The EFM Feature

That’s my question this morning–both to Nancy (kiddingly) and to the New York Times (not kiddingly).
Today’s Times features an article taking issue with Governor Romney’s “tone” on “gay marriage.” The gist is here that the Times thinks there is dissonance between Governor Romney’s professed opposition to discrimination and his opposition to “gay marriage.” Example:

“He couldn’t have been more kind and interested in understanding gay rights,” said Rich Tafel, who was executive director of Log Cabin’s national organization at the time. “He struck me as a business person who just wanted to understand this issue, and he wanted to communicate that he wasn’t antigay at all.”

I’m not surprised, frankly, that this is happening. According to the Times and many of the activists who symphatize with its social agenda, you can’t be against “gay marriage” without wanting to stomp on every gay person you see. They don’t know what to make of this Romney character, who goes around denouncing “gay marriage” and also discrimination. And there’s been no shift in Governor Romney’s views. As the Times piece points out, his opposition to “gay marriage” is nothing new:

Mr. Romney’s eldest son, Tagg, 37, says that back in the early 1990s, he told his father privately that he was thinking about becoming a Democrat.
His father sat him down to dissuade him, taking him through the differences between Republicans and Democrats. Tagg Romney says he does not remember his father’s talking about abortion, another issue that has troubled his candidacy, but he does remember being warned that Democrats would lead the country toward same-sex marriage.
“He thought it was very wrong to discriminate,” Tagg Romney said. “But where Democrats are going, they’ll eventually want to extend marriage to gays. I said, ‘No way.’”

Neither is his opposition to discrimination. The Times comes up with many examples from years past, and as EFM noted in Feburary, he hasn’t dropped it. And when he does it, he’s not doing the easy thing. He’s not “telling us what we want to hear,” as some have claimed:

What we want to hear is how bad the “other” is–the homosexual, the abortionist, you know the list. What we don’t want to hear as we rightly condemn their sins–and perhaps even shape public policy around them–is that we are no better than they are. Unfortunately for us, though, that is what the Bible teaches….
We are humans. We are sinful. We like to be flattered. If Mitt Romney were really “saying all the right things,” it seems to me that he would therefore flatter us. He would tell us how much better we are than those guys in Cambridge who want to marry other guys.
But he doesn’t. Even after months of taking flak from both sides–the misguided conservatives who claim he isn’t conservative enough and the radical homosexuals who will never forgive him for steadfastly fighting their push to redefine marriage–he still keeps using the same message: Marriage is for a man and a woman but that does not excuse us from our obligation to tolerate everybody.
Wouldn’t it be easier to just boil it down? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply inveigh against “those people?” To claim that he was wrong even to utter the word “tolerance” in 1994 or anytime since? Surely it would. Yet he sticks to this more complicated message.
I’ll admit: I’m torn as to whether this is good politics. I’m not sure most folks–you know, respectable people who aren’t such political junkies that they spend hours of their Saturday puttering around with a blog post–have the attention span to parse it out. In all honesty, it still catches me by surprise sometimes, and I suspect I read more about Governor Romney than 99 percent of the population….
If Governor Romney wanted to pander, he would mouth the words that would be easier for sinners like me to hear. Instead, he reminds me that I am called to tolerate other sinners like me.
Note the word choice there: tolerate. It doesn’t say “accept.” It doesn’t mean I have to say that their behavior is okay. It isn’t, and the Bible is very clear on that. We struggle with this notion today–the left has tried to redefine it. David and I both know this personally; we have spent many hours at our day jobs fighting repugnant and mandatory sensitivity training for those deemed “intolerant” on today’s campuses merely for speaking their minds. But that’s not what tolerance means. It is the value upon which Pennsylvania (where I used to live) was founded centuries ago. Quakers like William Penn didn’t think other religions were right, but they tolerated them.
It occurs to me that Mitt Romney might be doing all of us a great service in attempting to revive this key principle. We’re confused about it ourselves, and we run from it. Yet it seems to be one that many in the Middle East could stand to learn. Would we have the problems we have if so many people there didn’t find trusting Jesus to be a crime worthy of beheading? Maybe a President Romney would be a good messenger on this point.

It’s not surprising that the Times is trying to punish Governor Romney for using this nuanced language. He’s the leader among all the presidential candidates in defending marriage–both in the public sphere and his own life–and they want to see him lose. But it is sad. We need a carrier of this message who isn’t easily pigeonholed as a gay-baiter. The messengers we’ve had have not won the debate. Even putting politics aside, there is no generation more accepting of “gay marriage” than the one coming of age now. That tells me the old guard hasn’t convinced enough people–and I think it should provide a hint as to why the Times and its ilk are so determined to stop Governor Romney. They think he, unlike his conservative forbears, might actually win this fight in the culture.

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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