of my family and friends about what is the most realistic view of the world and what should be done to improve it, but I do love them. By focusing on what is in my control, my behavior, my respect shown, I can have a positive impact on those I love.

Your guest Mr. Mouw posed a question asking (of gay rights activists)"what about me (us) scares you?" and asking for time with these activists to voice his (and his faith's) fears about the anxieties gay/lesbian presence and the full legal participation in socio-political agency by gays and lesbians represent. While I found Mr. Mouw's openness to dialogue and "reverence" with the sexual/religious/political other to be philosophically promising, I find it hard to really accept the sincerity of this question for several reasons.
Young men and women, adolescent girls and boys, who are members of dominant religious structures (Christianity in all of its many manifestations) are not at the same kind of risk for self-harm or harm from others based solely on that expression of and adherence to their faith. Indeed, in most cases, that faith participates in a dominant culture support system that safeguards against precisely the kind of violence that many young self-identified or culturally construed homosexuals face far too often. If Mr. Mouw's concern is about the spiritual safety of young people, raised to believe in and adhere to a certain expression of Christianity, I would suggest that it is the specific faith's responsibility to offer guidance and (ironically) have faith that their teachings are sufficient to guide adolescents and young adults to an adult expression and support of that faith. Further, one of the most endemic and lethal threats to Christianity (or any faith or expression of spirituality) is not any particular expression of love and relationality, but the acceptance of dominant culture ideology (Capitalism, consumerism, xenophobia and the pursuit of univocal expressions of belief systems). At the risk of sounding polemical, it is not homosexuality that threatens the children of the religious, but rather the other way around.
To cast gays and lesbians as specific, universal and representative positions of that which threatens or causes fear among followers of religious tenants is to (at best) displace the anxieties of the "faithful" onto those who often suffer at the hands of the faithful and at worst to sediment, excuse and veil fatal antagonisms that are produced and supported by religions.
If there is to be a real exchange and a real reckoning of how cultural/religious/political potentialities can best produce sincere, affirming and civil futures, the religious systems that indite and condemn (out of fear and unexamined traditionalism) those who do not share their faith or the particular manifestation of that faith, must take responsibility for their dogmatic and exclusionary practices and conceptions of life, spirituality and faith.

These questions are at the heart of my daily struggle to find a way to speak to others about the common life issues at the core of our currently divisive and derisive political discourse. I find myself oscillating between a search for the sharp observation or fact that will indict my opponents for their vicious incivility to the poor, the uninsured, the unemployed , the migrant as they pursue a selfish and narrow vision of an exlusionary and nativist white Christian America, and my other search for some sort of common ground that will help me understand them and reverse the hardening of hearts that their views express. I would like to think that the social gospel aspects of Christianity and the Jesus I learned about would create some humility all around, but it does not. Fears on the religious right have turned Jesus into a stick to beat the World with, and I don't understand that, anymore than I understand how a faithful Muslim could become a hater of non-Muslims.

The common life has got to begin with new positions for all of us around our common humanity. Religious and political beliefs that divide us into insiders and outsiders on any basis, commit the fundamental sin of religion, that of self righteousness. There is no greater soul and body destroying position than this. It is the very pollution of all true religion by a fallen humanity. My response to this is an invitation to a collective Silence, the Silence of the Quaker Meeting, of the Zen monastary, and of any and all contemplative and self reflective aspects of any religion or philosophy, however a-theistic it may be. The quieted mind is the beginning of all peace and reconciliation, for the Self and the World. The mind disquieted by the noise of the modern Media-made political and social world is its opposite.

I believe in this common struggle, the search for a more encompassing description other than the word than "tolerance" is itself revealing. Our Western language seems to lack the concept and we have no word or symbol to fully express the transformative civility discussed in the program. I am reminded of a concept discussed by Desmond Tutu,
"ubuntu", in his book No Future Without Forgivenss. It means that "my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound in yours. We belong in a bundle of life. A person is a person through other persons. A person with ubuntu is open and available to other, affirming of other, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminshed when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are torured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are." This is a hard concept in a culture in which we believe that much of progress is vested in fulfillment of the self. If we could enrich our understanding of our own place in the world then maybe we could learn that we are people through other people.

Dear Ms Tippett What I'm gleaning from the site featuring Richard Mouw on "civility" is that it's okay to stigmatize people who are different as long as you're nice about it. Why is a 'Public" radio program uncritically promoting such conservative rhetoric? Are we ever going to hear from more progressively minded spiritual people? Or will you and Mr. Mouw always deign to be "kind" to those people you look down upon from your righteous pedestal because they're homosexuals or whatever else they might be that doesn't conform to your pietistic notions? Sincerely, Dana Franchitto S.WEllfleet, MA.

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 like your show very much and have consistently listened to it for a number of years. Well done! (I am not sure about your new title "Being", doesn't quite work for me, but the show is still good.) This Sunday you had a very good show with Dr. Murow. He talked about people's fears about many issues. I wish you had directly asked him what his fear was in regards to not supporting same sex marriages. Thanks and keep up the good work! Chuck Walters

Dear Ms. Tippet,

I listened to your interview of Rev Mouw this past Sunday and I was very interested. He sounds like a wonderful man and I liked the conversation that you had with him. I do have to say that as important as it is for the religious and evangelicals to be held to account for messages they give, I have found far more incivility from the people in opposition to eveangelicals and irreligious people in general, as well as the media, generally.

Any discussion about bringing civility back to the public conversation should address these examples of incivility.

Obama, as a presidential candidate, referred to people he had not convinced of his message, including church goers, as "bitter people, clinging to their bibles and guns", has been portrayed as the very model of civility by a besotted media. The descriptions of the Tea Party in the media are far more uncivil than any action that the Tea Partiers have ever practiced. The portrayal by the liberal left that is currently running this country of any voices in opposition as extremest is uncivil far more often than, in my experience, the very limited incivility that Rev. Mouw properly addresses.

If evangelicals have been uncivil, they have been the recepient of far more incivility from the left. When the liberal elite write about people who do not share their views, it often amounts to "an attempt to understand the limited nature of their intelligence" rather than a desire to have a conversation on a civil basis. I suspect that you may consider the response to this aspect of incivility as not part of your purview, however, it is not being addressed very much that I have seen and needs to be. One of the unfortunate outcomes is that contempt breeds contempt, of which we have seen all too much.


Dan Ross

I liked the show and I respect and appreciate what Richard Mouw had to say about differences and civility. This is a man who lives his faith, and takes the all of the mandates of his religious tradition seriously. But I do feel as if you both ignored the elephant in the room. Or, more accurately, you saw the elephant, acknowledged its presence, and decided to talk about something else.

Prop 8 aside, I really don't hear much talk about gay marriage these days. I hear talk about "second amendment solutions". I hear how our president is Hitler. I hear how the US government has joined forces with Muslims to destroy our very way of life. It makes me long for the days when liberals were merely French-speaking gay Hollywood abortionists.

I believe that the current Islamophobic hysteria is less about religion than it is about culture and security. Muslims are portrayed as The Other, who, along with illegal immigrants, college professors, and Barak Obama, seek to destroy us. There are of course elements of religious warfare here, but I don't think many can articulate what it is that Muslims believe and how their beliefs threaten Christians.

I want to believe that this is just the death rattle of the violent and destructive strain of our culture that rears it ugly head in times of crisis. I hope that it is about to scream itself hoarse, and then fall silent forever. And it very well may. But what harm will it do in the meanwhile?

I admit I don't watch TV news (or really much TV at all), but this does not sound like strident religious fundamentalism of 2004. It is darker and more sinister. I felt some real hope, between 2008 and August 2009 (the summer of the Death Panels), that we had finally put that conflict to rest. That, yes, there were differences but there were enough serious people, interested in solving problems, that we could find a way forward. That the culture wars were more or less over, that civility could find its way back to the town square. But now, the culture wars of which you and Mouw spoke seem like quaint little disagreements between people who had different levels of comfort with sexuality. Is anyone really talking about sexuality now?

There are many of us in what used to pass as the center-left who supported Barak Obama's candidacy, much to the dismay of our more liberal friends, precisely because we believed him to be the best hope for defusing the polarization that has been the dominant political narrative in my adult life (I'm mid-40's). And for a while that seemed to be true. But we overestimated our country. When President Obama's words and actions do not fit the narrative that the enemies of fairness and progress have tried to construct, they resorted to the measure of last resort, his Otherness. And that seems to be sticking. How perfectly naive of us to imagine otherwise. I've taken the Obama sticker off of my car, not because I no longer support or believe in the President, but because I don't want to be run off the road by someone who chooses to define themselves by their rage, fear and resentment.

I don't wish to take Being to task for not being on the front lines of this battle. I am not even disappointed that this particular show did not Go There-it had tremendous value, and meaning for me, and several great moments (Mouw on bearing false witness, for example-brilliant and beautiful). But we can not talk about civility until we acknowledge that right now, at this truly perilous moment in history, the conversation is dominated by those who would rather burn the country to the ground than compromise with people like you and me, and Richard Mouw, for that matter.

I am so disappointed in last week's episode. This broadcast was ill-timed in the wake of the hate crimes in New York and the suicide at Rutgers. In addition, at a time when SOF is transitioning its brand identity, one would think the choice of material would be less divisive. I have listened to your show for years. It has brought great comfort and understanding into my life. I will continue to listen, even in the wake of what I consider to be a giant gaffe from a show that I deeply respect. Would the show have given voice to someone who supported Virginia's anti-interracial marriage laws in 1967, no matter how civil the voice? In my mind, this is what "On Being" did, translating it to 2010. But civility in the political and religious arena is such an important topic! I wish it had been explored in a way that didn't highlight one man's disapproval of gay marriage. I long to be respectful of other folks' beliefs, struggles and communal aspira tions. Regrettably, it is impossible for anyone who believes in equality to reconcile Mr. Mouw's beliefs on gay marriage. How is it civil to deny someone his or her right to marry the one he or she loves? An on-air apology to your gay and lesbian listeners would be most welcome. The language used on one of the Facebook posts ("No matter what your opinion on gay rights") was appalling. While I'm sure it was unintentional, I feel that the show really needs to clear the air. All the best, Chad Smyser

Re: Richard Mouw I love the show. I am gay, Jewish, and extremely progressive, but thought that Richard Mouw is someone I'd like a lot as a person. His sense of humor and genuine compassion came through. Still, I wish you'd asked him on the air to summarize his theological reasoning against gay marriage, since that was referred to often. Many theological arguments defy common sense. One sees smart, decent people twisting themselves into pretzels intellectually to try to make them work. One suspects that the alternative for them is to leave their religion entirely, because a good deal of the theology doesn't really hold up to common sense, despite some true inspiration at the core of it. The Bible is full of archaic references we no longer subscribe to, such as slavery and women as chattel. When Jesus came along, he said that there were instructions in the Old Testament, such as "an eye for an eye" that he was superseding with better instruc tions ("turn the other cheek.") Until religious people understand the spirit of the Word, especially the nature of unconditional love, they are trapped in an ethical prison. In the meantime, people can use Scripture to support any opinion. Why bother? Why not just go directly to what is right? Best, Shepherd Hoodwin

Dr. Richard Mouw,

As a former Evangelical, as a Christian and as a gay man, I have been stunned by the relative silence that I have heard from Evangelical circles in the wake of gay teen suicides of the last few weeks. I was eager to hear your interview and eager to hear something meaningful added to the conversation.

Thank you for your emphasis on civility, respect and reverence for all people.

Thank you for your clear compassion, humility and desire to honor the divine in those with whom you may disagree.

However, civility without respect for the individual is condescension. How is your response different than the 1950's woman who declared, "Why we're not prejudiced; we love our black servants!?"

When will Evangelicals recognize that when some people are deemed unworthy of equal rights, that they are also deprived of the compassion, civility, respect and reverence that you have sought to establish?

The problem is that Evangelicals (and Mormons, and Catholics, and others) take a few scriptures out of context and demean one set of people.

No where is Scripture is the subject of same gender, committed relationships discussed. Because of the patriarchal and misogynistic cultures of middle eastern peoples, (and hence the Scriptures) it has never been possible to raise the issue. Fortunately, our "morally relativistic" world of today has opened the conversation so that voices previously denied access to the table are speaking up.

It is time for Evangelicals to come to the same conclusion that they have on other issues. Sometimes Scripture has culturally mandated commands that are not rooted in the heart of God. No reasonable Evangelical expects women to keep their heads covered anymore. Though Paul clearly taught that they should. No reasonable Evangelical believes that women should be kept separate. And, no reasonable Evangelical believes that divorced people should not be allowed to remarry.

I greatly appreciate your effort. But, you fall short. Only by conceding the error of your theology (like those who repented of racial discrimination before you) will you be able to demonstrate respect and reverence for all people.

Thank you for your efforts.
Thank you for your thoughtfulness.
May God lead us all as we seek to honor him in our lives and our witnesses.

Respectfully Yours,

Jim East

I was excited my Dr. Mouw's words because I think he speaks for a large group of people who's beliefs are not often recognized on the program. I am talking about less well educated people of faith who tend to be more conservative than the highly educated left leaning guests that are normally on the show. It seems ironic but as a person from a conservative protestant church family I feel a closer bond with other conservative people of different faiths (Mormons, Roman Catholics even Muslims) than with very well educated liberal Christians. I think social class is a parameter of this issue that we should talk more about. When living in Chicago I became friends with working class Arab Muslim immigrants, Roman Catholic Latinos and African American Muslims who I felt closer to in terms of values than well educated, affluent Christian liberals.

I found Dr Mouw's comments interesting and helpful. After having been a Mormon for over a decade and left for another church, I understand being civil to Mormons, while disagreeing with some of their theology is possible and neccessary.However the likes of Mormons like Glenn Beck trouble me. I think things are going to get worse as long as 24/7 news org rely on 24 hour dramas and attacks to make a buck.

I have been finding my way back to a spiritual life through yoga after leaving fundamentalist Christianity more than 20 years ago. I fell in love with a woman who is the love of my life and has been my partner since we left the church. The church we left had harsher language than the man that was interviewed for this story -- some of them spoke openly of cleansing our community by (actually) killing gay people in God's name -- of course qualifying that they wouldn't because they would go to prison for such an act. It was a very scary place to be.

Six years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When I went to the hospital on the day of my surgery, my partner and I had arranged for my mother to stay with our 2 young children so that my partner could be with me. When it was time to go into the pre-op room the nurse said of my partner 'who is this?' to which I answered 'Laura'. She said 'what is the relationship?' I said 'she is my partner of 20 years'. The nurse shook her head and said 'no, only immediate family are allowed in here'. I tried to argue but it was pointless. I felt powerless and frightened. That nurse had me cornered in the pre-op room with nobody else around and she began to 'preach the gospel' at me. It was quite terrifying. I still tremble when I think of it. The thing is -- I know the hospital doesn't actually have a policy against gay partners being in the pre-op room, but that nurse felt emboldened by the culture in which we live, to treat me that way.

Two months later the people of the state of Oregon voted to invalidate my marriage. There was all kinds of public discourse from people who 'don't have anything against gay people but just don't believe they should get married'.

So I'm sorry but I can't have a civil conversation with people who believe my life is less than theirs, and my relationship with the person I love is less worthy. It hurts. It is personal. That man can talk all day about civility but his words feel like violence to me. I avoid people who talk like that and hope that my friends will confront the attitudes and stereotypes. Maybe someday I will be healthy enough to do so myself.

I appreciate the show. I appreciate hearing from the variety of people and their spiritual and life experiences. But I was disappointed that Krista didn't challenge this man's assumptions about and prejudice against GLBT people. It felt to me like she was validating those hurtful beliefs.

Can (and should) people dialogue with racists and 'appreciate' our difference of opinion?

I don't think so. I don't think as a society we should welcome the expression of such nonsense. Maybe someday people will see the similarity.

Richard Mouw asks those of us who are gay "what is it about people like me that scares you so much?"

I can answer gently but clearly. I fear being demonized. Even if they speak with gentleness, when Christians claim that God Himself rejects and reviles me, I am demonized. This sets the stage for violence. Of that I am afraid.

Richard Mouw holds a strong conviction that a lesbian relationship like mine is wrong, not just in his eyes but in God's eyes. With equal conviction, I know that my relationship is blessed by God. No one can convince me otherwise, because that is my experience. I feel God's presence in my daily life and God does not care that I'm gay.

I think that the real difference between my view and Richard Mouw's is in where we locate authority. Mr. Mouw finds his conviction in venerable ancient texts. I find my conviction by actively seeking God in the people and experiences I encounter and in my observations of how these encounters reverberate in my heart and conscience.

I don't know how to bridge a gap like this. I do appreciate that Richard Mouw is earnestly trying to do so.

It seems to me that homophobia is just below the surface of Mouw's dialogue as he uses theological debate as a "politically correct" cover. Communicating anti-gay beliefs in a respectful, reverent and civil manner does not change the fundamental discriminatory message. It just takes longer for a listener to figure out that they have just been insulted.

I traveled to Israel for the first time in March of 2001 as part of the MidEast Citizen Diplomacy delegation made up of people from across the US and Canada led by Leah Green.

I searched for and found a way into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that not only showed me its many sides but taught me to prepare my heart to listen to the pain and anger and the truth of people on all sides of this continuing war of attrition. Leah taught a process called compassionate listening and shortly thereafter renamed her organization the Compassionate Listening Project.

Each of us was encouraged to return home and share the stories we heard with the media and interested audiences to help people understand the conflict in human terms. Sitting down with the families of victims on both sides as well as politicians, peace activists, religious leaders and journalists had opened a doorway into the process of understanding an other. Gene Knudsen Hoffman, the creator of the compassionate listening process said, "An enemy is a person whose story we have not heard."

I continued my activism on behalf of Middle East peace leading a Jewish-Muslim-Christian dialogue group and creating programs to present Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers to American audiences beginning with my synagogue: Kehilat HaNahar, The Little Shul By the River in New Hope, PA. I became involved as well in the Greater Bucks County Peace Circle, a group put together by the Reverend Alfred Krass to bring the faiths together and provide a positive response to the horror of 9/11.

Since my return from my 2001 pilgrimage to Israel I felt that a next step would be to build an interfaith group all from the same area, Philadelphia, to make a similar journey together and to agree to return and share all they heard with audiences throughout the Delaware Valley and beyond. With the help of Rev. Krass and my Rabbi, Sandy Roth, I put together the Delaware Valley Interfaith Delegation to Israel/Palestine and partnered with Leah Green who led our group through East and West Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, the Al Aroub Refugee Camp, the Settlement of Tekoa, Ramallah, a kibbutz above the Galilee and much more in March 2008.

Together this group of Muslim, Christian and Jewish clergy and lay leaders traveled in one day from a morning visit to Yad Vashem, to lunch in Bethlehem at Wi'am, The Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center where we met Salah Shouky a city councilman and representative of Hamas, to Hebron, where we sat with David Wilder, spokesperson for the Jewish Community of Hebron, then on to meet the Palestinian Governor of Hebron before we were whisked away for overnight stays with Palestinian families in Hebron.

Our journey was a life-changing mission of listening to stories from all sides all the way up to a two hour meeting with Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad. But on another level there was a second mission at least as important and life changing as the first that brought together people of different faiths to learn about and from each other. On the first day I awoke in the Old City at the Ecce Homo Convent Guesthouse at 4:30am to the sound of the muezzin making the muslim call to prayer and witnessing my roommate Imam Abdul Halim Hassan already on his knees in prayer.

I like many in our group got up and in my case walked in the company of a Quaker member of our delegation, Andre Salz, to the Wailing Wall to say my own prayers and begin the day. We have and continue to learn so very much from each other and to enrich our own lives, religious practice and joint efforts on behalf of promoting understanding and peace through our growing Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace: ICMEP.

In 2009 we brought Rabbi Menachem Froman and Sheikh Ghassan Manasra to Washington to meet with members of the Obama Administration and Congress and to speak at Temple University at a program co-sponsored by the Dialogue Institute on The Role of Faith in Middle East Peace. Both of the men, Rabbi Froman from the Settlement of Tekoa and Sheikh Manasra of Nazereth are members of the Jerusalem Peacemakers and have established a new organization Eretz Shalom Land of Peace, that is bringing together settlers and Palestinians in search of understanding and peace.

In 2010 we brought members of the Israel-Palestinian Creativity for Peace Camp to speak at a number of Philadelphia area venues including the Yardley United Methodist Church in a program moderated by a group of local teenagers we put together from a mosque, synagogue and Quaker meeting. We also held a large; approximately 140 person facilitated interfaith dialogue at the Newtown Presbyterian Church with Middle Eastern music by Atzilut and a sumptuous Middle Eastern dinner. The event brought together Christians, Muslims, Jews and people of other faiths to begin a dialogue that overcomes fear with fact and politics with people who realize they are neighbors and potential friends.

The Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace is in the process of applying for 501C3 tax exempt status and in 2011 has begun a series of facilitated Interfaith Conversations at houses of worship throughout the Delaware Valley. The most recent occurred on Sunday March 13th at Masjidul Tawqa in Trenton, the mosque led by Imam Abdul Malik-Ali who was a member of our March 2008 interfaith delegation. We sit in small groups at tables with people of different backgrounds and begin to unravel the core of each individual's faith through a series of questions. The first was,"what do you think people misunderstand most about your faith tradition?"

We come to know each other as human beings and as one person put it,"we are all children of God." It is a process of personal story telling and part of our effort to bring the faiths together on behalf of Middle East Peace.

Leah Green has taken compassionate listening from a process for understanding the Middle East to a vehicle to improve relations between people in conflict in families, in communities and even of different religions. We are engaged in utilizing the training to help bring people of different faiths together in a way that leads people to reach for and attain new levels of human relationships. We look forward and hope people will visit the websites listed and join us in the pursuit of interfaith understanding and Middle East peacemaking.

While I applaud your guest for trying to find more civil ways to discuss the issues for Christians surrounding gayness, he is not addressing the root cause--homophobia. The reason Christians get upset at being called homophobes and bigots is that those labels hit very close to home.

They have created a special class of sinner around gays. An adulterer can be elected to Congress, indeed conservative Christians have elected a man who called up prostitutes from the floor of the Senate to cheat on his wife with. How many votes would an openly gay conservative get? Liars, coveters, all kinds of ten commandments violators get a pass. They are not singled out for hate and discrimination. Gayness itself, being gay, has become the sin, instead of particular actions. If being gay were really a choice to commit an act, as Christians claim, there would be no reason for this--other than homophobia.

And I've got news for you--being gay is not a choice. Christians have no credibility when they say it is. The Bible doesn't even say it is. Christians just assume it, and of course anything they assume is backed up by God in their minds and they state it as fact.

Let's face it, the position of Christians is inconsistent in other ways also. They love to quote Leviticus at gays, but ignore the entire rest of the book. Jesus never mentioned homosexuality once, but Christians are obsessed with it and claim that the hateful and hurtful actions they take are acts of "love." The most reasonable explanation for their twisted logic is intense homophobia.

This is about more than toning down the rhetoric. We are a long way from meaningful dialog on the topic until Christians recognize that there is something a little deranged in their response to this issue versus other issues and take responsibility their own prejudice and hate.

Yes, it shall be a CIVIL discussion.
You may leave your God at the door.

I have listened to two pod casts in this series - Vincent Harding and Richard Mouw. I found myself encouraged by one and frustrated by the other. Richard Mouw exhibited the kind of arrogance that I have come to expect from the evangelical community while Vincent Harding demonstrated some of the best thinking that helped create the civil rights movement.

I am a Unitarian Universalist and believe we have created a culture that holds each other to the covenant of UU principals while providing the structure to allow differences in creed. In my view we covenant to live by our principals which I see as humanist values and give ourselves the flexibility to believe in what is true for each individual. It seems to me that we have found a way to live by Vincent Harding's statement where "love trumps doctrine". I think no words hold more truth.

In contrast the comments of Richard Mouw spoke volumes to illustrate how the evangelical community continues to alienate others. He says he wants to enter into civil discourse for example with gays and lesbians and yet simultaneously believes these people should remain in a second class status and not allowed to marry. He justifies this position based on the doctrine and thinking of his faith and his interpretation of what is holy to him. Who is he to judge other humans? What gives him the absolute authority to interpret the will of God? I don't think that any other human has ability or right to judge who another person is in relation to their identity and sexual orientation.

Mouw seemed to ask almost rhetorically "how do we (evangelicals and gays/lesbians) enter into civil dialogue with each other?" In my opinion, he and others in his religion can start by minding their own business. Evangelicals should stop trying to ensconce their religious views and morality into the laws of the state. Let gays and lesbians be who and what they are as holy images of God. Let gays and lesbians be equals in our society. Only, as equals can the two communities enter into meaningful dialogue. Evangelicals can keep their own opinions and faith - no one is asking them to change only to let go.

I think God must work on we people so that our mind will be in a place where there is no hatred and violence. We will be there helping those in need and that is what we humans are.