Dear Marriage Supporter,
At last it happened! The Great Brian Brown v. Dan Savage Dinner Table Debate actually took place!
The tape is now live. You can watch me take on Dan Savage here.
But first you should watch the MarriageADA interview with Julia Naman, one of the young teens whose faith Dan Savage decided to attack in an event billed as an anti-bullying initiative for middle and high school students.
Many of you have already watched our debate and blogged your comments or emailed me. I want to thank you!
One viewer wrote:
I found Mr. Savage to be articulate and informed, which made Brown's response the more awesome.
Brown clearly "won" the debate: He had tradition, logic, natural law, and modesty on his side, and was able to eloquently express this and made Savage look weak and pathetic. I do not dislike Savage, I felt genuine sorrow for him. Brown looked like the Patriarch and Savage came across like a teenager.
Of course not everybody who watches agrees; another guy just dashed off, "Brian Brown was destroyted [sic], per usual."
Please go watch and leave your own comments. I want to hear from you!
Let me first begin by saying thank you to Dan Savage for the invitation to come to his home and the chance to meet his partner and his child.
Dan has since told the moderator, Mark Oppenheimer, that he regrets having the event at his home because his role as host interfered with his full prosecution of me (and through me, all NOM supporters):
"Playing host put me in this position of treating Brian Brown like a guest," he said. "It was better in theory than in practice — it put me at a disadvantage during the debate, as the undertow of playing host resulted in my being more solicitous and considerate than I should've been. If I had it to do over again, I think I'd go with a hall."
So I want to make sure and thank Dan Savage and his partner for opening their home to me.
It's hard, when people feel as strongly as Dan Savage and I do, to acknowledge each other's fundamental dignity; the twin and complementary roles as host and guest is one way to accomplish keeping each other's dignity central, even when we strongly and fundamentally disagree on absolutely core moral issues.
So, unlike Dan, I do not regret meeting in his home, even though it contained moral constraints, and I am grateful to him for his hospitality.
One thing is very clear to me after the time we spent together: Dan Savage believes that gay people are "a tiny defenseless minority," as he said during the debate.
He made this claim while defending the public tongue-lashing of Christian students that brought us together. He doesn't seem to realize that his position as a 47 year old adult—one with the power of fame, celebrity and access to not only the White House, but also MTV—requires a new mentality.
With power comes responsibility, including the responsibility to show how you intend to use your newfound power.
A grown man does not accept an invitation to speak to middle- and high-school students and proceed to insult their faith, and to call them names when they show their objection in the only polite way possible, by politely leaving.
Dan has apologized for the latter, but not the former. As I told him face to face: "To have a bunch of high school students and attack their religious beliefs is not appropriate, it doesn't show respect."
He appears unable to process this point of view.
He has become a hero to a lot of gay people not only for the good he's done (like telling gay kids their lives are precious—don't commit suicide!), but in some cases because Dan Savage is willing to insult and demean those with whom he disagrees. He doesn't even acknowledge or see he is doing that, even as he does it!
Another commenter on the debate put it this way:
Wait, Savage doesn't think he was "bullying" because "bullying is the strong picking on the weak"? He really thinks the high school students he bullied from stage were the strong ones? Really?
I called for this debate with Dan Savage to show that I—with your support and help— that we would go anywhere to defend the principles that you and I hold dear.
On that level, this was a stunning success for us pro-marriage people. Another commenter had this to say:
And is this moderator objective? He suggests the title of this "debate" should be: Christianity is bad for LGBT Americans. Come on.
But this speaks volume[s] of the NOM president to step into the valley of the beast and take on this ideologue and (apparently) biased moderator.
The title and the leading topics of the debate were chosen by Dan Savage, not me. Thus, I went beyond the marriage arguments I often make in the public square and took the opportunity to defend the Bible from the most radical charge Dan Savage hurled—that the Bible is a radically pro-slavery document.
He uses that charge to undermine the moral authority of the Bible as the word of God. If it got slavery wrong, Dan maintains, what are the odds it gets human sexuality right? Zero, according to Dan Savage.
Savage wants to believe that he can reconcile his views with Christianity. He keeps telling Christians nothing will change for them if he gets his way: "I don't think LGBT Americans are asking American Christians to do anything you haven't already done. We know you can move because many Americans have already moved. "
And then he uses his growing power (personal and cultural) to argue that Christianity is wrong, the Bible is wrong, and retaining the traditional understanding of sex and marriage is bigotry because he says it's like picking and choosing which texts to believe. For Dan, there is no authoritative tradition in the Bible. Just like he gets to make up his theology on marriage, he gets to make up what Christians believe as well, and if we don't agree with him we are bigots.
I wasn't really too surprised by that.
But what did surprise me was his determined and, in my view, ignorant defense of the slavery charge.
As I told Dan face to face:
To say...that the Bible is a pro-slavery document is just point blank false. What you are essentially saying is your interpretation trumps that of Frederick Douglass, of Harriet Beecher Stowe, of William Wilberforce, of William Lloyd Garrison and all of the abolitionists, who pointed directly to the book of the Bible that you [use to] attempt to justify this notion that the bible is pro-slavery: Philemon. They all pointed to Philemon to say, look what Paul does: Paul...tells Philemon to take Onesimus back, not as a slave, but as a brother, a dear brother in Christ.
This gets to the heart of what Christianity is to the world and Christianity's view on traditional sexual morality. Christianity is, if anything, radical: it's radical in its view of human dignity, of the human dignity of each and every one of us.
Gay marriage is not like racism or interracial marriage.
Christian teaching and practice was never rooted in racism, but in the radical equality of all people and peoples before God. The American South, under slavery, was the exception to the rule—which is one reason why, when challenged, the belief that Christianity can justify not only slavery but also racism, failed abjectly and is now a dead idea. That was Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s great triumph.
But sexual morality and marriage are quite different. Here we have the broad consistent sweep of the authoritative teaching of Christ and the Christian church he founded, recorded in the Bible, and in Christian teaching and practice across the centuries. Here we have something core to the Christian faith, and as I told Dan Savage, it's not going to go away just because he doesn't like it:
The notion of the uniqueness of men and women is not some side thing in scripture, it's a key part of our view of humanity: that there are two halves of humanity, male and female, and that we complement each other, and that complementarity bears fruit in children, can bear fruit in children; that even without children the unitive nature of marriage brings together the two great halves of humanity. . . this is not something we will ever discard. We will always have this view. There will be Christians who always stand up for this view.
And they don't do so...because of any animus or hatred. They do so because they believe this is true; they believe that faith and reason are not at odds here, that scripture reinforces something that is true about human nature, and good, and beautiful.
Maggie says this is the part of my argument she found the most moving, so let me dwell on it a minute. After explaining Christianity's fundamental radicalness, I told Dan: "The reason I'm here is because I believe in your human dignity. I'm willing to come and argue with you because of my respect for you. This notion of equality before God, of us all having this dignity before God, is key to the scriptures."
The reason the Pope and the Catholic catechism condemn slavery, the reason the evangelical abolitionists worked so hard to end it, the reason the Civil War happened, the reason Martin Luther King, Jr.'s revolution in manners and mores triumphed is this: The Biblical idea of the radical dignity of all human beings. As I said in the debate, "This call we have to live out the Gospel message, of love, the call of creating a civilization of love, is not at odds with our idea of marriage. Scripture begins with a marriage, its middle point is the wedding feast at Cana, and it ends with the marriage feast of the Lamb."
On these truths, faith and reason support one another.
I went on to tell Dan in his own home: "What I see attempted here, and sometimes in other things you've said [is to make] those of us who know marriage...deserving of treatment less than others because we are bigots and we deserve what we get.... I don't think it furthers your argument and I think it's wrong."
He can't see his own aggressiveness.
Dan Savage called us here at NOM liars. He thinks we are telling lies, because we say things he doesn't believe.
"Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor'," he told me. "I do believe NOM is in the bearing false witness business and routinely bears false witness against LGBT people."
"NOM tends to do it through linking and surrogates," he said, echoing the absurd arguments of Scott Rose and now also Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Next, Dan went on to call the Regnerus study a lie and a NOM project (which is a total falsehood by the way). Certain members of the gay community, embraced and endorsed by as powerful a voice as Dan Savage's, are out trying to destroy a young scholar's career—not debating and refuting his study, or accepting the challenge of coming up with random samples of gay parents raising children as Regnerus did—but trying to end his career because he published a study in a peer-reviewed journal—but Dan absurdly claimed that this attempted destruction of Prof. Regnerus' career is our fault.
Something about that dynamic captures what we all see at work at this point in the gay marriage debate. Power is being exercised by a minority, which denies it has the power it is exercising, and denies what we see happening in front of us: this power is being used to label and demonize all who disagree, no matter how relentlessly civilized we are, no matter that we uphold gay people's real fundamental civil rights.
I promise you not one word comes out of my mouth, or the mouths of other leaders at NOM, that is not the truth, as best as I can see it. I may be wrong—any of us can be wrong—but we do not lie.
But to Dan, what you and I care about is all lies designed to hurt him and other gay people.
Sad. I don't know what to do about it.
I do know we cannot surrender an idea as important as marriage to people like Dan Savage.
We all have the right to choose how we live, as does Dan Savage. We do not have the right to use the power of government to redefine marriage in law and society.
The dangers of such an ideological shift in society are being seen now abroad: in France gay rights groups are protesting as homophobic (and a possible violation of hate speech laws) a prayer the Catholic bishops of France had their flock pray at Sunday mass. The prayer they see as homophobic asks God to hear the prayer of the faithful:
For children and youth, that all of us may help each one of them to find his own way to progress towards the good, that they cease to be the objects of the desires and the conflicts of adults, by benefiting completely from the love of a father and a mother.
Let me pose a question to the Dan Savages of the world. Once gay people were a powerless and defenseless minority. Now, you have organized, protested, and become powerful through the use of democratic freedoms and intellectual debate, a powerful cultural force in our time. What use do you intend to make of your power?
"Liberty when men act in groups is power," as Edmund Burke said, and before we congratulate them, or they congratulate themselves, it behooves us to look at what use they intend to make of the growing cultural power.
We should not forget in our culture war the individual dignity of each and every human soul. We shouldn't forget that it's hard to be gay in many places, that children are bullied and hurt, that we have to find a better (I would say more Christian) way to combine truth and love, to sustain our understanding of what's right while retaining compassion for human suffering, including the suffering of gay people. But when praying that kids "benefit completely from the love of a father and a mother" is labeled phobia and hate, there's something clearly wrong.
Thank you for all you've made possible. Thank you for your friendship, and your comradeship. Thank you for refuting in the way you live your life the lie that we who stand for God's truth about marriage are liars, haters and bigots. Thank you above all for obeying one of the most often repeated Biblical commands: Be not afraid!
This great work undertaken we will not abandon. We know who triumphs in the end.
This message has been authorized and paid for by the National Organization for Marriage, 2029 K Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20006, Brian Brown, President. This message has not been authorized or approved by any candidate.