29 Jun

The Ramsey Colloquium and Other First Things Resources

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 06/29/01

The periodical First Things offers a wealth of resources for reflecting on the meaning of sexuality and the shape that the public debate about sexuality has taken.

For a number of years, under the aupices of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, Richard John Neuhaus convened a discussion group of a number of Christian and Jewish theologians, philosophers, and ethicists to discuss a variety of timely topics pertinent to the preservation of public morality. The group came to be known as the Ramsey Colloquium, in honor of the courageous example set by the late Paul Ramsey, whose ethical wrestling on matters from the justice of war to the hubris of biotechnology has aided thousands of people still confronting some of the same questions. Members of the Colloquium included Hadley Arkes, Robert George, Russell Hittinger, Gilbert Meilaender, Philip Turner, and Robert Wilken.

In 1994, the Ramsey Colloquium published (in First Things, March 1994) a brief summary of their reflection on some of the questions then publicly debated concerning the meaning of sexuality. Entitled "The Homosexual Movement: A Response by the Ramsey Colloquium," the brief document remains one of the most concise statements about what is at stake in the changes in public policy being recommended by advocates of public affirmation of the necessity of moral indifference toward homosexuality.

First Things has consistently published a number of helpful articles on this topic. Here are several to note:

In the same issue of First Things that contained the Ramsey Colloquium, the magazine's editor Richard John Neuhaus summarized the work of the many critics of historian and homosexual apologist John Boswell. Boswell's 1980 book, Christianity, Social Toleration, and Homosexuality (University of Chicago) had a remarkable influence in revising the perception of what the Bible and the Christian tradition had to say about homosexuality. Boswell's arguments were enthusiastically embraced by many in mainline churches who were eager to endorse the gay liberation movement. Neuhaus collects a number of the scholarly refutations of Boswell's revisionist book, including the remark of scholar David Wright: "The conclusion must be that for all its interest and stimulus Boswell's book provides in the end of the day not one firm piece of evidence that the teaching mind of the early Church countenanced Homosexual activity." [Posted November 2001, ALG]