The January 17th discussion on Larry King, summarized in Part I, struck me as typical of a many public conversations between gay rights proponents and conservatives.
By the Numbers
How much did each of the panel members speak?
(I got these numbers by pasting the transcript of the show into an Excel spreadsheet and creating formulas to gather approximate word counts. Download the spreadsheet, if you wish, below.)
And, to what extent did religious references (God, personal faith, Christianity, spirituality) enter into the discussion? Similarly, how did religious liberty, civil rights, and civil liberties play into the hour? Here’s my approximation:
For this one, I included all of the conversation (including King, not just the panelists), and using the paragraphs as delineated in the CNN transcript, totalled up the words in paragraphs with (a) references to faith, religion, God, sin, or Christians, (b) references to legalized gay marriage, civil unions, civil rights or liberties, (c) both or (d) neither.
Putting it all together, the 60/40 word ratio means that the conservatives got 50% more words in than the progressives, and faith garnered twice as much attention as rights and liberties:
- One-third of the conversation included religious references:
- by Mohler and Parshall voicing their worldview as universal truth and proscriptions applicable to all
- Allen describing his worldview as personal truth
- Gay marriage, civil liberties, and civil rights received less focus than spiritual matters
- Very little time — 5% — was spent discussing the intersection of religious rights/liberties and civil rights/liberties.
The Larry King Show isn’t equipped, and doesn’t generally attempt, to do detailed analysis. The questions for a panel like this come quickly, strike a glancing blow at a concept, and move on to the next topic. Panel members have a 15-60 second window within which to respond to questions, and the format encouraged panelists to talk past each other more than engage each other.
So, there are limits as to how far a venue like this can go to support substantive discussion with balanced input from both sides.
While Parshall and Mohler spoke a lot about God and their religion, and they talked about what they want to see in terms of public policy, they avoided linking the two explicitly.
Chad Allen talked about mutual respect and bridge-building between himself and conservative Christians. He described his own firm beliefs and said about gay marriage opponents that “I respect them fully for [their arguments].”
Parshall acknowledged Allen as an actor, and Mohler said twice how honored he was to be on the panel with Allen and Padgett; despite Allen’s profession of an abiding faith, though, Parshall and Mohler repeatedly refer to gays as missing out on faith.
Padgett’s suggestion that “Casper should do what’s right for Casper” on gay marriage (in the context of not being constrained by a federal constitutional amendment) resonated with Parshall, who cited the sucess of state-level anti-gay marriage efforts and ignored the context.
I find conversations like this to have evolved a bit compared to 5 or 10 years ago.
- Participants bringing friendlier faces and softer voices to the table.
- Becoming gay not castigated as a casual, easily reversible choice.
- Gays talking more about beliefs and values.
- Alluding to past problems in the Christian church’s response to gays.
- Acknowledging the challenges experienced by ex-gay Christians.
- Ex-gay options referred to more vaguely, without directly challenging the gay members of the panel.
And, some things haven’t changed much.
- Analogies to polygamy, child abuse, sexual abuse, sex addiction, and adultery.
- Black-and-white generalizations used to compare Christianity (eternal, fixed, joyful, absolute truth) to any other belief/values system (made-up, hell-bound, missing out on joy, pleasure-driven, rules-averse, unaccountable).
- One man, one woman, and generally children, as the only right family configuration which gay marriage can only grotesquely misrepresent.
- Careful phrasing by conservatives which leaves the possibility open that choice occurs sub- or semi-consciously.
- A pastor or theologian on the conservative side of the table, none on the progressive side.
- Limited analysis of the intersections between civil and religious rights, responsibilities, and liberties.
Where do we go from here? What does this have to do with A Tenable Belief? Check out the next post to find out!