“I would treat [gay people] just like any other human sinner… They’re not weird. They’re just human beings.”
~ Jack Crabtree, 2003
The earliest public recordings of Jack Crabtree on “biblical sexuality” are from Fall 2002. That Fall Gutenberg College’s McKenzie Study Center ran a series on “Understanding Love, Sex, and Marriage.” Notably absent in this series is a class dedicated to the issue of “homosexuality.” There are classes on the “Biblical Theory of Headship,” “Submission in Marriage,” and “A Theory of Infatuation.” But no class singled out homosexuality. Also, this series included a diversity of Gutenberg College teachers.
In 2003, Gutenberg’s MSC ran a series on “Sodom and Sexual Purity.” This series, like the 2002 one, included a diversity of Gutenberg College teachers. And this time Jack Crabtree presented — in addition to his well-known ideas on “Emotional Fornication” — a class entitled “Homosexuality.” You can view an outline of Jack’s arguments in 2003 here.
2 years later, in 2005, Gutenberg’s MSC once again ran a series on biblical sexuality, this time entitled, “Love, Sex, and Marriage.” Once again a diversity of Gutenberg College teachers were included. Jack Crabtree again presented a class entitled “Homosexuality.” You can view an outline of Jack’s arguments in 2005 here.
Now we fast-forward to last year, when Jack gave his scorched-earth conspiracy theory at the 2013 Summer Institute (where his voice was the specific focus). At the institute, Jack argued— among other things — that a Satanic American Beast was employing propaganda to brainwash us into embracing Christophobia and “accept[ing] certain homosexual pairings as ‘marriages.” (You can view Jack’s Summer Institute presentation here.) This moment marks a significant departure from Jack’s previous statements in 2003 and 2005. He has continued this departure in his current 2014 series, “Ethics of Sex in the Bible” (a series which, unlike the 2002, 2003, and 2005 series, does not include any voices other than Jack’s). You can view Jack’s own argument outline for the current series here.
In addition to Jack’s outline, I’d encourage you to read my live-tweeting from the first two parts of Jack’s series, as they give a fuller picture of Jack’s sentiments thus far. Part One is here; Part Two is here.
What I’d like to do right now is compare and contrast Jack Crabtree’s 2003, 2005, and 2014 presentations on the “homosexuality” issue. By doing so, you will see what exactly remains the same and what has changed. (Note: In a few cases below, when relevant, I also include parts from Jack’s 2013 Summer Institute paper.)
What has not changed
Homosexuality is a sin:
“[Homosexuality is] just one more manifestation of our rebellion against God, our rebellion against truth, our rebellion against everything good. But it’s just one more manifestation. But, but so is my self-centeredness and so is my pride and so is my self-righteousness and so is all that other garbage in my life. So I’m no better off than they are. We’re all in need of the mercy of God.”
“There’s no way that we can look at the biblical perspective and come to any other conclusion other than that God intended sexuality for marriage and intended marriage to be between male and female. That’s the only picture that the Bible knows, as far as I’m concerned.”
“Some sexual behaviors (and sexual desires) are morally disgusting…. Homosexuality.”
Jack’s obsession with bisexuality and the long-forsaken “gay gene” myth
The widespread practice of bisexuality, Jack says, “gives the lie to” the idea of a “gay gene.” “What is there, a third gene?” Jack talks about the book, “Exploding the Gene Myth” by Ruth Hubbard.
Jack again talks about “Exploding the Gene Myth,” saying that even a “radical lesbian” like Ruth Hubbard (who, FYI, is such a “radical lesbian” she’s married to a man and has not only children but grandchildren) says, “The bottom line is that genes don’t do nothing. They just make proteins.” Jack also again talks about bisexuality’s existence as a trump card against gay people.
“MODERN MYTH: Homosexuality is an act of creation, just like left-handedness.. The ‘gene myth’ is the culturally-accepted myth that shapes most modern attitudes toward sexuality today… The history of modern attitudes toward sexuality makes a ‘lie’ out of the gene myth. The sudden popularity of bi-sexuality on the heels of the greater cultural acceptance of homosexuality had all the earmarks of a cultural phenomenon, not a biological phenomenon. (Or was there a sudden mutation in everyone’s genes?)”
What has changed:
A humility about disagreement and the limits of knowledge:
Jack admits that if “It is no more significant to be oriented towards a member of the safe sex as it is to be left-handed” is true, it would be “cruel” and “bigoted” to discriminate against gay people. Jack also goes through common arguments in favor of LGBT*-friendly Christianity, taking care to point out which arguments he considers a challenge to his perspective. He discusses alternative understandings of biblical passages he believes supports his opinion. He gives reasons for why he does not find these understandings as convincing as his own. The conclusion of Jack’s presentation includes specific ways in which he believes the Christian church has been self-righteous and hypocritical towards gay people.
Jack begins his presentation with admitting the minimal nature of his source material: “The problem with trying to do a bible study on homosexuality is that there’s really not a whole lot to say.” Jack admits his case against gay people is not air-tight: “I may not be able to come up with an air-tight convincing case for why homosexuality is wrong, but that it is wrong seems completely clear to me from nature and the Bible.” Finally, Jack states that he believes his entire worldview would crumble if same-sex attraction were proven biologically caused:
“If homosexuality is indeed biologically determined (and I do mean determined, such that we have no choice in the matter), if homosexuality is indeed biologically determined — then I think that’s a challenge to the whole biblical worldview. I don’t think we can have it both ways. The Bible’s just flat out wrong if homosexuality is biologically determined. We’d have to rethink everything about our faith.”
2013 (Summer Institute):
Jack chalks up disagreement with him to propaganda and a Satanic American Beast. He claims only some species of a conservative Christian American mindset is the true “Biblical Worldview.”
Jack never interacts with alternative positions, opposing arguments, or calls out the Christian church’s treatment of gay people; he chalks up disagreement to propaganda. He once again claims a monolithic “Biblical Worldview” that he himself has grasped.
No mention about biblical sexual ethics being “odd, old-fashioned, bizarre, out of touch, and uncool”; no obsession with a conspiracy theory.
No mention about biblical sexual ethics being “odd, old-fashioned, bizarre, out of touch, and uncool”; no obsession with a conspiracy theory.
2013 (Summer Institute):
“I know all too keenly how odd, how eccentric, how unsophisticated, how naïve, and how basically ‘uncool’ it is to take the Bible seriously. I can never articulate what I actually believe to be true about God, Jesus, and the Bible without hearing a voice of self-condemnation deep within my own psyche—’you sound like an unintelligent, uneducated, unpolished hick, and perhaps even a little wacky.’ …The state is becoming an enemy of everything we stand for… As a consequence, we must forge small, informal, unofficial, under-the-radar communities…Probably quite similar to what many Chinese Christians have had to do… We must] replace the existing institution of marriage with an entirely new institution…The current institution of marriage no longer does that…It has been compromised by the increasing insistence of the superior class that we accept certain homosexual pairings as ‘marriages.”
“From the perspective of modern culture, biblical sexual ethics will inevitably seem odd, old-fashioned, bizarre, out of touch, and uncool.”
This is explained via the 2013 conspiracy theory: “the newer values are the outcome of propaganda, prejudice, and acculturation.”
Actual progress in seeing a difference between homosexual attraction and homosexual acts:
Jack says the fact that you’re attracted to a member of the same sex is itself a sign of perversion:
“Often homosexuals will anecdotally say, ‘I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not attracted to members of the same sex.’…I’m not sure what this is supposed to prove. It either proves that it’s natural for me to be a homosexual, or that you’ve been perverse for as long as you can remember.”
During the Q&A time, Jack argues that the predisposition towards same-sex attraction in itself is a sin, like the man who commits adultery “in his heart.”
“Finding other males sexually attractive is not the same as being a homosexual. Homosexuality is chosen, even if sexual attraction to males is (or seems to be) not… A male’s being sexually attracted to other males is never, in and of itself, considered evil and perverse by the Bible.”
Attacking gay marriage and LGBT* rights as legal institutions:
Jack says he’s not interested in efforts to “deny homosexual people rights.” During the Q&A, an audience member asks, “Would it be ok to vote yes on these measures [to give rights to LGBT* people]? …I want to see them get their rights. Would that be ok?” Jack responds: “Well I think you could make a case for it… I really don’t have a problem if you mercifully want to grant health insurance to another person.”
No discussion about gay marriage or LGBT* rights as a legal institution.
2013 (Summer Institute):
“[We must] replace the existing institution of marriage with an entirely new institution… It has been compromised by the increasing insistence of the superior class that we accept certain homosexual pairings as ‘marriages.”
Jack also defends people who believe reparative therapy is legitimate.
“If it were the case that no ‘verse’ tells me it is wrong for ‘marriage’ to occur between two human beings of the same sex, would that fact entail that the Bible would consider same-sex marriage morally unobjectionable? The answer is ‘no.’ …When one’s views on gay marriage ‘evolve,’ it is because cultural forces have molded and shaped those views, not because one has ‘discovered’ the rational validity of a different moral judgment.”
Homosexuality is “perverse” in a “fairly ordinary, fairly mundane” sense; it is a “perversion of what the designer of human sexuality intended”; “homosexuality is an aberration that does not fit with nature”; however, “it’s not more heinous than any other sin”; “there’s a lot of pain in” the lives of LGBT* people; Jack does not advocate shunning but rather believes “it speaks more and better to go ahead and love them and be silent about their choice.”
Homosexuality is “an aberration,” but merely one “indication” or “evidence” of “the brokenness of human beings”; Jack specifically states homosexuality is “not the lowest” form of “degradation,” rather ￼”it’s simply wrong.”
Homosexuality is specific sort of sinful behavior that is “morally disgusting,” “viscerally repulsive,” and “an abomination” — in the same category of other behavior like cannibalism and child rape. It is a manifestation of “animal sexuality” — and “animal sexuality” is “evil, dirty, demeaning, and unclean.” It is “in violation of one’s rational moral judgment to an outrageously high degree.”
What Jack compares homosexuality to:
“To me, to call homosexuality perverse is, ok, yeah, right. But I call lots of things perverse. Lying is perverse.”
“I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t a liar and a thief. I mean, can you go back far enough when you wouldn’t be tempted to steal that which wasn’t yours? …Don’t both of those things come as naturally to us as anything else?”
“Any other sin”
“We need to get off our moral high horse and not look down on homosexuality as somehow a greater, graver, more heinous sin than the rest of them. The fact of the matter is, no, it’s not more heinous than any other sin.”
(No comparisons used.)
“To the member of a tribe of cannibals, eating his enemies (though they are human beings) feels comfortably ‘right’ and ‘natural.’ Why wouldn’t it? That is all he has ever known.”
“The Bible would seem to hold that there exists a category of behavior that it classifies as ‘morally disgusting’ behavior… Cannibalism… Pedophilia… Homosexuality…”
“How does one explain ‘biologically’ the sexual obsession of certain men with their automobiles?”
Jack makes no comments about the value (or lack thereof) of the body or sexuality in general.
Jack makes no comments about the value (or lack thereof) of the body or sexuality in general.
Jack claims that, “My physical sexual nature is not an essential element of what I am as a human being.” Our bodies are “not an essential facet of what I am as a creature created in the image of God”; they are “not an essential element to what makes me ‘me.’” Our bodies are less than: they are “a less noble, less eternal, and less beautiful facet of who I am. Our “true” “person-ness” is immaterial, and that immaterial person-ness “constitutes the ultimate, eternal, noble, beautiful, and essential facet of who I will be.” Due being a part of our lesser material shell, sexuality is “not spiritual, transcendent, eternal, or even ennobling”; rather, it is “connected with an inferior animal-like facet of who I am” that is neither “beautiful” nor “inherently noble and good.”
A Brief Summary of an Evolving Taxonomy
The final subject to consider is Jack Crabtree’s evolving taxonomy of sin. A taxonomy is a system of describing the way in which different things are related by putting them in groups. In this case, Jack has a history of distinguishing certain sins from other sins. This is important because it highlights most tangibly and dramatically how Jack’s rhetoric about homosexuality has evolved. To understand this evolution, I’m going to look at some statements beyond the ones compared above.
In September 1998, Jack wrote an essay entitled “Christianity,” which you can read on Gutenberg’s website here. The essay is primarily concerned with distinguishing Christianity from religion. In the course of defining what he means by “religion,” Jack says that, “According to the Bible, there are four types of sin or wrongdoing.” This is Jack’s first expression of a taxonomy of sin. He classifies sins into four groups: (1) “Violating the law of love or what is often called the golden rule,” or sins that hurt other people; (2) “Violating the created order, the structure of reality as God Himself made it,” or sins that are acts of rebellion against God’s intended designs; (3) “Violating trust in God,” which Jack simply defines as despair; and (4) “Violat[ing] divinely prescribed religion,” or “ignoring the rituals built into the prescribed religion that God gave Israel.”
In this taxonomy, where does homosexuality fit? Jack puts homosexuality under the second group, “Violating the created order.” Jack says, “Homosexuality is wrong because it violates the nature of human sexuality as God created it. Rebelling against God’s creation is a rebellion against God.” It is important to note here what this classification means: homosexuality is not a violation of love; it does not hurt other people. In this sense it is a “victimless” sin. One who “sins” in this way is in rebellion against God, but not posing any threat to other people.
In 2003, as we have seen, Jack stays consistent with this taxonomy of sin. While maintaining that homosexuality “is an aberration that does not fit with nature,” Jack points out that homosexuality is “fairly ordinary, fairly mundane” in its “perversion.” This makes sense of why Jack says he “would treat [gay people] just like any other human sinner… They’re not weird. They’re just human beings.” This also makes sense of Jack being disinterested in denying rights to gay people. If homosexuality does not pose a threat to anyone other than one who engages in it (and simply because it is “rebellion against nature”), why would you treat gay people differently? As opposed to “sins” that hurt other people — such as, say, murder and rape — homosexuality (in Jack’s model) is only wrong insofar as it is rebellion.
In 2005, as we have also seen, Jack also stays consistent with this taxonomy. Homosexuality poses no threat; rather, it is but one “evidence” of the general “brokenness” of the world. Jack also goes out of his way to stress that homosexuality is “not the lowest” form of “degradation.” Instead, ￼”it’s simply wrong.”
Jack begins to change his taxonomy of sin in 2009. In his “Notes on the New Testament Understanding of Sin,” published by Reformation Fellowship (the church run by Gutenberg College professors), Jack presents “a taxonomy of evil,” or, “some of the more important manifestations of sin.” Jack divides evil into two categories: (1) godlessness and (2) unrighteousness. Godlessness is “Overt expressions or manifestations of hostility toward and/or rejection of God himself,” such as “blasphemy” and “atheism.”
The second category of “unrighteousness” is what I am most interested in, because that category has five sub-categories – which are almost the same as the categories Jack used in 1998. But there are some significant differences this time. Unrighteousness, Jack argues, takes five forms of “rebellion against God”: (1) “in the way we treat others,” (2) “in the way we treat the created order of things,” (3) “in the way we treat ourselves,” (4) “in the way we treat God’s creation and providence,” and (5) “in our response to what is true.”
The first category includes sins that hurt other people, such as murder, adultery, and theft. The second category includes sins that simply reject the order and purpose of God’s creation, such as “homosexuality” and “any sexual perversion or impurity.” The third category includes sins that hurt one’s self, such as self-hatred or self-importance. The fourth category includes bad stewardship of the world, such as “anti-Semitism,” “cruelty towards animals,” and hurting the environment. Finally, the fifth category includes not believing the truth and believing lies instead.
There are lot of problems with this new taxonomy and where Jack places certain sins (or does not place them). For example, many of the sins in the fourth category (anti-Semitism would be the most glaring example) should be in the first category. The sins of the fifth category are identical to Jack’s meta-category of “godlessness,” so I am not sure why they are now included under the meta-category “unrighteousness.” Some of the sins in the first and second category are duplicates: adultery, for example, appears in both because it not only violates nature, it also hurts other people and thus is not victim-less.
Notably, however, how Jack classifies homosexuality has remained the same as 1998. Unlike adultery, homosexuality remains no more or no less than a violation of nature. Consider what this means, putting homosexuality under the second category and only the second category. This means that, to Jack, homosexuality does not hurt other people, does not hurt one’s self, does not imply bad stewardship of nature, and does not involve loving untruth. Rather, the only thing “wrong” with homosexuality is its unnaturalness.
From 1998 through 2009 Jack’s taxonomy of sin remained consistent on homosexuality.
This history should automatically put into stark contrast exactly how Jack’s 2013 and 2014 statements on homosexuality involve a radically altered taxonomy of sin. We learned in 2013 that gay people suddenly pose a direct and violent threat to not only Jack’s faith, but his freedom and safety. Gay people have destroyed “the existing institution of marriage” to the point that Jack argues it needs to be “replaced” — and gay people have done this, remember, because they are the sworn foot soldiers of a Satanic American Beast that will soon make Christians “suffer some kind of harm from the government.” This is a dramatic change from the 1998-2009 descriptions.
This dramatic change is also seen in Jack’s new “morally disgusting” category of sins. In his 2014 series, Jack argued that, “Some sexual behaviors (and sexual desires) are morally disgusting,” which means they are “viscerally repulsive.” Under this category Jack included a wide variety of sins — cannibalism, pedophilia, “excessive greed,” “excessive cruelty,” “complete lack of empathy or compassion,” and homosexuality.
Notice that this category — the “morally disgusting” category – appears nowhere in Jack’s 1998-2009 taxonomy of sins. It is itself a collapsing of disparate types of sins. Most disturbingly, it is including as “morally disgusting” something previously described as victim-less and nothing more than a violation of natural order — along with sins that are shockingly and gut-wrenchingly victimizing. Every single sin in this category — apart from homosexuality — is an extreme. Greed isn’t “morally disgusting” to Jack; rather, it’s excessive greed. Cruelty isn’t “morally disgusting” to Jack; rather, it’s excessive cruelty. Lack of empathy or compassion isn’t “morally disgusting” to Jack; rather, it’s complete lack of empathy or compassion.
And you know what doesn’t make the list? Rape.
Rather, Jack specifies child rape.
Murder also doesn’t make the list.
Instead, Jack specifies a specific form of murder where you kill a person by eating that person.
And right smack dab in this intentionally heightened and extreme list are gay people — the same people that Jack, a decade prior, said were “just human beings” who are “not weird.”
While I categorically reject any and every sentiment that gay people are sinners on account of being gay, I am particularly grieved because of Jack Crabtree’s evolution in how he expresses such sentiments. His rhetoric has changed for the worse. His empathy and compassion have also changed for the worse.
There a vast and profound distance between arguing gay people are “not weird” and “just human beings” and comparing them to people with decidedly weird sexual fetishes for automobiles. There is great chasm between arguing gay people are no more or less sinful than a kid who lies and putting gay people in the category of uniquely “morally disgusting” sinners as child rapists and cannibals.
If you neither see this evolution in Jack Crabtree nor understand its significance, you need to pay closer attention. The writing’s on the wall — and on iTunes.
41 thoughts on “The Evolution of Jack Crabtree on “Homosexuality””
For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times… before they started manufacturing people like machines to do the dirty work they didn’t want to and beating up anyone who wanted to leave…
Before they became the empire.
Thank you for doing the painstaking work of drawing out the source of the trauma and alarm that you and other alums (including me!) have been feeling since at least last Summer Institute.
This is not ok.
Ryan, I’m becoming increasingly disappointed with your treatment of Jack’s arguments. This is not a fair analysis. Last week, in the class, Jack made it clear that he does not see homosexuality as any worse than any other sin. He also stated that his goal is not a political or social one, but an personal, existential one; it is primarily about highlighting how much we all need God’s mercy, starting with convincing, first and foremost, himself. On the handout, cannibalism and homosexuality are also listed along with “excessive greed” – but none of this has factored into your analysis. I am struggling to understand why you seem bent on bringing Jack down.
Okay, I missed on my first read-through that you do address the excessive greed thing. Thanks for doing that. Sorry if my comment is harsh – I really am struggling to understand your approach. But I know that thinking/writing clearly when I am confused/angry isn’t the best policy, so I apologize if my emotions soured rather than helped in my earlier comment. I still think you are being unfair to Jack’s ideas. But I need to make sure I’m not being unfair to yours. Best wishes with all of this! I just hope the end of this journey is good for all us, you know?
Even the best, most productive, and intelligently stimulating dialogues — whether they are online or at a Great Books college like Gutenberg or St. John’s — will get emotional. If anything, emotional dialogues tend to be the more honest ones. Dialogue becomes emotional when deeply personal beliefs are at stake. And if our dialogues aren’t challenging our deeply personal beliefs, we’re probably discussing them in a less-than-courageous way. So I don’t mind your emotions. I mean this humorously and not as a pot shot, but: I give far more credence to emotions than Jack does. 😉 I think emotions give us as much valuable information about the world as do rationalizations. Both emotions and rationality can lead us astray, of course. But both can also lead us to truth. Emotions and rationality are but two tools we have to understand the universe.
So please don’t feel that you being confused or angry is unwelcome. You are reacting a certain way to my statements and you have every right to process that reaction. Similarly, I am reacting a certain way to Jack’s statements and I am processing those reactions here — in public, of course, which raises the stakes.
Concerning your point that, “Last week, in the class, Jack made it clear that he does not see homosexuality as any worse than any other sin.” —
1) I should first say that my live-stream malfunctioned last week so I didn’t get to the Q&A portion of the presentation. I live-tweeted the whole thing right up to that point then I had to stop. Had I heard the Q&A, I would certainly have included it. I apologize that my not including it seemed like an intentional omission. It definitely wasn’t, and I would’ve been sure to include it.
2) To be clear: I don’t find this equalization of sin helpful, legitimate, biblical, or loving. I wrote a post tonight about why. So if you’re interested, please feel free to look at what I wrote. I would offer up that critique to any of Jack’s attempts at equalization, whether those attempts were the ones made in 2003, 2005, or last week. So, just to be clear, I don’t give Jack any points for that argument.
3) The whole point of this post was to show specifically how Jack has evolved in his rhetoric about gay people. I don’t mind admitting that Jack still believes in the equalization of sin. I didn’t hear him do that last week, but you’ve pointed out he has. But that doesn’t change the fact that evolution has still happened. Pointing out that evolution was the point here.
I’d comment on the “excessive greed” point but it seems you feel resolved on that. But if you have any comments or questions on that part — which, honestly, I think is the most important part of this post — feel free to express them.
I’ll try to respond to some of your other points in the other comments tomorrow. But I do want to address one point in particular:
Certainly we’re weaving in and out of a dialogue about whether Jack has the Bible right. That’s pretty much unavoidable. I’ve been upfront about the fact that I think he has the Bible wrong on Christianity’s relationship with LGBT* individuals. But the dialogue I am engaging in here is a very different one than that.
I’m definitely not unconcerned about whether Jack has the Bible right. But I’m also realistic about the fruitfulness of that dialogue via blogposts. My specific concern here is about rhetoric and comparisons. I’d explain that more, but honestly bonuscooper and whitechocolatelatte have explained it much more cogently than I can at the moment. So I’d defer to them.
Ok, thanks for your response, Ryan. I think I understand the issue better now. I’m still frustrated because I still feel like you’re skirting the heart of this whole thing, but I do appreciate all the effort you and the other commenters have gone to to clarify your position. And yeah, I’d love more clarification on the excessive greed point, but only if you have the time. Best wishes.
Carina, can you explain more what you think is unfair about restating Jack’s points and how his positions have changed or stayed the same over the years?
Jack cannot wipe away the effects of his categorizations and explanations by claiming that same sex attraction and/or sexual acts are no worse than any other sin. Where he used to compare being gay to lying or stealing, he’s now discussing it in the context of an intentionally heightened and extreme list, as Ryan points out.
Every single sin in this category — apart from homosexuality — is an extreme. Greed isn’t “morally disgusting” to Jack; rather, it’s excessive greed. Cruelty isn’t “morally disgusting” to Jack; rather, it’s excessive cruelty. Lack of empathy or compassion isn’t “morally disgusting” to Jack; rather, it’s complete lack of empathy or compassion.
Jack cannot also consistently say his goal is personal and existential while calling for underground societies that combat the culture that makes same sex attraction and sexual acts “cool.”
TheGirlWhoWasThursday said it well yesterday: http://bit.ly/1nFItZ7
I do not expect you to be excited about the fact that I am criticizing [Jack], publicly, for all the world to see. And Jack is a pleasant person who loves his children and family and has hopes and fears and the whole ball of string.
But so am I.
And I hardly expected my teacher to call me animalistic, morally disgusting, viscerally repulsive, an abomination, and to create special category of sinner for me along with pedophiles, sadists, and sociopaths (Section IV E)-
Publicly, for all the world to see.
My family agrees with him, you know.
I do not believe I have earned this from him.
Jack’s comments are not only hurtful in their presentation, they are inconsistent with the claims you’re attributing to him and a marked departure from the way he was speaking about this subject even a few years ago.
Pointing this out does not strike me as an attempt to personally attack Jack, but as an attempt to explain the cause of concern. What ways of coming at this would come across as less of an attempt to “bring him down”?
Whitechocolatelatte, I just can’t help but feel that Ryan has pulled a lot of Jack’s “points” out of context. For everything that Ryan has highlighted, Jack has also said things like this (these are quotes from the lecture last Tuesday, in response to some questions I asked):
“That’s the bottom line – I mean – in this whole debate about homosexuality, why is that someone like me wants to be insistent that we call homosexuality wrong? Same reason I’m insistent that we call greed wrong, that we call cruelty wrong, that we call murder wrong, that we call anything wrong that’s wrong, because every one of them is a symptom of this deep-seated problem that human beings have that’s gonna kill us if we don’t acknowledge it, face into it and accept the mercy of God. If I can just pass off the various manifestations of my perversity as ‘Oh that’s just me,’ I don’t need no mercy then. And the one who doesn’t need mercy is the one who doesn’t get mercy. Do I want to leave people there? That you don’t get mercy? No, I don’t want to leave people there. Of course I want them to get mercy – that’s the gospel! That’s the gospel that we proclaim if we are ‘evangelists,’ if we are believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is there’s mercy for us who don’t deserve to live. But there’s so many ways to manifest and display the fact that we don’t deserve to live. Homosexuality is one of them. It’s not the only one. There are dozens of them, and they every one of them condemns us.”
To me, this doesn’t sound like putting homosexuality in a group of special sins. This still sounds like someone admitting that we’re all messed up.
“The fate of the homosexual is the same as the fate of the self-righteous, hypocritical Pharisee. And I would like to stamp out Pharisee-ism just as surely as I would like to stamp out homosexuality – stamp it out in the sense of, um, put it in a category that we can all agree on, that this is a problem for us human beings. God have mercy on us.”
“I’m trying to be true to the biblical message, and the biblical message is to reach out with a message of mercy and hope for people like me who doesn’t deserve to live. And none of us do ourselves a favor by saying, ‘Nothin’ wrong with me. Don’t call me wrong! Don’t say I’m me perverse, don’t call me evil!” That’s the deadly thing, is to look at what is depraved and perverse and call it good. That blocks the mercy of God more than anything else. I don’t want people doing that.”
These are the positions and beliefs that I see at the heart of Jack’s mission. Regardless of whether or not we think he’s right, I think it should be clear that his goal is not to marginalize, oppress, harm, etc… others. I don’t think his empathy has changed. I don’t think his views have essentially evolved. Maybe he needs to rethink some of his language, but I don’t think that’s the biggest issue here. The question is whether or not he understands the Bible. If Jack understands the Bible, then we have to ask if the Bible is right; we have to ask, among other things, if its goal is to marginalize, hold back compassion, etc… If we think the Bible is wrong, then let’s argue against the Bible; what Jack thinks is irrelevant. The other option is that Jack doesn’t understand the Bible. In that case, we should be looking at passages and trying to understand where he has gone wrong. But I don’t think it’s fair to cast him or his ideas as anything but a human being trying to figure shit out.
Maybe there is cause for concern. In that case, why not go to Jack? Or, ok, let’s post publicly. But if we’re going to post publicly, we need to be clear about what we’re arguing against. Ryan seems to have admitted that he isn’t interested in dialoguing with Jack’s ideas. He made clear that in this case, there are things he values above dialogue (namely, being loving). That’s fine, but then don’t make the issue about Jack/Gutenberg becoming increasingly uninterested in dialogue. That’s disingenuous. That is probably the main thing that I would like to have seen done differently. If you want to draw attention to how harmful you think Jack’s ideas are, I don’t think I have a problem with anyone doing that. I just hope to see it done charitably.
Now, maybe I haven’t been fair to Ryan’s ideas. I’m really trying to be, but it is hard. And I think we all find ourselves in that situation with Jack’s ideas. It’s hard. I fear we all run the risk of bullying each other if we cut off dialogue and insist that our position is right. That if the other side doesn’t see it, they must not be paying enough attention. On the other hand, If the time for dialogue is over, then its over. I personally hope it isn’t, which is the only reason I commented to Ryan to begin with. I also hope that my own manner aids instead of squelches dialogue, so I hope you guys will call me out if it’s not.
Okay, take care. 🙂
I forgot to say: there were moments when I was re-listening to myself asking/commenting at the lecture where I felt saddened and ashamed of what I was saying and of how I was saying it. I actually felt my conscience being pricked when Jack responded with some of the things which I quoted above. Sure, I was nervous speaking up in public, and I tend to be less graceful when I’m nervous – but that only explains some of why I felt embarrassed listening to myself. The heart of it is that I was pretty convinced that I had what Jack was saying right and that these “other people” were wrong – my arrogance about that slipped out. Jack’s response humbled me and, in essence, that’s why I appreciate what he’s doing. I need these reminders of how prone I am to think better of myself than is appropriate. Best wishes, all. And I really am done talking now. 😉
Maybe a part of what’s going on here (and I appreciate these people I know trying to find ways to communicate) is that some former students of a brilliant, kind man are devastated by the way this man has recently sought to present his views. I don’t just hear people saying this as I read – I viscerally experience the pain their reactions express. Naturally, this intensity causes painful feelings, in reaction to the reactions, from those who aren’t affected negatively by Jack’s presentations.
When so much raw intensity is going on, a rational conversation seems a bit counterproductive. Just as if I come home bleeding from a dog bite and my husband tries to calm me by pointing out it’s only a very small wound. This may be true, but if I’m deathly afraid of dogs, and one has just run up and put his teeth into my skin, I will react in a devastated manner. I may try to follow my husband’s lead and be “rational”, going back and explaining to him every event in my life that led me to be frightened of dogs in the first place. I may really want to “help” him in this fashion. But I’m in tears and in great anguish, and even if I succeed in conversing in the calm way he seems to desire, it doesn’t help me in the least. Because what I need at the moment is his love, his presence, his arm around me as I sit and cry. He doesn’t have to converse at all. He just needs to hear me cry. Some day I may be able to talk with him about the truth regarding dogs – such as some are biters and others aren’t; whatever there might be to talk about. But right now it’s impossible. I may scream and really bother my husband. But his love is demonstrated by hanging in there and waiting this reaction out.
If I demand that the dog who bit me be killed, and it turns out this is my husband’s favorite dog, that puts the circumstances between us on another level. I think that’s what it kind of sounds like the people who are defending Jack’s presentation are doing – acting as though the things said here will maim or kill Jack. I have a feeling Jack will do all right with these postings going on. He is free, of course, to defend himself. But maybe he is simply letting people express themselves, as best as he can, by remaining quiet.
I’m saying this as someone who disagrees with Jack on some significant issues, and who has met more than once with him in person and communicated in written forms, in which I tried to express things to him “gutenbergially”, while Jack has tried, I’m sure, to express his reciprocal concerns for me. I read R.L.S.’s posts and others’ out of concern and caring for a group that continues to mean very much to me.
My thoughts on culture and homosexuality are continually in process. I know where I stand as a Christian with particular beliefs, but as for the general culture around me, I am recognizing that some of the issues going on are things I need to apologize for, because over the years I have reacted viscerally, in fear, to some things (one example would be the AIDS “crisis” of the 1980s), and I bear responsibility for helping to promote some of the problems our culture now faces. I’m not in despair over this natural thing that happened in my lifetime. I wish to excavate the reasons for what is truly going on between people I care about and to own up to my mistakes that have contributed to this situation.
I appreciated this reflection, deanna. 🙂
” I wish to excavate the reasons for what is truly going on between people I care about”
I really appreciate this.
Very interesting information, Ryan.
Carina, I do not think that Ryan is misrepresenting Jack’s argument by not focusing on Jack’s less objectionable statements. Because those less objectionable statements do not change the impact of the rhetoric Jack has chosen to employ. It’s like saying “no offense” at the end of a heinous slur, and expecting it to lessen the blow. This might be hard to understand from your viewpoint, but my guess is that Ryan is holding back quite a bit.
And jack’s premise dies not invite dialogue. It starts from the premise that the other side holds their viewpoints disingenuously. It refuses to give a sound scriptural basis, and yet insists that it is a rational viewpoint based in radical biblicism. It gives no room to challenge his assumptions.
I think that Jack himself ultimately admits the poison in the well, though he does not recognize it as such. In the 2013 SI and this lecture, he had given steep praise to two “tea party conservative” propaganda books by Angelo Codevilla, and admits Code villa’s influence on jack’s thoughts. He adopts Codevilla’ s terminology and twisted viewpoint almost without question. Jack’s rhetoric has become emboldened, and “the air he breathes” has become all he needs to generalize modern values and thought. Jack is tilting at windmills. And he had already made it clear that he will shrug off disagreement with his assumptions as just not “seeing what he sees.”
Jack decided to live stream his class. His expression of views is not snatched from a spontaneous private conversation. A public response is therefore appropriate. Jack is a Harvard trained theology scholar with a doctorate. When he uses strong rhetoric, like creating a list of horrendous sins and throwing in homosexuality, he knows what he is doing. Or he damn well should.
And Jack is not just somebody trying to figure things out. He is a professional giving a public lecture on his area of scholarship. But instead of taking the time to do good work, he chose to preach to the choir while occasionally making extremely derogatory comments about people who “do homosexual acts.” If we can’t call him out for that, what can we call him out on?
And, in the end, why should the great conversation be completely polite? And why should it not happen in public?
bonuscooper, I think that asking why Jack has chosen the rhetoric he’s chosen is a good thing to ask. I don’t see Jack as saying “no offense.” I think he knows it will be offensive. But I think it’s hard to make the case that he wants to single out LGBT* people as the target of his offense. The comments that Ryan omitted make it clear that calling wrong wrong is the goal, which makes aspects of all of our lives the target. Ryan claims that Jack is making LGBT* individuals the focus of extreme rhetoric; I am just questioning that.
Here’s where I find myself: 1. Jack is using language that he knows will offend some people. Ryan has done a good job of pointing out how potentially offensive this rhetoric can be. But 2. Jack says that his goal is to get clear on what the Bible’s stance on sexuality is, which is just part of a larger project of illuminating what he believes is the message of the Bible: that God is ultimately interested in granting mercy to those who want it. – So I’m in this place where I feel like I need to try and reconcile these two things. Is Jack just hateful? His rhetoric at points could strike one as going down that road, but on the other hand he speaks very kindly and humbly and says he’s interested in showing God’s mercy. So what’s really going on? How do we reconcile these two aspects of what Jack is saying? We can’t just ignore the parts where Jack talks about homosexuality being one of many, non-excessive human problems and then point to his heightened rhetoric and say that he’s not inviting dialogue and trying to marginalize people. Both are part of this picture.
It is much easier to assume that Jack has gone over to the Dark side than to think of him as a person, and much easier than attempting to understand his message on his terms. Jack strikes me as very open to others challenging his assumptions. But where is the thoughtful challenge to Jack’s understanding of the Bible’s authority? To Jack’s picture of sin? Where is the challenge to Jack’s interpretation of the Biblical passages he did cite? We can’t say Jack isn’t providing scriptural basis when he 1. does in the lectures, 2. would certainly give more and explain them more thoroughly if asked, and 3. has not even been given the chance to lay out his whole argument. The list of “abominations” is in a section of the outline Jack hasn’t gotten to yet, in which I expect that he will talk about the Biblical context for the idea of a “viscerally repulsive” sin. If he doesn’t, I will be asking him to. I personally feel it is too soon to say if Jack has done a good enough job defending his picture of Biblical sexual ethics. I’ll see when he’s finished with the class.
Look, I don’t think Jack is infallible. I would be hesitant to jump on board with all his ideas. But even people who are horrifically wrong deserve to be treated with respect. It is not fair to link Jack’s name to things we may find obnoxious and treat that as an argument for why Jack, therefore, is wrong. It is not fair to say we’re arguing against Jack on one point (like that he’s not dialoguing), when really our main concern is something else. And ultimately, it’s not fair to only take issue with his language and never ask what he’s trying to say. We need to look at the argument he is trying to make, the assumptions he holds, and then thoughtfully critique those. If our main problem is that Jack thinks homosexuality is a sin, and we think he’s wrong, then why don’t we talk about why we think that position is wrong? Saying Jack borrowed language/ideas from someone who we despise (i.e. Codevilla) is not an adequate argument.
I think I get what the point on which we’re talking past each other is, though. I see this as primarily about whether or not Jack has the Bible right, and I’m getting the impression that that is not Ryan’s main concern. Or is it?
Like I said in my other comment, I’m not against a public response. I’m not against an impassioned public response. I just want it to be charitable.
“The fate of the homosexual is the same as the fate of the self-righteous, hypocritical Pharisee. And I would like to stamp out Pharisee-ism just as surely as I would like to stamp out homosexuality – stamp it out in the sense of, um, put it in a category that we can all agree on, that this is a problem for us human beings. God have mercy on us.”
You know what else people stamp out?
I’ll contemplate the charitable nature of your relationship to Jack as I hide between the floorboards, ok?
During the Holocaust, Nazis referred to Jews as rats. Hutus involved in the Rwanda genocide called Tutsis cockroaches. Slave owners throughout history considered slaves subhuman animals. In Less Than Human, David Livingstone Smith argues that it’s important to define and describe dehumanization, because it’s what opens the door for cruelty and genocide.
“We all know, despite what we see in the movies,” Smith tells NPR’s Neal Conan, “that it’s very difficult, psychologically, to kill another human being up close and in cold blood, or to inflict atrocities on them.” So, when it does happen, it can be helpful to understand what it is that allows human beings “to overcome the very deep and natural inhibitions they have against treating other people like game animals or vermin or dangerous predators.”
[U]ltimately, it’s not fair to only take issue with his language and never ask what he’s trying to say.
Carina, Jack is purposefully trying to offend (and thereby “evangelize” to) LGBT* folks by using language that has been used to incite physical and emotional harm to them.
Regardless of any other agreements or disagreements one might have, regardless of any other context, regardless of any other goal, and regardless of any additional intended targets of the offense, this is not ok.
And it is not not the same as saying, “all have sinned and fallen short.”
(This is especially so given Jack’s previous acknowledgment that Christians have erred in their over-condemnation of gays and under-condemnation of themselves and the fact that Jack has lived through the assassination of Harvey Milk, the assault of Tennessee Williams, and the torture and assault of Matthew Shepard, among many other events of LGBT* targeted violence.)
Further, I fail to see how taking issue with a presentation choice, if you want to call it that, is a failure to give due respect. I, for one, would not even bother to verbalize my concern if I didn’t care about Gutenberg, its students, and its alumni and believe that Jack is a thoughtful and intelligent person.
I’m seeing these choices as confirming a shift in his approach–a shift I first saw in his Summer Institute paper. It’s a choice to forego the carefulness and disclaimers he used to give for a carte blanche statement of his opinion as the biblical one and a characterization of people who disagree with him as delusional by definition. I’m not sure there’s a charitable way to characterize that.
Nobody is saying Jack is “hateful.” He is harmful. There is a big difference.
I can’t help but feel like you are reading more into what Ryan is saying than what he is actually arguing.
And I have asked Jack several questions during the lecture for clarification on how he is approaching the topic. He has basically indicated that he has no interest in delving too much into why the Bible’s principles on sexuality are right and good (because he is assuming radical biblicism as a precondition for his argument) and Jack has no interest in researching or understanding what “modern” people think and value. Instead, he is fine making a complete straw man of “modern values.”
And I am not comparing Jack to Codevilla randomly. He is the one who has announced that Codevilla is the biggest influence on his thinking the past year or two. And it is apparent from his shift in rhetoric and thinking that he is pretty self aware on that point.
And Jack is the one who said he really didn’t want to get into exegeting specific passages in this lecture. And sure enough, he has not.
And I do not think that Ryan had to choose one reason to be dismayed by jack’s lectures. The rhetoric is damaging, much of the reasoning is shaky, and many of his positions ate based on an understanding of modern culture and thought that is completely misrepresentative. And he has not bothered explaining other interpretations of the Bible or why his is correct, and even seems to be avoiding that discussion altogether.
But the most damaging thing Jack is doing is using rhetoric that pairs gay people with dangerous sociopaths and sickos. He can downplay it at certain times, but he cannot simply erase the impact of that kind of arguing. Words are powerful, and he is just as responsible as anybody else for the weird he chooses. And even more so when broadcasting himself as an academic authority.
Again I’m a bit late to the party.
Words are very interesting in the way that they can either clarify or distort.
Bonus cooper, you just said:
“And I have asked Jack several questions during the lecture for clarification on how he is approaching the topic. He has basically indicated that he has no interest in delving too much into why the Bible’s principles on sexuality are right and good (because he is assuming radical biblicism as a precondition for his argument) and Jack has no interest in researching or understanding what “modern” people think and value. Instead, he is fine making a complete straw man of “modern values.”
“And I am not comparing Jack to Codevilla randomly. He is the one who has announced that Codevilla is the biggest influence on his thinking the past year or two. And it is apparent from his shift in rhetoric and thinking that he is pretty self aware on that point.”
1) “he has no interest…” He is indeed assuming radical Biblicism and he indicated that his case for radical Biblicism and his conviction that the Bible is true (and thus lays out a worldview that is “right and good”) is a different discussion altogether that he would be happy to take up outside of this class and that he has taken up in other contexts. So doesn’t your phrase “He has basically indicated that he has no interest…” prejudice your reader in suggesting that Jack is thoughtless and careless about the way he is thinking about this subject?
2). Again the phrase “Jack has no interest…” and the always powerful and dismissive “straw man” suggestion. You are right in saying that the focus of his study in this context is a biblical view of sexuality and not a modern view of sexuality. But that is quite different from what seems to be your suggestion that he has no understanding of a modern view rather than simply that his focus is on the biblical view. Perhaps it would be helpful if you could give one or two examples of the straw men that you say he has constructed with regard to a modern view of sexuality. I suspect that whether or not they are actually straw men is a different question altogether and is influenced by a number of other considerations. I am guessing that there would be some disagreement as to whether or not he is actually constructing straw men. Or the even more dangerous and extreme “complete straw man”.
3). “…announced that Codevilla is the biggest influence on his thinking the past year or two.” I guess I missed the “announcement”. Perhaps Jack has experienced a conversion and I missed it. Perhaps Codevilla is now his main authority in shaping his thinking on things rather than the Bible. But might it not be more accurate to simply observe that he has commented on the way Codevilla has helped to give him some categories and some ways of thinking about these things rather than to suggest that he somehow or other has fallen under the sway of one particular thinker that you consider to be problematic? Or are you actually suggesting that this thinker, for the last two years, has been the primary influence on the way Jack thinks about things and thus, by inference, Jack no longer thinks for himself and has gotten sidetracked somewhat from his pursuit in understanding what the Bible says and giving it ultimate authority?
Words are indeed very interesting as well as the filter through which we hear them.
On a completely different note, as the representative “old man” in this discussion, I don’t quite get and I certainly don’t like the nature of an discussion like this where comments are made under names that keep one from knowing the identity of the person making the comment. Maybe you all know who each other are and I am the only one in the dark. I would rather have a dialogue with a person and it seems to me as though the relative anonymity of posting things under blogging pseudonyms makes it difficult to have real conversation that is geared toward mutual understanding.
Peter, I think Mike’s analysis is spot-on, honestly. I’m not sure why you equate a thinker’s influence on one’s life with either “conversion” or “falling under the sway.” Both those descriptions seem to imply something negative. If Mike had said Jack’s biggest influence in a previous set of years was Kierkegaard, would that mean conversion or falling under the sway? Or if your biggest influence in the last few years was Jack, would it mean those things?
Identifying one’s “biggest influence,” or admitting for one’s self that someone is one’s “biggest influence,” simply means that a thinker has made sense of life’s big questions for you. They’ve given you categories for understanding, or a model of thinking that makes sense. Among Christians, we’d all like to assume “the Bible” is our biggest influence, but we all know that the Bible was written for a variety of cultures vastly removed from our own. So I don’t think it ought to be a threat that we’d find contemporary thinkers more “revelatory” of contemporary issues. Often that simply means that a contemporary thinker gives us a model for understanding the Bible as it relates to contemporary issues. Case in point: how influential Francis Schaeffer was to many of the Gutenberg teachers.
A key lesson I learned from Gutenberg was that no one has a pristine, objective understanding of the Bible. One is always influenced by one’s surrounding culture. This means that Augustine has cultural fixtures in his worldview; Jack does, likewise. It’s pretty obvious that Jack has cultural fixtures; those fixtures came across glaringly (and self-admittedly) in the last Summer Institute. Pointing them out doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bad. It just means they are.
And really, Jack’s been pretty upfront about this. During the Summer Institute he said the following:
Following that, A Codevilla book was on his nightstand in March. Jack is clearly enamored with the guy. We can certainly debate whether that’s good or not. (Full disclosure: I don’t think it’s good. I’m with Mike on this. Codevilla is a careless, terrifying thinker.) But it seems fruitless to argue whether or not he is enamored.
And the fact is, as I pointed out in my post about Jack and Codevilla, Jack’s entire Summer Institute paper was basically a copy-and-paste of Codevilla’s essay and book. Like, to the point that it was humorous. I read Jack’s paper, then followed his footnote to Codevilla’s writings. And they’re pretty much identical. The only substantial difference in the core analysis is Jack adds some spiritualization.
Hi, Peter! Actually you do know me in real life. I sent a care package to one of your daughters while she was in Germany and exchange comments with your Thai daughter (who I admire very much) on facebook from time to time. Aaand I am a Gutenberg alumni.
The reason I can’t address you openly is that I have come out as bisexual under this identity. You’ll never believe it, but some people have referred to me as a viscerally repulsive abomination in the Gutenberg circles, and I no longer feel safe divulging personal information around you.
Don’t feel old. Feel like you’re scaring the shit out of the people you’re talking to.
I have not listened to the latest lecture, because I was busy tonight, so I cannot say if the current lecture changes directions at all.
Peter, my name is Michael O’Malley Mohr. I did not even realize that my blog handle was not my name on this account. But I have not been hiding behind anonymity. I have even tried to show a bit of restraint in my commentary, which might surprise you. But I do not see how anonymity changes my personhood or the value of our dialogue. Especially considering that you and I do not know each other either way. And how does you not knowing my name prevent mutual understanding? If anything, you might ask yourself if the social pressures of an insular community actually creates obstacles to real mutual understanding, and that coming to the table with too many assumptions about the other person might actually inhibit honest conversation.
Peter, my comment about Jack having “no interest” in discussing those topics was in the context of his lectures. So, I meant that he has no interest in discussing those topics as part of the lectures. I do not think Jack is thoughtless in everything he does, but I think that he is thoughtless in how he is discussing this topic. And careless in how he is supporting his arguments during the lecture. Ryan pointed out precisely how Jack’s lectures have changed over the years, and one of the most striking things to me is that he used to discuss different approaches, either in interpreting specific passages or in Christian thought about sexual morality. At the very least, he could spend more time explaining how he came to his interpretations. It is hard to address the underpinning of Jack’s lecture when he does not make the underlying supports very explicit. I want more show and less tell, particularly if you are going to be addressing controversial issues.
As far as the modernity issue, I meant again that Jack had no interest in finding out modern perspectives before pursuing this lecture or during it. I do not mean to say he will never ever discuss those issues. But he literally said his opinions about modern thought for this lecture came from the “air he breathes” around him. Yes, that is careless AND sloppy. And Jack’s outline places the entire discussion of biblical ethics in the CONTEXT of modern culture. So it is disingenuous of him to later claim that this lecture is not a social/political lecture, or that he really cares about the context of modernity. By including his undeveloped opinions about modern culture, his lecture becomes sloppy scholarship, and that’s being generous.
Examples of the strawmen of “modern cultural views” include the idea that modern culture approves of adultery, that modern culture approves of doing “whatever feels good/right to the individual,” and generally that modern culture has no concept of values other that individual preference. While I am sure you could find somebody who holds each of these views, it is a cherry-picked version of “modern thought” on sexuality and ethics that completely ignores the discussion that is actually taking place. And it ignores that there is no simple answer as to what the “modern culture” thinks or values. Even on a political level, we are deeply split, with even “liberals” and “conservatives” fractured into many different camps, for example. I just think that Jack should not have picked such a complex premise for a lecture series if he did not want to seriously engage the issues and give their complexity its due. All this before mentioning his more puzzling allegations, such as claiming that homosexuality is probably not genetic “because it was less prevalent in early America.” What does that even mean? Less people were openly gay? What is he even basing that on? Considering how it is a linchpin of his argument that being gay is “unnatural” and a choice, it seems a bit absurd to address the argument in passing with only an unsupported statement about early American culture as evidence.
And I am not saying Jack has stopped thinking for himself. I am saying that, as Jack basically explained last summer, he read Codevilla and said to himself “Aha! This guy puts words to these things I feel about the world around me!” But instead of saying “does this appeal to me because it reinforces my biases,” Jack appears to have adopted large swathes of Codevilla’s assumptions about modern culture (the “country class/elite class distinction is an important example). Jack has mentioned Codevilla’s influence on his thinking during the SI and during these most recent lectures. I qualified the influence of Codevilla on his thinking as over the last two years or so, and never said that Jack had substituted Codevilla’s ideas for his own. Based on my recollection of Jack’s discussion of Codevilla last summer, I do not think I was making an unfair statement. But Codevilla’s categorizations and terminology are the main problem anyhow. They are paranoid and dismissive of countervailing opinions essentially as brainwashing by the “liberal elite.” He also has, in my opinion, terrifying opinions about morality and laws. But even given my own opinions about Codevilla, I do not think that merely noting his influence on the direction of Jack’s lectures and speaking is unfair to Jack. The SI piece in particular is heavily laden with deep echos of Codevilla’s paranoia.
After listening to the third lecture, I think Jack is starting to try to explain his positions more. And I think that allowed for more in depth questions, which got to the root of a lot of my objections with his arguments. But I still do not think he is fully answering a lot of the points people are bringing up… like how the entire discussion of homosexuality being “morally repulsive” is fruitless because, based on what he is saying. And he never explained how homosexuality fit into the category of “things that are so excessively immoral that they are viscerally repulsive. And ultimately it seems more and more apparent that Jack is so out of touch with “modern culture” and “modern values” that it was a very significant mistake to frame his discussion in the context of modern culture. Really, the lecture would have been much better structured and less infuriating if he would have simply focused on his explanation of what Biblical sexual ethics ARE instead of what they are NOT. We are three lectures in, I still have very little idea what he means by “Biblical worldview,” how we determine how to apply that worldview, and how we determine what that is. And I think that he is making a lot of conclusions that are dangerous, based on how those assumptions play out in reality. Most notably, his argument that people can “train” themselves to not be homosexual, an idea that has caused incredible grief, heartache, and tragedy in the lives of so many people. And that has been abandoned by many of its original proponents.
Just a thought. Hopefully a helpful one. Mike, perhaps you could frame some questions for Jack ahead of next week’s class and see if he could perhaps address them. At this point you have three weeks of classes you have listened to so maybe you could phrase some questions in terms of “this is what I understand you to be saying…can you clarify your thinking?” Or “this is where I disagree with what you are saying…can you respond to that?” Personally, I would find that very helpful to better understand just exactly what is at issue for you and to hear what Jack would have to say for himself. Whaddya think?
I should clarify that I was thinking perhaps you could get those questions/comments out before the class so that you would have the opportunity to express yourself more fully than in just a one line question called in during class. I have often heard Jack revisit an issue when questions have been raised after a given talk and he will then come back the next week and try to elaborate a little bit more. If you would be willing to do something like that and need any help actually getting them into Jack’s hands let me know if I can help with that.
I think that is a good suggestion. I do not want to hijack the lecture too much, but I have some general questions that I think would be helpful to answer.
Hey Mike. I don’t have an email address for you so I wasn’t sure just how to reach you but I wanted to say that it’s too bad your question didn’t get brought up in a more timely manner this evening. I would encourage you to flesh out the question as much as you want and/or add other questions if you have them so that Jack can take them up first thing next week rather than having them get squeezed out at the end. I don’t know what blogging etiquette allows for in giving out contact info but if you want to reach me for any reason feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I should also throw out there that I regret my overly aggressive original response to your comments a week or so ago. Not so much the content of my comments but absolutely the delivery of them.
And I will continue being the elephant in the room.
But at least you’re a badass elephant. Like this:
Peter, how can I submit a question? Do I just do it during the livestream?
TheGirlWhoWasThursday…I’m not sure what you are getting at with your comment but…if you are saying that you want to be able to address your specific concerns/questions to Jack in the context of the class, then by all means, you should submit questions/comments to him as well. Certainly. There are limitations to the lifestream questioning because they go to a computer that someone in the room is monitoring and then that person tries to figure out when to try to get Jack’s attention to ask the question. I was online last night listening from afar and I could see Mike’s question pop up about 15 minutes before class ended but it didn’t actually get asked until just about the very minute that the class was scheduled to end.
Then to sis…given my comments above, you can try getting a question in on lifestream but there are the limitations I mentioned. The questions are usually pretty short due to the limitations of typing it in and having someone else read it. So if someone has a more detailed question or wants to offer some context or some other perspective or something like that, I’m sure that Jack would be happy to get something more detailed ahead of time, have a chance to reflect on it and then comment on it in class. He regularly does that in a live context…brings up again later questions or concerns or differences of opinion that were brought to his attention after he was through talking. So…livestream or feel free to e-mail something to me (email@example.com) or to the Gutenberg office and ask them to get it to Jack. But try to do that a day or two ahead of time because getting something to him on the same day might be problematic. Does that make sense?
Pardon the self-correct on my computer. I meant “livestream” and I meant “sjs”. Any other problems real or imaginary with my grammar, punctuation, ideas and personality are mine and mine alone and cannot be blamed on my computer. Although I might try.
Thanks, Peter. I looked over Mike’s questions, and they covered all the ground I would have — especially numbers 3 and 6. 🙂 Thanks for sending them on to Jack!
TheGirlWhoWasThursday, thanks for coming out as another Bi-sexual Gutenberg girl. Myself and another gal during my attendance at Gutenberg were also bi-sexual (omni-queer, as I like to term myself) and it was, mildly put, alienating. I don’t blame you for not wanting to come out. On the bright side, if you did reveal your identity the majority tutors would likely just ignore you, as they do to most embodiments of their counter-arguments/beliefs.
I appreciate the open conversation on Rye’s part and from everyone else regarding Jack’s current preoccupation with what could be termed “conservative nationalist” ideologies and mores. Though I am no longer a Gutty nor an alumn nor a Christian, having chosen to purse my ethnic identity as a Sefardi, I still keep tabs on Jack if only because he has the kind of charisma that could propel intellectual Christians toward gnosis…or not. Also, Gutenberg has an impact on the larger Eugene community, to include the small population of Jewish of scholars and intellectuals in Lane county who have read Jack’s work.
I have had a high regard of Jack. I still have a high regard for his ability to engage people intellectually with his rhetoric and insights. I am disheartened to both read about and see his trend towards the dogma that thoughtlessly polarizes sins into “categories,” even if they do include greed. Greed and cannibalism and eating a cheesburger and threading my looms with linen and wool are all equal sins to me, but then again I have the benefit of seeing the Bible/Tanahk from the Torah perspective as it was intended for the Jews. I can’t pretend to fully understand the nuances of modern-day Christianity, which somehow and rather conveniently, places more spiritual significance on the sin of homosexuality and not on other equally biblical issues like outstanding debt, ritual purity for women, binding mitzvot on the doorposts and donning tefillin, etc. It seems choosy to me. If I mix my meats and cheese and say a rude word to my partner, I am equally a sinner and on Yom Kippur I beat my chest and lament them both with equal measures of penitence. After all, your Rabbi Yeshua said that all sin is committed in the heart and separates from our neighbor and HaShem. In that sense all sin is equalizing and therefore has no spiritual hierarchy.
Back to Jack: I have always and rather naively believed Jack to be “above” addressing the LGBT issue, if only because is a distraction from true Christianity and greater intellectual thought in general. (My past idealizations of Jack have included a sage, Buddhist monk who has transcended the earthy cares or politics of the fleeting world around him, but this just shows you how I have Christophied him, much to my chagrin). I hope for Gutenberg’s sake -and the intellectual Christian community with which I regularly engage- that his opinions do not radicalize further and ring with the politically “rightist” war cries of the lukewarm American evangelical “church.” However, even if they do it will still be a really interesting and valid journey to watch Jack wrestle through, and I support him either way. After all, none of this matters in the bitter end.
Also, I would really love to see and attend a live debate which allows Ryan and other concerned Gutty alum to challenge Jack and other tutors. Not a fight, a good, old fashioned discussion. It’s long overdue, especially considering that these tutors, on the surface at least, consider themselves to be intellectual guides and not the spiritual definitive. Isn’t it time, Peter, for both student and teacher to engage as equals in a legitimate setting? What better way for Gutenberg to prove that it both believes in the intellectual and spiritual depth of its students and respects them as equal?
After all, let’s be emotionally honest here- we’ve all beatified Jack to the point that we talk about him like Charles Manson or Augustine. It’s no wonder students and board members alike get a hernia when someone like Ryan raises a critical eye- the same eye that Gutenberg cultivated inside him nearly a decade ago. I think Jack would agree with me, that Jack himself is human, prone to error, subject to change (and entitled to it) and that he’s no enlightened Buddha on a hill, rather a passionate man whose convictions reflect the passage of the world around him. (Oh god, that was postmodern!)
Hamsahandwovens, I have been out of the loop for a little while but just wandered back and found a question addressed to me. I’m not clear just what you are suggesting but as best I understand your idea, I would say that, from what I know of the tutors, there is nothing that they enjoy more than a good old fashioned discussion and that they would feel as though they have not fully done their jobs if areas of genuine disagreement with them and/or whatever original sources are up for discussion. Sometimes that happens in class as long as one student doesn’t so monopolize the discussion that it becomes counterproductive for the rest of the class. And even if that were to happen, I would like to think that would not close off the opportunity for more genuine discussion/disagreement in another setting.
There are routine attempts (like the open every-Friday discussion) to facilitate that. Then there’s the summer institute of 2013 which was invigorating for that reason…a call was sent out to alums to jump in on the discussion catalyzed by Jack’s paper and some of the discussions were rousing to say the least. And that is the reason for a little bit different format for this summer’s institute…because the tutors place such a high value on the give and take with students and alums. As you observed, not a fight…not an attempt to win debate points…but a genuine desire to understand a given line of reasoning, pursue truth as a basic motivator and challenge each other in those things.
I wandered around to see your other blogs and gained a very preliminary appreciation for the heighth and depth and breadth of the unique experiences that you have had before and after your brief sojourn at Gutenberg. You have stories I would be benefit and learn from in the hearing. I appreciate your input here.
R.L. and others,
I just stumbled onto this blog today via the more recent blog about hating Gutenberg College (which I read). I realize the discussion on this post is days to weeks old, but hopefully at least you will see this comment, R.L. I have been blogging myself for a good 5 years, at http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com. I’ve covered a great many topics, book reviews, etc., on things biblical, religious, societal.
Although I was very involved with what later became Gutenberg College, then McKenzie Study Center, in 1980 to about 1982, during its move into the present facility, I have never written anything about it. My direct involvement ended positively and my interest and support continued until sometime after I moved from Eugene to SoCal in late 1988. Between about 1990 and 1995, partly because of PhD work at Claremont School of Theology, my perspective on the Bible and Christianity gradually changed (though not significantly until a while after finishing coursework there in 1994… I was still involved some in Evangelical churches and Bible or Christian college teaching).
That background to say that since then I do not share certain key or “core” perspectives with Jack or the others at Gutenberg… I’m basically a very progressive Christian, one who feels it may be clearer to just call myself a “Jesus-follower”, due to the common assumptions of what “Christian” implies that “Jesus-follower” does not, to at least some people. I admittedly am not “orthodox” within “the historic Christian faith” of somewhere around 250-325 C.E. and following.
Now, with that difference stated, I must add that I personally liked Jack as well as the others I knew there (some of whom were there then and remain, besides him). I never spent long periods talking directly with Jack but would say I knew him fairly well… but have had no interaction since at least 1988, and not much I can recall from about 1983. So I have no “ax to grind” nor reason to object to his general behavior… but do feel open disagreement with public teaching or statements of his is appropriate, and general observations that are not maligning or personal attack.
Somewhere you mentioned Jack’s weighting (not exact term) of emotions or emotional factors. I will say that I recall (not in precise terms) him indicating back then what I happened to consider an inadequate factoring in of not necessarily “emotion” but what might be called impressions and their related outward expressions. In my own case, there was once, I think around 1984 or 85 after my formal “staff” involvement was past, a time when Jack and at least a couple (I don’t recall who all) others from the Study Center (pre-college) quizzed me, over a meal, about my Charismatic involvement and views, in evident concern. They (I believe as led by Jack, though I can’t be sure) expressed philosophical/theological concern about that kind of subjective experience of God or maybe more about some of the out-workings, as in “prophetic” utterances or “tongues” (though I didn’t then and never have spoken in tongues). Again, my memory is not real precise but there is/was no question there was real concern that I, as a local person of some influence via counseling and church ministry, was moving onto unstable and at least somewhat dangerous ground.
I will add that it was handled graciously and respectfully, although through the experience and other clues, it was clear my theology was not AS trusted or respected as some others, tough then yet quite orthodox and overall conservative (except that I was in the sometimes-suspect field of psychology and counseling). I suppose, if their fear was of my starting down a “slippery slope”, they or other orthodox folks might feel validated in that I continued to slip and slide… not always easily or enjoyably, I might add…. But for years now, putting me in a place of no-less-solid faith, albeit faith in a much different kind of God and different way of viewing Scripture (akin to Borg’s “Taking the Bible Seriously but not Literally”).
I’m hoping this may in some way perhaps contribute to your or others’ understanding and ongoing venture of discerning truth… about God, life, divine guidance, social ethics and compassion, etc. I imagine I will find additional times/places I may want to contribute and hope you or others may get to know my pilgrimage and some results of my deeper study of Christian origins (mostly after my CST days to 1994) and various topics a bit via my blog.
Above: 2nd to last paragraph, 4th line “tough” should be “though”.
Time’s passed since this post and my initial comments. I want to say publicly that I read my former comments on this blog with a great deal of shame. I regret not apologizing publicly before now. There is at least one person whom my comments insensitively and uncaringly quashed, to whom it’s too late for me to communicate my regret. I am so sorry. I’m sorry for being so reactive that I didn’t listen to you. I’ve yelled and called ‘foul’ before even knowing what’s going on. I’m sorry for not caring enough to listen well. I’ve cared more about “accuracy” and an abstract “truth” than for you, the real flesh-and-blood image of God. I’m sorry for calling you out before I understood where you were speaking from. I failed here (and elsewhere) at loving and serving you. I frailer at the most important thing. I hope I can do better by you in the future.
*I failed at the most important thing.
Hi Carina. Thanks for the comment and apology.
You’re right, it’s unfortunately too late for you to apologize to the person who was arguably most hurt by Jack’s and your comments. But it’s not too late to start fighting for a different future and better world—the sort of future and world that Tegan so desperately hoped to see one day.
Are you willing to start fighting? Are you willing to speak up now in defense of your fellow LGBTQIA alumni when they are cruelly and unfairly attacked by our former teachers? Are you willing to speak up now when our alma mater promotes LGBTQIA-hating speakers, like Nancy Pearcey who was a featured speaker at Gutenberg’s 2021 Education Conference? Are you willing to call out your own beloved family and friends—and raise your voice in alumni Facebook groups—and risk losing friendships and support because you value people more than ideology?
If so, I accept your apology and look forward to working with you in the future to try to make both our alma mater and world a better place.