I allowed myself to be drawn into another family’s facebook fight last week. I knew it was a bad idea, but I couldn’t help myself. And anyway it has been so long – I think I just needed to be reminded that you aren’t going to change anyone’s opinion. Not on the topic of homosexuality. And not on facebook.
A little background…
When I was a kid, my Mormon bishop was unequivocal about homosexuality. It was a choice, and it was a bad choice. This was the message I got from everyone in my community. But in the last few years, I have noticed a distinct evolution in the way Mormon’s talk about our LGBT brothers and sisters. Suddenly, there was a different tone. It is still bad, of course. But they seemed to get that it wasn’t a choice. I think the word I have heard most is that it is an “affliction.” As in, “Have you heard? Her son is afflicted with same sex attraction.”
In the beginning I thought that just the fact that they were moving on the issue was good, because it showed progress. But I quickly decided that was wrong. In fact, I’ve decided that the new stance is as or more toxic. They still believe you have a choice. If not a choice in who you love and are attracted to, then you have a choice in what you do about it.
This is best explained by the Josh and Lolly phenomenon. Josh and Lolly Weed are a couple who came out several years ago as “mixed attracted” for lack of a better term. They wrote a long blog post that went viral and gave a lot of people in the church hope that even if their child suffered from this condition that they could still live a “normal” life, centered around a person of the opposite sex, their children and their church. And the Saints rejoiced.
But then, a few months ago, the Weeds wrote another post announcing that they were wrong. It wasn’t working, and they are divorcing.
As a result, in the Utah parlance, people are flipping the freak out.
Last week a woman I know through a writing group posted this blog post written by one such flipper outer titled “Actually, the Mormon Position on Gay Marriage is Stronger Than You Think. I read the title and knew that I was clicking on danger but as I said already… yeah. It was a slow work day. The post has since been removed, but here is the gist: So it didn’t work out for the Weeds. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work! You don’t have to be attracted to a person to love them, you just have to endure the times when you aren’t ‘feeling it’ until you develop that deeper truer Fiddler on the Roof kind of love. Then he cites his experience of enduring his wife’s postpartum depression without filing for divorce as proof that this can be done.
It was stupid and my general response was a big eyeroll and an “Oh yeah… I forgot about the enthusiasm with which these people will turn themselves into cognitive knots out of desperation to not have to admit they were wrong.” Then I started looking through the comments that were being posted and I saw that another person from the writing group, a young and out gay man, returned missionary and current student in good standing at BYU, was trying to have a discussion with the poster’s inlaws, cousins, and other hard believing friends.
“Oh God,” I thought. “Calvin needs some cover fire.”
So I weighed in and said some pro LGBT stuff, basically stating that I know many LGBT folks in life-long partnerships that are as full of love, sacrifice and commitment as any other couple I have ever met. Sometimes I think that the one helpful thing one can do in these circumstances is remind everyone that they are talking about real people. Here is an example of a comment that I got in response.
A homosexual relationship cannot meet the purposes for eternal marriage. Being in love longterm by itself means very little in the scope of eternal purposes for marriage. But in reality, there are relatively few homosexual relationships that are longterm anyway. The media has been very successful in painting a certain picture of homosexual family bliss, but the reality is much much more often promiscuity, damaged people, disease, and misery.
So I said:
I think we worry too much about the afterlife and deciphering God’s plan. I would rather focus my energy on doing the most with this life and caring for my family and loved ones, who are not the promiscuous damaged and diseased people you may think they are. But even if they were, I believe that the Jesus Christ I have read about would pull them in closer and not shun them, IMHO.
That same God loving lady responded with:
It is one of the most successful tools of the adversary, to convince people that disapproval of a sin is equal to hating the sinner. It has become a most powerful lie.
Oh my mistake. I thought you just wrote off an entire community as diseased and damaged people, which sounds a lot like hating the sinner to me, but whatever. I don’t know how we got to this place where it is far worse to call someone bigoted than to be bigoted, but that seems to be the way of it.
I lost an entire day on this thread. I stopped commenting, but I kept reading. Calvin was fighting a good fight, but he was getting ganged up on and no one wanted to hear what he had to say. I was proud of him, but was hurting me to watch. Finally, around midnight, I couldn’t take it anymore. I fired this off in the comments (please forgive the run on sentences – it was late and I was feeling feisty):
Calvin, I should PM you… but I’m going to just say this publicly because as we say in Utah County “what the heck.” If the article’s data is correct and 40% of millennial Mormons are struggling with their faith over social issues, then the church is in a crisis. As has been stated in this thread many times over, there is a clear choice. Accept all on faith and stay, or find that is not possible and leave (where I find myself). You have somehow made another choice. The bravest choice. You have your testimony of The Heavenly Father and you have what you know to your bones to be true about yourself… in your own heart. Clearly, the dissonance is painful for you, and yet you stay and fight for an answer. It seems to me that those of us who want the church to survive in the future might look to you and your choice and say “how do we resolve this together?” Not to lecture or to call you wicked or to say your choices are to remain celibate and die alone, without knowing love or affection, OR to leave… Here is the thing. I have what I want. I have a Supreme Court decision ruling on my side. The fact that the future of the church weighs in the balance of the next generation, and it seems they are split… a person who has been fighting this fight since the 90s might see that as icing on the cake, and there may be days where I do. But you aren’t me. You have taken the braver path. You are staying to fight the brave fight. There will be many people who will tell you to sit down and listen. Those people want to validate their own decisions. What they don’t understand is that they are validating my decision, with every young person they call wicked and push away. On my basest most broken level I want that. I want the church to fail for everyone the way it failed for me. I want my decisions to be validated. But I have – even now – an elevated level, where I see that this church has the power to help people find meaning in this world. And that part of me wants to tell you to never be discouraged. Keep seeking. Keep asking questions. Keep challenging the accepted views. Sooner or later, for the sake of the future, they will sit down and listen.
If not, the Unitarians are lovely and they don’t care if you wear jeans to church. Just sayin’.
Calvin and I ended up taking the conversation over to private message and had a long chat about all of this. It was really good to decompress and to ease some of the frustration by preaching to the choir instead of to the gargoyles. The next time I saw him I gave him a big hug and I felt like I had adopted a new nephew. I know I didn’t budge any minds on that thread; we all left as self-certain as we began. If I managed to give Calvin a little encouragement, then maybe it wasn’t a lost day after all.
Did I mean it? Do I hope he stays and fights this fight? Not really. It was killing me just watching him stand up to some strangers on facebook. The actual church? I can’t even imagine. If I could make his decisions for him, I would get him out of that church and introduce him to some truly compassionate people. But that’s the whole point. I don’t want anyone making decisions for each other. I want us all to have the space and empowerment to find our own paths, wherever they may lead.