Glenn Stanton is an outspoken figure in the fight against marriage equality, from his work with right-wing organization Focus on the Family to his debates at colleges and churches around the country.
Windy City Times sat down with Stanton to discuss his new book, Loving My ( LGBT ) Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace & Truth.
Windy City Times: What inspired you to write this book?
Glenn Stanton: Debating this issue on secular college campuses around the country, I started to develop friendships with the people that I would regularly debate. Moody [Bible Institute] called and said, "We'd love to do a book that seeks to get this balance right." What appealed to me was to get the Christian "grace/truth" thing right and not emphasize one over the other.
The truth thing is typically absolute condemnation; and then you have the grace thing of, "Can't we just ignore our differences and get along?" Well, that doesn't allow us to be who we arewe can disagree and we can be friends. In speaking to classes here, I got some of the same questions I usually do: "How do we deal with this issue and these folks? Can I be nice to them?" And I'm like, "Of course!" Basic Christian teaching is "Love your neighbor." Jesus gets a question from a guy who says, "Who is my neighbor? Surely, you don't mean those people!" And that's exactly what Jesus meansyes, those people.
WCT: You said you often get the question, "How could I oppose same-sex marriage and civil unionsactively working against them in factand be meaningful friends with those who are involved with and advocate for these practices?" You use examples like not agreeing with a friend who is having an affair, or even carnivores and vegetarians getting along. But, it would be a very different friendship if the vegetarian tries to make meat illegal for the carnivore because he/she doesn't want to eat it.
GS: I'm super-mindful that no comparisons are similar. Some of my buddies will say, "Well, how can I be friends with Glenn? He is aligned with a movement that wants to do us harm." This issue is not as simple as, "Why are you trying to keep us from something?" We're not the one who brought this topic up. It came to us, essentially, in the public square.
WCT: The book's message seems to be that every human being is loved by God and should be treated as such, and that no sin is greater than another. How is that in line with not treating a certain segment of the population as equal?
GS: I would say that we do, absolutely and unequivocally do, just not in every way.
WCT: Then, no.
GS: In an interview earlier today, they asked, "Do you support gay rights?" Unequivocally "no," because I wouldn't support Black rights, Asian rights, country people rights. And when we say that certain groups have particular rights because of this unique thing, then that becomes exceptionalism. I think the best place to operate from is human rights.
WCT: Is marriage a human right?
WCT: Why not?
GS: Because society needs marriage anthropologically. Anthropologists can't find a culture where marriage doesn't exist and we can't find a time in history when it started. There are compelling social and civic reasons for marriage to be defined as one way rather than the other.
WCT: You mention that the Bible says, "Each generation must be mindful of the particular age and setting it occupies on the stage of history." The Bible has been used to justify many atrocious things, like slavery. If Christians have had to evolve on those issues, why is this any different?
GS: That's where a lot of folks come fromthat this is simply the next evolution. I would argue that slavery has always been a debatable thing in Christianity. The exclusion of the races in Loving v. Virginia, that was motivated not by Christianity but by particular types of Christians at a particular time. It's never been a universal practice by Christians like, admittedly, slavery has been.
WCT: If not a universal practice, it was still the law of the land until 1967.
GS: But it was wrong because it took marriage and had it serve a vile but different social purpose than what marriage was supposed to do. It used marriage as a tool to keep the races separate.
WCT: It's easy to view current LGBT equality opponents in the same wayusing marriage as a tool to justify bigotry.
GS: None of this issue makes me as angry as people thinking that. I understand where that argument comes from, but you mean to tell me people think that the historical and cultural continuity of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman and our present defense of it has all been motivated by a desire to keep the gays out?
WCT: Whether it's due to hatred, fear or a perceived "ick" factor, yes.
GS: You know what? Absolutely, for some. That's kind of similar to the other side saying, "Well, anybody who disagrees with me is a bigot." Anything in extremes is just insane.
WCT: You are currently the director of Family Formation Studies for Focus on the Family. Its founder has said, "Communities do not let prostitutes, pedophiles, voyeurs, adulterers and those who sexually prefer animals to publicly celebrate their lifestyle, so why should homosexuals get such privileges?" Has Focus remained true to its founder's views concerning "the militant homosexual agenda" or has anything changed since James Dobson stepped down?
GS: Dobson retired from Focus. I've never heard that quote and I assume it was in the past. We have the same conviction, generally, about the topic: Homosexuality is outside a Biblical sexual ethic, just as lots of other heterosexual things are. Our tone is much different. Jim Daly, our Focus president now, is a very different man. Dob being older, he looked back at the way things used to be, wishing and bemoaning that they change. Jim doesn't see the past as all that great. He's looking to create a better future and how our work can help strengthen families.
WCT: When discussing what it would take for you personally to go to a gay wedding, you said, "My main consideration would rest upon what this person meant to me and how I wanted to communicate my love for them. Add to this whether the wedding was a secular affair or of a faith tradition outside Christianity that had no authority in my life." Does that not sum up why Christians don't have the right to force anyone to follow laws based on their beliefs?
GS: If marriage were a private institution that would be another issue. But marriage is a public institution. It's why every society has some laws, mores, values, traditions and ceremonies for entering people into it.
WCT: But isn't AshleyMadison.com a real threat to marriage? Or drive-through chapels in Vegas, or the show The Bachelor?
GS: You're rightbut I'm still waiting for my first invitation to come to a campus to debate those things, or even no-fault divorce laws.
WCT: So, why aren't you pushing for that?
GS: If I were to call up NBC news and say, "I've got a hot story for you on no-fault divorce." They'd say, "Yeah, we'll get back to you." Gay marriage is the thing that's taking up all the oxygen.
WCT: Any thoughts on the Supreme Court's recent decision to reject appeals from five states that sought to prohibit same-sex marriage? Isn't gay marriage being legal everywhere inevitable?
GS: No. Nor am I freaked out, though a lot of people on my side are. It's inevitable if the Supreme Court makes it the law of the land everywhere. But do you think North Dakota, Mississippi or Arkansas are going to have same-sex marriage anytime soon? Not likely. [Editor's note: On Oct. 17, a federal judge has denied Arkansas' request to delay proceedings in a lawsuit challenging the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage.] We have people on our side who say this issue is over and to move on. And I say, just like abortion, this ignites people. It's not like if the court next week said it's law of the land, we'd say, "Okay, you guys won, we're going to go take up gardening." It's an issue and it's going to remain an issue.
WCT: What's next for you?
GS: I want to write a response to Matthew Vines' book, God and the Gay Christian. But the big thing is, I'll just keep being engaged in this issue. I wrote this book to say, "I don't want you to change your convictions and I don't expect you'll change mine, but can't we deal with each other civilly?" And not just in some kumbayah kind of way. Now we're actually able to engage each other more substantively because there's a value in understanding where the other is coming from.