On being angry

Although it won’t come off this way, this is me at my least self-righteous.

I grew up in the South. Specifically in Jacksonville, FL, which, in my youth, featured one of the largest Baptist Churches in the nation (It was the nineteenth most influential as of July 2006 and, according to Wikipedia, claims 28,000 congregants). I’ll be honest. I hate these people.

Being the biggest Baptist church in the very conservative, very Baptist city of Jacksonville gives you great influence. I don’t have any recollection of First Baptist ever sponsoring cult weeks, but all the other smaller Baptist churches of which I was aware had them and, I assumed, that if First Baptist made some decree it would have stopped. Not that the Baptists were the only offenders in the “considering-me-a-cultic-freak” sweepstakes. I was looked on as a child of hell by Methodists, Adventists, Assemblies of God, and Pentacostals, too. I had a friend who was a member of the Church of the Nazarene who thought I was a cultist. Consider that, being looked down on religiously by a member of the Nazarenes.

My wife and my family don’t understand why I am so suspicious of the political right. In part, it is because I grew up in the shadow of First Baptist. It never occurred to me to think of it as a church. I’ve only ever thought of it as a business venture (and a profitable one, too). First Baptist had a complex of buildings in Downtown Jacksonville and every Sunday (the only day most of its congregants would be caught dead in that part of town, which was prodominantly black) they would go down there and snarl traffic. They had impressive musicals and, it was rumored, a bowling alley and a skating ring in the bowels of their church. While I was on my mission, they put a lighthouse atop their parking garage and turned it on. The metaphor learned by the locals actually living in the area was that the light of Christ will keep you up all night and the lighthouse, after some legal wrangling, was turned off. If there was ever a symbol for me of the great and abominable church, it was First Baptist.

The pastors hobnobbed with the leaders of the city. They clearly enjoyed their political influence. While Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Bakker were in the midst of having their scandals, I used to wonder what evils took place in the depths of that building. What silence the influence of their petitioners had bought. I held a special place of suspicion and ire in my heart for First Baptist, for being more successful than our church, for its members being honored while our members were considered dupes at best and demons at worst, for its being lauded when I believed that our church was at least as good and certainly much, much better. It was at this time that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were tying the religious right and the political right together. My hate for the religious right in my city being infinite, I could not abide the politics they endorsed either.

While I don’t see First Baptist as a force for evil anymore, I remain suspicious of Evangelical Christianity. Too many skirmishes in my youth occurred to convince me that they are interested in my welfare or, more pointedly, the welfare of my faith. The more President Bush spoke of God and Jesus, to my mind, the worse he got. The God and Jesus who loved him and helped him overcome in his life were, according to commonly held Evangelical belief, the God and Jesus who were going to thrust sinners down to hell and the worst sin was not believing in God in the manner prescribed by Evangelical belief. Bush, when he interacted with President Hinckley, shaking his hand and giving his a Presidential medal, very likely thought that the man in front of him was going to hell.

Of course, I can’t know that. I only know the climate in which I was raised and the way I was treated. Bush might have been that rare Evangelical who is more interested in living their own life as best as they can than attempting to force everyone else to live that life out of misplaced love or spite. I can’t say, but I continue to distrust the lot of them. It is a regret.

Which is why, one morning, when I was getting ready for Church, I was stunned to hear Focus on the Family on KSL Radio. Focus on the Family, as I am sure you all know, is a political action group, much like the moral majority, that attempts to influence lawmakers and laws. Specifically, it is a conservative think tank that focuses on social issues from an Evangelical Christian perspective. The founder of Focus on the Family is Dr. James Dobson, who believes that all Mormons are going to hell. The group his wife heads, the National Prayer of Prayer Task Force, will not allow Mormons to pray or direct prayers at activities sponsored by their events. Focus on the Family itself has sells books that call Mormonism unchristian. They don’t like us. Why are we giving them airtime on our flagship station?

Of course, they are buying the airtime; we aren’t giving it. Also, in some political ways, they are natural allies. Both the LDS Church and Focus on the Family are financial supporters of the World Alliance of Families. Further, both were on the same side of Prop 8. In some ways, the enemy of my enemy, while still my enemy, has similar goals, I guess. Nonetheless, I am troubled by our giving a louder voice to an organization that holds that the eradication of our way of life would be a good thing.

Which leads me to Prop 8 and Scott Eckern. Mr. Eckern was the artistic director at the California Musical Theater in Sacramento and he recently resigned over a $1000 donation he made to get Prop 8 passed. There has been a bit of backlash regarding that donation, including prominent gay writers refusing to allow their plays to be shown at his organization. When I first learned of the outrage regarding Mr. Eckern’s donation, I thought it was an overreaction. Mormons are, ultimately, harmless and guileless. Spend any time with a good number of them and you will realize it. But, then I began to think about the religious circumstances of my upbringing.

My deep suspicion of Evangelicals comes from a deep conviction, rightly or wrongly acquired, that they would rather I not exist. Or, if I must exist, that I would quietly convert to their viewpoint and get with the program. For gay folk, despite our assurances to the contrary, does it not appear to be the same? How do you separate the sinner and the sin, when the sinner uses the sin to define themselves? We don’t want you to disappear; we want you to give up the one thing in your life that you had to embrace in order to feel like a real person. I can see why that would be a source of anger.

It may well be that the Baptists of my youth had only my best interests at heart, but that didn’t lessen my impression of their hostility, nor did it mellow the intensity of my dislike. No-one enjoys being told something unpleasant or unwanted is for their own good. My anger, in my youth, made it hard for me to trust or relate to those I perceived as persecuting (or, at least, condescending to) me. So my friends tended to come from those skeptical of religion in general (probably another reason I am suspicious of the conservative movement). I kept my religion (to the best of my ability), but I kept my anger too.

I wish I knew the answer. I am deeply skeptical of the usefulness of anger. I wish talking to each other would provide understanding and compromise. But some of the positions we have drawn up are not adaptable to compromise at present and there is a world of hurt feeling and suspicion to be overcome. I don’t understand the decisions of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, or the Lord regarding Prop 8, but I still trust them and their decisions. Nonetheless, I can’t say that the anger we are faced with in California and elsewhere is entirely unjustified.

Except…

I’ve had good Baptist friends, who have called me out for my irrational hatred of Baptists. I have a feeling that much of the ill will I encountered (and encounter) from the religious right comes from deep suspicion on both sides. In retrospect, I don’t know that there was any one thing that I can point to that justifies my early anger. I don’t even know why I came to dislike the First Baptist Church in particular (other, closer churches were a more frequent source of pointed questions and religiously motivated public snubbings). I guess that I just have to accept that I am crap as a judge of human character. The shorthands I use to distinguish and discriminate are too limited to provide me a map of the human heart or, at minimum, a good insight into my fellow Christians. I have a lot to repent for.

While I understand the occasional why of anger, I remain suspicious of its use. We too easily justify ourselves and our anger; we too slowly listen to the real grievances of others, especially those we have harmed in apparent justice. If God is our judge, if He is our advocate, if He is our avenger, I suppose His wrath might be just. Mine, I fear, never is.

Comments

  1. MikeInWeHo says:

    John,
    Thanks for this post. It’s just wonderful. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head as to why these protests against the Church are happening right now. It’s difficult to over-state just how existentially threatened BOTH gays and Latter-day Saints feel in 2008, imo.

  2. I don’t think most of these people marching have ANY understanding of Mormons or Mormonism. I have yet, in my wards, to see the teeth-gnashing hatred and bigotry that we are everywhere accused of having. I don’t doubt that it exists somewhere, but it’s awfully incorrect in its reductionist simplicity.

  3. Stop it. I’m blushing.

  4. Ben,
    To be fair to the Baptists of my youth, I never saw them burn Joseph Smith in effigy. The point of the post is to wonder if they may not have hated Mormons after all.

  5. Rather, *the accusation* is awfully incorrect in its reductionist simplicity.

  6. This is a wonderful way to discuss this topic, John. I really appreciate the reminder that we often are to others what others are to us. If we can’t control our own feelings or actions toward those with whom we disagree, we have no standing to condemn them for not being able to control their feelings or actions toward us. We also can’t put the burden of understanding and love on them; we need to pick up that burden ourselves and model it to the best of our ability.

  7. I don’t want to make this a political soapbox, but I too am perplexed sometimes when the church attempts to make allies with evangelical groups.

    I have asked for a *long* time (much longer than when prop 8 or even prop 22 was around)…Who comes next? If we legislate morality with the help of not-so-friendly friends, what happens when our shaky alliance divorces, and the others find that the tenets of Mormonism are immoral and should be stopped?

    It’s why I believe most strongly in individual freedom, in rights and liberties.

    As you say, evangelicals want us to “quietly convert to their viewpoint” and drop what they see as our adopting as sin to define ourselves. They see quite similarly to how ‘orthodox’ members of the church would see the homosexuality issue — and both positions, I think, are unreasonable. Give up the one thing you have embraced to legitimize yourself? That’s what the evangelicals are asking us too because we have taken the church as the one thing in our life to embrace to make us feel like true children of our Heavenly Father.

    If we can recognize how misguided the evangelical pronouncement on us is, then why do we not see the similarities with the Church and gay people? Oh, I can answer that: because we believe the Church is guided properly and that the Evangelicals misunderstand…yet they would say the same thing about us!

  8. Any justification and defense ofr the treatment of Scott Eckern by gays is beneath contempt in my view. Your anger (judgmental and self-righteous attitude) against the 1st Baptists isn’t a reason to be sympathetic with gays who are truly engaging in conduct that they accuse Mormons of engaging in. In fact, if the tables had been turned, and a proponent of No on 8 had been canned, there would have been a civil rights suit so fast, with the ACLU in lead, that your head would spin. The treatment of Eckern is simple bigotry at its worst with a liberal spin so it’s OK.

  9. During my conversion to the Church, I got to know many people from many religions, including a good number of southern Baptists. This was in the Miami area, which is different than Jacksonville but nonetheless influenced by the same strain of Baptist culture. All of the Baptists and other Christians I knew, and we’re probably talking about two or three dozen people, were unflinchingly supportive of my joining the LDS church. They saw it as a highly positive thing, something that would bring me closer to Christ. There was no talk of me joining a cult or attempts to “save” me from my bad decision.

    On the other hand, several of my secular liberal friends called me during my conversion to warn me from joining a “right-wing, racist, homophobic” church. We had very lengthy arguments, with a lot of insults thrown my way for being anti-intellectual and anti-science and my joining a cult.

    Ironic, isn’t it?

    Now, I am not unaware of the many horrible things evangelicals have done over the years to the Saints, going all the way back to Joseph Smith and upstate New York. Mike Huckabee’s not-so-subtle use of religious prejudice against Mitt Romney was despicable. I know literally dozens of Mormons from the south who have suffered, and I mean really suffered, from evangelicals who have vilified them horribly.

    But for those of you who want to lump all of the religious right into one category and see them as a group of lynch-mob rednecks didn’t know the loving, supportive evangelicals I knew during my conversion process. So, as John C says, set aside the anger and realize that God sees them very differently than you do — as individual versions of Him with incredible potential to do good.

  10. Nope,
    Be fair to gays. Not all of them have treated Bro. Ekern deplorably.

  11. Jennifer in GA says:

    This post is bringing up so many emotions for me. I grew up in Jacksonville too, and have “fond” memories of friends who members at First Baptist…and Trinity Baptist…and Murray Hill Baptist, etc telling me repeatedly how concerned for me they were because I was a member of a cult, nor had I been saved. Luckily these people really were my friends, and I know their actions were coming from a pure place.

    However, it’s harder for me to look with charity upon those people who told me I couldn’t join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes because I wasn’t Christian, or that teacher who told my brother he was going to hell because of that cult he belonged to, or even upon that nice boy who asked me to come with him to a “party” for his youth group at his church, only to find out that it was a class about the dangers of Heavy Metal, worshipping Satan and oh yeah, being a Mormon.

  12. Be fair to gays. Not all of them have treated Bro. Ekern deplorably.

    Probably true, but which ones stood up for him? Seriously?

  13. Ben, 48% of the Californians who participated voted against Prop 8. I don’t see anywhere near that many people involved in near-riot rallies and vandalism. Neither extreme on either side represents anywhere near the majority of those on each side – which is very easy to forget in the heat of the moment.

    Also, fwiw, I have read some statements by individual Mormons that were absolutely atrocious and vicious. It really has cut both ways; both sides have things of which they should be ashamed; both sides, however, have even more things of which they should not be ashamed. Most people on each side have handled everything quite well. We need to remember that.

    Any claim otherwise “is awfully incorrect in its reductionist simplicity.” John’s post echoes my own feelings – that it is the reviling that needs to be recognized, examined, repudiated and outgrown on both sides.

  14. Ben, you know well that the worst in human behavior is typically what makes the press. I don’t know specifics in the Ekern case, but I know of other situations where gays that have been opposed to the church’s involvement have srongly advocated civility and decency towards Mormons.

  15. I meant to add “and occupational discrimination” in the second sentence. Helps make it actually relevant to the comment I was addressing. Sorry.

  16. This is a great post. I am a fan.

  17. re: 12
    This one would. And I am actively doing just that in the case of El Coyote Restaurant here in L.A. I happen to be very fond of the owner’s LDS daughter who is also the manager. She stepped into a minefield by donating $100 to support Prop 8, and I feel just terrible for her. It’s a mess. Several of us are defending her, actually.

    Inspired idea: L.A.-area Bloggersnacker at El Coyote restaurant!!!

  18. I’m glad to hear that Mike. You’re a tribute to your, um, gender preference :)

  19. #12
    “Probably true, but which ones stood up for him? Seriously?”

    Ben,

    I had lunch with a Lesbian woman today that was very angry over the reasons of his resignation and stood up for him among her colleagues.

  20. This is one of the rare blog entries that made me cry because it’s so true. Granted, I’m a ball baby, but still. John C. is my new favorite person.

  21. This post rocks my socks. Thank you, John.

    I’ve been disturbed by anger on both sides of many issues over the years. In the last few years, recognizing that anger and its ill effects on things like rational discourse and the delicate feelings of others has led me to change the way I speak about other groups, especially anyone different from me.

  22. While I understand the occasional why of anger, I remain suspicious of its use. We too easily justify ourselves and our anger; we too slowly listen to the real grievances of others, especially those we have harmed in apparent justice. If God is our judge, if He is our advocate, if He is our avenger, I suppose His wrath might be just. Mine, I fear, never is.

    Beautiful.

    Posts like this help me appreciate talks like Elder Hales’ all the more. This is a time where we as members of the Church really have to come to understand and live as Christians. The kind of behavior he describes in his talk is beyond what I think many of us have done to this point. I know I have felt that for myself, at least. I have a long way to go.

    I struggle, though, with what to do when the impasses you hint at hit (where we can’t compromise doctrinally may continue to impact people’s lives right at the core). It is difficult to be in a position where it appears that neither side can/will bend.

    To me, ultimately, one of the best ways we can show love to each other is to respect one another’s agency. In my mind, that is one key way God shows His love to us.

  23. Conservative Mormons don’t believe that gay relationships are in any way comparable to heterosexual relationships. No wonder these folks are puzzled when the 18,000 couples whose marriage certificates they just shredded react strongly. Why are gay people upset? What’s the big deal? After all, nothing of value was lost.

    Eckern may have shared this view; his public statement admitted surprise over the reaction.

    I am doing my best to relax and have a long-term perspective on this disagreement. I’m still in shock that the Church chose this particular issue on which to build its brand.

    I hope things calm down and that thoughtful, respectful discussion on all sides will prevail. I’m working on quelling my own sense of rage over Prop 8, but I have to tell you frankly that it’s hard.

  24. The anti-Prop 8, pro gay marriage groups ran ads charging this whole idea that public schools will teach gay marriage is just a “lie.”

    The same groups now charging it’s a lie (public schools will teach about gay marriage whether parents like it or not) — were just in court in Massachusetts filing amicus briefs arguing parents don’t have any right to opt their children out of the pro-gay marriage curriculum.

    From the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Amicus Curiae Brief:
    “In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where the right of same-sex couples to marry is protected under the state constitution, it is particularly important to teach children about families with gay parents.” [p 5]

    From the Human Rights Campaign Amicus Curiae Brief:
    “There is no constitutional principle grounded in either the First Amendment’s free exercise clause or the right to direct the upbringing of one’s children, which requires defendants to either remove the books now in issue – or to treat them as suspect by imposing an opt-out system.” [pp1-2]

    From the ACLU Amicus Curiae Brief:
    “Specifically, the parents in this case do not have a constitutional right to override the professional pedagogical judgment of the school with respect to the inclusion within the curriculum of the age-appropriate children’s book…King and King.” [p 9]

    Which side is really telling the truth here about its aims? Should we feel anger at the “No on 8″ sides duplicity? They want to inculcate sin with our children, but won’t admit it. They want to trample on parental rights, but won’t admit it.

  25. Bot, they merely wish to acknowledge that families with same-sex parents exist. Why is that so terrifying to you? Surely the whole “Vote Yes on Prop. 8″ thing has already clued your (presumed) kids to this premise. DO you really want a child taught in school that the people who are raising her, and which she has no say in, are bad people, deserving of opprobrium all around? I don’t think so. Or, at least, I hope not.

  26. djinn,

    I can’t speak for Bot’s (or your) experience, but in my school curriculum homosexuality wasn’t mentioned in either a good or bad way. It wasn’t mentioned at all. Sex itself was described in its biological realities, but, again, it wasn’t described as good or bad. I don’t have a huge problem with that, but I also believe that parents ought to be the primary source for sex info.

  27. Rameumptom says:

    Djinn #25, I think that is a straw man. No one is asking that negative things be said about other relationships in school. Kids grow up in broken homes today. Kids grow up with a parent or family member in jail. There’s no way to avoid some negative connotations in life.
    We cannot smooth over tragic events in children’s lives, just so they don’t feel bad. If I smooth over the fact that Dad is in jail for murder, how does the child learn good from evil? Sometimes you have to explain things in other ways, and allow the hurt to occur.

    Where do we get to the point where no type of relationship is bad? If Dad and Mom are swingers, dating around with other people, should that be praised in our schools, as well? After all, should we try at all costs to avoid making the child feel “out of place”?

    There are times when you just have to stand up for what is right. You don’t have to condemn other forms of relationships, but you can have a standard that you share with the kids, and tell them that this is the best thing for them to aspire to in their own adult lives.

  28. Doug Hudson says:

    Djinn, the answer to your question is, “yes”. Remember, we are talking about people who literally do not want homosexuals to exist! Oh, they won’t go so far as to say gays should be exterminated or quarantined (except, of course, for Orson Scott Card), but they certainly don’t want anyone even hinting that homosexuality is acceptable.

    The Mormon Church has always been hostile towards gays, but in the past, they generally didn’t interfere with non-Mormon gays. Now, however, the Church has struck a blow at all gays, and the gays are reacting to that. Why shouldn’t they be angry?

  29. Having served in Arkansas on my mission I can understand your feelings. I liked your point. I’ve found that if I get to know anyone on a personal level no matter what categories I had collapsed them into before, I find much to admire, much to enjoy, and a friendship possible. We need more of that sort of thing in the mess that prop 8 has created.

    I disagree with this though, “I also believe that parents ought to be the primary source for sex info” I’ve found parents a most unreliable source for that. I agree they should be the primary source for teaching ethics and morality of sex, but let the schools teach sex education with parental involvement the whole way.

  30. Doug,

    As a Mormon, I am perfectly happy with gays existing. Whether or not your are gay, I’m glad to have you on earth and I hope you are happy. You have clearly missed the point of the post.

    SteveP,
    So long as parents are involved, I’m happy.

  31. It’s also worth pointing out that Mormons or Yes-On-8-ers don’t exactly have an unblemished record here either.

    ProtectMarriage.com sent a letter to businesses and individuals which had donated to the No-On-8 campaign, asking them to rectify their moral lapse by making “a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com which will help us correct this error.” If they didn’t, the letter warned, “it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage,” with the further assurance that “The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published.” The letter was signed by (among others) Mark Jannson, a high profile LDS Yes-On-8 activist.

  32. Well, you have to protect yourself, John. You have every right to be angry at those people.

  33. Ben, have you ever attended a meeting of your local Affirmation chapter? Growing up gay and Mormon is a horrible experience. Just because people are smiling that does not mean that they are treating their neighbors and children with kindness.

    Get in touch with someone from Affirmation. You will discover a new world.

  34. D. Fletcher says:

    I’m not angry, but I sure am sad at the situation. I knew Scott Eckern at BYU, and he came to my apartment here in NYC two years ago for one of my big cabaret parties. I’m sure he was just following the counsel of his Priesthood leadership when he contributed to Prop 8, but knowing the business he’s in, he should have known there might be some personal consequences.

    P.S. I’ve never been comfortable at an Affirmation meeting. I attended 3 of them, and found myself the only active member of the Church. The people were not unfriendly, but they did seem to want to convince me of my error in staying active.

  35. Come on, Bot! You can’t inculcate sexual orientation. That’s impossible.

    Even President Hinckley has admitted as much when he put an end to advising gays to marry straight women. Sexual orientation is not subject to manipulation.

  36. Hellmut, you make unfounded assumptions. I just had dinner with one of my gay LDS cousins on Sunday. I know his story and his struggles.

  37. Researcher says:

    In regards to 34, I hope you don’t mind a personal note, D Fletcher (from another ward organist, although much less skilled!). Your comments have reminded me time and time again of Peter’s words in John 6.

    It was very much a struggle for me to return to church after a necessary absence of most of a year due to a child’s health issues. During this time I acutely felt the almost total lack of social and spiritual and practical support from the ward. I remember the great feelings of dread and anger and resentment that accompanied my first week back at church. (Of course I remember it; it was just a few months ago!)

    But as I returned, I was surprised by the spirit that washed over me as I walked back into the chapel that first week.

    Even with that, it was weeks before I could join in singing the hymns and I think I’ve lost a few of the cultural trappings of Mormonism. (And I don’t generally sing at all now, being at the organ again!)

    After the experience of having to make that choice, I feel I can relate to Peter a little now: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”

  38. Doug Hudson: “h, they won’t go so far as to say gays should be exterminated or quarantined (except, of course, for Orson Scott Card)”

    This is a defamatory smear. It is false and demeaning. if it isn’t removed from this site, then legal actions would be appropriate. And Doug, shame on you.

    Hellmut: As usual, you’re way off base. I suppose that for some sexual orientation is not learned; but for the vast majority what we find enticing is culturally formed and conditioned. What modern Americans see as sexy and enticing is very different from what Medieval English found sexy and enticing and vastly different from what Polynesian cultures find sexy. Homosexual inclinations for many can be formed thru early sexual experiences.

  39. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 28
    I agree with your first paragraph completely, Doug. That is exactly how the gay community has come to perceive the Church. Keep in mind that there’s a long track record of LDS anti-homosexual activity that will not be forgotten despite a few make-nice press releases. It would really be a bummer if Mormonism became associated with opposition to gays the way Scientology is obsessed with opposing psychiatry.

    D., really sorry you can’t find a place where you really fit in. Have you checked out North Star?

  40. Steve Evans says:

    Nope, you need to take a break. You’ve gotten increasingly strident as of late, and are beginning to cross the line between conversation participant and bossy troll. Consider this a warning.

    Hint: making demands is not a good starting point.

  41. I know this isn’t following the thread of discussion, but the OP reminded me of what seems to me to be another manufactured campaign of hate against a group based on their religious practices. There is a small Mennonite college that, because of their anti-war beliefs, does not play the national anthem before sporting events. They have looked at the words and concluded that it glorifies war. This is not a recent practice; Goshen College is over one hundred years old and has never played the national anthem.

    Word of this practice made it to a conservative talk radio host, Mike Gallagher. Mr Gallagher has taken it upon himself to launch a crusade against this Mennonite college to pressure them to, in essence, renounce their pacifist beliefs and play the national anthem. To my Mormon mind, it seems akin to pressuring the Anti-Nephi-Lehis to dig up their weapons of war to defend themselves, in spite of their oath.

    Many Mormons seem to revel in the idea of being persecuted for our faith, but what are we coming to if Mennonites are criticized for their beliefs? I can’t imagine a more harmless group.

    Back to the SSM thread…

  42. Ditto to the Mennonites. They are the salt of the earth and several sects of Mennonites are one of the closest groups culturally to Mormons that we’ve ever met. If you know anything about their history, they are one of the only religions I know that can adopt “Come, Come Ye Saints” and have every word of it apply to themselves historically and religiously. And if a church doesn’t have the right to preach pacifism, what religious or civil liberties can any citizen of the United States claim to hold? When they participate in anti-Mormon language or teaching, we just ignore it and move forward interacting with the members of the various churches. Our ward recently participated in a humanitarian mission with one of their congregations. Seems like a much better strategy than attacking.

    Now, like CS Eric said, back to SSM…

  43. President Bush isn’t a Baptist; he’s a Methodist. A Methodist is a Baptist that can read.

  44. I knew Scott Eckern at BYU, and he came to my apartment here in NYC two years ago for one of my big cabaret parties.

    That’s some seriously gay-friendly (Castro) street cred that I hope he’s bringing up to counter this persecution business.

  45. D. Fletcher says:

    gst, huh?

  46. All I’m sayin’, D., is that if I were being tied to railroad tracks for giving money to pass Prop 8, I’d be hollering, “Wait! I love gays! I once went to a big cabaret party at D.’s house in New York!”

  47. StillConfused says:

    I find that I often have issues with religious leaders or religious groups but not with individual people.

  48. I wonder if boycotting someone based on how they voted bigotry? If someone boycotts Nike because they pay sub-minimum wage in Vietnam are we bothered? What if Nike has a good reason and the company doesn’t feel like they are hurting anyone since they are providing jobs?

    Throwing bricks through glass or other destruction of property is unacceptable, but peaceable protest through boycott seems quite reasonable regardless of your political opinion on the subject itself.

  49. Hellmut,

    I don’t doubt that my anger was justified; I am just not sure that even justified anger is productive.

    Nope,

    We are not the blog you’re looking for. Move along.

    Mike,

    I know that many people in the Gay community view us that way. It troubles me.

    D.,

    If nothing else, I like you (based on my internet interactions with you). I say that even though I like movies produced after 1973 :)

    Lee,

    I agree that boycotting (or threatening boycotts) is a relatively benign manner of protest. Much more benign than, say, mailing envelopes full of mysterious white powder.

  50. *is bigotry

  51. Now apparently temples are getting letters with suspicious powder inside. We have had it so easy as Latter-day Saints for so long. Now we may be forced to choose which side we are on with no middle ground as an option. Certainly Satan couldn’t have chosen a better way tear us apart than by pitting one family member against another.

  52. re: 51
    I certainly hope the government throws its counter-terrorism services at whoever sent the powder to the temples.

    D. Fletcher, if you have big cabaret parties in NYC please invite me sometime. We’re in the city a few times a year. I’d make a point of trying to get there.

  53. Steve Evans says:

    #52, agreed. Also yeah those parties are AMAZING.

  54. I may be at fault for the powder at the temple. I once asked my neighbor for a cup of flour, but she didn’t have any at the time. What I suspect is that she since bought some flour and tried to deliver it to me, but I wasn’t home. Knowing that I’m LDS, she thought that it might get to me if she posted it to my temple.

    As for writing “die, bastard” on the envelope, that’s just the kind of relationship I have with my neighbors.

  55. D. Fletcher says:

    My parties are great, but please don’t think that associating with me or with the other fabulous people in the world in any way justifies giving money to help remove some civil rights of those people.

    The only justification that I can understand for someone like Scott Eckern is that he was doing what his Priesthood leaders requested — he was supporting the Church and the Prophet and modern-day revelation.

    No one should point fingers at him; no one should have called him homophobic, and no one should insist that he resign for his political leanings, if they are indeed his.

    I hate this fight, on both sides. I think the Church has drawn a line in the sand, which created the fight.

    And I’m very sad to say, I can’t fight for either side. I’m LDS, but I want my gay friends to marry each other. I want happiness for everyone. I want the missionaries to have success in the world, spreading the Gospel. And I want to go to Church and be loved and wanted, regardless of the gender of the person I might love and want.

    Basically, I want it all, and not in another Church, but this one.

    I know, big dream.

  56. Steve Evans says:

    D., you know, I think you’re pretty great. Sometimes I think I would name my kids after you, if that wouldn’t make them sound like the Spice Girls.

  57. D. Fletcher says:

    Oh, Steve, you’re making me cry again.

    :) kiss

  58. Steve Evans says:

    Hey, want to come out to Seattle and play at the next baby blessing? We have a new piano just for you.

  59. D. Fletcher says:

    When will that be?

  60. Steve Evans says:

    March? April?

  61. D. Fletcher says:

    Well, it’s totally possible. I don’t have much… going on.

  62. Steve Evans says:

    I’ll email.

  63. How you describe the Baptist in Florida is pretty much how they feel about mormons here in Idaho as do many of the people in SLC.

    In Idaho Falls they sent in hateful letters to the editor about the mormons on the city council for not allowing alcohol to be sold on new year eve when it landed on Sunday even though all of the mormons on the council voted to allow it. Any group that has more power than yours will be disliked and we have our small hub of power.

  64. “Certainly Satan couldn’t have chosen a better way tear us apart than by pitting one family member against another.”

    My family has been torn apart by the Prop 8 campaign. Are you suggesting that Satan was behind Prop 8?

  65. MikeInWeHo says:

    I’m definitely going to one of D.’s parties someday, invited or not! Your fifth paragraph in comment #55 is very moving, btw.

  66. I am certain that Satan uses what ever he can to shake our testimonies. No, I do not believe that Satan is behind the church’s support of Prop 8. I am one of those conflicted ones who always thought that she would be willing to leave everything and follow the Prophet any where if it was required. I just never expected to have to hurt another human being in order to be faithful.

  67. no longer lds, but still in idaho says:

    Hey ldsinidaho, I edit letters to the editor for one of the papers in Eastern Idaho and I remember some letters regarding selling alcohol on Sundays. But I don’t remember any letters specifically referencing Mormons. Of course, I don’t know which paper you’re talking about specifically, so maybe you saw different letters than I did.

    John C., I just wanted to say that I think your post was incredibly well thought out and articulated. I think forums like this help bridge the gaps you outline in your post. I also struggle with my own suspicions of certain groups. And in general (though admittedly not always), I think my suspicions are usually directed at institutions rather than people. I think if we could pull all of the institutional power plays out of the game, then we’d make a lot more progress toward understanding and compromise.

  68. Well done sir.

  69. #66, Nora,

    Likewise. I am totally surprised that the church authorities left no room for people with special needs (family, employment, etc.) to oppose prop 8. That lack of leeway left plenty of room for the loyalists to despise and distrust the opposition.

    There is plenty of bigotry and hatred within the church vis a vis the gays. Hating the sin easily and generally leaks over onto the sinner. Mercy.

    I think that the LDS church as a whole is not a particularly loving institution. It is not inclusive. Regardless of what the leadership says, culturally the church is willing (in general) to dump people for ideology. Prop 8 is a perfect example, as was (and maybe still is in many places) membership in the Democratic party. Doctrinal “purity” also rises to the threshold of non-loving intolerance.

  70. With some of the previous comments about internal family disharmony about the prop 8 issue, I am reminded of Matthew 10:34-36:

    34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
    35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
    36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

    While I’m sure it’s not the Lord’s desire to break families apart, I think the passage indicates the inevitable consequences of completely submitting oneself to obeying the gospel vis-à-vis Church authority.

  71. BobW,
    While I won’t deny your experiences, I want you to know that my experiences and my impression of the membership of the church regarding this issue is the exact opposite of yours. We generally want to include as many as we are able in love and fellowship. I apologize if your experiences have led you to meet members who do not meet that expectation.

    box,
    yeah. It’s a crying shame, ain’t it.

  72. anon_for_this says:

    John, your mistrust is not misplaced. I currently have an open EEOC harassment complaint against my previous employer. For all the years I was there the company owner called me a cultist to my face and to other people with whom we were doing business. He had other epithets that he used for me even at my interview which I now know were not just humorous. He considered Jerry Falwell one of his closest personal friends and loved George Bush for the things you mention. Interestingly, there was another exec at the company that was a Nazarene. My boss also called him a cultist, but the Nazarene was one of the nicest people I have ever known.

  73. box,

    Yeah, I’ve thought about those passages from Matthew, but here’s my problem: After five months of study and prayer I’ve not received any spiritual confirmation about the rightness or appropriateness of the Church’s backing of Prop 8. Consequently, I have no confidence that it’s of the Lord.

  74. david knowlton says:

    Thanks for this post, John. I can really relate to what you write, from growing up in Texas and attending the U. of Texas for almost ten years. You make important points. While sometimes useful, anger can so cloud the mind and make people unwilling to listen to others as to make communication very difficult.

    In the context you write about, the dialogues taking places between Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals, such as the ones Robert Millet is engaged in or the one that took place a couple of weeks ago at UVU, are an interesting development. I doubt we will ever convince each other that our position is the right one, but it seems important to at least build bases for conversation.

    On the Gay issue, I am intrigued by the dialogue that took place between Steven Clark formerly of the ACLU and the head of the Southerland Institute on the issue of Gay marriage. Neither man agreed, or fundamentally changed the others position, but their conversation led to a friendship and respect, even while they disagree. That is admirable and an important goal in difficult times.

  75. X (Adam Greenwood, his mark) says:

    I just skimmed, but I got that only children of hell oppose the religious right? True, but I’m surprised BCC admits it.

  76. Nice post! I found an awesome article about an LAPD LDS member on this that I shared at my site at: http://www.graceforgrace.com

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