Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Politics and Religion, part 2

So, as I mention in the following chat exchange, I've wondered whether any good can come of further discussing the issue. And I've had additional feedback from emails and facebook messages that I've wanted to address, and I have my own sentiments on the issue, which I haven't even really expressed here. Maybe that will come in time. For now, here's a discussion I had this evening with Rob about it:

Rob: btw, you never gave us all a response to your controversial blog post
me: i know. i am a bad blogger. i've been stewing on it, and debating whether anything good can come of further discussion
Rob: i know what you mean. At the same time, i've had to have proxy arguments with megan in order to satisfy me need for further discussion (with her playing the role of your particular viewpoint)
me: did megan and i win?
Rob: no :)
once she got what i was trying to explain, she agreed with me
on the logical/moral scale as opposed to the legal arguments i was trying to make
me: we kept our tax-free status as a religion that doesn't recognize gay marriage forever even in a state that recognizes gay marriage?
btw, that's not a viewpoint i'm actually interested in defending, just one i was pointing out.
Sent at 10:20 PM on Tuesday
Rob: the main gist of my argument with her was that if you believe that the government should not impose a specific set of moral principles on it's people, then you shouldn't support prop 8...
me: or, in fact, oppose it!
Rob: if you believe the gvnmt should be dictating morallity (a perfectly valid and acceptable viewpoint), then by all means support
me: no, I don't believe they should, and so I can take NEITHER side!
Rob: i mostly took umbrage with the people who said they didn't think the gvnmt should be dictating morality, but supported prop 8
me: because if I oppose it, I am supporting the idea that moral acceptance of homosexuality be taught in public school. Which is also dictating morality.
Rob: no, no, no!
prop 8 was not a referendum to set the curriculum!
me: no, it wasn't. but it's failure to pass would have done so nonetheless.
the curriculum isn't put to referendum.
Rob: it could be, if people's concern was with what is taught in school, than that is what the referendum should have been written to disallow
in my opinion :)
which, by the way, would have been much easier to pass i bet
me: well, you're right, but of course referendums are written by the passionate, not the moderate.
Rob: true
Sent at 10:28 PM on Tuesday
me: besides, (a supporter could argue that) the referendum only legislates the centuries-old legal and cultural precedent, not any particular morality. It was not, after all, a referendum to officially recognize gays as sinners.
Sent at 10:29 PM on Tuesday
Rob: i have to argue that no one is standing up to say that gay marriage should be banned because of precedent
me: what ? that's exactly the argument!
Rob: i doubt that is figuring very prominently in most debates on the issue
me: that the 'definition of marriage' is what's being defended!
Sent at 10:32 PM on Tuesday
Rob: i don't know what you mena by that
i was refferring to precedent as an argument
and saying that is not what most people seem to care about
me: right. perhaps neither do the people defending it. but they claim what they're supporting is keeping the word 'marriage' defined as a union between a man and a woman. Which, I'm saying, is claiming that the precedent of that definition should remain.
Sent at 10:34 PM on Tuesday
Rob: yeas, they're claiming the precedent should remain, but i don't think anyone is arguing the precedent should remain BECAUSE its the precedent
the'yre arguing it based on morality, or the arguments you put forth in the blog post, which i find specious
me: ah, well their reasons for arguing it are, I will admit, not grounded in linguistic conservatism.
Rob: ok, now you're just throwing out words
me: you're the one who drew first blood with specious.

So, if I were a bit more conscientious or devoted, you would get more response on this from me in a timely manner. But I rationalize not providing that by saying to myself that it is unlikely to produce, in the end, anything but hurt feelings, as these types of things have a tendency to do when conducted over the internet. I'd love to be wrong about that, but civil internet discussion is a rare and delicate flower. Nevertheless, if you would like to comment further, I am sure you will do so with respect.

16 comments:

Josh said...

I should probably just let this be because every time I discuss it (verbally or otherwise), I think I lose a little bit more of my faith...

But, this argument about teaching schoolchildren about gay marriage is a new one that I had not heard argue.

I personally don't think that argument holds any more weight than the other arguments.

Part of being a parent is guiding your children towards the morals you hold. It is not to protect them from the immorality in the world.

That immorality exists. It is already taught in schools, by peers if not teachers.

I knew so much filthy stuff by the time I graduated high school that it's not even funny.

But that's just life. You can't pretend that that stuff doesn't happen or that it isn't real.

It is the job of the parent to disambiguate topics for their children; to explain the difference between religious and legal marriage.

It all starts with the parents. Education is intended to broaden the world view of a person; there is no such things as too much knowledge.

Knowledge of such things as gay marriage simply teaches children to accept and understand the world for what it is.

It is the job of the parents to focus that lens so that they put it all into the correct perspective.

I would never want my child to be sheltered from homosexuals. Just like I wouldn't expect them to grow up not knowing about drugs, or condoms, or even that there are dangerous scary people out there who kill people.

That's the world. The legal definition of marriage doesn't change the fact that there *are* gay people.

Okay. That was longer than I intended. Oh well. Writing is fun.

Rob said...

I'm just posting this so it will email me with follow-up comments.

MDH said...

Yes, I don't think anyone participating in this discussion is going to convince anyone else that his/her point of view is "right". Reactions to CA's Prop 8 are anything but logical. We are not purely rational creatures.

But isn't it great that citizens of the United States of America can have these sorts of discussions?! We often don't agree. Sometimes matters come to a vote. Afterwards the "winners" and the "losers" continue to work within the system, sometimes together even, to shape the nation.

I posit that beyond any legal reasons The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had for its actions regarding Prop 8, it was a matter of Faith.

I believe in God. He is omniscient and omnipotent.

I believe that every person who has, does, or will live on the earth is His child, and is loved by Him more than my mortal mind can comprehend, no matter the child's color, race, intelligence, sexual persuasion, etc.

I believe that President Thomas S. Monson communicates with God and then communicates what God would have His children know to the world. His request for people to work towards the passage of Prop 8 came from God.

I believe that no one knows for sure what the consequences of passing Prop 8 will be, or what the consequences of not passing it would have been, but God does.

Therefore, I would have voted for Prop 8 if I lived in CA.

Please note I come to my beliefs by my own study and experience, as well as heritage. I need only go back to my great, great grandparents generation to find people, "my" people, who lost everything they had, even their lives, at the hands of angry mobs because they believe the same things I do. And it happened in the USA. And if anyone wants to prevent such things from happening to any other minority these days, I do. I respect your opinions and the way you choose to live your life. Though I may not always understand, I will listen to you and try...

Law is subject to interpretation by judges and clever attorneys. Sometimes it's ignored. Sometimes it's enforced. Bad things can happen in the USA, but so can good things. Lots of good things.

Lykaon said...

Perhaps I just don't have enough faith, but I believe Thomas S. Monson is both a prophet and a human being.

Does he talk to God? Yes.

Does he sometimes make decisions without God? Yes.

I don't know which is the case here. I certainly haven't seen any press release or broadcast from the Church indicating that President Monson claims that God has instructed us to oppose gay marriage.

God is infallible. I don't personally believe President Monson is.

I have a hard time understanding how God would step in and ask us to restrict rights and limit free will.

Free will is one of the cornerstones of the entire plan of salvation and mortal existence. Some people choose well; some people don't.

I view opposition of gay marriage as a path to restricting the free will of God's children. He didn't want that. He's made that abundantly clear to me.

Furthermore, I also believe that as much as God does talk to the prophet, he can also talk to me.

What do I do when he tells me one thing and seemingly tells the prophet another?

Faith is good. Blind faith is dangerous. I took what the Church said and I evaluated it myself; asking directly of God.

Now what?

Josh said...

I typed Lykaon as my name above, but I should have typed Josh. D'oh.

Coop said...

I like a comment that MDH made: “I posit that beyond any legal reasons The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had for its actions regarding Prop 8, it was a matter of Faith.”

I’ve seen good and reasonable arguments on either side of the issue. But where I stand on it ultimately comes down to knowledge obtained through spiritual means. This doesn’t mean I ignore good rationale. I “study it out in [my] mind” (a phrase Mormons will recognize), but in the end I’ve got to stick with spiritual promptings I’ve come to recognize and trust. I believe that in order for a discussion on this issue to be complete, spiritual bases must be considered.

Josh said...

Your point is totally valid, Coop.

Whether one agrees with the Church's actions in this matter or not, I hope we can all agree that they have the *right* to do what they have done.

The Church didn't break any laws, and it getting involved is certainly not in violation of any separation of Church & State.

The Church is defending its beliefs as it has every right to do. It doesn't really have to justify to the public what its reasons are; and faith is a perfectly valid reason.

And ultimately, my argument is spiritually based as well. The phrase 'study it out in mind' works fine until my mind disagrees with the Church -- which, for better or worse, has happened in this case.

As a member of the church, what do I do when spiritual promptings disagree with the direction of my church? I feel like the whole concept of studying it out in ours minds is predicated on the assumption that we will all ultimately agree with the Church.

Now maybe that means I am faithless and not getting properly prompted by the Spirit. Maybe it means God has some plan that involves me having to disagree and question my faith.

I honestly don't know. But I am more worried about what the Church has done to its membership and the way in which they are viewed than I am the effects they have had on the election.

Quite simply, I believe the Church is wrong. I believe they made a bad decision, and I believe in many ways it is counter to the very ideals of Christianity.

We can take out all the politics and talk about it on a purely spiritual level -- for it that level that disturbs me the most.

dave said...

my comment turned out to be pretty long, made it into a post instead...

higbeem said...

I think I'm going to drop out now, but here are a few parting thoughts.

1. Josh: You come across as a very caring person and I'm sure your friendship is valued highly. I wish you the best in your struggle.

2. Anyone studying LDS involvement in USA law and politics may want to take a look at the Equal Rights Amendment issue back in the 1980's (?). I have not studied it and I don't know what resources are available. I only barely remember it, but I believe there are many parallels to the current LDS involvement with Prop 8. Talk to a woman who remembers it well...

3. I, "MDH", am hereby repenting of being anonymous. I'm Monica Higbee. My sister, Elena grew up with Dave. I admit I'm older and mostly thought he was a cute kid. I grew up with his older sisters. Elena sent my family a link to one of Dave's posts about the Facebook phenom. I thought it was interesting and added this blog to my Google Reader. The cute kid is a deep thinker :)

dave said...

oh, Hey Monica! Long time, no see! Welcome!

Ben and Christina said...

Here are some sources that might be of interest to some:

http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/the-divine-institution-of-marriage

This is a FANTASTIC article put out by the LDS Church stating why they feel they need to defend marriage.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eGZ2xrzFC4

This is a video of Elder Bednar discussing Prop 8.

Also, I do think it interesting to note that this was the SECOND time California voters banned gay marriage- not the first. It was the courts who overturned the first ballot measure making gay marriage legal, after the voters had said it was not. I find it interesting that there was no major outcry from the gay/lesbian coummunity the first time it was passed, probably because they knew they could seek retribution in the courts. However, now that they can not overturn the voters decision via the courts, there is a heavy outcry. Why did more people not donate to the "Stop Prop 8 fund?" Brad Pitt donated $500,000 and said, "I can't believe more of us aren't concerned about this proposition." I, myself, have worked on several campaigns, and I know that in order to get something passed, you have to do a lot of groundwork- knocking on doors, making those annoying phone calls. It takes more then money, it takes WORK. The religious community was willing to hit the streets- not just donate money. If I were gay and I knew the voters had already banned gay marriage once and were now voting on it again, I would have worked my butt off day after day. That didn't happen.

With that said, however, it is absolutely unacceptable to spit on old ladies as they walk into chruch, to vandalize temples, to send bomb threats to churches, just because you disagree with something. Likewise, it is unacceptable to call people "faggots" or throw rocks at them, or anything else.

The gay marriage issue is not going away anytime soon. All of us are going to have to choose a side, and choose whether or not it is worth it to us to fight for that side. One vote is not changing the world- more votes will come. Prop 8 is not the be-all end-all. This is far from over!

In my personal opinion, after listening to interviews and doing research, I think the religious community (NOT just LDS!!!!!) is concerned about the actual word "marriage" while the gay community is concerned about "rights." Right now gays do NOT have the same rights as married couples- they can not file taxes together, inheritance laws are different, etc. I think if leaders from both sides could come together and reach some sort of agreement that gays are given ALL of the same rights as married couples (which most religious communities are NOT opposed to- the LDS leaders are NOT trying to take RIGHTS away- they just want to protect the actual word "marriage"), but have it be called "civil union" still, I think both sides would be appeased. Would the extremes on both sides be appeased? Probably not- but laws are not made to cater to the extremes and probably nothing would appease the extremes.

My two pennies worth!

Josh said...

All good and valid comments. Certainly the actions of some are never condoned despite their side.

I think that you are right that Church is trying to protect the word marriage, but doesn't seem sort of silly to turn to the government to protect a word?

Protecting the word 'marriage' and the rights at the same time leads down the path of separate but equal. That is a path lined with unavoidable pain.

I'm surprised that people don't see the parallels more clearly between this issue and previous civil rights issues, such as with the african american population.

Separate but equal is not equal; even if it is intended to be so. Culture and society does not let separate and equal coexist simultaneously.

If it is true that the Church is only protecting the word, then they can already do that -- they can define the word however they want -- just like they already do with faith, and bishop, and stewardship, and the spirit.

Churches view things differently. They always have and they always will. Changing the legal definition of a word doesn't take that away from them.

I don't understand how someone could fight so hard for a word. Words mean nothing.

dave said...

@Josh: While I don't agree that words mean nothing, I would point out that even if 'marriage' between people of the same gender gets approved, it will almost certainly be pronounced 'gay-marriage' by most people for at least a generation. So, for those of you who say it's OK as long as they use a different word, that word 'gay-marriage'. I suppose you could ask those you've offended to pick their own word, but I'd hate to see "Mormonsarejerks" put in the dictionary...

Josh said...

True. People, society, and culture will probably still differentiate between marriage and gay-marriage for a generation or two.

But that's an unavoidable eventuality that sadly cannot be fixed.

What people call it and what the law calls it can be different things.

If the law calls it something other than marriage, then that will stick forever; not just a generation or two.

And yes, I admit that saying "words mean nothing" was perhaps a bit of a dramatic overstatement. But it worked as Dave bait. ;)

Ben and Christina said...

To me, I guess this issue does come down to symmantics. But, marriage also comes with connotations- what does marriage mean? The Bible definition is the joining of man and woman in matrimony (ok, I admit, I didn't look up the exact definition in the Bible, but I am at least close). In society, it also goes along with family, and in the Mormon community it also has to do with a union between the couple and God. I don't know that the religious community would ever consider a gay marriage an actual marriage- i.e, one in harmony with God (does that make sense what I just said? Even though they might be legally married, I don't think religious groups would really in their hearts not consider it true marriage- just a thought).

One idea is to take the religious aspect completely out of marriage- like in Europe. If you want to get married, you MUST go before a judge- not a priest or a bishop- and it is simply a civil ceremony. Then, after the signing of the paperwork, then you go to your religious community to do whatever other ceremony (a Catholic mass, a Temple sealing, whatever) you wished.

Whatever happens, I think everyone can admit that in 50 years (or less) gay marriage will be legal everywhere and it won't be seen as strange- I am not saying the Church or others who wish to oppose it should just stop fighting, I just think realistically the world is shifting enough that the fight will eventually be lost. With that said, it goes back to each of us raising our families to teach right from wrong (just because something is legal doesn't make it "right")and teach moral principles in the home. I really, truly believe that all of the prophecies and teaching about FHE and family scripture study, and everything else about teaching our children are culminating to this time for us to know that the home is where we must do our greatest work- not the courts.

I just brought in a lot of different thoughts, and I am curious to see how others respond- I hope it is OK, Dave- if not, you can delete the comment!!!! This is such a wonderful and intellectual discussion, and this is kind-of going a different direction, so I understand if this is not quite the place for it and will not be offended if this comment disappears!!!

Rob said...

@Ben and Christina

I think you bring up excellent points.

In my mind, a religious marriage and a legal marriage are already completely separate. Sure, religious figures are one of the few groups of people that can sign the necessary documents to complete a marriage, but that's as far as it goes. To me, it's really just a matter of convenience that you can do the civil marriage and the religious marriage at the same time. They are completely separate things.

For example, you can get a civil divorce, but that doesn't mean many religious groups will be willing to remarry you. I can also imagine it would be possible to get some sort of religious divorce, but the state won't recognize it until you go through their proceedings.

And I absolutely agree that home is a great place (I believe the best place) to teach morality.