Writer Andrew Sullivan delivers Atkinson lecture at Willamette

by University Communications,

Many people know Andrew Sullivan as a writer and commentator. He won two National Magazine Awards, was named Editor of the Year by Adweek and wrote daily political and religious-based blogs for The Daily Beast before launching his own, subscription-based blog this year.

What people may not know is Sullivan is also a conservative, homosexual Catholic.

“Most people, when told these three things about me, think I need some psychiatric help,” Sullivan told the crowd of about 800 people Tuesday night. “I don’t see why these three things have to be in conflict. They can be integrated.”

Sullivan was the featured presenter of Willamette University’s Atkinson Lecture Series. Through the series, internationally prominent authors, artists, leaders and journalists are brought to campus twice a year to give a public lecture and spend time with Willamette students.

During Sullivan’s lecture, “Knowing (and Loving) Thine Enemy: Gays, Conservatives and Common Ground,” he talked about his life and core values.

First, and foremost, he said he is a conservative, a person who believes human beings are limited in their intelligence and are fundamentally flawed.

“The core of conservatism is to doubt,” he said. “Conservatives will ask why.”

Second, Sullivan said he is a Christian. He’s always believed in God, but he didn’t know if God was good or evil until his 30th birthday. At that time, his mother was institutionalized for having bipolar disorder, he had been diagnosed with HIV and people he loved were dying of AIDS.

“I felt God was punishing the good,” Sullivan said. “But someone lifted me up and told me to go, to walk forward, to trust. I heard a voice, and I believe it was the voice of Jesus."

At that moment, Sullivan said he came to understand Christianity is not about controlling others, but of letting go.

“Any Christian who has never doubted has never truly believed,” he said. “To banish doubt from faith is to banish faith itself.”

Tied with his religious beliefs are his views on homosexuality. Sullivan argues that to define homosexuality as unnatural contradicts nature itself.

“Why should we enforce upon the world a structure not actually found in nature?” he asked. “Why does every society have gay people in it? … I believe I’m made the way I’m supposed to be made.”

Daniel Mehler ’15, a history major, attended the lecture and spent time with Sullivan in an American Conservatism course earlier in the day.

Appreciative of the chance to meet the writer, Mehler said he was impressed by Sullivan’s convictions.

“Do I agree with everything he said? No. But the fundamentals were accurate,” Mehler said. “His perspective is fantastically unique.”