Saturday, November 15, 2008

Let's have a worldwide walk for families - what do you say?

As excited as I am for a Barack Obama presidency, a significant part of me is sad for the political marginalization of the evangelical, Christian right. There's no doubt in my mind that they did it to themselves (I jumped ship as soon as they got too crazy, although I really sympathized with them through the 1990's).

One of the big problems in this world is that we're going around demonizing the wrong thing.

This Book of Mormon scripture, Moroni 7: 12-15 I love, here's the quote:

12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is bevil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.

13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

So, in my view, we are completely missing the boat in acting like Democrats are evil or Republicans are evil (granted much of that talk is hyperbole, but just work with me a little bit).

So, in light of today's worldwide prop 8 protests this strikes me as a classic case of one side calling (or at least implying) a group of generally good people evil. I'm not saying that it doesn't strike both ways on this issue, it does. But this blog is only focused on today's protest and the general backlash to prop 8.

This article makes me particularly sad and a bit angry. While I'm not opposed to peaceful protests, fine. But I only wish there was a little more engagement and dialogue between the two sides. It makes me sad and angry that there isn't. And it makes me even more sad and more angry that people have been singled out and punished for putting their support behind proposition 8. That an opposing point of view on a complex issue is not tolerated.

One of the primary arguments made by the church for prop 8 is that it was really not an anti-gay point of view but a pro-family point of view. Well, why not have a little thoughtful discussion on this to find common ground? Why try to ramrod opposing point of views on each other.

Surely, can't we all agree that we need a society with strong families. Surely, most people would accept the notion that children raised by both biological parents who love them are better off. I realize this is not always possible, and that step-parents can fill in and do a wonderful job when necessary, but isn't it obvious that that is second best, not first.

To hit this point home even better, listen to this excellent podcast from "This American Life" entitled "Switched At Birth". In the show it describes a scenario in which two baby girls are switched in the hospital by accident, only find out what happened well into their adult lives.

The two families involved in the switch are extremely different from each other, and as a result the two girls switched really struggle in a family not truly their own. When they do find out, its interesting to see how the dynamics change. I can't summarize it well, and this issue is complicated, so you really have to listen to it for yourself.

But at a deep level, I just get the sense that my kids, my wife's kids are ours, and we are theirs. Their DNA runs through us, and ours through them. They look like us, they act like us, and we them. Assuming we are capable, loving, and caring parents we are, by far, the most qualified to raise our own kids.

But obviously, we live in a messy world, and it's getting messier all the time. Its harder and harder for families to stay in tact. And its because the traditional heterosexual family is in such bad shape that other types of family situations have a stronger place in our society. In fact, we need other family situations to step in where parents have completely dropped the ball. We need good and effective step-parents to step in an fill a role where one parent left his (or less commonly hers), we need grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, to step in and help a single mother raise a child, and yes, we need more people adopting children, providing stability and nurturing. There are too many kids in foster care.

But ideally, we also need more heterosexual couples to come together in a bond of matrimony, love, and commitment. And when they commit to sex with each other, when they commit to an act that can bring life into this world, they also commit (as they do) to raise, nurture and love those same children and each other until the bitter end, no matter what the trial or struggle.

I believe the reason the Mormon church has come out so strongly in favor of proposition 8 is because of the notion that the way children are brought into this world matters. In fact the act of creating life is central to our religion. Families matter. Children matter. Parents matter. To them, to me, this is not an anti-gay belief, its a pro-family belief.

Isn't there room for common ground in this framework of belief? I'm open to discuss legal policy that will work for you and for me, are you?


Hoopswim said...

These protests have become large and for the most part distasteful. I have spent a large portion of my time this past week researching and discussing every angle of this Proposition 8 debate and perhaps we can have a chat about it some time.

H said...

There is no way around the fact that Prop 8 is anti-gay marriage. I suppose that you can argue that it is not anti-gay (in general)because you are not telling people how to live their lives. But by defining marriage as between one man and one woman you are telling homosexuals that there is no legal way for them to declare their feelings and committ to their partner under the official laws of the land.

How would you feel if a law was passed stating that any marriage that was performed inside our temple was not binding in AZ? You are flat out told that the majority of citizens in the state do not believe that your love for your wife is not real. Doesn't make sense, does it? Your love and committment to each other should be defined by the two of you, not the majority of voters that show up at the polls, or the number of anti-Mormons out there.

There are so many screwed up families out there that I believe probably any homosexual couple that finally was able to adopt and raise a child would, in fact, be more responsible, loving, and attentive to that child than most of the complete idiots that simply know how to concieve a child (or don't know how to not concieve a child).

tempe turley said...


I agree, Prop 8 is anti-gay marriage and I agree its not (at least meant to be) anti-gay.

But I hope you agree that what's happening right now in our country is an attempt to redefine marriage from a definition that has existed for hundreds of years. Certainly, if we are going to be in the business of a redefinition, shouldn't we be engaged in very deep, thoughtful discussions about what the consequences of such a redefinition might be?

The biggest problem I have with this debate is that it gets so darned emotionally charged. And I hate the comparisons between homosexual marriage and interracial marriage (I realize you're not making them, but many, many people are). There are no comparisons. Skin color is arbitrary. Gender is not. Shouldn't that go without saying.

I am going to write a whole other post on this, but here are a few question that should be considered in this context:

1) What is marriage anyway?
2) How should marriage differ from other types of relationships?
3) How much should government care about whether two arbitrary people have sex with each other?
4) Should the fact that two people have sex matter in how we define marriage?
5) Should the fact that two people can create babies matter?
6) What about other types of relationships? Say close relatives? Polygamist relationships?
7) Should government even be in the marriage business anyway?
8) How should civil unions be constructed and for who? Should government even be involved in that?
9) How much does a marriage matter in terms of defining families? Do all families really need to be headed by some coupling of two or more people that are given the marriage label?
10) Is marriage really a civil right constitutionally protected? If so, for who?

You might think some of these questions are not related, or are red herrings, but I think these are discussions worth having, questions worth asking.

In every discussion about homosexual marriage I've been involved with there are far too many questions left begged.

And most disturbingly, the two sides place these emotionally charged labels on opposing points of view (hateful, family breakers, sinners, discriminators), there is very little room for engagement.

And that is a much worse problem.

H said...

It was pointed out to me that the government really never should have gotten involved in marriage to begin with. This is so true! In a true society where there is seperation of church and state, like Mexico, you have to be married civilly before you are married by any religious leader. Interesting. Wouldn't this solve all of our problems? Everyone gets a civil union that is recognized by the laws of the land, then define your "marriage" by your own, personal beliefs and religious convictions.

I believe the argument surrounding the comparison of same-sex marriage and interracial marriage does have some merit to it. You may not have meant to use the word arbitrary in this way, but by Merrian-Webster's definition it says that arbitrary is " based on or determined by individual preference or convenience rather than by necessity or the intrinsic nature of something." Clearly skin color is not arbitrary, it is hereditary and based on your genes. Is gender arbitrary? I think some people believe that it is, and for some people it may be. Do I believe that God created male and female? Of course. Do I think that somewhere along the line some of it got muddled up? You bet I do. Probably in the water somewhere, or in the hormones that we feed the cattle that we eat, or in all the shots that we give our kids at birth that shock their poor little brains. The comparison of the 2 types of marriage is irrelevant from a certain point of view and I understand that point. The bigger question I have, that I don't think any one person, or even group of people can explain is what determines your gender and your attraction to another human being? Where do those feelings come from? There are so many things that I can't explain about homosexuality because I don't know about those feelings from a personal experience.

Obviously, I have a hard time placing my personal beliefs in marriage on the rest of society. I feel like until I walk in someone else's shoes I shouldn't try to exclude them from something I feel so strongly about. Marriage is important to me, isn't it to gay people too?! This is the emotional charged issue, and it is charged on both sides. Civil unions across the board would definitely made things a lot easier. Do you think the religious right would agree to such a compromise? Not that same-sex couples can have a civil union, but that EVERYONE has to have civil union, before their religious leaders can marry them. Does that make sense?

tempe turley said...


We're probably going to have to agree to disagree, but I just think that the difference between a man and a woman is a much, much bigger difference than between a Hispanic man and a Asian man, an black man and a white man.

I believe skin color differences are arbitrary within the context of a marriage discussion. That was my point.

Gender differences are not, in fact, gender is a vital component to marriage and sexuality.

I really will never understand people who disagree with this.

H said...


OK. I agree to disagree. Thanks for clarifying the point of skin color though, I was sure I had your meaning wrong.

:) H

Jeff said...

Part of the issue involved with this controversy seems to be the idea of nature vs. nurture. I have heard some pro-Prop 8 people discuss gay marriage as a choice, while the people against it view it as something they are born with. How strong are genetics anyway? If someone has a genetic disposition towards being an alcoholic, would that mean that alcoholism is inevitable? These questions are hard for me to answer.
As for the definition of marriage, there are religious, societal, and legal issues involved with marriage. Legal issues often involve power of attorney, benefits, etc. At what point are the differences between marriage and civil unions in name only? Would some religions define true marriage as a wedding in a church, but not a wedding in Vegas officiated by Elvis impersonators?
Again, more questions, but few answers.