A theologian friend passes along a Ron Belgau comment about the Robertson controversy that deserves attention, especially in light of Robertson’s (much-deserved) victory over A&E and GLAAD. Belgau, in case you don’t know, is a gay but chaste Christian. He writes that Robertson’s reducing of same-sex attraction to the desire for orifices is not only offensive, it’s profoundly wrong, from a Christian point of view:

I hesitate even to write the next sentence, because it is so offensive. However, if you are a married man, I want you to imagine how you would respond if someone talked about your wife in a way that presumed that your attraction to her was primarily a matter of what her vagina “has to offer.” Or just as a Christian, ask yourself how you would respond if marriage were portrayed, from a man’s perspective, as being primarily about vaginas, what’s “there,” and what they’ve got to “offer.”

This is the Playboy philosophy, pure and simple, which reduces a woman to a close-up of what she’s “got to offer” to men who see her only as an accessory for their own pleasure.

This is a profoundly demeaning view. I don’t mean to say that a man’s desire for his wife is not, at least in part, a desire for physical union with her, or that that desire for physical union does not involve some attraction to sex organs. But it needs to be much more. It cannot be reduced to that.

You know what I hope happens? I hope Robertson meets privately, without telling the media, with chaste gay Christians like Ron Belgau and Eve Tushnet, so he can better understand what it’s like to be gay, and show more compassion and humanity, even as he stands by Biblical teaching on the matter. One thing that many gay and gay-friendly critics of orthodox Christianity fail to understand is the fullness of the experience of being a Christian. For orthodox (small-o) Christians, Christianity isn’t merely a set of rules, or something we can pick and choose to satisfy our emotional needs. It is the fundament of reality. (This is true for orthodox Muslims, orthodox Jews, and others.) This is why calling orthodox Christians “bigots” for their beliefs both mischaracterizes those beliefs and trivializes them.

In the same way, Robertson’s crude characterization of same-sex desire mischaracterizes it and trivializes it. As Belgau points out, same-sex desire can certainly involve lust and nothing but, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Similarly, Christianity can certainly involve a rote, Pharisaical condemnation of homosexuality (and any number of things), but there’s a lot more to it than that. If orthodox Christians like Phil Robertson, and like me, want more understanding from our opponents on this issue, we should work to try to see things from their point of view. That does not require abandoning our convictions, but rather working to see the full truth of the other person, and to grasp that no child of God is merely the sum total of their desires, or their beliefs.