Oh man. Politics and Religion. The two things you should never ever talk about with people you hardly know. And yet here I am, ready to spill some thoughts on both together. Right now I barely have any contact with US News at just about anything less than the presidential election level. So unless I go looking for it (I don't), I end up hearing most of what's going on in America from friends' blogs, Facebook statuses, Google Reader Shared Items, and the like. And so it is with some trepidation and not a little ignorance that I take an outsider's perspective on the recent events surrounding Proposition 8 in California, and the role of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the passing of that proposition during this last electoral cycle. In case you don't know me that well, I pertain to that Church.
First a logical exercise:
- The Proposition passed because a majority of California voters passed for it
- Mormons in California do not make up a majority. Or even 5% of the population
- Therefore "The Mormons" didn't make up the deciding vote to make this resolution pass. It was passed by the electorate.
So there's that. However I do gather that the Church was part of a coalition of churches whose public relations campaign may have changed the minds of many other voters. This has, again I gather, caused considerable ire on the part of those who would have preferred that the Proposition go the other way. I have heard tales of people spitting on old ladies on their way to worship, mailing white powder to temples, and have heard about protest signs with slogans like "Help! There's a Mormon in my bedroom!". Of course this kind of negative attention is hurtful, and of course those providing the attention feel that they have been hurt by the Church's stance on the matter. Many had hoped to have their relationships recognized legally as marriages, and those hopes have been at a minimum postponed indefinitely, and at maximum dashed entirely. The way a particular sign makes me cringe simply does not compare. Much has already been said about who is being 'tolerable' and who is not, with accusations flying from both sides, and I see no need to rehash that here (nor will I 'tolerate' it in the comments, should there be any). Like it or not, both sides of the discussion are 'persecuted minorities', the one being denied rights and the other being a scapegoat for the electorate and a 'legal' target for any amount of mockery.
In fact, the whole business is a little surreal, as far from it as I am. The weekend before Election Day, I was at the wedding of a friend, where after the ceremony was finished I spent most of the evening catching up with and having ponderous conversations with a woman who I consider a dear friend, and who happens to be gay. The same weekend I made the acquaintance of a man who I knew immediately that I valued both for his calming Quaker ways and for his quick wit. He happens to be gay, which I suspected but was never mentioned, but he knew almost from the start about my religious convictions. I wonder what subtext there may have been in our interaction that weekend that I was entirely oblivious to. None, I hope. Anyway, that's by way of saying that on my last visit to America, far more time was spent in conversation with gay friends than was spent at church. So part of the internal discussion I've been having as I hear bits and pieces related to this Proposition and its effects has to do with them, and I must admit the possibility that our friendship may be affected, though I hope not.
I do not represent the Church and do not speak for it except as an individual. But from what I percieve, the Church's stance on the issue has nothing at all to do with trying to ruin people's lives or even tell them how to live them. The Church's position has nothing to do with trying to establish laws that govern people's sexual lives, as I see it. It has everything to do with self-preservation, by which I mean that it looks to me as though the Church's concern is that if the State's definition of marriage includes homosexual relationships, there will be a legal precedent for forcing the Church to perform or recognize these marriages, which would be counter to its principles. The doctrine of the Church holds that "the man is not without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord", and the freedom to act according to this belief (for example, by refusing to perform marriages in the Church or in the Temple for homosexual couples) would be threatened if the State were to recognize and then require religions to recognize an expanded definition of marriage. As I say, I haven't been reading news reports about this, so I don't know how well-covered or how neglected this idea is. I don't even really have any idea as to its truth. But putting myself in the position of the Church, there aren't many reasons to get heavily involved in a potentially unpopular political campaign unless you have something to gain or something to defend from it. I can see nothing at all that the Church stands to gain from its vocalness on the subject. Therefore, in my incomplete logic, it must be defending something. While "the institution of marriage" or "the definition of marriage" are fine things, what the Church has to defend in the matter are its own rights to practice religion as it sees fit. Whether or not you agree that such a thing needs defending in such a manner, my analysis is that is what those who govern Church policy think is at stake.
In many ways I'm glad to be far from the issue. It is a complicated issue, one I can see both sides of and feel empathy for both. I do believe I will stay here while I see how it all plays out. Comment if you will (in fact, please do), but respect those whose convictions do not match your own.
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