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Newsweek Editor Slams Orthodox Pittsburgh Bishop as Fundamentalist

Newsweek Editor Slams Orthodox Pittsburgh Bishop as Fundamentalist
Sewanee Alumnus Decries Heterosexual Marriage

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

The editor of NEWSWEEK, Jon Meacham, a favorite son and a graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South and the Episcopal Church's only university, recently revealed a real and personal animus towards Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan and heterosexual marriage.

In the December 15, 2008, issue of his magazine, Meacham wrote, "On the campus of Wheaton College in Illinois, in another of the seemingly endless announcements of splintering and schism in the Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan and other leaders of the conservative forces of reaction to the ecclesiastical and cultural acceptance of homosexuality declared that their opposition to the ordination and the marriage of gays was irrevocably rooted in the Bible-which they regard as the '"final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life'.

"No matter what one thinks about gay rights-for, against or somewhere in between -this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism. Given the history of the making of the Scriptures and the millennia of critical attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt-it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition."

Meacham apparently has no interest in preserving the Biblical mandate for marriage between a man and a woman, even though he is a major supporter of the Episcopal Church's one and only university - Sewanee: The University of the South - an institution which claims its influences are from the evangelical, the high church, and the broad church traditions of Anglican theology and worship.

Bishop Duncan became the scapegoat and brunt of Meacham's wrath because his progressive views are at odds with the ancient truth Duncan espouses, which the church has always upheld and which Meacham now disavows.

Following his remarks, Meacham might well become the university's single biggest embarrassment and public liability, causing parents to ask themselves if they want to send their children to an institution where one of its leading graduates and public voices espouses views on marriage that are alien to their own. Sodomites don't produce grand children.

Meacham, a communicant of St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, challenged his readers to take him on. (VOL is glad to oblige). "Religious conservatives will say that the liberal media are once again seeking to impose their values (or their "agenda," a favorite term to describe the views of those who disagree with you) on a God-fearing nation. Let the letters and emails come. History and demographics are on the side of those who favor inclusion over exclusion."

"Briefly put," wrote Meacham, "the Judeo-Christian religious case for supporting gay marriage begins with the recognition that sexual orientation is not a choice-a matter of behavior-but is as intrinsic to a person's makeup as skin color. The analogy with race is apt, for Christians, in particular, who have long cited scriptural authority to justify and perpetuate slavery with the same certitude that some now use to point to certain passages in the Bible to condemn homosexuality and to deny the sacrament of marriage to homosexuals. This argument from Scripture is difficult to take seriously-though many, many people do-since the passages in question are part and parcel of texts that, with equal ferocity, forbid particular haircuts. The Devil, as Shakespeare once noted, can cite Scripture for his purpose. The texts have been ready sources for those seeking to promote anti-Semitism and limit the human rights of women, among other things, that few people in the first decade of the 21st century would think reasonable."

Meacham is not merely an alumnus of Sewanee Episcopal University. He is also a former Trustee, former Regent, current homeowner at Sewanee, and is very powerful at Sewanee and with the global media. Apparently, he hates anyone who believes in Biblical morality. He is the poster child of what damage Sewanee does and will keep on doing to Southern youth. Meacham posits that if you are against gay marriage, you are the worst kind of Bible thumper and are probably a racist. What message does this send to parents with children at Sewanee? Are Christians allowed to apply to Sewanee, is a question being asked in hushed whispers on the Mountain now, sources tell VOL.

One blogger, Joe Carter wrote, "Newsweek editor Jon Meacham has written the dumbest thing that I have read in a long, long time. The entire column is based on cultural, theological, and historical assumptions that are so...so jaw-droppingly stupid... that I don't even know where to begin."

Wrote America's leading evangelical pastor, Dr. Rick Warren, "For 5,000 years, EVERY culture and EVERY religion -- not just Christianity -- has defined marriage as a contract between men and women. There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2% of our population."

NEWSWEEK is signing its own death knell by declaring that "religious conservatives" have been wrong all along - because the Bible supports same-sex marriage. The magazine is in trouble, planning staff cuts as part of a major editorial makeover. Weekly circulation has dropped from 2.6 million to one million.

Meacham's recent slam at heterosexual marriage, complete with inflammatory and wrong-headed stories like this one, may cause it to drop even more. Perhaps Meacham, a recent Regent of Episcopal University and currently a big deal Episcopalian in New York, should be asked why it's taking so long for Episcopal University to have its first gay marriage in All Saints' Chapel since he believes so passionately in gay marriages.

Meacham's roots lie deep in Sewanee. His embarrassing remarks will seem even more disquieting to alumni who regularly fill the coffers of the university with their hard earned dollars.

A source on the Mountain told VOL that if Meacham loses his job at Newsweek, Sewanee will pick him up as an honored or chaired high paid lecturer in English, his specialty, or religion or whatever he wants. - Sewanee will not let him go jobless - they have a habit of helping progressives who fall flat in disaster. "James Hefner of Tennessee State University had to retire early in 2004 because of a money scandal and immediately was given an honorary degree from Sewanee School of Theology, then, while Meacham was a regent, Hefner was put on the board of regents. Hefner owes Meacham a favor."

Mark Hemingway, a National Review Online (NRO) Staff reporter, also blasted the Newsweek editor. "Meacham self-righteously refuses to admit that there's even a place at the table for a religious (or, Heaven forbid, secular) voice opposing gay marriage."

Laws against gay marriage have passed at the ballot box in 30 states, most recently in California. It's not "religious conservatives" against gay marriage - it's a clear majority of the country. Which helps explain why Newsweek is in a big slump.

Of course, Meacham couldn't let go with simply supporting gay marriage. He wrapped up his pro gay logic in the bow tie of Civil Rights. This means since blacks had to struggle against evil whites to get the equal rights that God and Jefferson promised to them, that anyone who argues against gay rights is the same as evil white racist segregationists who should be damned for hate crimes.

Another source on the Mountain noted, "Meacham is definitely on the cutting edge of progressive enforcement, and his usage of the term "worst" means he will make sure those who deviate or complain will be punished. The question then is would he dare offend Muslims who condemn homosexuality? Never, because he knows what the fanatics would do to him, but Christians are fair game because they turn the other cheek, pray about what the meek and mild Jesus would have them do in the name of unity, and those privileged few in power will cave into whatever is the next cause for social justice."

In 2003, Sewanee declared Meacham a distinguished graduate of Sewanee. As managing editor of Newsweek, he received the distinguished young alumnus award. Now, many alumni might be running in the opposite direction. Wrote the source from the mountain to VOL, "Sewanee hitched their fame to his, so why should they avoid his infamy? Will they send him out on fundraising trips to conservative alumni donors so he can explain to them that they are the "worst" kind of Christians, but if they will support gay marriage and send money to Sewanee, he will forgive them and acknowledge their atonement for being racist homophobes?"

In 2007, in recognition of his achievements in journalism and his contributions to the ideals embodied in the First Amendment, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored Meacham with the ADL Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize. The award recognizes those who have made significant and lasting contributions to the protection and advancement of the First Amendment.

So, we have Jews, who work to stop the defamation of Jewish people, giving Meacham, a gentile Episcopalian and presumably versed in Holy Scripture, an award. They must now be wondering how Christians are the "worst" if they believe in the Bible, especially those passages in the Torah (Leviticus) that explicitly damns homosexuals for their behavior.

In accepting the award, Mr. Meacham praised ADL's commitment to its mission of fighting prejudice and bigotry and of protecting the separation of church and state. This is hypocrisy of the highest order. They should demand their award back.

While Meacham praises the ADL for fighting "bigotry and prejudice", he then criticizes Christians, who are deemed the "worst" if they believe in the Biblical view of heterosexual marriage and its condemnation of homosexuality. Is not Meacham fomenting bigotry, extremism, and hatred against Biblically faithful Christians in the name of his liberal god? What if these same worst Christians are Bible believers who think that God will bless them only if they bless the State of Israel? Can a Christian be a fundamentalist in his support for Jews in Israel, then be the "worst" for not supporting gay marriage, a sexual concept that the Jewish Bible condemns as an "abomination" against the God who blesses us if we bless the Jews?

Meacham's other big argument is based on a convenient lie. "Briefly put, the Judeo-Christian religious case for supporting gay marriage begins with the recognition that sexual orientation is not a choice - a matter of behavior - but is as intrinsic to a person's makeup as skin color." As many commentators have noted, the case for sexual determinism is based on dogma, not science or religion. The hunt for the elusive "gay gene" of a decade ago turned up nothing. One never hears about it anymore for a very good reason. As one commentator noted, "Despite massive amounts spent on research and media hype about its imminent discovery - such a gene was never found because it doesn't exist (any more than a gene for sadomasochism, transvestitism, foot-fetishism or faith in the "politics of change"). You might say insistence that homosexuality is intrinsic to a person's makeup (in the absence of concrete evidence) is the worst kind of fundamentalism and intellectually dishonest." Meacham's essay, entitled "Sewanee, Identity, and Memory", will be the lead essay in the next Sewanee sesquicentennial history book, out sometime soon. What will he say about Biblical memory and Christian identification with Biblical morality - that it is the "worst?" We await its publication with baited breath.

Meacham's hypocritical rant shows what trouble progressive Christians get themselves into when they try to speak with authority while trying to destroy received Biblical truth. In the end, they only destroy themselves bringing everyone else down around them.


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