It may help to start by reading the endless Sullivan Newsweek essay on (retch) faith and politics that kicked this off. That may be asking too much. It does have its howlers --
Whether or not you believe, as I do, in Jesus’ divinity and resurrection—and in the importance of celebrating both on Easter Sunday—[Thomas] Jefferson’s point is crucially important.Also:
I’ve pondered the Incarnation my whole life. I’ve read theology and history. I think I grasp what it means to be both God and human—but I don’t think my understanding is any richer than my Irish grandmother’s. Barely literate, she would lose herself in the rosary at mass...Grant me grandmama's simple faith! cries Sully on the jitney to P-town. But life is far too short. Let's go straight to Dreher's objection and I bet you can guess what it's about (hint: it ain't transubstantiation):
Holy Week reading from Sully’s blog this morning: a reader’s letter about his magical experience hiring his favorite male porn star to have sex with him as a birthday present to himself.The faggity-fag-fags are having sexity-ex-sex!
To be sure, I don’t know to what extent Sullivan endorses his correspondent’s actions, but I’m a regular reader of his blog, and given the things he does endorse, and write, I think it’s reasonable to assume he approves of his correspondent’s point of view. How is that letter-writer’s actions remotely compatible with Christianity?If the porn star were the correspondent's cousin, and they did their coupling in the corn-crib, and the correspondent felt so sick about it afterwards that he made a big donation to a megachurch and embarked on a contrite, loveless, and quiverfull heterosexual marriage, all would be hunky-dory. But the gays just have sex for fun, which makes Jesus stabby, as do Sullivan's other infidel friends:
Sullivan praises in his Newsweek essay the selective Christianity of Thomas Jefferson, who famously edited the New Testament to take out the parts he didn’t agree with.On the other hand, Jefferson did have sex with his slaves, which you have to admit is pretty Biblical.
But for Dreher it's mainly about the gaysex, though he can't supply any direct quotes from the Top Guy to justify his opprobrium. "Jesus’s teachings weren’t as explicit as St. Paul’s," Dreher admits, "but then again, if you cut Paul off, you don’t have Christianity," just as you don't have George Orwell without the glosses of the neocon propagandists who appropriated him.
Dreher continues to yell at Sullivan for his lack of chastity, inevitably inserting the Bullshit Christian Moment of Self-Abnegation:
Look, I don’t exempt myself from this. Every day I resist the radical call of Jesus to detach ourselves from our desires for His sake.Sadly, he doesn't go into details; I imagine him jerking off with his Wii console.
In his response, Sullivan seems at first to panic and admit everything; while insisting that "sex is an extremely minor theme" in Christ's work, he accepts that "the notion that Jesus was a free love kinda guy is also preposterous, and I never wrote otherwise." So he is guilty, guilty, guilty of lust -- and since that includes lust in one's heart, then so is everyone else -- "Any man who has ever had a chubby for someone not his wife is an adulterer," he writes. "Every celibate priest is an adulterer. The Pope is an adulterer..." One begins to suspect Sullivan experiences guilt not as a psychic or mystical transmission, but as a kink. In desperation he brings up The Woman Taken in Adultery and Let He Who Is Without Sin Etc. Translation: Don't hurt me/Or you're a Pharisee.
Then it's Sullivan's turn to have the Bullshit Christian Moment of Self-Abnegation, which he performs splendidly:
I have had good moments in this struggle and terrible, lasting failures. This Lent has forced me to consider my constant failures more than my intermittent moments of grace. That I confess. As a practical matter, I have not had the strength to live as Saint Francis, without possessions, without a home, without sex, without anything but a subsistence diet, reliant entirely on physical labor and begging on the streets as a last resort.Oh well, maybe next year, Sully.
Dreher comes back to patiently explain to Sullivan the real meaning of the WTIA story: Apparently the cast-the-first-stone thing is a minor part of it, perhaps added by script doctors on the road, and the real message is that woman was a whore and she better not do it again. And that reminds him: Homosexuals! By which he means, why do you liberals keep bringing it up?
It’s interesting how so many liberal Christians accuse conservatives of being obsessed with sex, yet so much of their own writing and activism focuses on sex and sexuality, especially homosexuality. In my old, lily-white Philly neighborhood, there was a mainline Protestant church that posted a banner out front with the rainbow flag, announcing that it was a “welcoming and affirming” congregation. Which is fine, if that’s their thing. I passed that church every day, though, and it finally occurred to me that they never put a banner up announcing that they welcomed black people, or Hispanics.Somebody make this man a BUTTSEKS=RACISM bumper sticker, stat. Also Dreher returns to Thomas Jefferson, "a brilliant and noble man who, in his intellectual pride, only accepted as much of Jesus as made sense to him. This won’t work, and it won’t work because it can’t work." Thomas Jefferson burns in hell! But Dreher won't, because in his early 20s he let Christ all the way in, if you know what he means, and has been fighting for his chastity ever since. He even has his own version of an "It Gets Better" message for the kids:
It is not true, by the way, that marriage is any kind of “cure” for unchaste thoughts. You have to keep at it, repenting, repenting, repenting, and allowing the grace of God to work on you. I am not the man I was at 25, when I had my conversion. I am not tempted as I once was, but that’s only because I was able to receive God’s healing grace.Translation: Yes, there is enough good French wine in the world to get you through the long nights of bootless bundling Jesus requires. Get thee a nice wingnut welfare sinecure to pay for it, and sin no more!