At events such as the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, held last July in Denver, traditional believers get slandered in all sorts of ways, most of them indirect but effective. (And the most energetic apostles of inclusivity, dialogue, and openness never, ever call the slanderers to account.)

Issues, a daily one-page sheet of commentary, provided several examples. It was put out by a group called the “Coalition,” which included the homosexualist lobby Integrity, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, the Union of Black Episcopalians, the Episcopal Environmental Network, and five similar groups.

Although there is no logical connection between pacifism and homosexualitv, to be a member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship seems to entail supporting Integrity, and to join the Union of Black Episcopalians—black Episcopalians have traditionally been a rather conservative group—is to endorse the extreme feminism of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus. I suppose the connection is that the Coalition represents the different interests of the political left, rather than any coherent theology.

Sometimes, the insults are delivered indirectly. As religion columnist Terry Mattingly reported, when one conservative group launched a campaign with the headline “God’s love changed me,” giving the testimonies of people who had been healed of all sorts of problems (including active homosexuality), liberal activists took to wearing shirts saying “Oppose hate language, no matter how it is disguised.” As Mattingly put it: “Write it down—healing equals hate.”

It might be worth exploring why homosexual activists demand public approval—not just a “don’t ask, don’t tell” sort of tolerance, but active, public, official approval. I wonder, listening to the intensity and anger with which they demand that the Church bless their unions, if they are not trying desperately to suppress an inner voice telling them that what they do is wrong.

The more direct insults are delivered in several forms, some more obvious than others. First, and most indirect, is the tiresome misinterpretation of conservative motives and arguments. This implies, without explicitly charging, that conservatives are either stupid or dishonest.

In one day’s Issues, the president of Integrity, “openly gay priest” (their words) Michael Hopkins, was quoted as saying that “We are tired of being told that the Episcopal Church does not ordain gays and lesbians.” By the passive “being told,” he meant being told by moral conservatives; by “are tired,” that conservatives tell this lie over and over again.

I don’t know of anyone who has ever claimed that, as a matter of fact, the Episcopal Church does not ordain homosexuals. Even when we didn’t know who was in the closet, everyone knew that there was a closet, and some had the depressing knowledge that it was a rather large closet.

This claim—one of the more popular of the homosexualist arguments—is an attempt to confuse the matter of whether the Church ought to ordain such people by making the practice seem normal and even normative. If the Church has always ordained homosexual people, some will think, publicly admitting the fact by officially approving the practice will not make much difference.

The second form of indirect insult is the display of liberal sensitivity and godliness, which has as a corollary the insensitivity and ungodliness of conservatives. The possibility that conservatives might simply have a different understanding of right, wrong, and the human good cannot be acknowledged.

During the Convention’s long debates on homosexuality, speakers would say, usually with puzzlement in their voices, “What is the danger of saying ‘yes’ to the love of one person for another?” (The Convention gave its approval to “couples in the Body of Christ who are living in other life-long committed relationships” —not only homosexual marriages but other irregular sexual liaisons.)

The purpose of this question—another popular homosexualist argument—is to make any appeal to principle look cold, abstract, inhuman, and heartless. hi the average American mind, “love” justifies almost anything because it is uncontrollable and requires us to do things no one else can judge.

Finally, there is the straightforward insult. In another Issues, Katie Sherrod, a longtime writer for the Episcopal Women’s Caucus (a group that is exactly what you would expect it to be), claimed that “Conservative writers repeatedly have accused the lesgays at the convention of being willing to do anything to achieve their legislative goals.”

As insults go, this seems a fairly mild one, until you think about it. It describes conservative writers as people who make wild, hysterical, and unfair accusations, and thus it slanders not only their judgment but their character. These people, you are meant to think, are meaner than junkyard dogs.

I read nearly everything written by conservative writers at the Convention, and not one ever wrote (or said, for that matter) that the “lesgays” would do “anything” to get what they want, even granting that “anything” is an exaggeration.

I thought it interesting, and perhaps revealing, that Sherrod did not use the now-standard term “lesbigay.” “Lesgay” was the homosexualists’ preferred term of five or more years ago. It seems to have been expanded to include bisexuals. (The question is whether “lesbi” is short for “lesbian” or for “lesbian and bisexual”)

It is hard to find out from those who use the phrase which they mean, perhaps because including bisexuals would destroy their claim to favor monogamous relationships, which is one of the foundations of their current apologetic. The ambiguity of the word seems to be a rhetorical disguise, signaling the truth to insiders but hiding it from those outsiders whose good will they want to keep. (The average “centrist” Episcopalian approves of sodomy as long as those involved otherwise keep the form of respectable marriage—which is to say, have one committed partner at a time.)

Today, homosexualists sometimes use the word “lesbigaytrans.” This includes not only bisexuals but transsexuals and the “transgendered,” meaning people who want to live as the other sex without going through the surgery.

I don’t mind liberal slander. You get used to it. And, in part, such slanders are due punishment for one’s sins of uncharity. We (conservative writers) do throwpunches, and—being sinners—sometimes we will hit below the belt, especially in the heat of a fight.

But generally, we fight by the rules. Not being relativists, we know we are required to speak as fairly and honestly and charitably as possible, even when we have to knock our opponent to the mat because he is attacking something we must defend, and knock him down again when he gets up. We know that God is watching, and He has standards.

This makes the conservative’s polemic both ruder and kinder at the same time. Ruder, because we will use such unfashionably divisive words as “heretics” when we are speaking of people who teach heresy. Kinder, because we say what we mean and use words that have a specific meaning and which can easily be tested for accuracy.

And our comments are, indeed, often rather impersonal. To say that Smith is a heretic is not (necessarily) to say anything negative about his character; it is only to say that [he view he presents as a Christian one is not a Christian one. If he complains that we have slandered him, we can appeal to objective criteria— orthodox Christianity on one side, and his words on the other—and if we find that we are wrong, we will apologize and retract our words.

In contrast, the liberal’s polemic is much more personal. He does not meet his opponent on the objective, impersonal grounds of conflicting views of truth. Having avoided that, he has to speak of his opponent as if conservatives were emotionally disturbed or blind or wicked because they do not see the truth that must be so obvious. (It’s obvious to him, after all.) Ironically, the liberal’s relativism leads him to say not only that the conservative is wrong, but that he is bad.

I wish more liberals would climb into the ring and come out of their corners when the bell rings, not throw an elbow as you walk by. I’d like them to be more direct, like Sherrod, but I’d like them to tell the truth as well.

But even Sherrod’s wildly thrown punches and hitting below the belt point out the limits of all the inclusionist rhetoric of mainstream Episcopalianism. She understands that the questions before the Episcopal Church and the other mainline churches are serious matters, that the truth can be known now, and that we need not await the result of “conversations” and dialogues and studies which could go on and on into the future. And she knows that the truth matters, and that it changes people’s lives.

She is quite wrong about what that truth is (present polemical manners would require that I begin the sentence with “I think,” but in this case, I know); but that she fights for truth, and fights in a now somewhat unfashionably aggressive way and with an unfashionable degree of passion, I must applaud.