Monday, August 7, 2017

Interview About THE TRIUMPH OF LOVE

I did a short interview about my new book, The Triumph of Love: Same-Sex Marriage and the Christian Love Ethic, for the press kit. I thought I'd include it here. The book is now available at a discounted rate from the publisher at the Wipf and Stock website, and will soon be available at most online book retailers.



1. What inspired you to write The Triumph of Love?

This book is probably the most deeply personal book I’ve written, because I have so many people close to me who are sexual minorities. For me, the “issue” of same-sex marriage isn’t some abstract intellectual question. It’s about people I love, about their experiences and the impact that their stories have had on my personal and intellectual journey. I wanted to write about that journey in a way that could answer a question that seems to genuinely puzzle so many conservative Christians: How can I, as a Christian, support same-sex marriage?

2. You are a philosopher by training, not a theologian. How does a philosopher approach these issues differently from theologians?

As a moral philosopher, I’m trained to think about concrete moral controversies in part by applying specific theories about the nature of morality. Christianity teaches that the heart of moral life is love, and that Jesus’ life is a model for what Christian love looks like. So what we have here is a distinctly Christian understanding of morality: the Christian love ethic. As a philosopher, I want to see what that ethic implies—in this case, for same-sex marriage. So instead of starting with biblical passages that talk about homosexuality or biblical themes about marriage and sexuality, my starting point is the love ethic, and my question is what love for my gay and lesbian neighbors demands.

3. But as Christians, we can’t ignore Scripture, can we?

Of course not. The love ethic flows out of Scripture, from the teachings of Jesus and the model of love He offered. And if we care about Scripture, we have to pay attention to that. If we try to draw moral lessons about homosexuality by interpreting isolated texts without considering what it means to love our gay and lesbian neighbors as ourselves, then we would be ignoring Scripture. If we don’t want to ignore this crucial dimension of what Scripture teaches, we should approach the interpretation of isolated texts in light of this attention to the ethic that, in Scripture, Jesus taught and modeled for us.

4. In addition to being a philosopher, you’ve also published short stories and won creative writing awards. How does that experience in writing stories affect your approach to this book, if at all?

It affects it a lot. I tell stories in this book. In fact, I think I have to, because a central thesis of the book is that love for our gay and lesbian neighbors requires paying attention to their stories. I could not do what I want to do in this book without sharing the stories of my gay and lesbian neighbors. And I didn’t set out to write an ivory tower book just for other philosophers and theologians. I wanted this to be a book that any educated reader can pick up and learn something from. Storytelling is part of that.

5. Do you think conservative Christian opponents of same-sex marriage will read this book? Should they?

I routinely hear conservative Christians ask how someone who claims to be a Christian could support same-sex marriage, given what Scripture says. Whether they agree with my conclusions or not, this book could answer their curiosity and help them to better understand why Christians like me reach the conclusions we do. More importantly, my aim in the book is not to bash conservative Christian opponents of same-sex marriage but to engage in a conversation with them. The love ethic calls us, straight and gay, to love our gay and lesbian neighbors, but it also calls us to love those we disagree with. That doesn’t always mean being “nice” or “gentle.” Sometimes love means calling out beliefs and practices we’re convinced are harmful. But in this book I’m trying to model loving engagement with those who hold opposing views. I hope that those who disagree with me will take up the invitation to discuss these matters in a spirit of love.

6. If there’s one thing you hope readers will take away from the book, what would that be?

Love begins with attention. We cannot love our neighbors as ourselves if we don’t pay attention to them: compassionate attention, empathetic attention. Whatever my readers think about the ethics of homosexual sex and same-sex marriage, I hope they come away convinced that they cannot love their gay and lesbian neighbors if they won’t listen with compassion to their stories and empathize with their lives and experiences. And this point goes way beyond gays and lesbians. Jesus especially challenged us to love our enemies and those who are lying beaten down on the roadside—in other word, those our society is most likely to treat as Other, those we are most culturally conditioned to ignore. If my book can inspire people to seek out and pay compassionate attention to someone from a group or community they’ve never really paid attention to before, I will think it a success.

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