A Language Lost


Last year at the University of Minnesota, PBS hosted a conversation between David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch.

Rauch and Blankenhorn are friends and nobody is sure why.

Rauch has long been a major player in the fight for marriage equality and Blankenhorn has been the thorn in his side, advocating for the traditional family and the mother-father parental model.

For years, these two have traversed the country while tearing into one another over their opposing beliefs. Rauch has called Blankenhorn a bigot.  Blankenhorn has called Rauch a radical.  The two were camped in polarizing places, maintaining a gridlock that would make congress blush.


But then something happened.


They grabbed coffee.


Through the honest hours of humanity that they spent together, a friendship was born.  Shortly after, Rauch wrote the preface for Blankenhorn’s book- a book against gay marriage. Rauch called it the best argument he’s heard yet.

The bond that blossomed between these two didn’t derive out of a change in belief (although, Blankenhorn eventually did). It came from changing the language. At the height of their mutual hostility, they experienced a crinkle of the conscience, one that begged them to be better. This epiphany awoke a newfound desire to disagree with dignity again. They had grown tired of demonizing one another, so they started an organization and co-wrote literature and connected over the ordinary in their lives.

Looking through the lens of how the real world works, this relationship is rare, if not impossible. But have we ever truly tried? Have we ever wondered whether we were simply situating ourselves in the tribes society told us to?

Let’s imagine for a second that there’s this Church function.

In attendance is George and Evelyn, an elderly couple from the rural parts of Pennsylvania. With a little grit and grace, they raised eight children on a paycheck-to-paycheck budget. They also happen to be Franklin Graham diehards and down ballot Republicans.

Across at their table sits a newlywed lesbian couple, just on the cusp of parenthood.

Through a little nudge and a proper introduction, a lay out of lives begins. The two catch a glimpse of anxiety and fret filling the young ladies faces- looks they know all too well.. And like the proud parents they are, they lean in and offer a few tricks up their sleeve. But then things get a little of hand. An hour passes and coffee is spat out of mouths during another hilarious trip down memory lane. Exhausting the stories the couples somberly reflect on how life is never what we expect it to be.

Is it possible that inside those intimate exchanges, nostalgia and naive dreams could collide and cross over… into closeness?

Call me an idealist or a dreamer, but I don’t think this is farfetched for us. Rauch and Blankenhorn did it because they reclaimed that redemptive lost language. The one that speaks to the soul, not the soldier.

The lost language beneath the wreckage of wrong worldview and cultural caricature is found in our shared humanity. Too often, instead of excavating what bonds us, what truly matters, our sharp tongues reflexively strike, injecting toxic turns that wither away whatever was growing.

But our stories disarm. In our familiarities we find ourselves unfilled and wanting more. Our differences don’t dissolve, but they become quieter and petty, unwanted interruptions of something valuable we have stumbled upon. Empathy is found in people we do not expect to find it from. Through stories of different characters, but similar sentiments a brave bond can be formed.  This is the language of lives lived.

Somewhere between Stonewall and Proposition Eight we lost sight of the stories beneath the banners. It was all about winning for us. We stroked our pride by pledging allegiance to the propaganda of our cause. Crimes were committed, to be sure, but the brush we painted the other with was too broad, too simple and completely dehumanizing. And as a consequence, we buried the language that bonds us.

If we could resurrect those refrains of common courage and struggle and hope and faith, maybe we could unearth what has been lost. Maybe we would hang on tighter to the words of Mother Teresa who said

“if we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Could what divides be overcome with what bonds us?

The Kingdom tells us yes.



7 thoughts on “A Language Lost

  1. Idealist! Dreamer!….OK…sorry, I’ll calm down now.
    I love this thing that I’m often guilty of: “Somewhere between Stonewall and Proposition Eight we lost sight of the stories beneath the banners.”
    Did you listen to that On Being podcast – it was amazing as was the whole “conversations” series (I now have a new respect for Jim Daley of Focus on the Family). I found a lot of truth in their idea that first, we need to know what our disagreement is. So often, we assume we know one-another’s perspective…

    • Good to see you back Ford! Being that I am inside the conservative circles of Christianity, I feel like I have a perspective that my LGBT brethren don’t always have. My hope is to create some streams of familiarity between two groups that have been taught to hate one another.

      Again, great to hear from you!

  2. *Sigh.*

    Every single time I visit this space you always bring such beautiful and raw truth. Your words resonate so deeply in my often petty lens. There is so much power in sharing our stories and it’s messy. Lord is it messy, but the bond from a place of grace (though rare) is the place Jesus wants us. THIS is His kingdom glorified.

    I pray everyday the differences which separate us will bring us together. This is only possible with an irrevocable surrender to Christ.

    Thank you for sharing this. I love you xoxo

    • Julie! You have no idea how much your comments mean to me (especially this one). This IS where God wants us to be. In relationship with those we would call bigots and radicals. We are all ripe for reconciliation.

      Love you Julie xoxo

      Ps: when the day comes that I am no longer anonymous… You’ll know who I am before then 🙂

  3. I had heard about them! It’s a rather inspiring friendship. In fact, it reminds me of my friendship with my old evangelical friend from high school, K. She and I still hang out every once and awhile, although she is the one that referred me to Exodus International and she is the one that still to this day does not believe me when I say that ‘yes, I am gay.’ In the beginning, when I first started coming out and being honest about my sexuality, she said some pretty hurtful things (she has amended them over the years, but still hasn’t backed down from her original position). However, she does believe me when I tell her that I spent years wrestling this with God. She doesn’t have to agree, but she can at least not use hateful language around me. We even were able to have a discussion about what that hateful language is, which she said was very enlightening for her.

    Recently, we had a fun debate, where we discussed feminism, although I never actually called the ideas we discussed feminism at first. By the end of the conversation, she ended up agreeing with a lot of my ideas, and that’s when I told her that, they were all feminist ideas. It surprised her, for she didn’t have a good grasp on what feminism was — all she’d heard was misrepresentations. This example is similar to the one we had about gay people’s lives and trans people. She really honestly thought there was a specific gay lifestyle, and that if I called myself gay I was living it. Through our talks, she came to realize that no, that’s a pretty harmful stereotype and isn’t true.

    You can’t just lump a diverse group of people into a limiting monolithic group as if they all act and think the same. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that truth.

    Finding that common ground can be hard, but it’s often done on the ordinary stuff of life. And then when you have that solid foundation, you can start to examine the harder issues, the ones you may fight to the death over, and still end up civil with a stronger friendship. It’s moments like that that make me hope that reconciliation is indeed still possible, especially for the Church.

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