Hello (and goodbye again), Andrew

June 27, 2015 • 12:26 pm

by Greg Mayer

Most WEIT readers will know of Andrew Sullivan, the prolific conservative, gay, Catholic writer who practically invented political and cultural blogging as an ongoing form of writing. Given this capsule description, there were, as you might expect, a number of times when he and Jerry publicly clashed, but there were also a number of points of agreement: despite what you might expect of a conservative Catholic, Sullivan is a staunch secularist, who opposes the baleful influence on public policy of religionists of all stripes (the Christians among whom he decried as “Christianists”, in analogy with “Islamists”).

Earlier this year, Andrew stopped blogging, and Jerry took note, remarking on their disagreements, but also his respect for Andrew’s boldness in defying some of his Church’s strictures, and his dedication to writing and developing a community of online readers. In his remarks, Jerry noted that I was a regular reader of Andrew’s, and privately suggested to me that I post something here at WEIT, which I thought a good idea, but which, for varied reasons, I never did.

The Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision gives me a chance to offer just a few words, for Andrew– probably only for this instant– has returned to blogging, offering his thoughts on the decision, one for which he worked tirelessly. I won’t say here all I might have in a longer piece, but I will note that I greatly enjoyed Andrew’s writing and analyses, even when I disagreed, and that an important part of this was because he is open to relentless self criticism, and is open to, and has, changed his mind in the face of contrary evidence and argument, even on issues on which he had staked his reputation (e.g. the Iraq War). Part of this self criticism is how he handled comments from his readers, not via an open or moderated comment section (as here at WEIT), but by what was essentially a letters to the editor section. Andrew posted a judicious selection of the comments sent to him, but did not hesitate to post the voices most contrary and dissenting to his own. From personal experience, I can attest that the submitted comments were read and considered.

Andrew was one of the first to promote marriage equality, at a time when even gay rights organizations and their supporters thought it a kooky idea. When I first heard of the idea years ago, gay marriage seemed to me like a contradiction in terms– it was Andrew who convinced me otherwise. He worked very hard, against opposition from all sides of the political spectrum, to promote the idea, and did so just by the power of reasoned argument– he led no army of followers, no political party, no phalanx of lobbyists. His reflections on the accomplishment of marriage equality (and do reflect on the religious allusion of the title of his piece) that he and many others worked for are well worth reading.

Andrew, it’s good to have you back for a day, and goodbye again.

24 thoughts on “Hello (and goodbye again), Andrew

  1. Some of course will remember when Sullivan’s immediate reaction after the 9/11 attacks was to predict that “liberals” would become a “fifth column” in the coming war. Nice.

    Also feel free to Google Sullivan’s history on preaching sexual restraint to gay men while secretly cruising online for unprotected sex–while he was HIV-positive.

        1. In the mid-1980s, when HIV was newly discovered and diagnosable, it was a death sentence. There was no known treatment.

          To some, it was only a matter of time until gay men who were not in a permanent monogamous relationship would get it and die.

          To some of those, that death sentence weighed so heavily, on top of the way society treated them, they hurried to get it and get it over with.

  2. It is commendable that he long championed the idea of same sex marriage, but he isn’t only altruistic, being openly gay. I still prefer not to read his writings due to them leaving me shaking my head on his support for religious dogma.

  3. I’m with you Greg. I enjoyed his writing, even though I often didn’t agree with him. On secular issues, I’ve quoted him on my own website as someone who was able to cut through the crap and get to the heart of the matter. It’s good to read him again.

  4. Well, since there aren’t any other comments, here, yet, I’d like to thank Andrew Sullivan for his efforts at equality and to congratulate him on being able to see the fruits of those efforts.

    To me, it feels like a quantum expansion of civil rights for everyone, and I hope it will lead to more such expansions.

  5. Sullivan can be very articulate, what’s confounding to me is how often on his blog he mingled shallow right wing talking points on other topics with his heartfelt thinking about gay rights issues.

    Now, will a thoughtful black conservative step up to follow Sullivan’s lead on issues of race, helping to change the GOP from the inside, as Andrew did with discrimination against himself?

  6. A very moving post over there by Andrew Sullivan. I did not know (but in retrospect now realize it was true), that when gay marriage was first being earnestly pushed in the ’80s the gay community itself seemed rather ambivalent or even suspicious of it.
    My, how the tide has changed.
    See? Things can change even in weird old bible-thumpin’ gun-toten’ ‘Merica. Slow, yes. But I know it can happen.

  7. I’ve been reading Sullivan since his stint as editor of The New Republic and the flap over his putting The Bell Curve on the cover. I’ve frequently disagreed with what he says, but always been entertained, and usually provoked to fresh thinking, too.

    Enjoyed his bromance appearances with the Hitch on Book TV, as well.

    Good to see him back online.

    1. Seeing the title of his current blog post — “It Is Accomplished” — I’d say he still owes his readers another six “last words” before he pulls the nails from his palms and climbs down off the cross again.

  8. I have not read Mr. Sullivan’s blog. Has he explained why he calls himself Cathoilc? How does someone who is openly gay, living in a same sex marriage, continue to be Catholic? It does not make sense to me?

    1. He wrote at great length about this and other aspects of his religious experience. The writings are all available at the Dish which is retained as an archive. It’s worth reading but will take some digging to get into.

    2. He was raised Catholic, and his reasons for remaining so boil down to sentiment and “faith.” It doesn’t make sense to you because there is no sense involved. It doesn’t make sense for ANYBODY to remain Catholic.

  9. Thanks Greg, nice to see Andrew back at the Dish, if only for one post. I always enjoyed what he had to say, even when I strongly disagreed with some of it. It could be entertaining to watch him go completely off the rails and then drag himself back over the next couple of days (the first debate in the last presidential election being a great example). Also, as you note, his honesty in taking on criticism and publicly changing is positioning response to information and developments was commendable.

    1. It could be entertaining to watch him go completely off the rails and then drag himself back over the next couple of days

      Yeah, and you rarely see that. Sullivan offers a good example for how to engage in public conversation.

  10. Is it really accomplished? The decision was certainly a very important and history-making step in the right direction, but all the bigotry that existed in the world on June 25th is still out there. I can’t remember now where I saw it, but someone pointed out that it’s damn good the election is still over a year away. The conservative bear was just poked. Hard.

    I so desperately want to live in a world where we don’t have to fight so hard to keep so many people from being mistreated.

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