Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Homosexual Scapegoat

Had the Mormon church asked its adherents to vote for a proposition that would take away their own legal marriage rights, I might find their willing obedience to such a decree, regardless of their own consciences, admirable. There is nothing admirable, though, about sacrificing the legal rights of strangers for your religious beliefs. To do so is at best selfish, aiming for your own celestial reward at the expense of others, or at worst cowardly, placing others on the sacrificial altar in order to escape the eternal punishment you fear would come for disobeying God's servant.


[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

I think it's worst than just being cowardly, it's incredibly immature and downright morally reprehensible.

To them (them=those who willingly and gladly oppose equal rights for non-straights), gays aren't quite human the way the "righteous" are, and just don't deserve to be treated equally. And this is why it is so dangerous: the church's teachings and actions dehumanise an entire group of people to the point that many church members don't feel any guilt about treating gays this way. Just as blacks were dehumanised for centuries in the US or Jews were in Europe.

If God really is wanting the church to do this, then what kind of God are they worshipping?

Edgy said...

Maybe it's just revenge. I mean, the country already voted eons ago saying that their marriages weren't valid. It's got to suck when only one member of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency actually fulfills the requirement (i.e. multiple wives) for the highest level of heaven.

Mr. Fob said...

Craig--I agree that dehumanization is a huge problem with all the rhetoric going on. The people I was referring to here, though, are those who don't dehumanize the LGBT community, who do feel guilty about treating their fellow human beings this way, but do it anyway because their prophet said so. I recognize the complexity going into such a decision but I find the conclusion unethical and its implications terrifying.

Edgy--Um, yes.

Recession Cone said...

I hope a little diversity is acceptable here. =)

1. Proposition 8 is not about rights. California already awards all the rights associated with marriage to gay couples in domestic partnerships. Proposition 8 does not diminish those rights in any respect (and the church has officially stated it has no objection to such rights). Accordingly, opposition to proposition 8 is wholly and solely about forcing society as a whole to recognize same-sex marriages as equal in every respect with heterosexual marriages.

2. The church does not dehumanize gay people. Saying so does not make it so. Comparing the church to Nazi Germany is a serious charge that requires evidence - and in this case you won't find any, because it's a false charge.
If you disagree, please read the church's views on the subject (you can start here) and show me concrete evidence of demonization.

3. I agree with you that anyone who votes for proposition 8 against their conscience, simply because they were told to do so, deserves scorn. From a Mormon perspective, we all need to be maximizing our free agency at all times.

4. Proposition 8 and polygamy are not comparable. Gay people today enjoy powerful governmental protections. Being gay is widely accepted in corporate America. Polygamy, on the other hand, resulted in the ARMY being mobilized against Utah, and forced many people to go underground or move to different countries. People in polygamous relationships had no rights, no protections, and paid huge costs due to unjust governmental persecution. Utah polygamists never got the legal system to let them live in peace, let alone to force the rest of America to recognize their relationships as equal to monogamous marriage. Accordingly, equating polygamy and gay marriage to illustrate alleged Mormon hypocrisy is ridiculous. The church is not arguing that gay people should have their property rights stripped.

Mr. Fob said...

RC--We only accept diversity here if you are black, lesbian, or a Pacific Islander. All other forms of diversity will be squashed.

I appreciate that your tone is not unnecessarily confrontational and I'll do my best to return the same.

1. Proposition 8 is about the right to marry. If you did not have the right to marry your wife and you would not be legally married. That is the right your church seeks to take away from same-sex couples. The church's recent statement that it does not oppose equivalent non-marriage rights is the first such I know of and in my opinion is a step in the right direction. Separate but equal, however, is not enough. No one is trying to force "society as a whole" to recognize anything. What we ask is that the government not discriminate based on gender when deciding who gets the right to marry. Considering that we live in a pluralistic society and have a supposedly secular government, and the only argument justifying such discrimination is based in the religious beliefs of certain groups, that is not an unreasonable expectation. Individuals and private organizations are welcome to discriminate as they see fit so long as they don't impose their discriminatory views on others--just as you're free to believe a black woman is less of a human being than you are, but the government's recognition of her as an equal protects her from your belief being used to harm her.

2. I won't go into depth arguing this point because it wasn't really my point you're refuting and I don't entirely disagree with you. I will say, though, that the church's use of "pro-family" rhetoric dehumanizes the same-sex-headed families it's trying to delegitimatize. If the church's stance were truly pro-family they would be in favor of protecting all families, not just the ones it thinks are worthy of that name.

3. I'm glad we agree on this one, as really it was the point of my post. When I was growing up I was taught that you should always obey your leaders and if they're wrong you won't be responsible for what you've done. I don't know whether there's doctrinal basis for this argument--I hope not--but I do know that it's antithetical to the concept of agency, let alone the concept of actions having natural consequences regardless of the motivations behind those actions.

4. Again, this isn't my argument so it's no big loss to me if you disagree with it, but I will point out that to say that two things are not the same is not to say that they are not comparable. No, the situation with polygamy and the one with same-sex marriage are not the same, but there are parallels. In both cases it's a matter of the majority imposing it's definition of marriage on a minority who has a different definition. The ironic thing here is that the church (in the document you link to, IIRC) claims it is trying to stop government from interfering in private concerns, when in fact Prop 8 is all about the government stepping in and telling groups of people what they can and cannot do.

Coila said...

This is one of the things about this issue that ticks me off the most. People who say gay people shouldn't get married are happy to tell gay people to just stop being gay, but what would they do if they had to stop being straight? If the tables were turned? If they can actually think that scenario through and they think they might actually do that, then I'm less willing to be upset with them. But the idea is still pretty upsetting. I'll sacrifice YOUR rights for MY beliefs! Sweet! No pain for me!

Th. said...


I don't know if this post was aimed at me or not (though the timing suggests it may have been) but I do think that some of the rhetorical devices used above prevent meaningful discussion. Hating anyone on any side for any reason is far from helpful.

Also, "placing others on the sacrificial altar in order to escape the eternal punishment you fear would come for disobeying God's servant" is not my reasoning for voting for Prop 8 (even though I don't support it) whatsoever. I hope, if your post is a response to me, that you don't believe that. Because that's a pretty crass misguess.

The secret ballot has become de rigeur in democratic nations, but it is not a Constitutional right in America (without imagination) and, I think, kills true dialogue much too often. The reasons people vote for things are often complex (as you've recognized) and it's comfortable to hide behind the "secret ballot" and not say anything. For instance, I'm planning on voting for Obama even though I'm not convinced he will be a good president. My most compelling reason for voting for him is, I know many people will say, unethical with a terrifying implication. I can admit that, but I still think he's the right decision to make in this election.

Similarly, I am someone whom you describe as feeling "guilty about treating [my] fellow human beings this way, but do it anyway because [my] prophet said so." Although roughly accurate, it misses the point.

I am NOT voting for Prop 8 to "escape the eternal punishment" --- that does not represent my thinking in the least and tends to suggest that you equate faith with fear, when, really, they are opposites.

I'm not interested in starting an argument on your blog and I know that people I love and respect who have already commented here may think less of me for my decision. But that's why we rely on the crutch of the secret ballot. If we only ever voice the portion of our thinking that the people in the room agree with, we will always be safe and don't require any courage. It's when we share a final decision that we open ourselves up to ridicule and misunderstanding and vindictiveness.

This comments already gone long so I won't say more, but if anyone actually wants to know how I've arrived at the decision I have, I'm easy to find. Otherwise, I'll let it rest and you can call me whatever names you want.

Bryce's Ramblings said...

Fob, you said:

When I was growing up I was taught that you should always obey your leaders and if they're wrong you won't be responsible for what you've done. I don't know whether there's doctrinal basis for this argument--I hope not--but I do know that it's antithetical to the concept of agency, let alone the concept of actions having natural consequences regardless of the motivations behind those actions.

I find it appalling that any Mormon would preach something like that over the pulpit, as I believe it goes against the basic fundamentals we believe and preach. As a missionary, I told people that it's up to them to pray and find out what is true, and then to follow the answers they get to those prayers. Blind obedience is not what the church asks. Then again, some would say that arguing that "if a person's conscience/will is contrary to the church's/prophet's, then that person should pray and work it out until their conscience/will is back in line with the church's/prophet's," then that's pretty much the same thing as blind obedience. I would say it all rests on whether you believe the church/prophet to be true or not.

I have family members in CA who are campaigning for Prop 8. I have no idea what I would do if I were in CA, and I'm honestly glad I'm not. I think it's important to note that the letter from the First Presidency said "we ask," not "we command," and I think that's a big enough loophole to let anyone scamper out of actively campaigning, if they so choose.

In any case, it'll be interesting to see how the church deals with this in a couple of weeks at General Conference.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Bryce's Ramblings said...

Oops--forgot the quotes for my post. The first paragraph is Fob, the rest is all me.

Mr. Fob said...

Th.--I've not called you names. I've said that your decision is "at best selfish... at worst cowardly." Note that there's a great range of possibilities between selfish and cowardly, allowing for whatever justification you've come up with. Also note that, as Mormons would put it, I can hate the sin and still love the sinner. I can recognize that you're still the same person I have known, loved, and respected for several years now and point out the appalling lack of ethics to this specific decision at the same time.

I have read your explanations, both in your post yesterday and in the preemptive defense of a couple months ago, and I find your reasoning unethical. You don't know for yourself what's right and so you choose to put your faith not just in an invisible magical being, but in another man's interpretation of what this invisible magical being says is right. You're gambling, but the only thing you have on the line is your conscience. A few months from now you'll get over it, but if Prop 8 passes the people it's targeted at will be affected for years. To say that your vote won't count anyway is bullshit. Polls don't tell us who's going to actually show up on election day. Furthermore, for you to publicly state that you're voting for the proposition and to frame it in such a way that makes it seem that you're making some noble sacrifice for your religion potentially has much more damaging results than your single vote.

I chose to publish my response here rather than in your comments section for the same reason I generally don't comment on your svithes--because I assume they're meant to be inspirational thoughts, not forums for debate. I also was upset enough that I needed some distance, lest I make the response more personal than it needed to be. I haven't used any rhetorical devices that prevent meaningful discussion nearly as much as the "God said so" argument, so I suggest you not even go there.

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

Ben, Oh, I agree. I think that in a very significant way, it is even worse to feel guilty, to be violating your conscience and to do something anyways. I think that is more immoral than those who are happy to deny people rights.

I would say it all rests on whether you believe the church/prophet to be true or not.

Bryce, I think the belief that if you believe the church is true and that the leaders of the church speak for God, then you have to believe everything they say and do whatever they do is not only dangerous but simply untrue.

The church leaders are not perfect. They will and have done and said things the church no longer supports. There is lots of clear and obvious evidence for this. If you want, I can provide you with some of it.

It is blind belief to do anything they say simply because they said it. And that is not what Mormonism is *supposed* to be about, but it is what it is *now* about.

To pass off the blame to the church for someone violating their own conscience is ridiculous. If someone truly believes that they aren't allowed to disagree with the church leaders, then why even think ever? Just sit on your ass and let the church tell you everything what you should do.

There is no excuse for violating your conscience. Have we still not learnt that "just following orders" is not a escape from your moral responsibility? Just because you believe God is telling you to violate someone else's rights doesn't make it better than if it were a political leader - it actually makes it worse in some ways.

Th., what is your reason? You've told us what it isn't, but that's not making your actions any less disturbing.


The church does not dehumanize gay people. Saying so does not make it so. Comparing the church to Nazi Germany is a serious charge that requires evidence - and in this case you won't find any, because it's a false charge.
If you disagree, please read the church's views on the subject (you can start here) and show me concrete evidence of demonization.

Where is the evidence? How about my life for example? The church definitely dehumanises me, my life, and any family I may one day have, and the lives and families of my friends. We are not as good as those who are straight. We don't deserve to be treated the same as straight people. Straight people, straight marriages are better(more righteous, more godly, more good = better). This is what the church clearly teaches. They taught the same things about black people, and that was dehumanising then, just as it was wrong and immoral. Teaching that someone is better than someone else is dehumanisation at its core. And that is despicable.

I'm not saying that the church leaders are the same as Nazis, but rather that dehumanisation is occurring in the church and Nazism is one of the things that it can lead to - an extreme example, yes, but the difference is of degree, not kind.

kadusey said...

As a side note, there's a similar proposition in Arizona, with similar letters from church headquarters asking members here to vote in favor of it.

I found it interesting upon learning about it that it's an issue of discussion in places other than just California in this very divided election year (also that I will need to research it myself since I'm going to have to vote on it, rather than just ignoring the issue as I have been doing previously).

Mr. Fob said...

Coila--Yeah, there's definitely a disconnect here between actions and consequences. The people making the decisions are not the ones suffering the consequences.

Th.--I didn't really answer your question about whether this was directed at you. Yes, your post was the catalyst, but no, you are not the only person I was thinking of. There are many Mormons who know better but are at least considering voting for Prop 8 out of a sense of duty.

Bryce--Yeah, like I said, that kind of thinking doesn't seem in line with established Mormon doctrine, but I know my former bishop isn't the only one who believes and teaches it--I hear people saying similar things all the time. And yeah, I'm one of those people who takes issue with the paradox of personal revelation versus prophetic teachings. If any personal revelation that disagrees with the prophet is wrong, then what's the point of personal revelation? Ultimately what the church is saying here is that you should not trust your own personal revelation, that only prophetic revelation really counts.

Craig--Obviously I take issue with people voting against their conscience because the prophet said so, else I wouldn't have written this post, but I'm hesitant to say that one evil is greater than another. There is something to be said for honesty in admitting that you don't know why your church is supporting this proposition and for not making up reasons that do even more harm (i.e. "same-sex-headed families are not as 'ideal' as 'traditional' families). To Th.'s credit, he has said that he will not be campaigning for Prop 8, as his church has urged him to do, which I'll admit is more integrity than I displayed eleven years ago when I rallied at the Hawaii State Capitol against my conscience, because the church had told me to.

Kadusey--I knew there were similar proposition on the ballot in a few other states, but I didn't know the church had gotten involved in those too. I would hope that you vote against it, but barring that please at least make the decision on what you personally believe is right, not what someone else does. (Meaning, of course, that I wouldn't expect you to base your vote on what I say.)

Edgy said...

I'm going to disagree with your assertion that there is more credit or integrity in at least not canvassing or rallying in favor of a proposition he doesn't (apparently) believe in. The prophets didn't say to push the little red button; they said, "We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman." His declared actions are actually not in line with what the prophet has asked him to do. If you're going to act against your conscience in accordance with your faith, at least don't do a half-assed job of it.

Mr. Fob said...

That's a valid point.

Rebecca said...

Shoot, you've been blogging a lot, and I'm way late to this party. For that reason, and because you've stated your (and my) position with more eloquence than I could, I'm not going to post my views. Suffice it to say - yes. Totally.

And, for the record, I was also taught that, " should always obey your leaders and if they're wrong you won't be responsible for what you've done." I don't know if it was from the pulpit, but I definitely heard it in church more than once. I was also taught this by my mother, and in at least one institute class. To be honest, it was kind of relief to me for a long time - if I just did what I was "supposed" to do, I didn't have to worry about whether it was wrong or right. I don't think I really started to think about it until college. Yikes.

Mr. Fob said...

Yeah, I've been blogging like there's no tomorrow. I think this is related to the fact that I haven't been doing much "real" writing, though I'm not sure which is the cause and which the effect.

Yeah, it's unfortunate that some (many? I really don't know) Mormon kids are taught the obedience without consequences thing, because it's totally antithetical to the elements of Mormonism that I find most admirable--the principles of personal revelation and personal responsibility. "Just obey and let someone else worry about the consequences" is so totally Satan's plan. (BTW, this is all a tangent and not to be considered part of the other horrible things of which I've accused my friend Theric--I've no doubt in his taking full responsibility for whatever choices he makes.)