But is such gemütlichkeit possible in this country in 2012, when our young century has already been strafed by culture wars and juvenile attack ads? Last week, four of us put it to the test.

The Dinner Table Debate, as we are calling it, was set in motion last April, when Dan Savage, the sex columnist and originator of “It Gets Better,” an anti-bullying campaign, gave a speech to a high school journalism convention here, attacking the Bible as the root of much anti-gay bullying.

We can learn to ignore the nonsense in the Bible about gay people the same way we have learned to ignore what the Bible says “about shellfish, about slavery,” he told them, referring to Paul’s injunction that slaves should obey their masters.

As some students walked out, Mr. Savage taunted them: “It’s funny, as someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed people react when you push back.”

Two weeks later, Brian S. Brown, a conservative Catholic who is president of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay-marriage advocacy organization, issued a challenge to Mr. Savage on the group’s blog: “You want to savage the Bible? Christian morality? Traditional marriage? Pope Benedict? I’m here, you name the time and the place and let’s see what a big man you are in a debate with someone who can talk back.”

On May 22, Mr. Savage responded in his weekly podcast, offering to hold the debate at his dining room table, in his home in Seattle. “Bring the wife, my husband will be there,” he said. “You have to acknowledge my humanity by accepting my hospitality, and I have to acknowledge yours by extending my hospitality to you.”