“I wanted to talk tonight about some things that appear to be contradictions—religions, political philosophies, that are thought to be in conflict, but are not in conflict… I want to try and argue that our politics have been too simplified and polarized, that our culture is too divided, that we need to accept the complexity and flawed nature of being human… [I want to do it] in a semi-autobiographical way, in covering three things about myself that I have been told for years cannot coexist… I want to come out tonight as a Christian. I want to come out tonight as a conservative, and I want to come out tonight—in a much less controversial way—as a homosexual. Certainly, I think Haverford would view the latter as the least provocative identity to grasp, but that’s because you haven’t heard me talk about what I believe Christianity and conservatism really are.”
With his opening words, Andrew Sullivan grabbed the attention of the audience gathered in Haverford’s Roberts Marshall Auditorium on Friday evening and held it throughout his entire presentation. Sullivan, whose February 8 talk was sponsored by the Students Council Speakers Committee, is a journalist and the creator of and central voice behind the influential blog The Dish, which boasts a readership of 1.2 million unique visitors and an average of 8 million pageviews a month.
Sullivan, who is also a prolific author (Virtually Normal, Love Undetectable, The Soul of a Conservative), acknowledged that he was an interesting choice as a speaker for Haverford. As a Conservative and a Catholic, he recognized that he was likely a rarity within the College community. Sullivan then went on to explain his beliefs with clarity and grace.
While he challenges the Church’s position on homosexuality, Sullivan’s personal Catholicism springs from a deep faith he said he’s never been able to shake, even in dark moments. He noted that for him religion was inherently full of doubt, but also full of love and acceptance. Sullivan disagreed deeply with the attempts people make to control one another through religion, preferring a more open dialogue, much like the one he created during his presentation.
Besides being a Christian, said Sullivan, “I’m also a conservative. And when I come to college campuses today and say that to people, I get this bizarre and horrified response… as if I’ve committed a crime or believe in mass murder. But what I place at the core of conservatism is something that I place at the core of the Christianity I’m talking about and that is that one can believe in an idea, in a way of life, in the importance of a certain set of virtues … You should always understand that doubt about those convictions is integral both to those convictions and to their success. I don’t think anyone who’s never doubted has ever actually believed.”
Reporting by Nora Landis-Shack ’13 and Rachel Baron ’15