The Dinner Table Debate

The Dinner Table Debate between Dan Savage and Brian Brown has now been posted. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the context for the debate, it refers back to a talk Savage gave to a high school journalism group. I blogged on it here. It is interesting how civil people can be when the discussion is set up to facilitate actual engagement.

As we consider the exchange, we can recognize that there are folks on both sides of the cultural discussion who would likely not pick either person to be the sole representative of their take on the subject. However, both participants perhaps surprise the viewer with how they are able to share from their perspective.

I was surprised how much attention was given to the Regnerus study, as so much of the initial diatribe (in front of the high school students) was about Scripture. Savage does initially mention his concerns about how Scripture is interpreted and possible points of conflict, but then he moves into a discussion of “bearing false witness,” which I also see as an important point of discussion. Brown focuses, too, on how his organization (and he extends this to other Christians) is talked about by some activists in the gay community.

At about 27 minutes in, Brown does come back to Scripture to discuss the issue of slavery and interpretation. Although Brown may not be the most articulate spokesperson for a Christian view of the topic (of slavery, homosexuality), he is able to point out a few things about Christians playing a role in the abolitionist movement.

Although Savage comes across to the viewer as probably the more passionate, compelling speaker, he seems to struggle to understand a traditional Christian view of marriage. Or perhaps he understands and rejects it in part because of his prior experiences with some Christians, various organizations, or what he sees as logical gaps in the argument. I think there could be more of a discussion of the transcendent meaning and purposes of sexuality, which is a hallmark of a Christian view, although that is arguably one of the more difficult concepts to convey in this setting.

Savage’s point about the “malleable” aspect of the Bible is worth responding to, and I don’t know that Brown is able to say all that other Christian scholars have said. The idea that rules are “set aside” is talked about by both Savage and the moderator as though it were akin to a person picking a style of music. Whether a person agrees or disagrees, not understanding the Christian rationale and process by which Old Testament rules are distinguished (e.g., ceremonial versus civil versus moral) and in some cases maintained is interesting. That has been addressed by Christian theologians and may be important for Christians to understand and be able to articulate.

So it is an interesting dialogue. There are topics toward the end (e.g., adoption, science/reason, discrimination, etc.) that could use more time, attention, and care. Unfortunately, the time runs short. In any case, the exchange does provide an opportunity for Christians to reflect on how their views are understood by those who do not start from the same worldview.

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