You all know me and know that I did not favor Proposition 8. I was sorely disappointed when it passed, although my sense of disappointment was tempered by an Obama win–very exciting, particularly here in Chicago! And the fact that it took awhile for the result on 8 to be called gave me an opportunity to get used to the idea of it passing. Also, I thought of Derrick Rose, the NBA no. 1 draft pick of the Chicago Bulls. He has won at every level, but now he is going to have to get used to losing much more than he has experienced in his life. But, as the veterans have taught him, in the NBA the next game comes so quickly that there’s no time to obsess over the losses; you’ve got to keep focused on the next contest. I don’t doubt that this is just one step along the way in a process, and eventually when the culture catches up there will be gay marriage, in California at least.
So anyway, I have tried to look at the bright side of this, and there actually are some aspects of the whole Prop 8 fight that fill me with a certain amount of (perverse?) pride. So I thought I would try to articulate some of the ways that I take pride in my Church, even though I disagreed with its position and wished it hadn’t gone to the mattresses over this issue:
1. I have always felt a sense of pride in the good relations the Church’s highest leaders try to foster with other religious leaders, particularly in Utah. I love it when the Church makes its facilities available to Jewish congregations over the high holidays. I really enjoyed reading about how when Lubavitch Chabad sent a rabbi to SLC to work with the Jewish community there, GBH told him he believed deeply in what he stood for, and told him that if he ever encountered problems in living his religion in SLC to call him. So he wanted to put up a big menorah in the mall over the holdays, and the mall people said “No way!” One call to GBH later, poof! the menorah went up in the mall. I love that the Church reached out to American Muslims in the wake of 9/11 (because Mormons know what it’s like for the public not to appreciate the differences between the mainstream and the fundamentalists). And I loved the close relationship the Church president has had with the Catholic bishop of Utah, working together on issues of common interest.
This latter relationship was the conduit for the Mormon involvement in the Prop 8 coalition, as Bishop Neiderauer had moved from SLC to San Francisco and invited the Mormon Church to participate. It was that strong relationship that greased the skids for the Church’s heavy involvement.
While it didn’t work to my personal taste in this particular instance, I still am glad that the Church maintains strong relationships with other religious leaders.
2. You’ve got to stand back and admire the organizational efficiency of the Mormon effort. I of course prefer pondering this when I agree with the cause, such as disaster relief. When the Church marshalls volunteers from a several state area and sends them to the delta for hurricane relief; when they come for three-day weekends and camp on the church lawn; when they are told they must be completely self-sufficient and no one has to explain what that means; when they have huge warehouses of supplies already in place; when they show incredible large scale planning and small scale execution as work orders are filled: I could read about those experiences all night. That capacity for organization, planning, and efficient and effective allocation of resources is really impressive. From trekking to the western wilderness and making the desert blossom as a rose, Mormons have a greater capacity for this sort of thing than almost anyone else.
It’s kind of jarring to see these same skills used in the political arena. But I have to admit a certain grudging sense of pride for how effective the Church was. I honestly didn’t think the Prop was going to pass, and it clearly wouldn’t have but for the Church’s involvement in the coalition.
(This organizational success came at a cost–the heavy pressures put on California locals to jump in and participate. I’m glad I live far away from California; Prop 8 wasn’t mentioned once in my church meetings over the past months. Had I lived in Cal., I imagine I would have taken a vacation from Church until after the election, which probably would have been the best thing for both of us under the circumstances.)
3. Like a lot of expat Mormon men, and I hate to admit it, I kind of idolize Mormon athletes. There’s a black woman in our ward who is a member of the Church basically because of Steve Young. Her son plays football, and she was always so impressed by him, and she told her son to be like him long before she knew he was a Mormon. I remember when LaVell Edwards used to talk in almost envious terms about him: handsome, incredible athlete, smart, personable, rich; he had it all going on.
I realize that his wife Barb was the driving force behind the contribution to the No campaign and the house signs for the No position, and that Steve wanted to keep his personal political preferences on the issue private. He may have even voted Yes for all I know. But I deeply admire the way he supported his wife, especially given his status as one of the most famous Mormons on the planet. We Mormons are big on placing family first, and this episode shows that we mean it–even in a situation where the family was placed in a position contra the Church.
I wrote a comment on a blog where this was discussed to the effect that Steve Young is a total stud. And I stand by that comment. I’m proud to claim him–and Barb–as representatives of the best of what it means to be Mormon.