In one of his first public speeches since the release of a report on the fallout from his consecration as the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, a feisty Gene Robinson took aim at the problems of peace, presidential politics, the religious right, and gay rights, calling for a truthful reckoning of responsibility for everyone. "We need to learn to be able to live with ambiguity and expect the truth to be painful," Robinson told a crowd of nearly 300 at Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, N.H., on Monday. "If America is going to hear what America needs to hear from the rest of the world, we are not going to like it much. The polarization in this country makes these kinds of discussions almost impossible."
Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire, said he is voting for John Kerry because he is afraid of what four more years of President Bush would do to the country and the world. He called the matchup between Bush and Kerry "the most important election of our lifetimes" and said the president has made "serious mistakes and disastrous decisions" that have hurt people domestically and abroad. Near the top of Robinson's list of complaints about Bush was his decision to go to war in Iraq, which he believes is based on faulty information with no connection to the war on terrorism. "Why do we have no allies in Iraq but Britain? Do we really think we know better than the whole rest of the world?" Robinson said. "Our presence in Iraq looks less and less like liberation and more and more like occupation."
But Robinson's vote for Kerry was far from an endorsement of the Democratic candidate or party. He chastised Republicans and Democrats for campaigning on fear and dividing the country. "Fear is the great motivator in this election," he said. "It's time for us to be critical of both parties because I don't think we are being well served by either one." Robinson said "arrogance, hegemony, simplistic and moralistic" views keep the candidates from admitting their weaknesses. Bush needs to acknowledge he may have been wrong in invading Iraq, and Kerry needs to acknowledge that he may have no plan for getting the United States out of Iraq. Until then, peace will not happen because leaders are more fixated on winning conflicts than coming up with long-term solutions, he said. "The truth is that neither one of these men is going to make us secure," Robinson said.
Robinson criticized both candidates for engaging in "mass distraction" by turning gay marriage into a campaign issue. "They would rather scapegoat gay and lesbian people and their loving relationships than talk about the war in Iraq or this economy and other issues," he said. Speaking to reporters later, Robinson criticized Kerry's reference to Mary Cheney--the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney--during a presidential debate. "You won't find me saying anything much positive about the Cheneys," Robinson said, but it was "inappropriate of Kerry to do that."
On gay rights, Robinson expressed hope that same-sex marriage would be legalized within 10 years. He said by then enough states will have challenged gay marriage rights to force the U.S. Supreme Court to examine the issue. Turning to other religious rifts, Robinson said religious moderates and liberals are in part to blame for the dominance of the religious right. "What liberals have tended to do is sort of sweep Scriptures aside, and that's why we've left it to the very, very conservatives to do the interpreting," he said. "We've allowed the religious right to speak for all Christians, and we have allowed them to hijack the wonderful and amazing book, the Bible. It's time we took it back."
Themes of reconciliation and discontent ran heavy in Robinson's speech, which came a week after the release of the report of a commission that called for apologies from both sides of the rift caused by Robinson's election. Robinson's election prompted some conservative factions to break away from
the Episcopal Church, while leaders of some African Anglican churches were outraged. The report did not ask for Robinson's resignation but did ask for a moratorium on electing gay bishops and developing blessings for same-sex unions. The 2.7 million-member Episcopal Church is the American province of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.