Dan Savage vs Brian Brown: The Dinner Table Debate
Here’s what lead up to it, and a little snip of how it all went down:
From The New York Times:
The Dinner Table Debate, as we are calling it, was set in motion last April, when Dan Savage, the sex columnist and originator of ‘It Gets Better,’ an anti-bullying campaign, gave a speech to a high school journalism convention here, attacking the Bible as the root of much anti-gay bullying.
We can learn to ignore the nonsense in the Bible about gay people the same way we have learned to ignore what the Bible says ‘about shellfish, about slavery,’ he told them, referring to Paul’s injunction that slaves should obey their masters.
As some students walked out, Mr. Savage taunted them: ‘It’s funny, as someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed people react when you push back.’
Two weeks later, Brian S. Brown, a conservative Catholic who is president of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay-marriage advocacy organization, issued a challenge to Mr. Savage on the group’s blog: ‘You want to savage the Bible? Christian morality? Traditional marriage? Pope Benedict? I’m here, you name the time and the place and let’s see what a big man you are in a debate with someone who can talk back.’
On May 22, Mr. Savage responded in his weekly podcast, offering to hold the debate at his dining room table, in his home in Seattle. ‘Bring the wife, my husband will be there,’ he said. ‘You have to acknowledge my humanity by accepting my hospitality, and I have to acknowledge yours by extending my hospitality to you.’
Here were two Catholics — Mr. Savage born to the faith, Chicago Irish, the lapsed son of parochial schools; Mr. Brown of Quaker ancestry, but a Catholic since college, with a convert’s zeal — who could agree on nothing and could effect no change of heart in each other. They disagreed over whether Mr. Savage had the right to insult the Bible in front of high school students; about whether the New Testament endorsed slavery; and about whether the recent study by Mark Regnerus and its controversial conclusions about gay parents had any merit. (The hourlong debate can be seen on YouTube.)
Every time they disagreed, I drank some more.
I probably should not have expected anything else. Mr. Savage thinks religion is at best pointless, at worst malevolent. Mr. Brown believes that the truth of Catholicism should be apparent to anyone capable of reason. These are not compatible ways of seeing. And the homey setting did little to raise the level of the discourse. (Although Mr. Savage’s kitschy collection of rosaries hanging on the wall behind us at dinner did introduce an amusingly sacrilegious note to the proceedings.) If the two men could agree on anything, maybe it would be that they shouldn’t have to agree.
Watch the whole thing below. It is just over one hour long, but worth your time.