Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Various and Sometimes Conflicting Thoughts on Soulforce

You may have heard that Soulforce came to BYU yesterday. Foxy and I took S-Boogie to the rally at Kiwanis Park. When we arrived there weren't very many people so we felt a little silly laying out our big blanket and getting out our picnic food, but later as things got started and the crowd surrounded us and we became a nexus of sorts for a gathering of friends and friends of friends, I felt pretty cool. I'm not sure how to reconcile all the thoughts I've had since then, so I'll just spew them out at you:
  • Almost ten years ago I attended an anti-gay-marriage rally at the Hawai'i state capitol. Thousands of Mormons, Catholics, and other conservative Christians showed up to say that the supporters of gay marriage were nothing more than a vocal minority. Across the street from us, a couple dozen representatives of that vocal minority showed up to protest the protest. It hurt me to watch the people on my side of the street--the representatives of Christianity--throw insults, profanities, and rocks at the people across the street. Last night, while the Equality Riders of Soulforce led the crowd in singing "I Am A Child of God," a small group of (I presume) BYU students stood behind us shouting, "Soulforce go home!" I was glad to be on the right side this time.
  • I am aware of the faults in the ethos-based logic necessary for the implied argument of the above thought. The fact that some people who believe homosexual behavior is a sin happen to be pricks does not mean that all people with that belief are, nor does it mean the belief is wrong. Likewise, singing "I Am A Child of God" does not make Soulforce's beliefs true.
  • I was a bit embarrassed today to read Saule Cogneur's criticism of the faulty logic and silly crowd mentality at the rally because yesterday I was sitting right behind him and I was one of those people laughing at the unfunny jokes and mindlessly cheering at "I've been excommunicated three times" and "Five of us got arrested today" and "My son is not gender confused." I was embarrassed because really I agree with Saule. None of those things deserved cheers (except perhaps "gender confused," and that only if the GA who originally said it really was euphemizing "gay," which we don't know for sure but I suspect was the case). I'm not sure why I felt the need to go along with the crowd. I think what it comes down to is that, in a group composed of liberal people and ridiculously liberal people, I feel a need to impress the ridiculously liberal people by showing that I am one of them. Which is ridiculous.
  • I went last night because I wanted to hear what Soulforce had to say and because I wanted to show my support in general for gay rights. I was unsure of how much I supported their particular stance, though. BYU, after all, is a private institution and has the right to demand certain behavior of its students. My problems with BYU's--and more broadly, the Mormon church's--treatment of homosexuality is not so much in the organizational policies but in the behavior of a large number of individuals. I am annoyed, for example, by the witch-hunt tactics used by the Honor Code Office to track down gay students and punish them. I am annoyed by the general unChristian attitude that many Mormons have toward homosexuals. However, I am not waiting for the Church to change its doctrine on homosexuality. I know what is right for me and what is wrong for me; I don't need anyone else to tell me what I should or shouldn't do and I know that every individual is capable of making his or her own moral choices. (This is, to be honest, a moot point for me personally because what I feel is right for me in regards to homosexual relationships happens to be what the Church says is right for me.)
  • All that said, the speeches last night made me question my neutral stance on BYU's and the Church's policies. It is devastating and infuriating to see repeatedly how Mormon culture produces gay people who feel that suicide is their best option, parents of gay people who tell them they would be better off dead, and peers who tell them they are no better than terrorists. Yes, there is an important distinction between Mormon culture and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but at what point does the organization and its doctrine take responsibility for the culture it produces? The fact is that it is just as hard to hate the sin without hating the sinner as it is to believe it's a sin once you learn to love the so-called sinner. Gordon B. Hinckley has a responsibility to stand by the doctrine he believes has come from God; I do not doubt that. What I, personally, would like to see is (a) evidence that he has actually asked God about this and not just assumed that what has been taught for centuries must be true; and (b) a greater effort on the part of the Church's leaders to teach the members not to act hatefully toward homosexuals. This past General Conference, I think, was at least a start in the direction of the latter.
  • I'm rambling. I'm sure I had more to say but I have no idea what it was. I'll stop now.


COOLGUY said...

..I enjoy your perspective and your comments - I admire the way you deal honestly with this tough issue. From what I know of you I'm sure that you will always be intellectually and emptionally honest about this - you don't need to worry about your position as long as you maintain that honest approach. I'm glad you are in my family....

COOLGUY said...

CORRECTION - I meant to say "emotionally honest"

Tolkien Boy said...

Hmmm...what I think of it...the sandwiches were good, and the company was excellent.

The rest? Well, the rest is problematic.

B.G. Christensen said...

I certainly agree with you there, Tolkien Boy.

And thanks, Cool Guy.

elbow said...

You know what your ramblings were wonderful. This entry sums up a lot of what you feel, and as far as the style in which it was written: bullets are on the earth for a reason.
However, I wanted to leave a comment and say that even though I don't know you, and have only read your blog for a couple of months now, that I am proud of you. Your family is beautiful, and you seem to be one of the most reasonable and peaceful voices in this bloging world.
Thanks for your honesty. I appreciated everything you said in this entry.

John said...

What? They said suicide is preferable to homosexuality? They sound like a bunch of Wazzocks to me.
Encouraging suicide? Pfft.
I want to say more, but I can't formulate it right now.

B.G. Christensen said...

Thanks, Elbow.

I should clarify, Walrus, that no one stood up and said, "Suicide is preferable to homosexuality." I'm referring to the number of gay Mormons like Stuart Matis who take their own lives and the number of parents who say things like Matis's mother, who said after he committed suicide, "At least he kept his covenants," or the mother of one of the speakers on Monday who told her son that he would have been better off if he'd died in a car accident.

Lunkwill said...

Gay terrorists?!?!

John said...

I think that's a stupid stance to take- suicide is murder and the destruction of the temple of God, how that's supposed to make anything better, I don't know.

Saule Cogneur said...

I second TB's comment on the sandwiches. Just in case anyone hasn’t noticed yet, Master Fob, Foxy J, and S-boogie are fantastic people. If they aren’t among your favorites, they should be.

I don't think I emphasized enough that I left the rally with a good feeling. I'm much better at commenting on what rubs me the wrong way than the right way.

From everything we know about him, it's extremely hard for me to believe President Hinckley would just go along with tradition without a second thought. But like you, I am deeply bothered that the Church doesn't address homosexuality more directly. I think the general attitude of people around here is destructive, and I don't understand why stronger language is not used by church authorities to improve things.

In my mind, the reason has two possibilities. The answer hasn't come yet (thought it seems there is more than enough reason for it), or the answer is not something the church body is ready for (i.e. if you sat a GA down and asked, he might give you something more reasonable/substantial than what we’re used to hearing across the pulpit). Personally, I always prefer to be told too much than too little.

ed said...

Nice post.

Many church authorities have used the idea of "confused" gender in conference talks and elsewhere. If you have any doubt that this is a euphamism that includes
homosexuality, go to lds.org and do a search on the terms.

I hope you realize that the attitude of BYU students in general is already far, far more tolerant than it was a couple of decades ago. Social trends have a way of affecting mormons along with non-mormons.

Claire said...

I enjoyed reading your perspectives on this sensitive topic. The rally made me think about the situation here at BYU and in mormon culture in general. This to me was the point of the rally (or should have been the point) that is, the education of individuals and the creation of an open dialogue between the different sides of the argument. Like SC, I disagreed with some of the speaker's tactics and (what I felt were) attacks, but I understand how they came to that feeling and opinion so do not judge them harshly for it. I also disagreed with the opposing protest, but again understand where they are coming from. I think the problem is communication. People are just not willing to give up their presuppositions long enough to understand the other side, but without that balance within the minds of the individuals no balance will be found within the community. It is a sad and disappointing situation.

Th. said...


Exactly Nocturne. And that sure is frustrating for us thinking folk.

Cicada said...

I really enjoyed this post, Master Fob. Mostly what I enjoyed about it is that I'm still very conflicted on this issue and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to resolve my feelings about homosexuality or be able to form an opinion that satisfies both my personal feelings and what I believe the gospel teaches.

I ran into my exboyfriend and his boyfriend on Monday and was able to talk to them for a bit. Although the conversation was enjoyable for the most part, I felt somewhat accused of not having a firm opinion on homosexuality (read: that my opinion on homosexuality was not in line with his). It's nice to come here and realize that I'm not alone in having mixed feelings.

TK said...

"but at what point does the organization and its doctrine take responsibility for the culture it produces?"

Isn't that a little like saying that it's all God's fault, if you believe that The Church of Jesus Christ is really His church?

I would guess that a lot of members make choices based on their MISUNDERSTANDING of doctrine, or of how to apply that doctrine. That is probably why the Church continually stresses going to the SOURCE (scriptures) and being in tune with the spirit to not be deceived.

The fact that leadership as well as general membership will still err is undoubtedly why there had to be an Atonement. This, however, does not excuse bad behavior - most particularly, behavior which causes others to suffer. But in my mind, it suggests that we be cautious in our judging the Church, based on anyone's behavior.

Which is one more thing that makes your post so good - it's apparent that you are really making an effort to be cautious. It's a fine line, isn't it? All of life seems to be based on keeping some kind of balance in our perspective, which isn't easy. It's much easier to take an extreme stand, then just lean as far as we can to which ever side we decide to favor. And as you say, in that position, we'll always have 'our side' cheering for us. As long as one doesn't have a conscience or a strong sense of logic, that's certainly the way to go! :)

Melyngoch said...

You know, we've had gay rights protests all week here, and it's just not nearly as interesting as it is at BYU. But I bet you didn't have lesbian kiss-offs as part of your rally, so there's that.

el veneno said...

Thanks for that analysis. I wanted to do one of my own but pretty much decided you and Blueshorts had it covered so I just linked to yours from my blog. Hope you don't mind.

ambrosia ananas said...

I realize I'm coming to the discussion two weeks late. (Shamefully, I didn't even know the Soulforce thing was going on until well after many arrests had been made.) But I heard your post quoted and thought I should come read it.

As usual, you address a difficult and sensitive subject in a thoughtful manner. And as Cice says, it's nice to hear from people who don't claim to have clear-cut answers.