Fishes and Loaves

1.

In Exodus 16, we find the Hebrew nation entering what was called the Wilderness of Sin. Most Biblical scholars agree that the name of that particular desert was not a reference to moral failing, but rather to the Assyrian moon god Su’en/Sin. Whether the term is a literary coincidence or God has a sneaky sense of humor is another matter. Either way, in the month or so since their escape from Egypt, they had experienced an adventure that included the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea as well as having pillars of cloud and fire acting as their personal vanguards. The Hebrews went without water as they crossed through the desert Shur. Once in Sin, they found themselves running out of food. And so they grumbled. It is interesting to me that the Hebrew word used here for “grumble” can also mean “to murmur” or “to dwell.” Perhaps that’s a clever turn of phrase, painting the image of thousands of people – a nation that common sense would suggest should be living in a state of wonder and gratitude – pitching their tents with poles made of whining and tent cloths of snivel.

To be fair, with three thousand years of history between us and the unequaled comfort and excess of American wealth, it’s easy for me to say that they should have had the faith and foresight that God would provide. I have never faced starvation, or even really anything more than mild hunger. And it’s worth noting that, for all their bellyaching, the Israelites weren’t questioning God, but Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Either way, God heard their grumbling and intervened, sending a flock of quail into their camp that night (quail are notoriously easy to catch, even without nets, after they have exhausted themselves from flight) and arranging for white, honey-flavored flecks of bread to hitch a ride with the morning dew. That manna was only good for one day is a nice, but subtle, reminder that we must collect God’s provision daily: we cannot “store” it for later use. “At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”

2.

When the disciples encountered a hungry assembly, it was not the people who were grumbling but the disciples themselves. Crowds had followed them to Bethsaida (literally, “the house of fish”), a town along the Upper Jordan River, near the Sea of Galilee. Luke says that Jesus welcomed the crowd, speaking of the Kingdom of God and healing everyone who needed healing – that is, He addressed both the spiritual and physical needs of those who came to Him. But in the late afternoon, the twelve apparently needed a break, so they asked Jesus to disperse the crowd. “We are in a desert place. Send them away so they can get food and lodging.”

“You give them something to eat,” Jesus replied. Charles Spurgeon found this to be noteworthy. Commenting on the parallel account in John 6, he asked, “How often does Christ seem to ask us riddles, and places us in difficulties, so that we begin to say, ‘What will come of this? How shall we escape from this temptation; or how shall we stand under this trial?” In that moment, Jesus already had a plan, though it was not yet clear to His disciples.

“All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish.” Perhaps I cannot escape our current strain of cultural irreverence, but one can almost hear the sarcasm in their voices: “Unless we are to go and buy food for all of them.”

Jesus instructed the disciples to have the assembled mass sit in groups of about fifty each. Then, from five loaves and two fish, Jesus pulled enough bread and meat to feed five thousand, with twelve baskets leftover.

3.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus immediately follows the feeding of the five thousand with the question, “Who do you say that I am?” This did not happen by accident. This question should have been the hermeneutical equivalent of an uncontested layup. “All right guys, I just miraculously fed a multitude in the desert. Who am I?” To his credit, Simon Peter gets the answer right. “You are the Christ of God.”

That He even asked the question fascinates me. To this point, they have seen Jesus fill their nets with fish, heal all varieties of dreadful ailments, calm a storm with a verbal command, cast out demons, and display the authority to forgive sins. And now He has miraculously fed a multitude in a desert with meat and bread. Haven’t you figured this out yet? It is in perfect parallel to the Jews in Exodus. “You’ve seen all this. Here’s one more thing. Now you know that I am God.”

But again, the point, I think, isn’t to look back in condescension on the disciples for being a little slow. The point is to illustrate a truth to us: that we have a cheat sheet, and we get it wrong all the time. Daily, even hourly, we reveal our practical atheism as we live as though we believe that Jesus is not the Christ of God. We can see the majestic expanse of the universe, from the unthinkable complexity of the simplest cells to jaw-dropping majesty of distant cosmos, and we still turn away and do in secret what we’d be ashamed for others to know. To borrow a line from Batman, when the Lord of all creation nudges us and asks, “Who do you say that I am?” it is not what we say, but what we do that reveals our answer.

Unrelated Charlton Heston publicity still

Unrelated Charlton Heston publicity still

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Next, Travail, and Net Neutrality

When they opened their second restaurant, Next, in 2010, restaurateurs Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas decided to try something new with their customer payment model. Next was designed as a prix fixe concept: everyone was to be served the same menu – there were no a la carte options. Sure, occasionally there were supplements available, and there were tiered wine pairings as well (non-alcoholic drinks and sodas, a standard wine selection, and a “reserved” pairing option which, as you might expect, was significantly more expensive), but the majority of patrons would be paying the same price for their meal. So why not get rid of the hassle and awkwardness of delivering a check and processing a payment? Instead of taking a reservation up front and receiving payment after the meal, Next Restaurant started selling tickets for their meals.

This idea turned out to be a two birds, one stone type of innovation. Not only did it make for a smoother dining experience – one could budget and pay in advance, so when the meal was over they could stay or leave at their leisure – it also cut down on food waste. Most people don’t consider the fact that a cancelled reservation often costs the restaurant money. “Hours go into producing what might be a two-and-a-half bite course” at Alinea, says Achatz. “From the moment that (cooks) walk in the door at 6 a.m. and they put a pot of soy milk on the induction burner, and they start to pull the sheets of yuba and roll them, somebody filleting the shrimp, somebody pickling the onion, somebody making the orange taffy, right up to the point when it’s first served in the restaurant? Twelve hours. For one bite. Twelve hours, five people. That’s absurd.”  Alinea is certainly not alone in this approach: fine dining restaurants everywhere spend this kind of time on their dishes, and that makes it imperative to know exactly how much needs to be produced on a day-to-day basis. If your cooks don’t make enough of something, there won’t be enough to give to each diner. If they make too much of something, it will have to be stored for a future service or thrown out. Selling tickets lets you know exactly how many people will be coming to eat that night, making the margin of error that much smaller.

Recently, the Robbinsdale hotspot Travail embraced this system and started issuing tickets of their own. Travail also adopted a variable pricing feature (Next does this as well): off-hours reservations would be available at a discount. If a group is willing to come early, or start their meal later, they might save as much as $20 per person on the exact same meal. (The logic of this is straightforward, of course: peak dining hours will be full regardless, and people who might have stayed home otherwise are enticed by the savings. And spendthrifts can likewise plan accordingly.)

Most people, at least among those that actually care about such things, saw this for the benefit that it is. Some people took to complaining about it immediately. Some saw it as pretentious: acceptable for a culinary superstar like Grant Achatz, but unacceptable for the relatively unknown Mike Brown and James Winberg. But the most peculiar complaint was for those who saw the price variance not as a discount for off-hours diners, but as a surcharge on normal people. “Why should I have to pay more just because I want to eat at a normal time?” asked one commentator. I wonder, of course, if he thinks that it’s acceptable for Café Latte to sell its day-old cake at a discount, or if he views full-priced cake as a surcharge on people who like to eat fresh. What should have been a win-win got painted as a shameless cash grab. If everyone pays the same price, more often than not, they’re going to be paying the higher price.

Now allow me to shoehorn the net neutrality discussion into these examples. Net neutrality is a complex issue with a number of facets, and I am not educated or informed enough to comment on all of them. What I do want to comment on, though, is possibly the smallest element of this whole discussion: tiered service. John Oliver summarizes the issue like this: “Ending net neutrality would allow big companies to buy their way into the fast lane, leaving everyone else in the slow lane.”

This is flawed logic. Net neutrality dictates one of two outcomes: either everybody will get (and therefore pay for) “fast lane” service, whether they have the need for it or not, or everyone will be stuck in the slow lane. Also, why there would only be a fast and slow lane, Oliver never explains. If only certain companies, say Netflix, have access to that service, then their customers – stuck in the slow lane – won’t be able to get full use of the products they pay for. The market self corrects in this way. In the end, this is like arguing that everybody should pay the same price for their meal at Travail, or their cake at Café Latte. They have in mind to pay the smaller price, but they should expect the bigger bill instead.

Next and Travail offer a fast-lane, slow-lane options for their reservations. I see this as a good thing. But this model only works because they are not the only game in town: I don’t have to eat at either restaurant. The way to keep the Internet free is to introduce more competition, not to give strict regulatory controls to the FCC. The FCC, you might recall, is head by a man named Tom Wheeler, who used to be the top lobbyist for certain cable and wireless companies. As John Oliver put it, “The guy who used to run the cable industry’s lobbying arm is now running the agency regulating it.” Doesn’t it seem a little absurd, then, to give him more power to do so by letting the government regulate internet service?

The aforementioned yuba, shrimp, orange taffy dish. Twelve hours!

The aforementioned yuba, shrimp, orange taffy dish. Twelve hours!

Three Conversations

1.

The exam room was maybe eight feet by ten feet, with the requisite medical posters adorning the walls and the obligatory forest-green bed spanning most of the far side of the room. The nurse sat across the desk from me, clicking through the patient database, hunched forward with fatigue at just ten in the morning. She was lanky, almost six feet tall, and wore a lab coat over her blue scrubs. I wondered if it was common for nurses to wear lab coats, though I didn’t think to ask. After a protracted silence she said, “You remind me of Keanu Reeves.”

“Thanks?” I offered with a slight chuckle, imagining for a moment myself in place of the most inexplicable movie star in film history. That was a backhanded compliment if I’ve ever received one.

“Why is that funny?” she asked, tilting her head forward so her eyes bobbed above her ruby rimmed glasses.

“Oh, it’s funny because I was just reading an academic paper on the neutral mask, which helps explain why Keanu Reeves was such a successful action star.”

“Are you a professor or something?”

“No, I’m just constantly curious.”

She sat up straight. “What is the neutral mask?” I explained to her that, in theory anyway, one of the keys to blockbuster movie success is having a character who doesn’t emote much, if at all. The idea is that the more subtlety and emotion a character expresses, the more cognitive strain we feel in processing why he or she is having that reaction, and the harder it becomes for us to psychically substitute our personalities for theirs. This is why Neo is so bland in the Matrix, why Bella Swan is expressionless in Twilight, and one of the components that makes superhero films so popular: we can insert ourselves into their character and see the world of the movie through their eyes. (It’s interesting to me that the neutral mask concept was introduced by the French actor Jacques Lecoq, a mime who taught his students to use the neutral mask in order to develop their ability to convey feeling with the rest of their bodies.) We project our own feelings onto them, and that’s what allows us to feel immersed in an implausible story.

A conversation of my favorite films and directors ensued (The Lives of Others, Shaun of the Dead, and No Country For Old Men all came up). Although I inquired about hers, but she seemed reluctant, almost embarrassed to share, like finding yourself confessing to a wine snob your love of three buck Chuck. She eventually admitted to her love for Fight Club and, to her relief, I returned the sentiment.

“That’s interesting,” she said as she played with her silver and gold spiky hair. “You’re so interesting.”

2.

Recently, and to my surprise, I’ve been told by a half a dozen different people that I am a good conversationalist. Given that at least one of these people studied communications, I found it difficult to disagree. While it’s not as though I had any particular evidence to support such a dissent, I had always taken for granted that the opposite was true. Considering the ease at which we can selectively recall certain events but not those that contradict it, I’d managed to ignore the myriad pleasant, deep conversations I’d ever had in favor of those occasions where someone I’d tried to talk to was either reluctant or shut me down entirely. (Self-scouting notes: I am quick to assume that any social unpleasantness I experience is my fault and my fault alone).

But this revelation, as welcome as it was, cast new light on some of those joyous and fulfilling conversational highlights I look back upon, a relational proxy for athletic glory days or the like. The three hours at Nina’s with my friend Katie, for example, perched upon our thrones at the top of the stairs, is a memory clear and warm to me that the paint still seems moist in my mental portrait. Or that lonely January night saved by an impromptu chat with Jasmim, spanning topics from wall art to empathy to the religious influence of our parents, her brown Disney eyes welling up with tears as she opened up to a man who was a stranger mere minutes prior. Whereas before I’d thought these times were moments of developing rapport or an emotional connection, now I have to wonder instead if they were as equally-matched tennis players sharing a long volley.

3.

My friend was waiting for me at Five Watt when I arrived. “Just got here,” she’d texted a few minutes earlier. It’s poppin!” I’m almost always the first to show up when I’m meeting up with someone for coffee, or drinks, or what have you. Perpetually early. Saturday reminded me of a scene from 30 Rock, when Liz is introducing her new boyfriend Floyd to her boss, Jack Donaghy. “I hope this isn’t too boring for you,” Liz offers apologetically as they walk into the restaurant.

“Are you kidding? Jack Donaghy’s a legend. I’ve read his book like twenty times!”

“Jack wrote a book?”

“Yeah, ‘Jack Attack: The Art of Aggression in Business.’” Floyd spots Jack waiting for them at their table, sipping Scotch. “Oh no, he got here before us. You’re not supposed to let that happen. That’s chapter two in the book.”

When we sat down, she told me she wasn’t thirsty. I came back with a Busy Beaver in hand (one of Five Watt’s signature drinks, made with maple syrup, Blackstrap bitters, cinnamon, molasses, black pepper, and espresso, and it is absolutely delightful) and offered her a sip. “I don’t actually drink coffee.”

“Wait, really?”

She explained that she didn’t like the way it made her feel, and that listening to what her body was telling her was something she was learning how to do. More people should learn that lesson. She then sat graciously sipping water in a temple of caffeine as we enjoyed a conversation.

4.

Kevin and I had been waiting at Lyon’s for almost an hour. His friend Mike, we had been assured and reassured, was on his way and would be with us shortly. Jon would be bringing his girlfriend: “I think she’s the one,” or some variant, he’d texted to Kevin, with the not-so-subtle subtext that we should help make him look good. I’d been warned that Jon was something of a meathead. A former pro football player, and retaining the physique of a current one, he had no patience for people he didn’t care for, and no use for pretense or drivel. Not everyone was going to like him, and he could in no way care less.

They finally arrived. Jon shook my hand and quickly turned his attention to Kevin. Laura asked all of us if we wanted anything to drink. It was 1 a.m. at this point. “Nah, we’re trying to sober up.” She smiled and headed up to the bar. “Isn’t she perfect?” Jon asked. “I mean, aside from the fact that she needs to lose like forty pounds, but I’ve told her that.”

Laura came back with a shot and a beer for each of them. Jon and Kevin were already lost in conversation about life in Colorado, a discussion to which Laura and I had been denied entry and would have had nothing to add. I decided to play dumb, one of my favorite conversational tactics. “I hear you’re a financial analyst,” I offered. “What’s the difference between that and the guy who drags me out to coffee and tries to look at my bills?”

She laughed. “That’s a financial advisor. A financial analyst gives guidance to institutions, helps them make investment decisions and things like that.”

I asked her if she liked her job. She said she loved it: it paid well, it afforded her the ability to travel to more countries she could list, and they had even paid for her to be tutored in French. “There’s been a trade-off, though,” she admitted. “My social life has suffered.”

“I have a friend who recently confided in me that she was worried the same thing would happen to her. You can’t have it all, or at least you can’t have it all at once. You have to prioritize.”

She agreed. “And I’m glad I put my career first. I’m on a CFO track. I can have a family at any point, but it’d be almost impossible to break back into where I’m at if I’d picked that first.”

Around this point, Jon started to notice that his girlfriend and I were not waiting patiently for him to drop conversational crumbs for us to lap up. Some men, when they want to assert dominance in a non-threatening way will offer a compliment. This is a subtle way to express that he is the source of affirmation, and that therefore everyone else should consider themselves lower in the hierarchy. “Hey bro, I like your coat. Maybe I should borrow it for my interview.”

I laughed to myself. I’m not sure if he noticed. “There are plenty of Banana Republics around.” I turned my attention back to Laura. She lowered her voice. “Can I tell you something I haven’t told anybody yet?”

“Of course!”

“I’ve been offered a teaching position at Columbia.”

“That’s awesome!”

“Come on, you’re probably boring him,” interrupted Jon.

“I’m passionate about my job! When you’re passionate, people find that interesting!” Was I interested? Did we, over the course of a half an hour or so of polite conversation, develop rapport enough that justified making me the first person to share in her news? I don’t know. Perhaps that Keanu comparison was more apt than I’d thought.

Meme credit to Michael Vanden Oever

Meme credit to Michael Vanden Oever

No Free Lunch

Please, remember me
My misery
And how it lost me all I wanted
– Iron & Wine, “The Trapeze Swinger

Across the street from the train station, on the south side of 5th street, there was a beggar holding the requisite cardboard sign. I couldn’t really read what it said, but despite the usual club-goers and the traffic on Hennepin, it was quiet enough that night that I could hear his conversations. “I’ll do a dance for you. If you like it, you can give me a dollar,” he’d say to passing pedestrians. Sometimes they’d laugh. Usually they’d ignore him. Before too long, though, a well-meaning young man in a blue Oxford and a black North Face windbreaker walked up with a doggy bag in hand. “Here. I got you a bite to eat.”

The beggar mumbled something in reply – a humble but practiced “Thanks,” perhaps – but accepted the white bag reluctantly, as if he thought there was a fifty-fifty shot it contained scarabs rather than food. He glanced inside before setting the bag beside him, reciprocating a wide smile with a curt nod. He watched as North Face walked away: as soon as the do-gooder turned the corner, the beggar slogged over to the nearest trash can and threw away his free meal.

I considered rummaging through the trash to see what the bag contained, but my curiosity wasn’t strong enough for me to bypass the arriving train. Being late on a Wednesday, the cabin was predictably empty. Two people had their heads down on the seats in front of them, striking the “Heads up, seven up!” pose I learned so well in second grade. (Train travel note: discounting rush hour, you’ll find that most people sit on the last car. It didn’t take me long to realize that this is because the station entrances tend to be closer to the rear of the stationary train and most people can’t be bothered to walk the length of the platform. I, on the other hand, prefer to defer my laziness to end of my trip and board the car that will be closest to my exit.)

That night I wanted a distraction, and as amusing as it was for me to imagine some sprawling city-wide game of Seven Up, it wasn’t about to cut it.

The next station gave me people to watch. I mistook them for a couple at first. They were both attractive: her with sandy-blonde hair and what seemed like green eyes – or maybe her emerald jacket just drew the green out of them? – and him dark-haired with murderer’s thumbs and, despite it being well past five, a square jaw without a hint of stubble . What drew my eyes were his shoes, rich burgundy wing tips without laces. They seemed unnaturally stiff, as though toes had never flexed against the polished leather. Even after I noticed the titanium rod where his ankle should have been, it took a moment before it dawned on me. This man is missing his legs.

That detail, perhaps morbidly or unfairly, piqued my interest in what I’d brushed off as a run-of-the-mill date night. But by then it was too late to eavesdrop. “Well, this is my stop,” he announced.

“Okay.”

“This was a lot of fun. We should do it again.”

“Yeah,” she said, somewhat flatly. “We should.” He gave her a side hug and shuffled out the door.

I glanced over at her and I felt anger swell up. Have you ever been irrationally angry at a total stranger over something completely innocuous? It’s a good sign you’re projecting. How could she? I bet it’s because he’s an amputee. Just how shallow is this woman? It always says more about you than it does about them.

I don’t remember what she said that interrupted the self-analysis of my contempt. With how much time I spend speaking to strangers – and just how often people ask me for my favorite ice breakers – you’d think I’d have a more natural memory for conversation starters. But the best conversations seem to flow from something said off the cuff. I wish I remember what she’d said. All I can say is that one second I was fuming, and the next second we were talking. Detached from the immediate context of such events, it seems remarkable to me that people open up to strangers on public transit, or that they’d deconstruct elements of their lives in the apparent hope that a fresh set of eyes could help them reassemble in a more comfortable arrangement. All that to say, at some point she asked me in some arrangement of words, “Why do men ask women on dates if they know there’s no future for their relationship?”

I could think of three reasons. “Either they don’t know that they don’t have a shot, or they think they can change your mind, or they see inherent value in going through the motions and issuing the invitation regardless.”

(She scoffed at the third possibility. When I told her I’d done it, she pressed me for an explanation. All I could think of was baseball: if you’re at bat, in the bottom of the 9th with two out and a full count, a certain type of man will always swing at that next pitch. Although she nodded her head, I’m not sure she could relate.)

“Is that what happened tonight?” I asked. “You don’t think you have a future with that guy?”

She nodded her head.

I often finding myself asking the wrong question. What followed was a discussion of why she didn’t think he was right for her – a conversation I had no way to contribute to, not knowing him at all. What I should have asked but didn’t was, “Believing that there was no future, why did you go on the date?” Maybe hers would have been a disappointing and banal reason (“I didn’t have any plans” or “I couldn’t think of a good excuse” or “Well, he asked, and I have a rule about that”). Maybe it would have been something interesting like, “I didn’t want people to think I was shallow for turning down an amputee.” Perhaps the presumption that had me fuming was, in fact, her whole motivation for going out with him in the first place. I’ll never know.

Past her sandy-blonde head I saw the familiar sight of the Lexington Aldi. “Well, this is my stop,” I said as I stood up. “It was nice meeting you.”

She sat up straight. “Actually, we haven’t met yet.” Then she thrust her hand in mind and told me her name.

Further Thoughts on Gay Marriage

In January, the Supreme Court agreed to review the 6th Circuit court’s decision to uphold gay marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Last month, after a federal court order required the state to begin recognizing same-sex marriages, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore forbade probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. In response, the Supreme Court declined to stay the order, allowing gay couples to marry in Alabama wherever they could find a judge sympathetic enough to provide a license. Justice Clarence Thomas (dissenting from the seven-justice majority) wrote that the Supreme Court’s refusal to stay the court order “may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution” of the constitutionality of gay marriage bans. That is, spoiler warning, Thomas expects that the Supreme Court will strike down gay marriage bans across the country.

I thought the anticipation of this decision would be a good time to further discuss my thoughts on gay marriage, and my views on gay marriage are, in effect, a specific instance of a more general idea: I don’t think the government should be involving itself in marriages. Christians view marriage as a sacred oath between one man and one woman. Different denominations see this idea differently. But one way or another, the understanding of what it means for a Christian to be married depends on their specific form of worship. Churches (and other religious communities, as they see fit) should be governing marriages, not Uncle Sam. Marriage as a continual act of worship is a private endeavor.

That leaves unanswered broader legal questions of inheritance, property rights, hospital visitation, and more, completely unanswered. While the language of civil unions was never popular, I believe that is the answer. If a couple, married religiously or not, wants certain legal rights, that is an arrangement that should be made with the government. Additionally, that arrangement need to reflect a sexual or romantic relationship at all. It just most often would.

This idea, I’ll admit, is a bit contrived and it will never take hold in America. It is just the way I think things out to be: if you think of marriage as a religious act, then let it be practiced within your religious body. If you think of marriage as a legal concern, subject it to the government. Apply new terms as you see fit.

None of that discusses my opinion on gay marriage as it currently stands, so here goes. I think gay marriage should be legal, and I believe my foundations for saying so are conservative in nature. (This means, of course, that I will find myself in a substantial minority on this issue. Many conservatives will disagree with my reasoning – despite the fact that one of the earliest arguments for gay marriage was conservative in nature – and many liberals will think I don’t take things far enough. Such is life for the centrist view.) When discussing whether or not it should be difficult for non-Christians to get divorced, C.S. Lewis had this to say:

Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is quite the different question—how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christian and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives.

I think the very same logic applies to this circumstance. We should not employ the government to impose a specific religious morality on the American people at large – especially where it’s easy to imagine a differing point of view making a similar imposition on us. (Lewis goes on to make a similar religious marriage/secular marriage distinction as mine: “There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.” This is probably where I got the idea.)

There is still an elephant in the room: children and childrearing. One can reasonably make the claim that the best-case scenario for a child is to be raised by his or her biological parents, when those parents are married into a committed, loving, and stable relationship. Fair enough: I think that is probably true as well. Now imagine the spectrum of possibilities, with this hypothetical best case on one end and something like a malnourished, impoverished, abusive, neglect-filled upbringing on the other. Where do you think the health and well-being of a child raised by a gay couple actually lands on that spectrum? If they are also committed, loving, and stable, I would bet it’s far, far closer to the best-case end. And if they are not committed, loving, or stable, then those factors probably have far more to do with any parental shortcomings than does homosexuality.