Sunday, October 26, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

Election Day is just 9 days away and it looks like California’s Proposition 8 limiting marriage to a man and a woman will pass.  On Intrade the odds are approaching 3 to 2.  I give a lot of weight to Intrade because participants bet on outcomes with real money rather than hyperbole.  The LA Times is also out with a new poll provided by the Public Policy Institute of California.  The poll is not tied into either side of the debate and is considered reliable.  It shows Prop 8 favored 52% to 44%. 

Of course the LDS church has been deeply involved in efforts to get the measure passed.  The church’s efforts have been organized, well funded and effective.  These actions have not gone unnoticed.  In fact, the church seems to be emerging as the most visible party in the fight and the entity that will be given the most credit for its passage.  The Wall Street Journal last week credited the LDS church with drumming up nearly 40% of all money raised to support the proposition  – more than any other group.  Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic Monthly credits the Church contributions with “bankrolling” the pro 8 advertising campaign.

I know it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, but for the sake of argument, let’s say these numbers hold and Prop 8 passes. What does this get the Church?  Will the Church become the poster child (justified or not) for stifling gay rights?  Sure, the Church has the right and apparently the power to fight gay marriage, but it seems to me that it runs a high risk of being singled out for special recognition by gay rights groups as being intolerant and homophobic.  Mind you, I am not commenting on the propriety of such labeling, I just think it is a likely outcome. 

Now there may be some people who think that Church’s success here will play to its strengths.  That the kind of people who will look down upon the Church for this are the kind of people the Church will never win over anyway.  And that there will be many people who are pro-family (in the Mormon sense) who will respond favorably to the Church’s reputation as the entity that beat back gay rights in favor of traditional marriage.  Perhaps they are right.  But is it worth the backlash?

My personal hunch on this is that the Church is in for some stormy weather.  I think gay rights are the new civil rights and it is only a matter of time before gays are afforded the same rights as everyone else.   And much like it was during the civil rights movement, the Church is way behind the curve.  The gay rights train has left the station and the LDS Church cannot turn it back, although it clearly has to ability to hinder its progress.

Do you think this will help or hurt the Church – or both?


Anonymous said...

Both. Yes there are many already who think that the Church's teachings are from the stone age. And there are others who think we still practice polygamy. I think that this push for Prop. 8 was not only for the traditional definition of marriage but to silence the rumors that poygamy is okay by us. To publicaly denounce any other kind of marrige other than one man one woman is a message saying we too are Christian like you are Christian.

Fifthgen said...

There will be those who appreciate the Church's position and those who are outraged by it - - I do not know what the net effect will be. One harm you do not mention is the internal pain caused by friends, neighbors and family members within the Church that find themselves on different sides of the issue. I think the wounds inflicted in all directions will take a long time to heal.

Writer's Block said...

I think the Church should keep Church and State seperate. They do not want the State messing with them, so they should practice what they preach.

I have already seen people divided because of Prop 8 and they do not even live in California.

Sanford said...

Marlo, I think you may have something with your theory about the push for Prop 8 being a way to distance the Church from polygamy. I have tried to figure out why the Church chose this fight at this time. The Church has stayed pretty non-political for a long time and this Prop 8 advocacy is rather unusual. The Church has also softened its stance on homosexuality tremendously over the last 30 years so why this fight now? Could this be a cause that President Monson feels particularly strongly about?

Fifthgen, it seems that people with a same sex orientation are more comfortable these days making that orientation public. As a result, more families and individuals know a person who is gay. It seems to me that having a gay family member or friend makes it much harder to take actions that may adversely affect that person. Homosexuality is much less abstract or distant now.

Writer's block, I suppose the Church is picking a fight that it apparently has the ability to win but I have wondered why the stance against gay marriage in California but not in Canada or European countries? The Church has held its tongue and its money in those places but not in California. Is it ok to mix church and state if you can win but not if you have no chance of prevailing?

Diana Croshaw said...

I'm not going to delve too deep, but the main comment I wanted to make is that I don't believe the church fought this battle motivated by PR. I believe that the church made their PR statement 13 years ago when they put out the Proclamation on the Family. I see this move as a way for the Church to stand behind its statement, we "proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God." Whether the train for gay rights has left the station or not, the Church needs to stand by it's words and it's understanding of God's 'unchanging' law.

Comparing civil rights with gay rights is interesting to me. Let me say, I do have some gay friends that I care about. Absolutely, they are wonderful people with so much love in their hearts. However, God is who told us that homosexuality is a sin, not just Thomas S. Monson. Being black is not a sin. The Church was wrong to deny priesthood blessings from worthy members of the church based on their color. But according to scripture (and we're not the only ones who think so), homosexuality does compromise "worthiness." But as far as I know, the church provides the same priesthood blessings to gay members of the church so long as they are living the standards.

The argument about separation of church and state also doesn't sit well with me. Accepting the marriages of homosexuals is not just a political issue, it's a moral issue. What if gay marriage eventually becomes legal across the country? Would the church lose is tax-exempt status for refusing to perform or accept gay marriage? Maybe I just don't understand everyone's perspective on separation between church and state. The way I understand it, the government can't tell you what church to belong to. The church is supporting a political movement, but it's not going to kick you out if you don't vote the 'party line' of the church.

I don't love controversy the way you do, Sanford, but here's my opinion! I'll put on my flame-retardant panties now!

Writer's block said...

if your son or daughter turns out to be gay would you still side with the church over their happiness? if so i am very sad for them.

It is NEVER okay to mix church and state here. Win or lose, it is wrong. They are over stepping their place. This is part of the constitution. THIS is one reason why our fore fathers came to this country to begin with. Religous persicution. Do we all have to leave now too? And find a new home to get away from this? To get away from this persicution?

i know lots of mormons, and i like them. but to do this just to prove "we too are christian like you are christian"? no church should act like they are in high school just to be accepted.

Fifthgen said...

Writer's block: The notion of separation of Church and state arises from the First Amendment, which prohibits the federal government from making laws that endorse a particular religion or regulate religious belief and practice. It does not prohibit churches from participating in the political arena, or even suggest that they should not. Whatever you think about the LDS Church's position on this issue, I think it has the right to say what it wants, and even to mobilize its members and resources. That said, I agree with you that the Church should anticipate that what goes around, comes around. they are already seeing political protests at some temples, which I don't think is going to make very many LDS people happy. When you exercise your rights, you have to be willing to live with the consequences.

Writer's block said...

But is the church ready for the backlash? LDS members are going to be mad when they have picketers at the gates of the temples and will wonder why they are being targeted.

With all of this they are asking to have gay/lesbian couples demand to get married in the temple just to "show them".

Henry said...

The LDS church stands for HATE. Period. End of story.

How many times have mormon believers stood in the way of equality? Everytime. On every issue they have opposed equality; women's rights, racial equality, equality for gay people you name it.

Diane, are gay people props that you trot out everytime you want to justify bigotry? How many times has the phrase "I have a gay friend" been used to dictate what gay people can and can't do? A lot. And most of those people are lying. They don't have a gay friend. Secondly how dare you insult gay people's intelligence. Many gay people know first hand that family would sell them down the river because they are gay yet you have the audacity to claim that can't happen.

Vote NO on Prop 8, stop the hate.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I think that we are in for some very stormy weather.

I still consider myself a Prop 8 agnostic, even though I'm not eligible to vote on it. If I was, I'm sort of leaning towards "no" now, although I don't completely agree or identify with either side. I guess what bothers me is not that the church opposes it (I mean, can anyone really realistically expect any other stance on gay marriage from the Church than we've already seen? No, and I think that if it had been confined to in-church preaching, it wouldn't be so much of an issue.) But once the Church makes a political endorsement (as it has with Prop 8), it opens a gargantuan can of worms -- especially since we're always claiming political neutrality as a church. I think that for any of us to legitimately argue that we believe that marriage between one man and one woman is sacred, then we need to state clearly that polygamy was completely, unequivocably wrong, that it was a big mistake in our history. But of course the Church won't do that, and therefore no one is buying that argument from us.

The thing about this coalition that bothers me is that we've teamed up with other churches, some of which treat homosexuals way worse than we ever have, not to mention the fact that most of these churches would probably want nothing to do with Mormons if it wasn't helping their political agenda. And then we end up raising the most money of any of them! I think that if the Church was going to get involved in phoning voters, going door-to-door, etc, then it should have been done independently. I still would have disagreed with it, but it wouldn't have looked as bad as it does by teaming up with people who don't even really like us in the first place.

As you pointed out, Sanford, gay marriage is already legal in parts of Canada and Europe. Norway just past a new marriage law a few months ago, which gives gays the right to "marriage" and not just "civil partnership." I never heard a peep about it at church. I think that most of us are just able to accept that it's going to happen (and it did), whether we agree with it or not, and that the real fight begins when the state tries to take away our freedom of religion by mandating that we perform gay marriages -- which has not happened and I don't anticipate happening. The only church in Norway that I know of where this is an issue is in the state Lutheran church, because, it is, state-run.

Fifthgen said...

There is an interesting post over at Times & Seasons that raises the question, "What is the Church's goal here?" It suggests that the goal could actually be more modest than either side believes. What if all the Church is trying to accomplish is preserve the notion that it is OK to think marriage should not be extended to gays? Sure, maybe (probably) society will allow gay marriage, but maybe the Church just wants to say that those who think "traditional marriage" should be the norm have legitimate reasons and are not monsters (or in other words, do not "stand for HATE. Period. End of story"). Maybe the Church’s goal is just to say that the desire to preserve traditional marriage does not equal homophobia, which is becoming as unacceptable as racism.

I don’t pretend to know what the Church’s goal really is, but it is an interesting thought.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Sanford, when you get a minute, read this article by a fellow Mormon. He really sums up my point of view on the issue.

Sanford said...

Diana, thank you for your opinion. You knew you would take some and you did but I apprecieate you sharing your perspective. I don’t want to simply hear from people that agree with me. All opinions are welcome here. I agree with you that the Church's position was not motivated by PR. But I do take issue with your notion of God's unchanging law. If anything, the Mormon Church ‘s position on homosexuality has changed radically over the years. In fact, if it were not for the Prop 8 debate, the church could almost be regarded as progressive on the issue in relation to other conservative Christian faiths. And that's the thing that really puzzles me. Why have they come this far but now the line in the sand. I wonder if some of the brethren have resented or perhaps been uncomfortable with the concessions the Church has made in this area and they are sick and tired of seeing the church modernize its position on homosexuality. And they have chosen to make a bold public, political stand now when in fact they wish it had been made much earlier. Keep in mind the men at the highest levels of the Church were already adults when the gay rights movement starting having much success. It is hard to change and adapt but the Church really has adapted it position dramatically. So again I ask, why this, why now?

reddirtgirl said...


How has the church modernized it's position on homosexuality? As far as I am aware it's still a "sin". You can still be excommunicated. There is the repentance and forgiveness process but was that not there before?

Swedish Fish said...


The Church is okay with you being gay. You can go to church, you can participate and be welcome...

...that is as long as you do not act upon your gayness (is gayness a word?). So never having a partner or anything else.

Still seems that the church looks down on it, doesn't it?

Writer's block said...

Repent for being gay? Why would you have to repent for how you are?

Does the kids next door have to repent for being born Jewish?


Writer's block said...

You are who you are. If you are born a certain way why would you have to repent?

Fifthgen said...

OK, so I think some imprecise language (no offense to anyone) as led to some confusion here. I think Sanford's point (he can correct me if I am worng) is that the LDS Church does not view homosexuality as a sin. In other words, the status of being attracted to someone of the same gender is not, in itself, sinful. Engaging in sexual relations with someone of the same gender is considered sinful. This, of course, is an unaccpetable position to many gay people, since it relegates them to a life of celbacy if they want to particiapte fully in the LDS Church. But no one expects anyone to repent of "being gay" or of "being who they are." Most active members of the LDS Church would believe, however, that a gay or lesbian who is sexually active would need to repent of that sexual conduct before returning to full fellowship in the Church.

Sanford said...

Faithful Dissident says

“I think that for any of us to legitimately argue that we believe that marriage between one man and one woman is sacred, then we need to state clearly that polygamy was completely, unequivocably wrong, that it was a big mistake in our history. But of course the Church won't do that, and therefore no one is buying that argument from us.”

This argument makes sense to me but it doesn’t seem to resonate much with Mormons I know. It’s like the polygamy thing was just an aberration and you can’t use that crazy nutty limited early practice as leverage in any discussion about Mormonism today. Polygamy is looked upon as ancient history and something to be swept under the carpet rather than reconciled with current belief and practice.

My take is that to be consistent you have to acknowledge that eternal marriage is not limited to one man and one woman. And if you can admit this, who is to say what kind of exceptions there are to the current rule of one man and one woman. I mean really, is one man and one man that much more of a departure from one man and one woman than one man and 30 women? Mormons it seems to me get so invested in the doing things a certain way. Well, Joseph Smith’s behavior and theology show that he did not have a problem with thinking way outside the box and doing things differently, especially when it came to marriage.

Faithful D, when you and I have talked about polygamy in the past we have disagreed about the propriety of Joseph Smith practicing it but I think we both agree that the Modern Church is not particularly upfront or consistence about how it addresses the practice.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Redditgirl, if you read some of the older teachings regarding homosexuality from Church leaders, it was apparent that they thought it was a choice. Not just the sexual acts, but the actual attraction to the same sex. I'm only 30 years old and I can remember being in YW and being taught that homosexuality (being attracted to the same sex) was a choice. I always felt that the evidence indicated otherwise, but I wanted to believe that the Church was right and so I maintained that belief until I was probably well into my 20's. I'm sorry to say that I looked down upon gay people as rebels who "chose" to sin against God. I don't ever recall any talk of having compassion for those who are gay, or talking about "the cross they have to bear." I'm pretty sure that if any of my fellow YW's had "come out," it wouldn't have been handled as well then as it would be now. I've now noticed that things have really changed in that regard. We are not taught that simply having the attraction is not a sin. As well, that we should have compassion and understanding for their struggle. Has the doctrine changed, or is it due to the fact that the issue of homosexuality has come to the forefront and the Church realized that maybe it isn't a choice afterall? I think it's the latter.

reddirtgirl said...

It seems to me that in being accepting of homosexuality as something other than a choice the church has painted itself into a corner.
We are all sexual beings. We all struggle with controling sexual feelings whether we are teenagers trying to "do the right thing" and wait until we are married or we are married and trying to honor the commitments we made to our spouses. I appreciate the Mormon church giving homosexuals urges equality with everyone elses urges.

But in doing so you run up against an inconsistancy with the belief that we are created in God's image. That as man is God once was. As God is man may become. And the key to this whole being like God thing is a celestial marriage. ( Am I right on this?) So in acknowledging these homosexual urges as something other than a choice, as a natrual part of some people who if they control these urges can still become like God....Well I can see how church leader's might be wishing they had never tried to be loving and compassionate in this area.

Anyway, I think the church should stay out of it. To me it is a civil rights issue. If churches don't want to bless these unions that is fine. But unless we want to go back to the days when gay sex was illegal, then we need to give the same rights to all our citizens.

Fifthgen said...
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Fifthgen said...

To understand why Mormons see polygamy as radically different from gay marriage, you have to understand how deeply rooted marriage and procreation are in Mormon theology. The reason Mormons see marriage between men and women as so important is because it furthers one of the central purposes of mortality - - gaining the experience of creating life. (I know there are infertile and older couples, and couples that choose not to have children, but I am talking general concepts here). Mormons believe that we all are here on Earth, in large part, to gain the experience necessary to progress toward “exaltation,” or being like our Heavenly Father. Mormons believe that marriage and family are God’s ordained method for simultaneously experiencing what it is to create life, and for providing the ideal environment for children to progress on their own spiritual journey. To Mormons, marriage, procreation and family are so central to God’s plan for his children that they really cannot be separated from it, and their convictions in this regard run very deep. For many Mormons, the point of our mortal life is to form families that can be sealed together into eternal relationships. So polygamy, despite making many uncomfortable, actually fits more easily within the theology than gay marriage.

Gay marriage arguably has a lot to offer in terms of the happiness and joy of those who choose to be married. It may even be a stabilizing force for society. It just doesn’t fit with Mormon theology, and it is hard to see how it ever will. That does not mean that the LDS Church cannot alter its approach to those outside the Church who choose to enter into non-traditional marriages, or that it cannot find new ways to be tolerant and accepting. It does not mean that the LDS Church cannot learn to “live and let live” in pluralistic socieities. Many of us hope all these things will happen. But, the LDS Church’s issues with gay marriage are deeper and more fundamental than a simple the belief that gay sex is proscribed by the Bible or sinful. These issues actually run to some of the theological foundations of Mormonism.

pb said...

Yes, the church is on the wrong side of history on this one, just as it was with the civil rights movement. But it won't matter when it's all said and done, just as it didn't matter, ultimately, with the civil rights movement. When it is inevitable, the church will make the appropriate adjustments and the past will be swept under the rug. No church is going to be on the forefront of social change. It's to be expected that, rather, they will be at the tail end. It's in the nature of religions to cling to their doctrines as long as they can. The catholic church didn't exactly welcome Galileo. But neither did the fact that the earth was NOT the center of the universe ultimately spell the demise of catholic theology -- or membership. The adjustments are made and everyone goes on believing and paying. In 50 or 100 or 150 years, the plan of salvation will just be a little different, that's all.

jupee said...

Do you think the revelation will be as subtle as when Africans became entitled to hold the priesthood? . . . One day a general announcement will be made that men and women may be sealed to the person with whom they will spend eternity. And then, like 20 years later, Ellen will join the church? And 5 years after that Rosie will have her children sealed to her?

jupee said...

Fifthgen: Kevpee raises a good point in response to your "deeper and more fundamental" point. Why doesn't the church attempt to de-legitimze non-temple marriages? Where is prop 9 to deny marriage to those who are not sealed in the temple?

Fifthgen said...
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Fifthgen said...

jupee: Tell kevpee that Mormons are TOTALLY down with hetero-, married-but-not-in-the-temple couples procreating and thereby bringing children into the world. Seriously. They should go for it. It in no way conflicts the the purpose of marriage/family as outlined above.