March 24, 2002

BIG TENT CONSERVATISM :

Eric Alterman apparently has a problem with Andrew Sullivan (Sullivan's Travails, The Nation) Among other things, Mr. Alterman objects to the vainglorious nature of andrewsullivan.com, which I must admit has led me to read it less often in recent months (but one notes that it certainly hasn't affected his popularity with other readers), and to the stridency of Mr. Sullivan's support for the war, which doesn't bother me one bit. But most of all, Mr. Alterman seems bothered by the fact that someone can be gay and still proclaim themselves to be a conservative :
Andrew Sullivan cannot have an easy life. A Catholic gay man who is also HIV positive, his political views have led him to attach himself to a party, a movement and a church that believe him to be practicing an abomination. Influential Republican power-brokers blame America's sexual tolerance for the attacks of 9/11. The military he reveres is kicking gays out at a rate unseen since the presidency of Ronald Reagan--another Sullivan hero. And his church offers a warmer embrace for pedophile priests than for honest homosexuals.

This strikes me as an issue that is worth debating. Let me first confess that I'm one of those prehistoric conservatives who thinks that homosexuality is a sin and that, while there's no divine judgment nor even cause and effect, the unpreparedness of the West for the conflict with Islam was by and large a function of the moral relativism and excessive multiculturalism that we also see at work in the sexual revolution. Just as we have lost the moral confidence to condemn certain practices within our own culture, we have lost the moral confidence to defend and assert the superiority of that culture generally.

Yet, as a conservative, it is necessary to acknowledge that we are all sinners. And, since homosexuality is at least somewhat consensual and it seems to do its primary harm to those who indulge in it, there seems to be no need to punish them, and a great need to love them. So, to the extent that we can incorporate them into the conservative movement (hell, they're here already and always have been) without compromising our own core values, which means primarily that we continue to oppose the acceptance of homosexuality as a mere life-style choice, I would welcome them.

This will, of course, mean tht we will disagree about issues that gays may feel reside at the very core of their being, and that may prove to be too much to ask. Still, we frequently hear pleas that both parties be more tolerant of differences of opinion on abortion (and now on cloning and euthanasia, etc.); if we can respectfully disagree on issues that involve life and death, surely we can withstand some disagreement when it comes to sex, right?

Mayn't conservatism, like Whitman (Walt, not Christie Todd) say :

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 24, 2002 12:38 PM
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