David Gushee: A Conversation with a Post-Evangelical

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This is a podcast episode titled, David Gushee: A Conversation with a Post-Evangelical. The summary for this episode is: <p>In this week's episode, <a href="https://twitter.com/patrickkmiller_" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Patrick</a> speaks with Dr. David Gushee about his life as a post-Evangelical. Dr. Gushee is a professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and author of many books, including "After Evangelicalism: The New Path To A New Christianity." Dr. Gushee shares what he's learned in his experience in academia, the politics that come along with that, and his involvement with the Obama campaign. He and Patrick discuss the entitlement to cultural power and the transition to a political strategy from an evangelical one. Dr. Gushee also gives us a better understanding of Progressive Evangelicalism and historical realism, ending on the topic of the LGBTQ community and views on polygamy. Listen now!</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Ok, truth time... Did you like this episode?</strong> Tell us by leaving a rating or review! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 If you did, you won't want to miss what's next (so subscribe now!). And help a friend by sharing this with them. Thank you! πŸ™</p><p><strong>Plus, the conversation is just beginning! </strong>Follow us on <a href="https://twitter.com/truthovertribe_" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ChooseTruthOverTribe" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Facebook</a>, and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/accounts/login/?next=/truthovertribe_/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Instagram</a> to join in on the dialogue! <strong>Want to learn more about Truth Over Tribe?</strong> Visit our <a href="https://info.choosetruthovertribe.com/subscribe?utm_campaign=TOT%20Campaign%203B&amp;utm_source=Show%20Notes%20" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">website</a> and subscribe to our weekly <a href="https://choosetruthovertribe.com/?utm_campaign=TOT%20Campaign%203B&amp;utm_source=Show%20Notes%20-%20website" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">newsletter</a>.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Resources:</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08GWNC1SR/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">After Evangelicalism: The Path to a New Christianity</a></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B072M2W87B/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Changing Our Mind: Definitive 3rd Edition of the Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ Christians with Response to Critics</a></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08W2W3QS7/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kingdom Ethics, 2nd ed.: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context</a></p><p><a href="http://info.choosetruthovertribe.com/how-tribal-are-you" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">How Tribal Are You?</a></p><p><a href="https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ten-minute-bible-talks-devotional-bible-study/id1477778533?i=1000522506048" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">I'm Trans and I Love Jesus | An interview with Laura Skaer</a></p>
Does practicality ever justify war?
03:14 MIN
Lessons from experiencing politics in academia
01:20 MIN
The entanglement of evangelical identity with the Republican Party
02:34 MIN
Involvement with the Obama campaign
02:10 MIN
Diving into progressive evangelicalism
03:05 MIN
Trauma in the church(women and LGTBQ)
06:30 MIN
Historical and contextual realism
01:46 MIN
Views on polygamous relationships
04:51 MIN

Announcer: Are you tired of tribalism?

Speaker 2: I think a lot of what the left supports is satanic.

Speaker 3: The only time religious freedom is invoked is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.

Announcer: Are you exhausted by the culture war?

Speaker 4: If they don't like it here, they can leave.

Hillary Clinton: You could half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.

Announcer: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?

Speaker 6: Is it possible to be a good Christian and also be a member of the Republican Party? And the answer is absolutely not.

Speaker 7: From certainly a biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote democratic.

Speaker 8: we trust the lamb, not the donkey or the elephant.

Announcer: This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives, and too conservative for liberals.

Patrick Miller: I'm Patrick Miller.

Keith Simon: And I'm Keith Simon. And we choose truth over tribe, do you?

Patrick Miller: We're in the middle of our series on the rise of the religious right. And in our last episode, we saw how the moral majority formed and helped Ronald Reagan secure the presidency in 1980. But what would it have been like to live through the late'70s, the'80s, and the early'90s, as this merger between Republicans and evangelicals really took root? What would it have been like if you, yourself, identified with the left and not the right? What might be the longterm consequences of living in constant dissonance with evangelical Republicans? Well, there's perhaps no better to talk about that exact subject than David Gushee, because he really did live through it all. He became a Christian in the Southern Baptist Church, and cut his teeth as a Christian ethicist in the Southern Baptist Seminary. He was there while it was becoming increasingly conservative. In the 2000s, he became every liberals favorite evangelical, because he spoke out against torture and the Bush Administration, and against nuclear proliferation. And he was eventually recruited by the Obama campaign during the 2008 presidential election to help with their outreach to evangelicals. But a lifetime in the culture war has definitely left its scars on Dr. David Gushee. In the mid- 2010s, I remember hearing terms like ex- evangelical, or post- evangelical. At the time, I liked them because it put distance between me and the political movement that often took the name of evangelicalism. And yet, as these movements of ex- evangelical and post- evangelical developed, it became clear to me that those terms were increasingly being used to jettison a biblical sexual ethic, to limit the authority of the Bible. And even more alarming, it seemed to me that they were making their own political union with Progressives, which is exactly what we saw happen on the other side. It seemed like they were affirming everything that the left defined as right, as being right according to the Bible. Now, it's during this exact same period that gay Christians, like Matthew Vines, and other Christians, like Austen Hartke, were mounting very public campaigns from within the evangelical movement to change the church's perspective on LGBT issues. And while I strongly affirm that Christians should love the LGBT community, and actively welcome them into our churches, it seems to me that the Bible's vision of sex within marriage between a man and a woman is absolutely crystal clear, as is its understanding of the male and female being two immutable features of our identity as humans. It's at this point that I started reading Dr. Gushee's work. His book, After Evangelicalism, is perhaps the single best description of post- evangelicals and it's written by someone who now identifies as post- evangelical. Here's the deal, Dr. Gushee has moved away from a lot of his older positions over time, and he is further on the left than he was even in the mid- 2000s. Which means that we have profound disagreements about what the Bible says about sex and sexual ethics. And we have disagreements about the Bible itself and its authority in our lives. But once I read his autobiography, Still Christian, I felt like I understood how Dr. Gushee ended up where he's at today. We think choosing truth over tribe looks like holding open dialogs with people who don't share even some of your most important convictions. This is part of being open to the truth. Look, if David Gushee has Jesus right, and I have Jesus wrong, then I need to change. But beyond that, it's about resisting the allure of tribalism. Some people will be incredibly angry that we're" platforming" Dr. Gushee. I get it, but I don't live in a world where it's me against him, or me against anyone, really. I hope that this models for you, and for others, what it looks like to have a winsome loving dialog with someone who's in a different camp. I hope it's a reminder that people come to their positions in the context of their own personal story. I hope it's an encouragement for followers of Jesus to resist the allure of secularism, to consider his arguments, but I think, ultimately, come to the conclusion that David Gushee, as smart as he is, might not be in the right place, no matter how backwards, or regressive the culture says our views about sex, sexuality, the Bible and its authority really are. This is an interesting conversation. I think you'll really enjoy it. I love talking to Dr. Gushee. I learned from him, and he is a great respectful guy. Let's hop in. David, thanks so much for being on the show with us today.

Dr. David Gushee: Patrick, it's an honor. It's good to be with you.

Patrick Miller: Tell us the story of how you started following Jesus.

Dr. David Gushee: Well, I was raised Roman Catholic, and it was a big parish in Northern Virginia. My mom was a devout Catholic. My father was not church going at that time. I was the oldest of four. It was the rebellious early'70s, late'60s, early'70s.

Patrick Miller: I can't say I remember that.

Dr. David Gushee: There was a certain kind of spirit in the air. But anyway, the Catholic Church, I didn't connect with it, partly because it was what mom was wanting us to do, almost a family rebellion thing. Partly, I think, because the Catholic Church as a little confused, at the time, about what it was going to be after Vatican too. In high school, sophomore year, I met a Southern Baptist girl, and you know that's how things go so often, right?

Patrick Miller: You know, I married a Southern Baptist girl.

Dr. David Gushee: There you go. It was interesting, she was a rebellious Southern Baptist girl, but it was through her that I first stepped foot in a Southern Baptist Church. And in the summer of 1978, I was literally just stumbling around looking for some answers. And I was at the mall, and the mall was right next to the church that she went to. And on a Friday afternoon, I just wandered into that church uninvited, the doors were open, and I wandered into that church. I guess I said I'd like to talk to the youth minister, if he's here, and he was there. And it just turned out that they were having a youth weekend with all the cool stuff. And so, I went to the Friday night miniature golf, and Saturday night this, and then Sunday morning that. By Monday, I was at a Bible study in which the youth were being trained in evangelism. It was only in that session that I became clear to me that I was not a Christian, because I did not have a story that went something like, " Here's what my life was like before I met Christ. Here's how I met Christ, and here's how my life has changed." I did not have that story. The Holy Spirit was alive in that one... The teacher actually was a woman, actually, a deacon in the church. I think the first female deacon in that church. I was responsive, and I was asking all kinds of questions, and by the end of the evening I had accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord, as we say it. I was immediately plunged into that church, into a very active youth group, discipled as a follower of Jesus. Within six months, I was sure my calling was to be a Baptist pastor. I was president of the youth group. Anyways, it totally turned my life around. A high school conversion experience in an evangelistic Southern Baptist Church.

Patrick Miller: That's amazing. Now, obviously, very early on in your journey you started to feel tensions between what you read in the Bible and what you heard in evangelical teaching. One area that comes to mind is pacifism, which I share your convictions. I would also describe myself as a pacifist. But I'm curious, just as an example, what ended up leading into pacifism?

Dr. David Gushee: To stay with the narrative just a bit, I would say that in that first church, they never talked about social acylations like that, at all. The only thing they talk about was things like personal holiness, personal morality, following Jesus, no cursing, tell everybody about Jesus.

Patrick Miller: Was dancing allowed?

Dr. David Gushee: No dancing, no dancing, no drinking, stuff like that.

Patrick Miller: Yeah.

Dr. David Gushee: My father was a policy analyst for the US Government, so we talked a lot about many policy issues, like war, or environment, or economics, and stuff like that, but that never happened in church. It was only really when I went to seminary and started studying ethics that those issues became integrated seriously into my faith.

Patrick Miller: And you're at Southern Baptist Seminary?

Dr. David Gushee: I went to Southern Baptist Seminary in the mid'80s, just before the conservative resurgence and the change in leadership there. My main teacher of ethics at Southern was a man named, Glen Stassen. He was, essentially, a pacifist, though his theory of just peacemaking is what he wanted to talk about. I mean, that's essentially what I would say. I don't think I've ever described myself as pacifist, per se. I don't think there's a sentence in my writing that says I am a pacifist. I am opposed to the routine resort to war, and I do believe that we should be making peace. And also, that if we ever unleash all these weapons that we have, nuclear weapons, we'll all be annihilated. If you're thinking about those issues when I was coming through, it was during the Cold War, US, Soviet Union, thousands of nuclear weapons, a lot of fear of that. Nuclear pacifism was a thing. I would say I'm anti- war, but there was space for that in the evangelical world that I was in at that time, although it was really a problem. I ran into a problem on other issues, probably, as you know, not really on pacifism.

Patrick Miller: Just running down this trail for a second. As we talked about, this particular topic, being against war and, like you said, you haven't called yourself a pacifist, so I apologize if I slapped that label unfairly on you. But one of the things that people will often bring up is practical considerations. They'll say, " Well, in this area of war, in a world that's broken by human pride, and idolatry, and racism, war is going to be unavoidable, and it's going to be sometimes necessary for peace and justice." I had someone recently point me to the example of William Lloyd Garrison, the famous abolitionist, and was very against war. He had a big influence on Frederick Douglass, who was, early- on, also against war. Eventually, Douglass is connected with John Brown and others, who violently resist slavery. And then the Civil War starts, and William Lloyd Garrison, who had previously been very against war, he turns. He does an about face, and he says, " Looking at these practical realities of the Civil War," he says, " The only way we're going to end slavery." And so, he sets aside his pacifism and says, " Yes, Christians should take up arms and go to war." And so, I am curious, do you think that a practicality ever justifies, or necessitates, war?

Dr. David Gushee: Actually, I do, though I think that about 98% of the time, that people have thought that a war was inevitable, or unavoidable, or justifiable it probably wasn't. I do think there are rare exceptions. I'm actually teaching a class this fall on ethics of war, and working through all of those theories, pacifism, just war theory, holy war, just peacemaking, and so on. There's an argument being made for all of them. I'm not an absolutist on these issues. I remember that I was on an airplane once, during the time where there was a lot of terrorism. And I was on an airplane coming out of Israel. And there was a person acting really, really in an agitated way. Around the time, do you remember the shoe bomber?

Patrick Miller: Yeah.

Dr. David Gushee: The guy who was about to try to bring a plane down by lighting a bomb, and he was wrestled into submission by the other people on the plane, so that everybody on the plane could live. And when that person was agitated, I was preparing myself for having to do the same thing. The just war theory says that, as I understand it, as a last resort under extraordinary circumstances, sometimes the innocent must be protected using force, and I think that's true. But the bigger question is, how do we follow the peaceable Jesus in such a way as to create as many pods for peace and peacemaking as we can find? That, I think, is the peacemaking question, and that was what I was thought to focus on, and I think that's the right question.

Patrick Miller: Let's keep going through your story. Obviously, you end up getting a PhD at Union. Is that correct?

Dr. David Gushee: Yeah.

Patrick Miller: And then you end up teaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, your alma mater.

Dr. David Gushee: Yeah.

Patrick Miller: Now, you had, even then, some differences with a lot of the people who might have been on the faculty with Southern, and then others where you've been in great agreement with them. But why do you think Southern brought you there despite some of the obvious differences?

Dr. David Gushee: Because it was a most unusual transition moment. The faculty, in the spring of 1993, was still dominated by more moderate Baptist types. Most of them would not have called themselves evangelicals, and they were certainly anti- fundamentalists. But the new president coming in, he wasn't in place when I was hired, he was just around the corner, was Al Mohler, and everybody knows who Al Mohler is. And the trustee board had just flipped to be under more conservative control. They were trying to thread the needle with an emphasis who could be acceptable to the faculty and to the new administration. That's like camel through an eye of a needle thing. Not that I was pro- life on abortion, serious about scripture was important. The fact that I was an egalitarian on gender role is it was okay at that moment. Two years later it wasn't okay. Intuitions are interesting, because they evolve. This one was evolving at the time I was hired, and evolved rapidly after I was hired. I could never have been hired three years later, but I was hire able in 1993.

Patrick Miller: You come to Southern Baptist at the exact same time as Al Mohler does, and you tell the story of the conservative takeover of Southern Baptist, and a lot of the moderate professors were ejected, and a lot of new standards were added in. That would make one qualify or not qualify for teaching there, which previously hadn't been held. I'm curious, why did you leave?

Dr. David Gushee: Because I could never have been tenured there, unless I was willing to lie about my beliefs about women in ministry. That was the flash point issue at that time. The question was framed do you believe that it is acceptable within the terms of scripture for women to serve in pastoral ministry or as senior pastors. Sometimes it varied, but it was essentially that question. And a lot of people were fudging or coming up with very clever answers to that question in order to get through that grid. But I wasn't willing to do that. I mean, I was tempted, as you saw in my memoir, I was tempted, because they liked me and I was already rising. I think I had a bright future there, but I wasn't willing to compromise on that, probably because of women ministers who were important in my life. Fortunately, I had an escape. I had another offer from David Dockery to go to Union University in West Tennessee, and I was able to get out. A lot of people's careers were ruined during that time, like stuck, unmovable, were not really able to stay, but didn't have any place else to go. The politics of academia can be really awful, and it certainly was at that time.

Patrick Miller: What did your experience at Southern Baptist teach you about evangelicalism, in general? I mean, it seems like a very formative moment in your life, when I read your autobiography.

Dr. David Gushee: Yeah, it really was, Patrick. It taught me that really smart learned people can disagree utterly about things, and be sure that they are right, each side. And be sure that pie matters if Biblical truth are at stake, and that it's not possible to compromise. Meanwhile, you have political powers and pressures that effect how things actually work out. How much power does a person have in the system might have some impact on what they're able to get away with, and how much diversity of opinion is allowed. But the idea that three years before a certain belief was seen as perfectly acceptable, or even dominate, and three years later a belief gets you fired. It certainly reinforced for me the changeability of institutions, the role of power, and the fact that perspective do not equal truth. And that the Christian community is filled with visions, sometimes bitterly and brutally advanced with people getting chewed up in the process. It was a very disillusioning experience. It certainly showed me that humanity and the brutality of even Christian institutions.

Patrick Miller: It strikes me, and I'm curious if you'll disagree with me on this. I did not grow up in or around, in any remote sense, the Southern Baptist tradition. Never gone to a Southern Baptist church. It's just completely outside me. The closest I get to it, like I said, that was my wife's experience growing up, so she tells me things. But outside of that, it's not something that I think a lot about. It not something I've been shaped by. And as I read your book, it struck that it seems like a lot of times you are responding to a particular version of evangelicalism, which was most clearly articulated in the version of Southern Baptist theology and thinking that you just described a moment ago. In other words, it doesn't ring true to me of the evangelicalism that I've experienced, or I've been a part of. And so, I want to know, I mean, do you think your critiques of evangelicalism are, maybe, narrowly focused in one part of evangelicalism, or is there a reason why you stay focused in that particular area? Or maybe you're saying, " You know what, I think I hit the whole thing. You're wrong. I'm open to either."

Dr. David Gushee: Southern evangelicalism and Southern Baptist convention, which has its own independent life apart from evangelicalism, and a lot of people wouldn't even say it is evangelical, it's Southern Baptist. It's just different. White Southern evangelicalism, and Baptist especially, has a certain amount of flavor to it that has been tinged by the racism, and the entire regional history. I'm sitting here, in Atlanta, talking to you today. The regional history of how Christianity has developed here in the burned over revivalist Southern Baptist south, Southern Methodist, Southern Baptist. But I've had a lot of experiences in the rest of evangelicalism. In my career, I traversed all, up and down, in and out, both in the US and beyond, every kind of... National Association of Evangelicals, Christianity Today, Wheaton, Gordon, Callerton, Fuller, you name it, I spoke there, I wrote for them, I did stuff there. I do, generally speaking, think that Northern, and Western, and often Midwestern evangelicals don't have some of the excesses of the South, but I think that in many ways the critic holds. I do think the greater distinction maybe between British and European evangelicals versus American evangelicals. I think there's something distinctively American that I am critiquing.

Patrick Miller: What would that be?

Dr. David Gushee: For example, the entanglement of evangelical identity with the Republican Party, because that's an American. The entanglement of evangelicalism with Donald Trump. I mean, that's the very American thing, and a very recent American thing. The sense of entitlement to cultural power that I think is very much there in evangelicalism, that's just not the cultural situation for evangelicals in places like France, or Germany, or Great Britain. And so, there's a greater humility.

Patrick Miller: Talk about that for a second, because I think that's actually one of the areas where I felt the most dissonance with some of the things that you've said. Now, again, I'm a millennial. I became a Christian in 2006, and my experience in Christianity, generally speaking, I'm a Christian during eight years of President Obama being in office. I never thought or expected that Christians were going to have cultural power. I didn't expect us to be in charge in Hollywood. I never expected us to be in charge in the media, or in politics. Now, again, maybe I was living in this weird fringe universe of evangelicalism. Now, I know evangelicals who expect the cultural power, but I know plenty who don't. I guess my question is twofold. What do you mean by cultural power? What is that expectation that a lot of evangelicals have? And do you think that there are evangelicals, or a growing movement of evangelicals, who are resisting that now?

Dr. David Gushee: It helps. See here, the generational thing does make a difference. The birth of the Christian right in the late'70s, with people like Jerry Falwell Sr., Pat Robertson, people like that. Christian coalition doesn't even exist anymore, I think, moral majority. They wanted to take America back for God. They wanted-

Patrick Miller: I read that book, Taking America Back for God, that's a pretty good book.

Dr. David Gushee: It is, yep. They wanted... And they wrote books like Taking America Back For God, and they really meant it, at that time. They thought, well... You know what I think it was, was in a sense, the evangelism strategy that had been so important to evangelicals earlier. The way we will take America back for God is by telling people about Jesus and they'll convert. I think that as America became more religiously pluralistic, and even religiously indifferent, and as evangelism wasn't working very well, and as some legal changes were alarming to these evangelicals, I think that they began to believe that a political strategy was more relevant than an evangelistic strategy. And so, they began, they went to Ronald Reagan and said, " Ronald Reagan, be our hero," and he promised to be, and was. And since then, this group of politicized white evangelicals has been looking to the Republican Party to be that for them.

Patrick Miller: I did an interview with someone recently who had very much so fall to this party, and I asked him, why did he like Donald Trump so much? And his answer was, " Well, he gave me a seat at the table. He gave us power. He gave us a voice again." Which I found alarming, because, on one level, I look at Jesus' example and he was preciously the opposite. He didn't go seeking after the places of power, but he went to the places in the margins and transformed people's hearts, and lives, and their communities. And so, I think what you're saying is really interesting here. We'll hop back into my interview with David Gushee in one second. Before we do, I have a question for you. How tribal are you? Do you know how tribal you are? I like to ask myself that question all the time. It's just a good self- reflective thing. If you want to self- reflect, go to choosetruthovertribe. com and take our tribalism assessment. It will tell you if you're tribalized on the right or the left, or not tribalized, at all. And give you some next steps to maybe stepping away from your tribalism and taking a step towards Jesus. Let's hop back in. A little bit back into your story. Obviously, you end up going to Union University, and you said in the mid- 2000s. You were every liberals favorite evangelical. What do you mean by that?

Dr. David Gushee: I had this secure place in the evangelical world as, let's just say, go- to emphasis. You want to have a seminar on whatever invite Gushee. I did, I mean, chapels, and conferences, and church stuff, school stuff, all over the country. A lot of my social ethical convictions were progressive, like my teachers Glen Stassen and Ron Sider. He wrote Rich Christians in the Age of Hunger. Jim Wallace was a friend, and I have always been influenced by his vision. And then the later generation. There's people like Shane Claiborne. Those evangelicals were really more my tribe. And so, if you want me to come speak about war, or the environment, or gender, or whatever, I'm going to lean left. There were a few major disputes in the Bush years, that I got really visible on, and I was seen as on the left. Those were climate change and torture, and I wrote about those in the book. Climate change, a group of evangelicals... As worries about climate change really began to become more important, a group of evangelicals, a group of us, got involved in saying this is real we need to work on this, and I was in that. And then, after 9/ 11, when we were horrified by the terrorist attacks and started brutalizing and torturing people, our government, I wrote in opposition to that. And so, by 2007, 2008, I was very nationally visible on those two issues, which made the progressives, including non- Christians, happy to know that there were such voices. But the more conservative evangelicals didn't like that very much.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. I think it might surprise some of our younger listeners to realize that issues, like torture, were so much up for grabs. They were such a part of the national dialog at the time. I mean, I remember it very distinctly. I was in high school at the time, but I remember people debating and talking about is this moral? Is this ethical? How should Christians react? And I was, for sure, around Christians who said torture is ethical. We need to be doing this. And I appreciate your, I would say, prothetic witness in challenging that perspective. You've also talked about how you became involved, in some ways, with the Obama campaign. Can you share more about that?

Dr. David Gushee: This is interesting. I want to loop back to the person you interviewed about Trump, right?

Patrick Miller: Yeah.

Dr. David Gushee: Obama had a religious outreach operation that was pretty rigorous.

Patrick Miller: Well, it made a lot of sense. Here was a guy who, by all accounts, has a healthy marriage, and a healthy family life, has spoken very publicly about his faith, and how it shaped his life. And so, at the time, I mean, I remember being a Christian thinking, well, here's a guy who seems really authentic in his walk, in his faith with Jesus, even just coming out of a different tradition than my own. The religious outreach part, actually, makes a lot of sense to me in retrospect.

Dr. David Gushee: He was trying to show to middle America that he was a Christian of sound personal morality and moral values, but he was also building a religious outreach operation, which is part of how you run for president now. You reach out to pastors, professors, leaders of various types and maybe create an advisory boards and get phone calls. That's still happening, by the way, with Biden. Hillary, her campaign, was not as good at it, which maybe one of the reasons why she lost. Politically, the idea is to maybe make end roads with religious, but progressive, people, to not concede religious voters to the Republicans. And because I was a visible evangelical, that was especially interesting because they knew that if they could get some evangelical votes, they'd never get a majority, but if they could get some, it might matter, and it did matter. And when it was Obama versus Romney, and Obama versus McCain, they did decently, definitely better than anybody did against Trump. Politically, it was relevant to them. It was also relationship building. I did write in my memoir that I was aware that all such entanglements with politicians are complex and problematic, at times. And I remember I was invited to the Denver convention where he was nominated, and I was asked to sit on a panel. I forget what I was talking about, but at that point with all the Obama stickers behind me and stuff, I was aware, I am in this system. I am now part of the 2008 Democratic Convention with Obama stickers behind me. And, in general, that's more direct involvement than I want to have with politicians. That's a little close.

Patrick Miller: Do you regret that? Do you regret... You brought up the examples of a previous person I interviewed. Do you feel like you were entangled in politics and power in an unhealthy way, or that, perhaps, you were allured into particular positions or ideas that you could become more palatable to those kinds of power players?

Dr. David Gushee: I didn't change any positions because of it, but I was aware that I was being used. Something I would say, and I would say that to the Trump people too, to the people who were sitting around the table with Trump, you are being used. You may think you are using, or influencing, but you are being used. And you may think you are... It's a reasonable question, Patrick. You may think you are influencing, but you have to ask how are you being influenced? Are there things that you are thinking are acceptable now, they would not have thought as acceptable until you were sitting in the room with this person? It's a real legitimate question. Now, one thing that's interesting was that When Democrats do religious outreach now, picture a round table with 12 people. It's going to be Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, white Protestant, black Protestant, Catholic, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist. It's a multi- faith table. As well as, maybe some humanists who have moral commitments. That's the democratic table. Republicans don't do their religious table that way, as much. It's more of a Christian table, and it's more of a white table, and it's more of an evangelical table. I think that was very attractive to a lot of people who wanted to be around Trump. He basically said "I'm your president, and you will have a major voice with me, the way things should be, ought to be," and that was part of how he reeled evangelicals.

Patrick Miller: After Obama's campaign, you eventually decide to take the exit ramp, as it were, out of the evangelical world. And what's funny is I read your book. I wasn't totally clear if you got kicked out, or if you voluntarily left, or if it's a bit of both. But tell us about why you left evangelicalism behind.

Dr. David Gushee: To some extent it had been building for a while. Who was the religious community most likely to support torture? White evangelicals. Who was the religious community most likely to be dubious about doing anything about climate change? White evangelicals. Who was the religious community most xenophobic about immigration? White evangelicals. In other words, white evangelicals were arguing with me about many, many issues that I cared about long before 2014. And then, when Obama was elected president, I saw some more overt racism coming out of white evangelicals that was really problematic for me.

Patrick Miller: Are you talking about the birther movement, or what do you mean?

Dr. David Gushee: That, yeah. Yeah. Then I thought it got even more explosive with some folks with Trump. As you know, in 2014 I decided it's time to take on the LGBT issue. And so I wrote this book called, Changing Our Mind, in which I... What it was, initially, was a series of articles. I want to try to wrestle with this issue from the ground up and see where I go. The outcome was not predetermined when I started, I was exploring. But in the end, I ended up developing a book that was intended to be an entry into what seemed like a growing evangelical conversation. Let's talk about this. We can talk about this like we can talk about other things. And there actually were, at that time, forums and conversations happening in Christian colleges all over the country. I wrote this book. It ended up being called, Changing Our Mind, because I ended up concluding it was time to change our mind. We had made a mistake on this issue. And that, to be honest, I did not know that was my exit ramp out of the evangelicalism when I started the book. It certainly was in terms of the response to the book, which was a resolute hell no, and you're done. And so, canceled invitations, and canceled book contracts, and canceled friendships. I mean, I experienced cancel culture 2014 to some extent, and now it feels like it was naΓ―ve to think that I could still remain an evangelical ethicist and take an implicit position on that issue. But I thought there was space for that. I thought maybe I had the stature to, at least, have a conversation while still being evangelical, but it didn't turn out that way. Since then, I've been rethinking why was I ever an evangelical in the first place, and did that really fit for me, and all that, because that wasn't where I was in 2014.

Patrick Miller: Again, to be candid, you and I probably have some disagreements on this issue, and I'd like to talk more about that. But before we do, I want to ask you a few questions. Right now, we're seeing, I wouldn't say it's a massive or a large movement, but we're seeing a growing movement that is sometimes called ex- evangelical, post- evangelical, progressive evangelical deconstruction and your book on post- evangelicalism is viewed by some as the Bible of this movement, not in the sense that it's an authoritative text, but it describes a lot of people's experience and the views of a lot of people inside of these movements. But I'm curious, are these all the same movement in your view? What ties all these things together?

Dr. David Gushee: Another great question. You are a great interviewer, Patrick. This is awesome, man.

Patrick Miller: Wait until we get to the end, I'm sure I'll say something and you're going to hang up, like I'm out, this guy.

Dr. David Gushee: I'm done with you, man. No. Progressive evangelicalism was already there. In 2008, I wrote a book called, The Future of Faith in American Politics, and I said there's an evangelical right, center and left. I said the right has about 50%, the center has about a third, and the left has the rest. And the left has people like, Brian McLaren, and Shane Claiborne, and Jim Wallace, and Ron Sider, and people like that. And then, of course, a lot of evangelicals of color.

Patrick Miller: And would you agree, just so I can paint the picture here, the evangelical left, I think, but correct me if I'm wrong here, it probably doesn't share your views on the Bible, in terms of inspiration and errancy, and maybe your sexual ethics, or would you say, no, I think they do share my views?

Dr. David Gushee: I think so do, and some don't.

Patrick Miller: Okay.

Dr. David Gushee: What I think has happened is, in the last, really, maybe since Obama, but certainly since Trump, that evangelical left has been pushed, or has left right out of evangelicalism almost entirely. So all that's left, maybe, is an evangelical center and right, maybe. And so, progressive evangelicals, the space for serious progressive evangelicals, to me, seems to have shrunk. That's one exit ramp from progressive evangelicalism into post- evangelicalism. But there's some other ones. One path is trauma. The trauma story is especially clear with women and with LGBT post- evangelicals, as well as those who've been sexually abused in other ways; sexual abuse, women under patriarchy, and LGBTQ. The trauma narrative is really sad, Patrick, because these are people, now, church is a place identified with pain and victimization. And a lot of them are leaving, not just evangelicalism behind, they're leaving church behind, they're leaving Jesus behind. That's one slice. There are other people who are leaving more for intellectual reasons, and it might be about scripture, or it might be about the anti- science attitude of a lot of evangelicals, or maybe it's some are leaving for political reasons. The identification with Trump was a bridge too far and they've left because of that. We've seen a lot of people do that. On the whole, the numbers are clear. There is an exodus from US white evangelicalism that is profound, and there are a number of paths, and the most recent book that I wrote, here it is, After Evangelicalism, was written to...

Patrick Miller: That was the Bible to which I referred.

Dr. David Gushee: That's right, yeah. It was written, and you see the cover of the maze there. Basically, the image that I used is that evangelicalism became a maze in which people got stuck. They were separated from Jesus within a religious community that was supposed to help them bring them closer to Jesus, and so now they're working their way out of it. My hope, as a pastor, is that they don't lose Jesus, as they leave evangelicalism behind.

Patrick Miller: My heart, obviously, breaks for anyone who's experienced trauma inside the church. I think about a woman who was in a Bible study that I taught years back, who had a physically abusive husband. And praise God, she was able to leave him, and that ended in her life. And she very understandably swore off men. I don't want to be around men. I don't want men in my life. And that was for several years. Now, she eventually came around to the position that... She said, " You know, I've thought about it, and I've realized he was one man. He's not all men. Our marriage was one marriage, it's not all marriages." And her story was that she started pursuing and eventually got married to someone else, and by all accounts is in a healthy marriage now. Now, that's not going to happen for everybody. I don't expect it to happen for everybody. But I wandered the same thing with church trauma. There are churches where there is abuse, but that's not all churches. I simply will not judge someone who's abused inside a church, who refuses to go back. That makes perfect sense to me. And yet, sometimes when I hear people talk about church trauma, and I'm not accusing you of this, but I want your take. It seems as though it's discussed as a normative thing, and maybe I'm wrong. My context is our church, and we're like any church, sin happens, bad things happen. I'm sure that there have been hard things that would break my heart here. But that said, we're a church that, I think, would probably fall into your camp of evangelicalism. And yet, we have racial diversity, and we have ideological diversity, and we have sexual and even gender diversity here. Even though we have, what you would probably call, traditional views of sexuality and gender, evangelical views of those things, and I think that those people who are a part of our community are, I believe, beloved here, and welcomed here despite some of those differences. And so, sometimes I hear these stories and I think, " Well, gosh, I feel bad that those churches exist, but that's not all churches in this camp." Would you grant that there are healthy good evangelical churches where there is space for people in these communities?

Dr. David Gushee: I'll start by saying yeah. Just because some churches have been traumatized and are abusive environments, doesn't mean they all are. Same thing is true with Roman Catholic churches, for example, just to skip into a different context. Just because there have been priests who have abused people, doesn't mean every priest abuses people. That's really, really important. And you're right to say that while we don't want to judge anybody's inability to go back to church because they've been traumatized, we also don't want to project a message that every church is an abusive community, because that's just not true. The interesting issue to be joined is whether, in the end, traditionalist theology, for example, on gender, or on sexuality, ultimately is just intrinsically damaging for those who are on the receiving end and who are not in the majority group. If you are a woman being taught submission to either, all men or to husbands, the argument can be made that this is essentially a blessing of injustice and male power in the name of the Bible, in the name of God, and that injustices, like that, they cause harm. They may not be grave harm always, but it is harmful because it is a premonition of the dignity of the people who are on the submission side, as opposed to the leadership side. On the LGBT front, even if a church is kind and welcoming, " Hey, here comes a lesbian couple and they come to X Evangelical Church," and nobody's mean to them, and nobody kicks them out, and nobody looks at them funny. But, in the end, they're going to be told something along the lines of, " Your sexuality is damaged, or your relationship is not okay in God's sight, or you're not ever going to be able to be a leader here," or whatever the boundary lines is drawn in that community. In the end, it's a differential treatment based on a theological or moral judgment that I happen to think is wrong, and that, in the end, does damage to people. I am appreciative of evangelical churches in which pastors are extremely careful never to attack from the pulpit. I have a lot of LGBT people contact me and tell me a story like this. I thought that the church, the evangelical church, I was going to was a good safe and loving church. But then my guest preacher dude come on day and he decided it was the time to bash gays. This was going to be gay bashing Sunday, and I never expected that from my church, but it happened this day. If you think you're in a safe environment, and it turns out that you're not, that is traumatic.

Patrick Miller: And obviously that depends how define safety and health. And, again, you and I probably have disagreements here. The story that comes to my mind, as you're talking, is at our church, we would teach that every person, whether you're straight, gay, trans, identify as male, female, it does not matter, every single one of us is broken sexually in some fashion. And if that is disqualifying for a relationship with Jesus, then we all might as well go ahead and take the exit door. It doesn't matter how old you are. It doesn't matter anything about you. But I think about one of my friends here, at the church, who is trans, and she transitioned from a male to a female, I believe, about 15, 20 years ago. We even have an interview with her on the podcast. Her story is one of a lot of hurt, and a lot of confusion, and also a lot of success in life. She's been very, very successful in her life. But she did end up transitioning, which caused a huge amount of pain and hurt inside of her family. And as she tells her story, she would say I'm now... She's much, much older. She's gone through surgery and she said, " Look, I'm not going to go back through surgeries to try to go the opposite direction. That seems unwise, and I've already forced my family through a lot of pain going one way." But she's looked and she said that she's found healing in the church, because it's helped her to become more comfortable with who God designed her to be, and that she has been welcomed inside of the church in her identity as trans, and is in a place where she's saying, " If I could go back in history, I would change these decisions. I can't undo those decisions, but I have learned, in a healing way, to accept the givens that God has given me in my life, and I wish I had been able to do that." I hear story like that, and you can anecdotally come up with a story for every single situation. But that communicates to me, well, here's an example of someone being welcomed into a community. And their sexuality being identified as being broken alongside everybody else's, and in the midst of wrestling with that, finding healing, and even hope in the resurrection that when she's resurrected, she'll be a man. That these things will be healed inside of her. I'm just curious, what do we do with stories, like that. I mean, couldn't I say that it would be the opposite of loving? I won't go as far to say abusive, but it's the opposite of loving to take someone like that, who seems, by all accounts, to be in a good place in her journey, and not give her the chance to reflect on those God givens, like her gender?

Dr. David Gushee: I think pastorally, you have to do that. Pastorally, you have to go with the person on their journey and provide a place where they can reflect on their journey. I think it would be wrong for you to say, or anybody to say, " We do not allow you to make that interpretation of your story." That would be wrong. If she were, instead, somebody who was completely comfortable with the decisions that she had made, and did not believe that there were any mistakes on that journey, could you go on that journey just as well with her, and she'd be just as accepted, and just as welcome, and all that? I assume that'd be the case, right?

Patrick Miller: Well, I think that we would welcome her into our community. I think that we would go on the journey with her. And there are other people in our community who are in that same place, who are saying, " No, this is where I identify." I think where you and I differ is that I think it brings healing to help someone come to a place of acceptance with their biological givens. I think that brings, ultimately, more healing and transformation in someone's life, then allowing them to stay in a place of dissonance with their biological givens. And so, I think that's, probably, where you and I would diverge.

Dr. David Gushee: Maybe, but I do think the transgender issue is enormously complicated.

Patrick Miller: Absolutely.

Dr. David Gushee: I write very little about it, because I still find it enormously complicated.

Patrick Miller: I noticed that.

Dr. David Gushee: And I think that there is a fair amount of confusion about this issue. And I do know people who have made decisions in this area who have regretted those decisions.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. It is very complex.

Dr. David Gushee: It is.

Patrick Miller: I'm not trying to press you into talking about it.

Dr. David Gushee: That's fine.

Patrick Miller: That's where we've been. I just had a conversation with a teenager, like 19 year- old, so not a young teenager. Last week, he was talking through his battles with depression, and anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. And he was sharing how he felt that maybe the issue is that he was living out of alignment with his gender, which was a conclusion he'd drawn, relatively, recently. It hadn't been a lifelong on- going thing for him. We had an interesting conversation where I said, " You know what, I felt a lot of those same... Actually, when I was your age, I was depressed. I was having suicidal thoughts. I was going through the exact same things." Personally, no one ever suggested to me, I mean, it was just 2006, maybe because it's your gender is out of alignment? But that would have been a narrative that, I think, would have been attractive, potentially, at the time. And as we talked, I saw some light bulbs go on, and he's sitting there saying, " Okay, maybe I just need to pull back the camera a little bit and ask some big questions here." What I'm hearing you say, if I'm catching you right, is you don't want to come down hard on this is a place where we fully accept and never ask any questions, or never allow people to process in either direction. We have space for de- transitioners. We have space for transitioners. I think that's a better position to be in then if someone says, " I am X. It must never be discussed." It's not a journey, it's a destination from that point forward.

Dr. David Gushee: I think the journey image is the right one. And I think with pastoral ministry you accompany and you listen. I'm asked really hard questions. I have an email waiting for me, right now, and this is not the first one, from somebody who this is their story. Trying to overcome their lesbian self- hood. They got married to a man. She got married to a man. Now, 15 years later, she and her husband are miserable. What is the Christian moral obligation now? Is divorce acceptable in this situation? What's the higher value here? And she wants to be a good Christian. She wants to follow Jesus. She wants to do the right thing. I want to position myself alongside you here, as a pastor trying to minister to broken people and amidst all kinds of complexity. I also want to say that cultural narratives are not always to be trusted. In fact, they're often not to be trusted. How people think about their sexuality and what decisions they should make is, in part, affected by cultural narratives. And if the main cultural narrative is just authenticity, that's not good enough. I think covenant, as you've seen in my writing, covenant is a more central thing.

Patrick Miller: Which I appreciate.

Dr. David Gushee: I find people barking at me, someone from the left, who say that I haven't gone far enough. I'm not liberative enough. I'm still too tethered to traditional values on things like covenant. And so, I hope that people who read my stuff will understand that there are boundaries for me too.

Patrick Miller: That's really helpful, and it would be interesting to explore all this. I agree with your pastoral point. We do need to situate ourselves alongside people. I think, as pastors, who we all have a vision, or an understanding of what wholeness, and health looks like. And the journey that we're taking with people isn't simply alongside them, it is, I hope, I think, a journey towards wholeness and health.

Dr. David Gushee: Right.

Patrick Miller: And I agree that there's a real risk at buying into cultural narratives. It's funny to hear you say that, if I can be honest, because you use the metaphor of a maze. People getting out of this maze of evangelicalism. And I know that at the Hampton Court Maze, people got lost in these hedge mazes, and I think you talked about that illustration. But one of the things that happened, for a brief period of time, is they built a platform, where a caller would sit, and he would help people get out of the maze, if they got stuck, so that they wouldn't be dismayed.

Dr. David Gushee: Is that right?

Patrick Miller: What I'm hearing you say is, culture is a terrible caller. It's not the place to go to find your way out of, and obviously, I'm moving past the metaphor of evangelicalism, it's just the maze of life, itself.

Dr. David Gushee: Right.

Patrick Miller: It's not the best way to get out that maze. Again, if I can be honest, it's funny to hear you say that, because if I were to critic you, it seems to me, at times, that does seem to be what's driving the conversation, as we talk about sexuality. Moving it away from the LGBT thing, I think about you teaching, or saying, that having sex outside of marriage, it's not immoral. Now, you're pretty clear. It needs to be in a monogamous consensual relationship. It's not any sex outside of marriage. But that seems to me, at least from your writing, to be somewhat rooted in a cultural understanding. I mean, you say explicitly, " Look, puberty is hitting earlier. People are getting married later. And that practical consideration simply means we need to, maybe, revise how we thought about sexuality." Do you think that you've run the risk of buying into cultural narratives on some of these topics?

Dr. David Gushee: It's a legitimate question. I would say, like on that example, historical and contextual realism is how I would describe that dimension, not just a cultural narrative. And the same thing is true, I think, for the LGBT thing. Historical, cultural and human realism. And by the way, this is actually relevant to the initial question about pastors. And that's why realism sometimes leads us to the place were we have to reluctantly accept or resort to violence. I think it's the same realism about human nature and cultural, and historical context that sometimes leads us to a place where we have to reluctantly accept, as a concession, certain second best options. If marriage is tied to economic stability and a decent income, and that is delayed until the age of 30 for a lot of people, and puberty is at 11, and you've got 20 years in- between what do you do? Well, do you create minimalist standards, like no abuse, no coercive sex, no rape, nothing like that. But maybe you say in light of all factors, covenantal, but not yet marital is preferable to the chaos of hookup. It's a step up and maybe it can be a path towards marriage. But I still think that my overall message is the church needs to be an engine of restoring marital culture. That we have a lot to do there. And a lot of people are giving up on marriage or don't have confidence in marriage, and I think we can help there and should.

Patrick Miller: It's interesting hearing you say that. One of my close friends, earlier in life, is gay, and when he became gay, he started through a revolving door of sexual relationships. After several years, I mean, you could just tell the torment and hurt that was causing in his life. And I remember him telling me, " Hey, I met this guy," and they ended up staying together for quite some time. I always said... People ask me, " What are you doing when you have those conversations?" Well, I encouraged fidelity, because fidelity is a biblical value. I disagree with his sexual choices, and his sexual ethic, but I can affirm that it's better to be with one person than it is to be with many. And so, on one level I feel this area of agreement with you, saying, " Yes, if we're going to help and pastor people, we do need to help them take steps in the right direction." I think where I want to press is saying, " We need to help them go, perhaps, all the way," and draw on other traditions. I think about the tradition of celibacy. Paul and Jesus and others who remained sexually abstinent well into the age range that you're talking about. I wonder if we've given too much over to culture, when we start saying that's not an option for people outside of marriage, or just impractical outside of marriage. And I think, if Jesus is our example, maybe there's a supreme practicality to celibacy, a supreme practicality to remaining without sex.

Dr. David Gushee: It's certainly an option. It is certainly... I think it's preferable to non- marital sex, for sure. But I've just seen too many hundreds of people with, for them, attempting to do it is impossible and descending. The norm is unreachable, and so, there is no in- between norm, like fidelity. And so, therefore, it's the Wild West. It's anything goes. By the way, I think that explains a lot on the LGBT front, as well, because having not provided any legitimate outlet, or expression, it tends to drive people towards chaos and one relationship after another. And so, partly these are technical questions of, is this a concession to sin, a pastoral concession... Same thing with divorce. I mean, Jesus, in the Bible, very strict on divorce, but we tend to pastorally conceive that some marriages need to end for grounds that are not clearly listed in scripture, like abuse.

Patrick Miller: Very strict.

Dr. David Gushee: And is that a concession to stand on? I think it is. It is a concession that one must make in the interest of human well-being. Some of what I write about sexuality is in that zone, I think.

Patrick Miller: If I'm hearing your right, you would say, " Yes, I'm saying people may have sex outside of marriage in, again, a consensual monogamous relationship. It's not only not normative, it's only not ideal, it's a concession to sin." Which, to me, sounds like you're saying, " Yeah, this is not the right choice, ultimately in God's eyes, but it's better than the other choices that might be on the table for you right now."

Dr. David Gushee: The best available choice, yeah. And/ or, at least, better than the other options that are on the table, as you said.

Patrick Miller: It's funny because I'm having a hard time now finding the distance between us, because I would say I think that's a sin. And I agree that's better than the other option on the table, but I believe that you will experience the most wholeness in your sexual life, if you abstain from sex outside of the confines of a covenant relationship, where that sexuality can be expressed in its most beautiful, loving, consensual, committed form. And so, I want to help you not experience the pain that comes from... There's that great quote. I think it comes from Vanilla Sky where it talks about it's not just about bodies. There's something that happens to our humanness when we have sex with someone. And I don't want you to experience that tearing, that ripping apart. And I hesitate to use that language, by the way, because it's been abused by purity culture and other places. And yet, I do think that it speaks to the power. It's hard to talk about the power of sex without also talking about the cost of sex, as well. It's funny talking, because I'm having a hard time differentiating, as we speak, more and more. I guess, I just wonder why not emphasize what you think is ultimately going to bring them wholeness, rather than making concessions?

Dr. David Gushee: I think I do that in that chapter on sex in After Evangelicalism, and my work on sex in Kingdom Ethics. I mean, I think the overall body of work says that. But the difference on LGBT is clear, because the only option offered LGBT people is celibacy on your side. Which I think forced celibacy, in that sense, does not bring wholeness, so there we differ. And there are some people who are in a position where marriage is just simply not thinkable. We have to think about certain populations for legal reasons, or whatever reasons, they could be economic reasons. There's some difference there, but...

Patrick Miller: Yeah. There are bigger differences in some of those other areas, absolutely.

Dr. David Gushee: Yeah.

Patrick Miller: And, again, I think this goes back to the whole maze metaphor. This goes to my sense that allowing the Bible, in its entirety, to be my caller, as it were, guiding me out of the maze, I trust far more than not just culture, I also trust it more than individuals. And I realize, and will very strongly acknowledge, that there's no such thing as a pure Bible caller. Our Bible always comes to us interpreted. It comes to us through subjects who are doing their best to interpret it. But I trust far more subjects who are just like me, trying to remain faithful and committed to that, and the Bible's vision of wholeness, even when it rubs up against what culturally, or contextually others might be saying is for the best. I would love to talk with you about the Bible stuff. We're running low on time though. Let me end with this last question.

Dr. David Gushee: Okay.

Patrick Miller: You, in your book, you totally preempted me in your chapter on sexuality. I'm listening to it and I'm like, " Man, I want to talk to him about polygamy." Because if we're going to talk about a sexual topic that is, I think, going to be on the rise, as a discussion, polygamy would be it. Then you get to the end of your chapter, and you ruined it for me, and you say, " Well, I don't think polygamy is within the bounds of healthy sexuality." But I'm curious, obviously, your experience with LGBTQ people shaped the perspective you ultimately came to on LGBTQ issues. You talk about that as being a part of a community of people. That's part of what changes your mind on the topic. My curiosity is, could the same thing happen with polygamy? I don't know if you read Andrew Solomon's article in The New Yorker about polygamy. It's a fascinating piece, and what he does is he walks through versions of polygamy. He begins with this very patriarchal polygamy that's found in some fundamentalist Mormon circles and rejects it. Then he moves to this revolving door polygamy, where it's moving sexual partners and that was your point is, if you've got a revolving door of sexual partners, that's not necessarily a great place for children to be raised.

Dr. David Gushee: Yeah.

Patrick Miller: But he ends the story by beginning to discuss polygamists who are in lifelong committed relationships raising children with three or four people. And he tells their stories in a very lovely moving way. There's one mom, he says, " Look, being sleepless is not a badge of honor. We're able to pursue hobbies and development. We're able to be more present with our kids at everything that they do. One of us is always able to be there." They have very much so a three is better than two attitude, and they are deeply committed to their child. They're committed for a lifetime. And so, I'm just curious, I mean, is there a way that you could come around and say, " Yeah, you know what, that kind of polygamy, that kind of monogamous, it's covenantal. They're married. Polygamy, that's within the bounds of scripture."

Dr. David Gushee: Marital multi- partner polygamy, certainly got plenty of Old Testament-

Patrick Miller: Examples?

Dr. David Gushee: -examples of that. Mainly, they end up...

Patrick Miller: They don't go so well.

Dr. David Gushee: Demonstrating their problems, right?

Patrick Miller: But it's all patriarchal polygamy, right?

Dr. David Gushee: Right.

Patrick Miller: It would be closer to the Mormon model than what we're seeing here. It's a more egalitarian polygamy.

Dr. David Gushee: I mean, I think it's possible that society is going to go there. Here, I just keep hearing Jesus and Paul talking about the one partner. The covenant with one person. And you're thinking, okay, so you're going to draw a line here, but what about there? I think that's what we do in the Christian community is we're constantly wrestling with what these texts are to be taken to mean in different cultural context. I know this issue of polygamy is a live issue on the mission field, the missionary field places. Do you break up polygamous relationships and all that? I think, is that cultural imperialism. What about all that? I mean, I'm not an expert on missions, but I know that's out there. I think that, while I don't have any negotiability, at all, on one with one, but the relationship needs to be with one person. I don't think there's space for that in any testament of vision. Why I won't move on that? I just don't think it is, in the end, good for people. I don't think it contributes to human wholeness. And I don't think it's within the zone of Jesus and within us in the future.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. I think I would agree with you wholeheartedly on that. You're right. That's exactly what goes through my head is those same passages that talk about the one- to- one covenant. Or passages, they're very clearly envision it being between a man and a woman, seemingly, exclusively. I mean, Jesus obviously goes back to Adam and Eve and sees them as the quintessential starting point. The ideal of what marriage is supposed to be. And it does seem like it's going to be difficult to make a case against polygamy, but maybe I'm wrong. It seems like it's going to be difficult to make a case against polygamy using the same logic you've used to say that actually covenant between man and woman can be man and man, though neither Jesus or Paul envisioned or spoke about such things.

Dr. David Gushee: I mean, I get the difficulty of that, I really do. The case I have tried to make is that it's about a built- in diversity in the human family that just doesn't go away, and that hasn't been adequately addressed by the Christian church. But I now know not to expect that the major of Christians are going to come along and say, " You're right. That means we need to make some space." You notice how limited my space is? All that I've said, really, is this 3% of the population, they need to be grafted into the marital framework, and the monogamous for life, no divorce, marital framework that is the rigorous teaching of the New Testament. The reason I got there was because of getting to know both, the literature and the people that are involved. We're not going to get that resolved today, but what a great conversational topic.

Patrick Miller: Thank you so much for talking with me today, David. I could go on for another hour easily. I'm enjoying this. And you've been very thoughtful and generous with your words, and generous and kind with me, even as I'm pushing back on some things. Thank you so much for your time today. I wish you the best in your future work.

Dr. David Gushee: Thanks. You too, Patrick.

Keith Simon: Thanks for listening. If you found this podcast helpful, make sure to subscribe and leave a review.

Patrick Miller: And make sure it's, at least, five stars.

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In this week's episode, Patrick speaks with Dr. David Gushee about his life as a post-Evangelical. Dr. Gushee is a professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and author of many books, including "After Evangelicalism: The New Path To A New Christianity." Dr. Gushee shares what he's learned in his experience in academia, the politics that come along with that, and his involvement with the Obama campaign. He and Patrick discuss the entitlement to cultural power and the transition to a political strategy from an evangelical one. Dr. Gushee also gives us a better understanding of Progressive Evangelicalism and historical realism, ending on the topic of the LGBTQ community and views on polygamy. Listen now!

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Today's Host

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Patrick Miller

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Keith Simon


Today's Guests

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Dr. David P. Gushee

|University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University