DATE April 16, 2008 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Bishop Gene Robinson, first openly gay man to be bishop
in the Episcopal Church, on his life and new book, "In the Eye of the
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
Several parishes and dioceses within the Episcopal Church have been
threatening to secede over the issue of homosexuality. The debate has been
focused around my guest, Gene Robinson, who in 2003 became the first openly
gay man to be elected bishop in the US Episcopal Church or the worldwide
Anglican Church. The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the Anglican
Church. At Robinson's consecration ceremony as bishop of New Hampshire, he
had to wear a bulletproof vest. The question of whether to allow blessings of
same-sex unions or the consecration of gay bishops is dividing the church
Bishop Robinson has written a new memoir called "In the Eye of the Storm." He
came out over 20 years ago. He and his longtime partner are planning a civil
union ceremony this June in New Hampshire, where it is now legal.
Bishop Robinson, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Every time you've been on the
show, there's been a major controversy surrounding your status as a leader of
the church. The Lambeth Conference, which is held every 10 years and is
attended by Anglican bishops from around the world, is scheduled for next
summer, the summer of 2009. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who
heads the conference, told you that you could attend, but only in a diminished
status. What did he tell you about what your status would be and why he was
Bishop GENE ROBINSON: I had hoped that there would be a way for me to attend
as a participant, especially since this conference is really going to be a
series of small and large group discussions, with no legislation, no
resolutions and so on, so it's not as if my vote would count for anything.
And certainly, I had hoped to gather around a table and study scripture with
other bishops from around the world. And I know that the archbishop is in a
difficult place right now, he's trying to hold the communion together, but he
was not able to even invite me to do that. And what was offered just did not
rise to the level of anything meaningful or substantive, and so I turned down
the one thing he offered to me, which was a sort of a monitored hour-long
workshop. And so instead I will go and make my witness on the edges and will
be available to talk to anyone who wants to talk with me.
GROSS: So what are you going to do, hang outside? Where you going to be?
Bishop ROBINSON: Yeah. I'm going to hang around the area known as the
marketplace, and it's a place where those who are visiting to see the Lambeth
Conference, to be there as a part of the activities, can just stop by and
chat. You know, the fact of the matter is, in most of the Anglican Communion
around the world, these bishops and their people have never had the
opportunity to sit in a room with a self-affirming gay or lesbian faithful
Christian and to hear firsthand how we have put together our sexuality and our
GROSS: Not to sound too paranoid here, but I know when you were consecrated
as bishop, you had to wear a bulletproof vest for the ceremony. Will you have
protection with you when you're working the margins of the Lambeth Conference?
Bishop ROBINSON: I will have security with me. I'm not supposed to give out
any details about that, but, you know, this is dangerous work, and I'm aware
of that. But one of the great joys about faith in God and walking in this
path with God is that you don't have to be fearful. And if there is any great
reward to the Christian life or the life of faith in any religion that knows
God, we don't have to be paralyzed by our fear. And Jesus always said that
life in him would be costly. This is certainly not anything I would have ever
wanted to put myself or my family through. It has taken an enormous toll on
us, and yet, in the end, it is a total blessing because to get the opportunity
to do what God has called me to do is just an enormous blessing.
GROSS: Now, the archbishop of Canterbury not only invited you to attend the
Lambeth Conference only in a diminished status, he did the same with the
leader of a network of conservative evangelical churches in the US that
opposes the ordination of gay bishops and thinks the church is heading in the
wrong direction. This is a bishop who has aligned himself with the
conservative Anglican Church of Nigeria. So do you think that because he also
was invited only in a diminished status that the archbishop of Canterbury is
being balanced and fair and trying to chart a middle course?
Bishop ROBINSON: If that was the archbishop's goal, it really is a false
dichotomy here. The fact of the matter is that I am the only duly elected and
consecrated bishop in the Anglican Communion not being invited. Father Minns
was made a bishop by the church of Nigeria but is clearly not from the church
of Nigeria, and this was something orchestrated by the archbishop of Nigeria,
Peter Akinola. And so to pit those two positions, mine as an elected bishop
under the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church, against this, what
I would call, an irregular consecration of Martyn Minns, is really comparing
apples and oranges.
GROSS: Five Anglican archbishops from Africa and South America said they
would boycott the Lambeth Conference because they couldn't share communion
with evangelical bishops who had consecrated you. So that even though you're
not going to officially be there, bishops who consecrated you are going to be
there, so these Anglican bishops don't want to come and they're holding an
alternate international gathering in June in the Middle East. How do you feel
knowing that the Anglican Church worldwide is in the middle of, or on the
verge of, depending on how you look at it, schism, that there are breakaway
groups now, there's the possibility of a genuine split within the church, and
it's largely about homosexuality and you are the figure at the center,
signifying the whole controversy?
Bishop ROBINSON: You know, we don't get to choose our family. You have
brothers and sisters, some of whom you adore and some of whom you don't get
along with, but you don't get to choose who your brothers and sisters are.
And in fact, by virtue of our baptism, we are brought into the same family.
And so it seems to me that we cannot write one another off, no matter how much
we might disagree. And perhaps in these difficult times for the Anglican
Communion, and even for the world, to absent oneself from the table seems to
be the worst sin for me. If I can perhaps even risk my own life, but
certainly risk whatever angry and hateful words that might come my way to sit
at the table and to engage those who disagree with me, if I can do that,
surely these conservative bishops can come to the table and remain engaged
with me and with one another around the issues that face us. We just simply
cannot write a fellow brother and sister in Christ off, and it argues for a
kind of doctrinal purity that has never been the tradition of the Anglican
Church. And so for these people to call themselves traditionalists is really
a misnomer, and to walk away from the table, I think, is the most unfaithful
act of all because it says that reconciliation isn't possible.
GROSS: Can you just give us a sense of how many churches have left or have
threatened to leave the Episcopal Church in America because of the
consecration of you as a gay bishop?
Bishop ROBINSON: If you just read the headlines and the news stories in the
press, you would suspect that this split in the Episcopal Church is, I don't
know, 50/50, 40/60, something of that sort. But when you look at the real
numbers, the number of people who are actually looking to leave the Episcopal
Church is quite small. I believe there are something like 50 or 60
congregations. That's not a small number, but it is in comparison to nearly
1,000 congregations in the Episcopal Church. So we are not looking at some
enormous split about to happen in the Episcopal Church. And even those
bishops who are trying to lead their entire dioceses out of the Episcopal
Church, which, by the way, is not possible, have many, many people in them who
are--remain loyal to the Episcopal Church and intend to stay and will form a
new diocese when that bishop and others leave.
GROSS: When you were on the show a few years ago, we had on the bishop of the
Pittsburgh Diocese, who was the head of a group that opposed the ordination of
gay bishops. And I want to read you a little bit about what he said and get
your reaction. He said, "Part of what Bishop Robinson's consecration
represents is an intolerance toward those who hold traditional views. In the
1970s, when women's ordination began in the Episcopal Church, the church was
promised that there would always be space for those who disagreed. In 1997,
just 20 years after, the Episcopal Church said that women's ordination would
be mandatory everywhere. This kind of innovation is hard to describe as
anything other than a kind of totalitarian legislation. It's the same thing
that we've anticipated related to the innovations in sexual morality. There
is a vast intolerance on the left for those of us on the conservative side who
oppose these innovations. We believe we're doing what we have always been
doing as Episcopalians. It's the church itself and its national leadership
that has changed."
So what's your reaction to this, that you and liberals within the church are
being intolerant of the conservatives, and it's conservatives who are doing
what the church has always done and it's you and the liberal wing of the
church that's trying to change?
Bishop ROBINSON: It would be a good argument that Bishop Duncan were making
if it actually were true, and I think the facts bear out that it is simply not
true. No one is asking conservatives in our church either to leave or to
change what they believe. I have many conservatives right here in my own
diocese who thought that I was not fit for consecration, and yet I have a
wonderful working relationship with them. I would even say affectionate and
loving. No one is saying they have to leave, and we are certainly not
leaving. We are saying that the church is a living, breathing organism, and
throughout its history it has changed its minds about things. As recently as
150 years ago, even after the Emancipation Proclamation, there were
Episcopalians using scripture to justify slavery. Well, the church changed
its mind about that, and it changed its mind about that interpretation of
scripture. As recently as 35 years ago, we were not ordaining women. We were
not even allowing them to be deputies at our general convention.
But we have come a long way. And let me tell you why. Jesus says this
amazing thing. On the night before he died, he says to his disciples, `There
are many more things that I want to share with you, but you are not able to
bear them right now. And so I will send the Holy Spirit to lead you into all
truth.' And I would argue, and only time will tell, that indeed our full
inclusion of gay and lesbian people is just simply another way that the Holy
Spirit is leading us to a fuller understanding of God's love for all of God's
GROSS: Is there a part of you, when churches threaten to leave the Anglican
Church because they oppose the homosexuality and the ordination of gay
bishops, is there a part of you, and forgive me for putting this a little
crassly, that thinks, `Well, good riddance. If you can't handle this, if you
hate my essence and the essence of all other gay people, go ahead, leave'?
Bishop ROBINSON: I suppose on an angry and difficult day, I might tend in
that direction, but, you know, we are always diminished when we lose a brother
or sister. And ultimately I think we need each other. You know, the reason
that I am so committed to the Anglican Communion and to our brothers and
sisters around the world is that we need them. Who else is going to tell us
the effects of our colonialism? Who else is going to describe the horrors of
racism that other cultures have experienced at our hands? And who else is
going to reflect back to us what we need to hear about those of us in the
Western, global, north church? I would also add that I think they need us,
because in certain areas, perhaps we have a bit of revelation and light to
And so while I, too, get frustrated, while this is very, very difficult, in
the end, I don't want anyone to leave. And I don't believe we need to break
communion over this. You know, we're not arguing about the divinity of
Christ, we're not arguing about the trinity or the resurrection, those
essential things that draw us together. We are arguing about something that
is inessential, and that is the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in
the life of the church.
GROSS: I know you want to hold the Episcopal Church together, and I'm sure
you have to ask yourself all the time, `What is it worth compromising on?' on
your part to attempt to hold the church together, and on what principles don't
you compromise? Like, you could have compromised and decided to go to the
Lambeth Conference next year in a diminished role. I'm sure there's--every
step along the way, there's things you could do to compromise, to back down,
to downplay your presence as a bishop who is gay. So how do you decide where
it's worth compromising and where you really just have to stand up and say,
`You know, I'm gay, that's the way it is, and I'm not backing down'?
Bishop ROBINSON: It's a great question, and it--and honestly, Terry, it's
something that I struggle with every day. On the one hand, because I have
come to know of God's unequivocal love for me, I don't need to stand down, or
stand up, in some ways. I mean, that knowledge is what sustains me on a daily
basis. But I'm not willing anymore to take on a role that is degrading or
that doesn't respect the dignity that I believe I have, which comes from God
and from being a human being. On the other hand, I have bent over backwards
to try to do all that I can to place myself with those who disagree with me,
to understand them better, to try to help them understand me better. And so
it's a delicate balancing act.
But the thing I refuse to do is to write anyone off. Anyone who wants to talk
to me knows they can talk to me, and I still try to answer every angry e-mail
that I get. Every hateful letter that I get, I try to respond to in some way
because I think there is always hope of our recognizing one another's humanity
and, in that, our brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ, and I'm just not
willing to give up on that.
On the other hand, on behalf of gay and lesbian people, bisexual and
transgendered people, I'm just, I'm not willing to let myself be used as a
doormat or as some meaningless symbol just so someone can say they have
included me. So I've tried to set the standard of I'm willing to do anything
as long as it is substantive and meaningful, but I won't let myself be treated
in a way that says I am something less than human.
GROSS: Now, you use the expression that you were doing this on behalf of gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, and you refer to that as a group,
you know, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, throughout your new
book, "In the Eye of the Storm." And in a way, a lot of people probably think
you're making your case even more difficult by including transgendered people,
because even a lot of people who accept homosexuality would draw the line at
transgendered. That would just be too much for them. And so I think it's
interesting that you've been inclusive of them, too, in your statements about
sexual orientation and gender. And I'd like you to explain why.
Bishop ROBINSON: You know, in Jesus' day, people would've made the argument
that, `Well, you know, all of this is nice words, Jesus, but, you know, we
have to draw the line at lepers.' Or, `You know, I really like the way you
deal with everyone, and you're so kind, but, you know, we just have to draw
the line at prostitutes.' Jesus was always in trouble for including everyone
in God's love. And he spent most of his time with people at the margins,
people who were oppressed, people who had been told for countless generations
that they were not loved by God. And almost everything he did was related to
bringing that good news to them, which, by the way, didn't sound like good
news to the religious authorities of his time, but it did sound good to those
who were marginalized.
I'm doing everything I can to model my own life after that of Jesus, which I
believe we as Christians are called to do. And the fact of the matter is that
gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are among those who have
been marginalized, both in the culture and in the church. You know, we've got
a lot further to go, frankly, around issues of bisexuality and transgender
folks simply because they are less known to us. And so I'm not willing to
jettison those two more perhaps controversial, or certainly less known,
categories of people just because it would keep me out of trouble. Jesus was
always getting into trouble. He said, `Expect to get into trouble if you
follow me,' and so I think I'm in pretty good company.
GROSS: Now, you point out in your book that many of the moral issues we face
today involve sexuality, including abortion, fertility therapies, alternate
measures of reproduction, the role of women and men, divorce. You know, I'm
really curious, I don't think I have a clue where you stand on abortion. And
I'm really curious to hear how you've decided where you stand on that, like,
how you use your theological knowledge and thinking to answer that question
for yourself. And again, I have no idea what your answer's going to be.
Bishop ROBINSON: I like to say that the Episcopal Church is advanced
placement religion. That is to say, it's a religion that values our minds and
encourages us to use them, and it values individual choice and discernment.
And the official stance of the Episcopal Church, which is really what I
believe, asks us to hold in tension two truths and then make a decision
somewhere in between. One of those truths is that all life is sacred. We may
not know exactly when it begins, but we know that all of life is sacred and
cherished by God. And on the other side, that such a decision ought to rest
with the individual and that there are many, many factors that relate to that,
how one would care for a child and what kind of resources there are to offer
that child the kind of life he or she might deserve. So we say both of those
things are true and consider both of them. Talk to your priest about those.
Pray about it. And then make a choice.
And so the Episcopal Church has always stood for the legal right for women to
choose, that government should not be dictating how they choose, and at the
same time hold up this notion of life as sacred. And then, as we do with so
many ethical decisions, we make our choice in fear and trembling, trusting in
a loving God. And if we get it wrong, you know, that's the great thing about
being forgiven; we're already forgiven in the ways that we fall short.
GROSS: You know, in your book, you discuss the importance of making a clear
distinction between civil rights and religious rights. With what issues do
you think that this really comes into play, and why is it important, do you
think, to make that difference between civil and religious rights?
Bishop ROBINSON: It's especially important in the debate that we're having
about full inclusion of gay and lesbian people and couples in the life of the
culture. And, you know, the system is set up to benefit heterosexual couples.
I had a recent experience of this, just one of those little, tiny ways that
we're told that we don't count, that our families aren't families. My partner
and I were flying back from my sabbatical, we come into the country, and the
flight attendant comes down the aisle, as he or she always does, and says, `I
have immigration and customs forms, one per family.' And we have to fill out
And so the culture is trying to change, the civil culture is trying to change,
so that gay and lesbian couples and their families are acknowledged. I think
even religious people who are nowhere near wanting their religious blessing
put on our relationships are coming to understand that, as citizens of the
country who, we pay our taxes and serve on school boards and do our civic
duty, deserve the same kinds of rights in the civil culture, at least, that
are due other couples. And so I think separating the two would create a real
majority who are in favor of full civil rights, and then let each denomination
decide how long it's going to take for them to offer the church's or the
synagogue's or the mosque's blessing on those relationships. And I think that
separating those two will allow us to move ahead with civil rights for gay and
lesbian people long before we move ahead with religious rights.
GROSS: Now, you and your longtime partner, Mark, have already had a
commitment ceremony, right?
Bishop ROBINSON: Actually, no. We--19 years ago, we in effect celebrated our
new relationship with the blessing of our home. That's with a very standard
service that we have in one of our prayer books for that purpose. But on
January 1, the new law affecting civil unions here in the state of New
Hampshire came into effect, and Mark and I will be celebrating the
continuation of our relationship, which is already 20 years long, with that
GROSS: So in this instance, in the state of New Hampshire and in the
Episcopal Church, the state is ahead in terms of civil rights for gay
relationships, it's ahead of your church.
Bishop ROBINSON: Absolutely. And interestingly enough, here in New
Hampshire, it's the first civil rights law passed without threat of a lawsuit
or in light of a lawsuit. And the state legislature and the governor signed
all this into law, and we will, I think, be leading the rest of the country
and certainly leading religious groups in the affirmation of gay families as
GROSS: While we're on the subject of the civil union that you and your
partner are planning for this summer, you were asked about it someplace, and
forgetting that you were on C-SPAN as you were speaking, tell us what you
Bishop ROBINSON: Well, I knew it was a mistake when I said it, the second it
came out of my mouth. What I said was, `I always wanted to be a June bride.'
Now, I think part of why that raced around the world in no time flat, due to
the magic of the Internet, has to do with misogyny and its connection to
homophobia. I think the thing that really irritates the world about referring
to myself as a bride is that I'm supposed to be privileged because I'm male,
not female. And to refer to myself with a feminine word like "bride" really
offends the patriarchal system that I think is beginning to come apart, and
gay and lesbian people, I believe, are helping to begin the deconstruction of
But what I really meant by that was that, you know, gay and lesbian kids grow
up wanting relationships, and they want their relationships to be affirmed.
You know, I grew up in a time before "gay" was even a word and before there
were any role models, but I, too, wanted to have my relationship with the
person that I loved affirmed. And so in one sense, I did always want to be a
June bride. That is to say, I always wanted to say my vows to the person that
I love in the presence of God and in the presence of friends and family and
have that to be affirmed.
GROSS: And you know when you made the joke about June bride that a lot of
people, instead of seeing you in vestments, saw you in a long, white dress and
a veil and thought, `Oh, God, this is so horrible.'
Bishop ROBINSON: Yeah, and they would be so disappointed when they see us in
GROSS: And do you think there's also this thing going on now in American
culture in general that if you're at the center of a controversy you're kind
of not allowed to make a joke because you're going to be taken literally and
held to, like, the literal meaning of what you've said?
Bishop ROBINSON: You know, it's one of the most difficult things about my
life this last four years. I've been told, you know, I'll never be in a small
room again, that no matter where I am, no matter what I say, the words I say
will be parsed and taken apart. And so, you know, that's been one of the
incredibly stressful and difficult things in this last five years. The
blessing, of course, in all of that is that it does give me the opportunity to
talk about God and God's love for them. It gives me a pulpit, if you will,
for telling that good news. So those are two sides of the same coin.
GROSS: I want to ask you about something that I don't know how comfortable
you're going to be talking about it, but I feel I need to bring it up since it
was in the news when it happened. Two years after you were consecrated, you
wrote a letter to church members saying that you were seeking treatment for,
quote, your "increasing dependence on alcohol." And you wrote, "Over the 28
days that I will be here"--at the rehab center--"I will be dealing with a
disease of alcoholism which for years I have thought of as a failure of will
of discipline on my part, rather than a disease over which my particular body
simply has no control other than to stop drinking altogether." How did you
know it was time to take action?
Bishop ROBINSON: You know, you begin to have a sense that something is
becoming problematic and that if you don't take action, it is really going to
get the upper hand. And, you know, I feel that I've been given this
remarkable gift and privilege of being called by the people of New Hampshire
to be their bishop and also, in some sense, to represent gay and lesbian
people, both here in this country and around the world. And I would've been
such a bad steward of that gift and privilege if I had not faced this.
And I have to tell you, you know, this is one of the most remarkable blessings
of my whole life, because I had been worrying about it for some time and
GROSS: By that do you mean weeks, years?
Bishop ROBINSON: At least a year, when I just felt that this was becoming too
easy a crutch for me. It didn't interfere with my speaking or my preaching or
whatever, but, you know, I'd get home and it was a way of acknowledging that
the day was over and I could now relax. But then it just began to increase,
and I felt horrible about it and so I decided to put myself in God's hands and
to admit that, as all alcoholics must admit, that they simply are not in
control of this anymore and cannot do something about it by themselves. And
so you put yourself in God's hands, and through the miracle of God's grace,
you know, I'm at a place roughly two and a half years later, where I rarely
ever think about alcohol. It's just an astounding miracle of grace that such
a thing that in that last year had just worried me and troubled me and
consumed so much of my energy worrying about it is gone.
GROSS: Did you worry, when you went into rehab and released this letter to
members of your church in New Hampshire, that your alcohol problem would be
seen as a sign that your critics were right? `See, here's a gay man, and
here's the typical kind of problem he has. The alcoholism is like another
sign that he's really not worthy of the position of bishop, and here's yet
another reason to marginalize him or get him out.' And did you worry that this
was going to reflect badly on the whole cause of gay rights and gays in
leadership positions in your church?
Bishop ROBINSON: It of course concerned me, and as I say, I'm trying to take
very seriously this responsibility and privilege that I've been given. So I
did as I always do, I go back to scriptures, and both in the Hebrew scriptures
and in the Christian scriptures, we're told that God always works through the
least likely, the most unworthy, the most flawed people to do God's will.
And, you know, all of the great heroes in the Hebrew scriptures have clay
feet. I think that's why God loves the Jews so much. They're willing to be
who they are, warts and all, and talk about how unworthy they are, and yet God
does these amazing things through them. We hear the same thing in the New
Testament with the disciples, who were a really pretty lousy bunch of guys,
and they turned the world upside down, not because they were perfect, not
because they were not flawed, but because they were faithful. And so that
gave me the strength to say, `You know, however this goes, making this
public'--and there was no question in my mind, I would not try to keep this
private. And not only because I don't live the rest of my life that way, but
also because, you know, this might help someone else go into rehab and
confront the disease of alcoholism in themselves, but that somehow God would
bring an Easter out of this Good Friday. That is indeed what has happened.
GROSS: When you can handle it, it's really nice to have a glass of wine after
a very stressful day, or a beer or a shot of Scotch or, you know, whatever
your preferred drink is, to help you unwind and to, just to say, `Yeah, the
day's over, now I can catch my breath.' That's something you can no longer do.
And you are a man who is faced with a lot of stress in your life because
you're constantly at the center of controversy. And even if you weren't, you
have just an enormous amount of responsibility as the bishop of New Hampshire
in the Episcopal Church. So how do you deal with the stress now?
Bishop ROBINSON: You find ways of substituting other things. One of the
things that I used to do was bring a lot of work home and work late at night
and have a glass of wine with that, and so one of the things that I do now is
I don't work at home much. I let the workday take care of itself, and so that
home becomes just a more playful and a real rest. Now that it's getting to be
spring, my partner and I both love to garden. We do that both inside and
outside. And actually, just a few days ago, I went shopping for a bike.
And of course the ultimate thing that helps me is my prayer life, which has
very few words in it anymore. You know, the older I get, the less words I use
in my prayer. I don't need to tell God what's going on in the world that
needs God's attention. I think God is perfectly capable of handling that
himself. And what I do is I sit quietly and close my eyes, and I let God love
me. My spiritual director suggested that I think of it as either light or
warmth that starts at the top of my head and just sort of oozes over me like
warm butter. And she said to me, `You know, you spend a lot of your day
trying to love other people. Why don't you spend your prayer time just trying
to let God love you and feel God loving you?' And I find that just brings me
such peace and joy and reassurance and confidence. And literally in this
storm that I'm in, it brings me, it sweeps me back, to that center little
point of calm in the middle of the storm, where God is. And that's where I
remember who I am and whose I am.
GROSS: Just one more thing. What do you do with the anger you might be
feeling? I mean, there's so many people out to get you and out to leave the
church because you're a gay and you're a bishop. And I mean, when people
really dislike you, it's a kind of chemical response in a way to just be
angry, you know?
Bishop ROBINSON: Yep.
GROSS: So what do you do with what would, for must of us, be a lot of anger?
Bishop ROBINSON: Well, I'm very careful to have people around me, my partner
and others, who know me and love me and with whom I can say exactly what those
initial feelings are, which are angry and terrible and things that I would
never say or even want to say publicly. But I have to give voice to that or
else it would eat me alive from the inside. And I say those things to God, as
And the other part of it is, I really do believe in what I say, which is that
I can't write anyone off, that God loves my most fearful enemy as much as God
loves me, and if God sees something in that person worth loving, then the
least I can do to honor God is to try to see what God sees. And so I know I'm
sounding like Pollyanna here, and I'm not painting myself to be a saint, but I
actually do believe what I preach, which is that all of us are loved by God,
we're all children of God, and so I try my very best to see in a person what
God sees in a person. And I do that with my enemies as well as my friends.
GROSS: Bishop Robinson, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.
Bishop ROBINSON: It's been my great pleasure. Thank you.
GROSS: Gene Robinson is the bishop of New Hampshire and is the first openly
gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. His new book is called "In the Eye of the
You can download podcasts of our show by going to our Web site,
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Review: Milo Miles on three new deluxe edition reissues of Beck's
"Odelay," Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Street Survivors" and Elvis Costello's
"This Year's Model," all on the Universal Music label
TERRY GROSS, host:
How can a record company make reissues more attractive to buyers in an era of
music downloads and when even old albums can be bought online? Music critic
Milo Miles tells how one label is trying.
Mr. MILO MILES: Reissues were easy money for record companies, especially in
the early days of CDs. You take an album you've already paid for, with an
established audience, you slap on a couple B-sides, live tracks or even the
dread outtakes, and presto, a new consumer product ready for sale and
hopefully resale to at least some who had an earlier version. But you have to
work a lot harder nowadays. Fans can get music in so many ways, and the album
is so much less sacrosanct that even classics have to be introduced with a
carefully selected set of big-time bells and whistles. Sometimes it can be
done, sometimes it can't.
Three outstanding, timeless albums have recently gotten the Universal Music
label's deluxe edition treatment: Elvis Costello's "This Year's Model,"
Beck's "Odelay" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Street Survivors."
(Soundbite from "One More Time")
Mr. RONNIE VAN ZANT: (Singing) Yeah, you've been gone so long
No one knows where
And you say that you still love me
Then show me you care
'Cause you got what it takes, sweet mama,
To make a man feel fine
So I'll take the word of a liar
One more time
One more time
(End of soundbite)
Mr. MILES: "Street Survivors" shows the biggest challenge of the deluxe
edition format. To make a properly enticing package, you have to load on a
lot of extras, and Lynyrd Skynyrd just doesn't have that deep a vintage vault.
However, "Street Survivors" was recorded twice, the earlier, unreleased
version at Criteria Studios with the great Tom Dowd producing. That sounds
promising. But the first run-throughs are paler, more tentative treatments
than the band produced themselves a few months later. The early "Street
Survivors" sure makes you glad the band redid the record, but it doesn't want
to make you hear those versions again.
The five live cuts tacked on have only the virtue of being the last the band
recorded. The best add-on is Ronnie Van Zant's touching final work,
"Jacksonville Kid," which is also available on an earlier and far cheaper
reissue of "Street Survivors."
On the other hand, finding extra material is not a problem with Elvis
Costello. In the early years, he seemed to write an album every morning
(Soundbite from "Lipstick Vogue")
Mr. ELVIS COSTELLO: We're going to take over!
(Singing) Don't say you love me when it's just a rumor
Don't say a word if there is any doubt
Sometimes I think that love is just a tumor
You've got to cut it out
You say you're sorry for the things that you've done
You seem sorry, but you know you don't mean it
I wouldn't worry, I had so much fun
Sometimes I almost feel just like a human being
Not just another mouth in the lipstick vogue
Not just another mouth in the lipstick vogue
(End of soundbite)
Mr. MILES: The second disc of the deluxe "This Year's Model" is a previously
unreleased hour-long 1978 concert recorded a week before the famous "Live at
the El Mocambo" set. It's just as ferocious and has a better song selection.
Fans of Elvis the punk have to have it. But if you already own the previous
two-CD reissue of "This Year's Model," you're going to feel ripped off.
Virtually all of it is repeated here, and all you get that's new is the live
show. But if you held off, or need a first copy of the album, it's hard to
imagine a finer package than this one.
Fortunately, Beck's "Odelay" has not gotten the deluxe treatment before, and
Beck turned out enough B-sides to rival Elvis Costello, many of which aid the
range and kaleidoscope effect of this album.
(Soundbite from "Burro")
BECK: (Singing in Spanish)
(End of soundbite)
Mr. MILES: With early Beck, more is more. He piles up evocative, oblique
catchphrases like "Got a devil's haircut in my mind" and "She's alone in the
new pollution." He blends the goofy and ominous in sampled oldies, sound
effects and remixes. It all evokes the wonder, passion and confusions of a
footloose youth in the electronic jungle. Especially with this version of
"Odelay," he makes a potent case that the ultimate mix tape is the human mind.
My only complaint is that the new doodled-on cover art is ugly. Otherwise,
it's simply deluxe.
GROSS: Milo Miles lives in Boston. He reviewed new reissues of Lynyrd
Skynyrd's "Street Survivors," Elvis Costello's "This Year's Model" and Beck's
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