Thursday, March 5, 2009

LDS and Prop. 8: Losing sight of the goal?

It has been said that the fanatic is the one who redoubles his efforts while having lost sight of his end.

So reminds us Doug McManaman in his (Catholic oriented) essay On the Importance of Taking Oneself Lightly. He goes on to note:

I have seen a tremendous redoubling of efforts on the part of many Catholic teachers in recent years, engaged as they have been in strategic planning of job action for this, for that, and the other thing, all accompanied by a manifest loss-of-sight of the end of their vocation as Catholic teachers of the baptized.

Humans need a purpose to live, and some religious people deep down do not trust that God has given them sufficient purpose. Even among these, some fear that they will not be around to watch the wicked get their just desserts. Theirs is the sin of self-importance.

The LDS focus opposing same-sex marriage is a fixation on means, not ends. As a practical matter, the most probable end in forcing gays to choose between their immanent orientation and God is to prematurely kill their faith in God, or at least to keep infantilized their moral conscience.

Biblically, the usual course of events is a lone voice crying out from the wilderness, followed by earnest exhortations for the wicked to change their ways, which is always ignored, the righteous withdraw, and God smites those left behind. This leaves a clear moral example for those coming after, that free choice has consequences.

We are in uncharted waters now, where the "righteous" decline to withdraw and let God do the smiting. This forecloses on free choice, and deprives those coming after of any cogent moral message.

Or to use another parable: what if the wheat had decided that instead of waiting for the farmer to separate out the weeds after harvest, they are going to crowd out the weeds from the field themselves, not only usurping the farmer's prerogative to decide the weeds' fate, but forestalling the possibility that a weed may choose before it dies to become a wheatstalk.

I believe it is this second aspect that is ignored among the religious. You cannot save a sinner by preventing him from sinning, you only strengthen his resolve to sin. If same-sex marriage is so far beyond God's plan, will it not prove its fruitlessness in the fullness of time? Does the wheat not have enough to do in producing grain, or must it also weed the garden?

If the real goal is not the voluntary choice of chastity, but chastity itself, then we would be better off neutering those unwilling to marry the opposite sex by some age cutoff. Would this not better serve God's plans for humankind? By eliminating sexual desire, do we not eliminate the sin? Is the elimination of sin itself the real goal? Or has our willingness to be the instrument of God's will metastasized into an insistance on our being that instrument? Do we just need to be needed?

Maybe we should all stop playing God. One day the field will be harvested. If the weeds are not keeping the wheat from producing, maybe we can afford to let both coexist until the final winnowing.

Or is the real problem that you don't want to be the wheat, and would rather be the farmer? If God had just wanted us not to be wicked, he could have just created us all heterosexual.

Do you have the wisdom to play God? Judging by the LDS involvement in Prop. 8, somehow I doubt it. Maybe you should just stick to being wheat and stop uprooting the weeds, before the entire field is barren.

22 comments:

Scott said...

You don't give any attention to the fact that, throughout the Bible (and Book of Mormon, and others, for LDS people), which Christians use as their reference for what God "has done", God has consistently made use of his servants on Earth. Claiming that everyone should just sit back and "let God do the smiting" is wholly inconsistent which much of the scripture the religious people you're critiquing are relying on.

Dan Weston said...

The key distinction is whether LDS are acting in God's behalf, or on God's behalf.

If it is the latter, then by my understanding they are overstepping their mandate.

Where is it written in Scriptures that the measure by which one serves God is the extent to which one compels others to do so?

Dan Weston said...

Scott has just informed me that God did in fact literally tell the Prophet (President Monson) to support Prop. 8, so they were in fact working legitimately on God's behalf.

Consequently, the above post does not apply to LDS after all, only to those Christians out there without the benefit of continuing revelation.

John Evo said...

The Mormon god has a history of "speaking" to his prophets, getting it wrong the first time, and then (many years later) getting it right.

Why do I suspect that around 2040, god will speak to the existing president/prophet and tell him to get the cult off the gay hatred? Perhaps it will happen shortly after god speaks to the Quorum of 12 and informs them that it is now OK to have a woman president/prophet. I'm just sayin'...

Scott said...

John Evo--

It's all been said before.

Thanks, though.

John Evo said...

Glad I only wasted 50 words on the subject!

Scott said...

>Where is it written in Scriptures that the measure by which one serves God is the extent to which one compels others to do so?

What is anyone compelling you to do? You're every bit as free to couple with anyone you choose, and engage in any sort of behavior you want as you were before the vote.

For my part--can't speak for others--this is not about YOU, and it never has been. It's about not being "compelled" to legally accept a definition of marriage I don't want to legally accept.

On a different matter, thank you (really) for getting the snark about my religion (mostly) out of your system over here and playing nicely when you've commented on mine.

Dan Weston said...

Scott:

Different blogs have different focuses. An effective communicator uses the right tools at the right time in the right place. This is a matter of form, not substance. I hope I am not "snarky" in any of my comments, here or there. Though I do have my own opinions, I try to express only those relevant to the discussion at hand.

Of course, we both agree that we have a (near) absolute right as citizens to speak, think, and vote as we wish. Of course compulsion is involved (that is, after all, what laws do), and you and I both have a right to compete in the free market not only of ideas, but of compulsion for our own benefit. There need be no noble intent behind this (for who would be charged to judge such an intent?), but I hope you see that compulsion is at the heart of our legal system. I think I have more to gain than you to lose with gay marriage, but I never said that you had nothing to lose.

John:

Scott does not speak for me. I welcome your comments on the topic, whatever your interest in the topic. I will be following your blog Evolutionary Middleman (at least for a while), but feel free anyway to link to it from your comments here if the cross-reference is germane so other readers can follow along.

Regarding Scott's intermittent (and possibly unintentional) snarky tone: if your goal is to engage Scott and his ilk, I have found they are adept at filtering and discounting comments aimed at purely internal LDS matters (such as their Prophet, which I capitalize not out of reverence but because it is the title of a specific individual, and though I do not believe he speaks for God, LDS do -- indeed, must do as a matter of faith).

I for my part am disinterested in (and have no standing to question) such internal matters. External matters are a different story. I owe their Prophet no special reverence or consideration, and if he leaves the purely religious realm and participates (not as a religious figure, but an American citizen) in legal, social, or political venues, then he is absolutely "fair game" for commentary.

And as you know, the exact same is true for the head of the church of my birth. Of course, it is easier to speak with more authority about things one knows more about.

Scott said...

>...if your goal is to engage Scott ... I have found [he is] adept at filtering and discounting comments aimed at purely internal LDS matters

That's BS and you know it, Dan.

I have--multiple times over--engaged very candidly with you personally on topics regarding internal, and uncomfortable, LDS affairs. I even ASKED you (last fall, in a comment on this very blog) to FOCUS on things like the Priesthood ban, the ERA, and the like instead of taking cheapshots at Brigham Young's speculatory jam sessions. Hell's bells, dude, I even exhorted you to go out and read a specific book that will pull no punches w/respect to my Prophet and will air out every last bit of dirty laundry on these exact issues.

I do not "filter" based on content; I filter based on quality of content. Every last word of John Evo's comment has been repeated with smug grins by bazillions of people since 1981 when the Priesthood ban was lifted, and increasingly so during the past few months.

He brought nothing original, nothing thoughtful, and nothing creative to the conversation. Moreover, it wreaks of "sour grape" talk.

Sorry, John. I'm sure you're far more intelligent than I am, and you understand the issues far better than I do--neither of those conditions would require much. That exactly why I am so dismissive of your comment--you could have added some value, but you didn't.

Scott said...

And yes, I did just confuse wreaking and reeking.

Dan Weston said...

Shouldn't that be BC? I thought you non-potty-mouths weren't allowed to say BS. Or maybe you are allowed to spell it.

Anyway, guilty as charged. My entire comment was inappropriate, presuming to speak for both you and John. I was playing "can't you two just get along" when that is not my proper or desired role. I just didn't want you chasing away any new commenters, since I have so few! :)

Still, I stand by my point that you do filter content (not just form). Much of what you believe is axiomatic, and beyond the reach of disputation (though not dispute). For instance, I have wasted pages of comments on intricate arguments, the answer to which is something like "ah, that would be true/relevant/applicable...except that I believe that when the Prophet's lips move, God speaks", which transforms my entire argument into one massive strawman.

[BTW, I understand that you are willing to accept the consequences for your own actions (irrespective of whether the Prophet "made you do it"), and this importantly distinguishes your position from those at the Nuremberg trials, so please don't infer the implication of such a connection.]

To outsiders, this whole "Jesus said it, I believe it, that settles it" thing places large swaths of would-be interesting dialog into two rather less informative monologs.

With persistence, I have learned much from you, but I understand why others would find the exercise a bit exhausting.

Scott said...

>I thought you non-potty-mouths weren't allowed to say BS.

I put that no-potty mouth language in my comment policy because I've seen too many blogs where the discussion of controversial topics spirals downward at an alarming rate. While I would never actually (shh!secret!) delete a comment unless it was just vulgar for vulgarity's sake, the warning alone ensured that the discussion remained somewhat respectful during the prop8 campaign last year. Take a stroll back through the comments on some of those posts--I'm actually astounded at how civil things were, when I compare them to MANY other blogs I saw.

That said, I do not particularly enjoy foul language, and generally consider its use to be a sign of poor manners, disrespect for one's peers, a lack of an imagination, and a dearth of creativity in expressing oneself. Moreover, I think most people use profanity as an a distraction (subconsciously, perhaps) so as to add weight to a flawed argument.

But that's just my experience. Yours may be different.

Scott said...

I believe you that it must seem almost unendurable to try to reason with a Mormon. No doubt, it is exhausting, and I don't blame anyone who decides they don't have the energy.

However, I do think that when a person is no longer willing to give a good faith effort at understanding, that person should forfeit their right to make bitter and useless jabs, ala the comment that drew my ire (not snark--I was honestly annoyed. I put forth as much effort as I can to be considerate to people who don't understand me or my people, but sometimes I, too, get tired).

I will offer two thoughts.

First--as I've stated before, you are experiencing a massive small-sample bias when it comes to the Mormons playing the "sorry, God revealed otherwise" card. God has not (in the Mormon view), in fact, revealed "otherwise" on almost ANYTHING. This is the first time in my life that anything remotely like this has happened. (technically, I was alive for the lifting of the Priesthood ban, but I was only 1, so...)

Pick any political or social policy under the sun--and I won't
play the Prophet card. Except with marriage. I think you underestimate how spectacularly rare--and difficult to understand--this kind of thing is for Mormons.

Second, you must be careful in lumping LDS people in with other Christians and religious groups. We share many of the same behaviors, but more often than not, we have different reasons motivating those behaviors.

While some LDS people desire to be seen and included in mainstream Christendom, the fact is, we're very, very different in some very, very important ways. Failing to take those differences--modern revelation, more scripture than just the Bible, a passion for green jello--into account in a debate about religion-related politics will certainly cause frustration.

For my part, I appreciate your effort. I wouldn't blame you for a minute if you said the hell with it.

Dan Weston said...

How can I be tired of an pen pal who uses the word "dearth"?

I personally stopped using profanity when I found it no longer shocked people. I hate being predictable (though I have been known to imprecate the backwards-thinking with a "mad dog" from time to time).

Green jello? I thought the perversion was limited to Hawaiian Punch. Truly, I will never grok you people.

Scott said...

And here I am unaware of any Mormon affinity for Hawaiian Punch. Or was that a suggestion that maybe Mormons should lay off the Kool-Aid, as used in political circles?

There are haiku and poetry contests about Jell-O in the Salt Lake Tribune every July for Pioneer Day. Green Jell-O is the State Food of Utah. Every LDS potluck will produce, on average, 46 different bowls of jell-o and only two dishes of meat/potatoes/salad.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_Corridor#.22Jell-O_Belt.22

John Evo said...

Wow. Uh, clarifications and comments time.

Scott - sorry if you took what I said as a personal jab against your religion. Maybe you didn't. Anyway (Dan) I wasn't trying to mix it up with Scott. Your post simply brought up the (highly unoriginal) thought and I posted it.

Most of the things that get said in these discussions have been said before. The very fact that I kept it pretty succinct would indicate that I didn't think it was some tremendous insight. Had I said, "yeah, Dan, you pretty much nailed it", you would have had an even more insipid comment to critique. But that gets said all the time too, and you probably move on without a thought to the lack of originality.

Additionally, pointing out something obvious can lead to quite new and unexpected things; witness the direction of this thread after my comment! And, what's old to you (as a Mormon) may be more novel to someone else. A comitted follower of the pagan gods might know little or nothing about Mormons (and recall - I didn't direct the comment at you).

As a side note, that you may take as utterly unrelated to the lack of ingenuity in my comment, I am a former member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My mother joined when I was 3, in 1956, and I remained a member until I became an atheist, about 17 years later.

Scott said "Second, you must be careful in lumping LDS people in with other Christians and religious groups. We share many of the same behaviors, but more often than not, we have different reasons motivating those behaviors.

Not really. I lump Mormons in with other Christians as I lump Catholics with Jews and Muslims with Scientologists and Hindus with Jehovah's Witness. You all fiercely believe you have a corner on some unknowable truth that can only be understood once one has read some literature developed by other humans and then simply had some personal experience that indicates to the individual that it is, indeed, "truth".

I know that you righteously believe that you are "different" in some very fundamental way. I say you are not. All other religious groups feel the same way you do (that their beliefs are uniquely held).

If you choose to take public stands (via the election processes) and those policy positions are based on what I described above, then you (a) can not possibly expect to make sense to anyone other than fellow travelers on the Mystery Road and (b) have opened yourselves to being called publicly on it.

If your church is going to spend millions of dollars in an attempt to insure that it is illegal for gays and lesbians to get married, and you take a public stand supporting that position, then it is incumbent upon you to convince us, in strictly rational arguments, unrelated to what god says, for why we would be best served in denying a small minority a right that the rest of us take for granted. You have to do this because I can't see or hear the voices in your collective mind, and we have to find a common ground that we both can understand. "Reason" is that common ground.

If, instead, you choose to take the approach that if one chooses to be a Mormon that one then must accept its tenets but that for all others, they can believe and do as they choose in their lives, then you will receive little or no publicly negative reactions. At least not from me.

Dan Weston said...

John,

Now I'm hooked. You have an experience neither Scott nor I have, and I'd like to hear more.

When you left LDS, was there an acute crisis, or was it some last straw in a slow drift away. Was it more to do with temporal matters (Church authority and practices) or spiritual?

For me coming out as gay, it was a long period of increasing denial, until a man I had a crush on suddenly kissed me, and a tidalwave of pent up longing and repression poured out. There was no going back after that, and no wanting to.

You can give the highlights here, but it's a subject worthy of your own blog post, and I for one would be interested in reading it. I've read a lot about the after-the-fact bitterness of ex-Mormons, but far more interesting is what was it like going through the process, when you were still in flux? Most people seem eager to retrofit wisdom into their life narrative, but I view that as a desecration of our right to make mistakes (and hopefully learn from them).

Scott said...

John-

I think I was unclear about what I meant in that "mormons are different" bit. You're totally, absolutely, 100% right in saying that all religions are the same in all the ways you described. But that's not what I was talking about.

I was referring to our motivations for behaviors, not the behaviors themselves.

In terms of campaigning and preference for a law regarding same-sex marriage, there is no difference between a mormon and a protestant christian. the difference is that the latter bases this strong opinion on a few hazy passages in the Bible--a justification which, personally, I do not understand.

I don't think I've ever heard a Mormon talk about Paul's statements--sure, we know they exist, but they don't mean a lot to us, because they're so hazy. LDS motivation is our belief in the role of the family in society.

You're right--the outcome is the same, but the motivation is different. All I was saying to Dan is that you cannot expect to convince a Mormon by citing Bible verses. It is a trump card with the Evangelicals, but it is not for us.

John Evo said...

Well, I was never kissed by an atheist I had a crush on. :)

Too bad, actually.

I'd be a liar if I were to retro-fit wisdom or even a deeper yearning to understand things. I suppose things just didn't really ring true to real life experience for quite a while. Then I observed some Mormon friends who had been deeply committed (Eagle Scout types) and fell away from the Church. I'd say that was my "wake up" moment.

At about 18 I was saying out loud that I really doubted everything we had been taught - as if it were history or math (these people are funny)! Once I did that, it sort of targeted me as someone who required extra attention and "teaching" which just gave me more opportunity to openly question.

As I started doubting Mormonism, I kept an equally skeptical eye on everything else in the realm of the supernatural. And living in West L.A., I had friends who believed just about everything - Judaism, Buddhism, Protestants, Catholics, Jay Dubs, etc. I was very open, for a couple of years, to listening to the reasons why people believed what they believed.

Doing that, it became clear that you could really break down thinking categories into "supernaturalists" and "rationalists". I consistently found myself siding with the rational thinkers I associated with. By the time I was 22, when the subject of religion was raised I openly described myself as an atheist.

I really didn't comprehend the social stigma that went with the word (Maybe because there weren't many open atheists around me and I didn't get the chance to see what they could go through). I started running in to it, but being a carefree young man without a career to protect and with the future an eternity away, I found it pleasurable to rattle cages with the simple words - I don't think there is a god, and I KNOW that no religion has any clue what god is like if it exists.

I don't mind deists or pantheists. I don't see why they'd spend more than a few weeks of their lives contemplating it but, hey, to each her own - as long as they aren't telling others that they "KNOW" how others are supposed to live. Really, I don't even mind people telling us how to live. As long as they can answer - show me the evidence for that, and no holy book or personal experience of yours counts as a proof.

They can't.

John Evo said...

I understand the qualification you are making Scott. Accepted.

Now, let's get away from the Fundagelicals and you explain to me (or point me to a post on your blog, since you've undoubtedly covered this before if you've been posting about Prop 8) how your regard for "the family" makes it unacceptable for LDS to allow others, who DO NOT hold the same combination of beliefs as you, to experience their own lives their own way, free from government interference.

Buffy said...

Excellent post. Not only are they doing as you suggested, but they are fulfilling Lucifer's plan by taking away our free agency.

Dan Weston said...

Buffy,

WOW! I cruised over to your blog The Gaytheist Agenda and was blown away!

I have added it to the blogs I am following. Now I know where my evenings will be the next several months catching up!