Salvaging Our Humanity (and our Faith) from the Wreckage of Politics

Anybody who has been following the progress of Proposition 8 through the courts knew that the least likely outcome of the Supreme Court decision would be the one officially hoped for in the amicus brief filed by the Church, i.e., overturning the lower court rulings that struck down the referendum. So faithful Saints are faced with the proposition of increased alienation from the emerging American consensus that gay couples should be treated just the same as everybody else. Having to defend the Church’s position to equality-minded neighbors and friends and family will be increasingly embarrassing and difficult for ordinary Saints. I empathize with the fear and consternation this creates for many.

It has been a lifelong process for me to come to terms with being gay; figuring out what my desires are, and figuring out how they fit into the larger constellations of relationships and meanings in my life. Fighting for — and now achieving — the political right to marry is a piece of a much larger puzzle. It has moral dimensions related to love and commitment and family. My marriage acquires significance to the extent that it represents a commitment made within a network of commitments (covenants?) that connect me to family, to community, and to Heavenly Parents. In other words, I agree with opponents of same-sex marriage on at least one thing; the spiritual dimensions of marriage should not be disconnected from the legal and political dimensions of marriage.

Our political system allows us to manage conflict (sublimate violence?) through political conventions (through our constitution). But we can’t solve the most fundamental spiritual and moral problems through the use of political force. The Mormonism I was raised in (and still believe in) taught me that moral right is not established through majority votes.

If the opponents of same-sex marriage cannot make a convincing moral and spiritual case against it that persuades gay men and lesbians, legally penalizing us for entering into committed relationships with one another won’t solve the problem. The growing acceptance of same-sex marriage seems at least to be proving that its opponents are not making their case. Invoking moral outrage and the collapse of “civilization” and of “traditional values” stopped working a long time ago.

But if supporters of same-sex marriage want more than a half victory, we will have no less of an obligation to continue to build a social consensus in morally and spiritually compelling terms. In other words, we cannot shame our opponents for opposing us, we can’t resort to calling them bigots, we can’t ignore their fears or hopes. We need to continue to talk to one another. And we need to pray for increasing light and knowledge for the whole Church, for us and for our political opponents.

5 comments for “Salvaging Our Humanity (and our Faith) from the Wreckage of Politics

  1. Mungagungadin
    June 28, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I think, doctrinally, we have entered the time period between the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and Official Declaration 2, the 1978 expansion of priesthood to all worthy men. The people of the US have looked at an issue and found an eternal truth (that God has made and loved his homosexual children) so we should treat them as we want to be treated (says the SCOTUS) which throws our Mormon world-view into high contrast (that all who are exalted are heterosexual, by fact or “change”). For Mormons nothing is simple because, like Muslims, we look to the hereafter to make things right and grant us the rewards of sacrifice and endurance.

    I have felt that the compelling case is found in combining Mormon feminism with the questions of same-sex relationships. Mormon feminism asks if God really made the family to exalt one spouse above the other, aka patriarchy, or if God engineered us to be equals (and so it was just natural man propagated the idea that men own/control/subjugate/are exalted by owning women). Early Mormon polygamy was clearly based on many women serving/subject to one man. I think this current upcoming period of time — our “1965” — will examine patriarchy and find it wrong. I believe that soon the teachings and temple rites will be amended to conform to the concept that men and women are equals. Following this momentous change, a gentle examination of the creation powers of exalted beings will conclude that gender is no barrier and never was, to procreation. As one writer has pointed out— Adam and God made a woman, and a virgin bore a son. The procreative limits of same sex couples are for mortality only, just as some heterosexual couples are limited in mortality, and so we will have reached our new 1978.

    • Steph
      June 29, 2013 at 12:54 am

      This is exactly how I feel!!! How startlingly refreshing to hear a similar voice on this perspective of gender barriers being the root of the issue. And how procreation is not the limiting factor here ass members so often resort to. Thank you!! And thank you John.

  2. Phil
    June 28, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Thank you for carrying the banner, John. We all join you in praying for an increase in light and knowledge.

  3. dadsprimalscream
    July 1, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    “the spiritual dimensions of marriage should not be disconnected from the legal and political dimensions of marriage.”

    I couldn’t disagree more. The “Spiritual” has no place in the secular, legal world. In fact, if the two realms of marriage were indeed separate in the US like they are in many other nations we wouldn’t have this mess. EVERYONE would have essentially 2 marriages…the legal agreement in the courthouse and then the “spiritual” one in churches for those who believe as you do. What gets the US into a mess is allowing the religiously ordained to perform the first and second simultaneously.

    For example in Brazil there are always 2 ceremonies (and 3 for Mormons). Newlyweds get married in the courthouse legally and then, the spiritually inclined have their union solemnized in the church of their choice….but the church alone doesn’t make it legal and the courthouse alone doesn’t make it spiritual. Separate is better. Legal marriages for everyone. Let the churches discriminate to their heart’s content and they are wont to do.

    One huge benefit of such an arrangement for Mormons is that they can’t make the temple ceremony a legal one anyway so they have to have more than one ceremony. As such they can opt for 3!…courthouse, chapel, temple. In this way, non-member family members can attend the first two and not feel disrespected and slighted like they do in the US.

    The couple can sneak off later and do the exclusionary one in the temple but the friends and family get to witness the legal and chapel ceremonies.

    • John Gustav-Wrathall
      July 1, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      DPS: I don’t disagree with you that from the perspective of legal rights (in so far as there is a state interest in marriage) there should be only civil marriage. I’ve been advocating for years for the European model, in which people are legally required to register a civil marriage with the state, and can then have any kind of (non-legally-binding) religious ceremony they like. I still prefer that model, and if the states decided to take civil marriage authority away from ordained ministers of religion all together, I’d have no problem with that.

      That’s not what I’m talking about!

      I didn’t get married to my husband because I wanted civil rights or legal privileges. I got married to my husband because of my love for him and as a sign of my absolute commitment to him. The most important aspects of our relationship are emotional and spiritual! Not legal!

      And yet… There is an unavoidable overlap between the legal/political definition of marriage and the emotional and spiritual aspects of marriage. Marriage as a legal/political institution exists to strength the social/emotional and, yes, spiritual bonds of marriage.

      Recognition of our relationship by the communities I belong to matters… Recognition by my workplace, by my neighborhood, by my city, state and the nation, and, yes, recognition by my church matters.

Comments are closed.