Friday, November 7, 2008

Proposition 8 and the Presidency: A Week of Reviling

I look at the resolution I made at the beginning of the year, and it strikes me once again how totally and thoroughly my Father in Heaven knows me.

I am focusing this month partly on not reviling those who revile me (personally or as part of a group) - and I never imagined when I made this resolution last December that many would be openly reviling me this month, simply because I am Mormon. However, that is exactly what is happening in California right now - due to the passing of Proposition 8 and the Church's encouragement of its members to work to help it pass. Gay marriage activists and gay individuals and gay marriage supporters shut down traffic in front of the Los Angeles temple for hours - threatening to climb the fences around the temple grounds and wreak havoc to the place we revere as "The House of the Lord". These people (who do not represent the typical citizens who opposed Proposition 8 any more than the vocal Mormon bigots represent the typical members who truly tried to follow the actual admonitions of the Church concerning love and respect) primarily were reviling my "conservative" opinion on one issue, with no understanding whatsoever about how I reached my opinion on this issue - or on any other issues.

The most ironic aspect of this week is that I also faced reviling from others (including some church members) due to my vote for President-Elect Obama. A few of them even questioned how I could hold a temple recommend because of my vote. I can't even begin to describe how disturbing that is to me, to have my spiritual worthiness impugned because of a political decision that is seen as too "liberal" by some members of the Church.

Due to my views on these two issues, I was reviled by others as being both too conservative and too liberal. Irony, thy name is politics.

This post is not about Proposition 8 fundamentally, or even about the issue of gay marriage - or about the Presidential election; rather, it is about the irony and awfulness of outrage and reviling.

As I said in my post last Saturday, "to revile" is ""to address or abuse with contemptuous language". As I read comments on theads about Prop 8 and the election this week, and particularly when I watched the protest (and near riot) outside the Los Angeles temple grounds something struck me - HARD.

There were some members who said some truly terrible things - who reviled homosexuals and those who supported gay marriage. They were a small minority, but they existed. That is truly and deeply disturbing to me. The Church, however, urged calmness and compassion and love and acceptance of people even while asking for opposition to what those people believed. Of course, that is a difficult distinction to make for those who don't accept the Church's basic, foundational understanding of the Law of Chastity, but the Church itself never issued hate-inspired statements.

What struck me was that the protestors at the Los Angeles temple had succumbed to the natural tendency to construct a straw man as a target for their outrage - and their reviling. (I say "straw man" intentionally, since the Mormon vote was only a minority of the vote. Perhaps it was the most visible and became the public face for many, but those who voted for the proposition came from many backgrounds and religious denominations - many.) The protesters created a monolithic Mormon caricature and directed their anger at that symbolic target - embodied in our temple. What struck me most forcefully, however, is that as a result of their inability to avoid reviling, these people were acting exactly like the caricature they had created. They were "haters" in every sense of the word - FAR more so than the people and the organization they were protesting. It took police officers deployed on the grounds to stop a riot, something that was not an issue from those they labeled "haters".

I have never understood the admonition, "Revile not," more than I have this week. When I made this resolution, I understood that reviling stands in opposition to love and the pursuit of perfection, but even last week I did not understand how completely and overwhelmingly opposed to the Plan of Salvation succumbing to reviling truly is.

I don't want to become like the protesters I saw this week. I don't want my life to be consumed by hate, especially hate that is directed largely at a caricature. I don't want to fill my heart with hatred and anger toward an entire group of people simply because I disagree with their moral and political views - no matter how repugnant I find those views. Most of all, with all my heart, I do not want to become the mirror image of the caricature I am protesting.

I do not write this post in an attitude of reviling. I write it hoping somehow that those who are now in the gall of bitterness and anger and even hate (ON BOTH SIDES) will recognize the destructiveness of that path, examine the result of continued reviling and commit to follow the Savior's admonition (no matter their moral and political beliefs) in Matthew 5:44-47 to:

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

I have come to believe that the only way to rise above the natural tendency to revile and hate is found in the verse I quoted in my post on Wednesday (1 John 4:19):

We love him, because he first loved us.

May we first love those who revile us.


m_and_m said...

Excellent post.

Elder Hales' talk will be one of my anchors for a long time. I felt he was so inspired, particularly with this issue being so front and center.

Anonymous said...

And you should hear what is being said in Europe about this.

As far as your vote for Obama is concerned: have you talked to your bishop about this isue? I am sure there is a program in the church that will suit your needs and help you overcome it. JUST KIDDING.
I hope the Obama is the man for the situation. I don't believe it but I hope; Maybe this is all that it takes: hope.

Patty said...

I am always ashamed when I hear of members reviling people because they are different for one reason or another. It's sad that they understand the gospel so little that they feel justified in such behavior.
I'm sickened to hear comments like those aimed at you for voting for Obama. Let's face it.. voting for either was going to be a "plug my nose, this isn't my first choice, lesser of two evils" act. I haven't told anyone who I voted for because I'm ashamed of having voted for either. I couldn't throw any real support behind either. I just voted for the one I think will have the better impact on our country. I still have plenty of hope that our country can be "saved" though. (God is still with us!!)
I was also struck by how ironic it was for the protesters to be reviling the Mormons while accusing them of having done the same. People's minds just don't work right when they get so worked up over something.

Rosalie Erekson Stone said...

Thank you for this post, which reminds me how important it is for me to resist the temptation either to revile, or to react inappropriately to being reviled.

When the world would pull us into a downward spiral of increasing anger and hatred, we are asked by the Lord to stand firmly on high ground as His witnesses, in a spirit of meekness, and love unfeigned. When we are able to put aside both fear and pride, we can trust that we won't be standing alone.

I'm hoping that all the hysteria will die down before too long. I really liked what Patty said in her comment, " People's minds just don't work right when they get so worked up over something." Let's hope that very soon reason will calm riled raw emotions, and civil discourse will prevail over unchecked verbal outbursts. :)

Anonymous said...

do you really think prop 8 would have passed without our church's financial backing? The riotous reaction is unfortunate and unproductive, but we aren't a straw man; their grievance against us is legitimate and deserved. I'm glad we pay our tithing to the humanitarian fund so I don't have to admit that my money contributed to the creation of discriminatory laws.

Unknown said...

Ray, I would just like to point out that nobody is arguing that the Mormon VOTE is what passed Prop. 8, but rather the assistance of the Mormon financial influence, as directed by the leadership.

FWIW, the protest in SLC last night was nothing like what you describe of L.A. Nobody even stepped foot on temple grounds and the rally was moved further away from temple square. Only one person was arrested and he wasn't even a protester. And nobody got in anybody's face or really did anything untoward at all. It was a peaceful protest, just as protests are meant to be. Maybe we're just a little more civil here in SLC; after all, the same church we protested last night counts amongst its members the same people we work and go to school with the next day. We brush elbows with each other much more often around here.

I was so disappointed in the Deseret News for twisting my words the way they did. I hope you know that's what happened, if you happen to read it.

Papa D said...

m&m, that is an excellent talk.

backandthen, thank you for the laugh.

Patty, it is important to grieve, and I don't want anyone to not be allowed to grieve, but you are right that decisions made while grieving seldom are the same decisions that would be made when the grieving has subsided a bit.

RoAnn, my greatest desire in this is that it will lead to efforts to make civil unions stronger - to include every civil right available within marriage. If that can't happen, much of this will have been wasted, imo.

Paul, of course I know church members donated about half of the funds. What I am saying is that we were a small part of the overall vote - the most active and organized, perhaps, but still a small part. Even with all of that money, it would not have passed without BROAD support outside the Church - and even with that money those who opposed Prop 8 outspent those who supported it (and it wasn't very close). Attacking us as the bogeyman and ignoring the vast majority of those who supported Prop 8 really is creating a straw man.

Chandelle, I understand - both your comments and the difference between the two gatherings. I respect the one in SLC greatly (for multiple reasons); it played no part in my post, as I am not aware of any wide-scale reviling there.

Unknown said...

Ray, I'm glad to hear it. But I'd like to point out that, though the financial support for Prop. 8 is often cited as a reason to oppose the church, I personally would have been appalled at the church's action of asking individual members to donate and, in some cases, even pawing through a member's tithing records to give an allotted financial request, even if not a single dollar was actually donated from members of the church. It was the church's imperative that bothered me much more than the actual money itself.

This whole situation is so hard and I really don't know where some of us will go from here. I'm sorry that you and CWC could not see eye to eye over there at fMh. I have much respect for you even though, as far as I can tell, we have very different opinions on this matter. It's hard to approach this from a position of acceptance and forgiveness because, by default, those of us in favor of equal treatment are in opposition to those of you who are not, and vice versa. I try to focus on group efforts rather than individuals, group themes rather than intimate personal relationships, and I still get caught in generalizations and deeply bitter feelings. It will be a relief when some of this passes over and we're on to other things until the next go-round.

Papa D said...

I agree it's hard, Chandelle, but what hurts the most is when I read those (on either side) who profess to love each other for months and months, and who talk of each other as family, and then turn around and revile those same "family members" over a disagreement - even as emotional as that disagreement is.

Let me say it this way:

Charges have been made that the Church is tearing apart families. I don't see that in this case. Differences over homosexuality have existed for many, many years without tearing apart some families - when those families truly understand and strive to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I can have a gay brother or sister, disagree strongly with legal recognition as "marriage" of their civil union I support fully and still have a close, loving relationship with that brother or sister. If I disown and revile that person, I am dead wrong and in opposition to the Gospel AND the Church; if s/he disowns me, removes him/herself from communion with the family and reviles me, s/he is just as wrong.

That is what I see happening at FMH - and other places. There are commenters who have spoken of the sisterhood they have experienced there and of the wonderful support they have received, but they now are withdrawing from that family over this one issue. They are disowning everyone whom they were calling loving brothers and sisters only days ago.

**If Prop 8 had failed, I believe none of these people would be disowning those they now are disowning.** The anger and grief are understandable and not "wrong" in any way. The reviling and disassociation are understandable but wrong - for those who have expressed admiration and love and support when every other issue is being discussed and when those emotions were being expressed prior to the actual vote.

What changed about me from before the election to after the election? Nothing. Not one thing. I am the exact same person now that I was then. Why was I a wonderful friend and brother then and a disowned bigot now? Why could I help and support and love then but no longer do so now?

I stand by my belief that love really is the only answer that is a truly empowering solution. If I can love only those with whom I agree, then I don't really love. It is that simple to me, and that, I believe, is the heart of the Gospel - the final hurdle, in many ways, to true charity (the greatest of all godlike characteristics) that allows people to see through their own glasses, darkly, without being reviled and disowned. I want that - deeply and passionately, even as I recognize how difficult it is and, therefore, cannot condemn anyone who cannot do that yet.

Unknown said...

I loved your comment, Ray, and agree wholeheartedly even if I am very much guilty of exactly the charges you've made.

I'll make one last statement and then quit cluttering up your blog. I will be missing from fMh henceforth alongside CWC. I am not leaving to break ties with the people I know there, in real life or otherwise; I am not rejecting anybody there. I simply need a break. I need some time to regroup and rediscover that old affection for members of the church. I confess that I've lost a lot of it coming out the other side of this debate. But I really want to have it again. I just need to stay away for a while and think about things, primarily myself, my own reactions and the kind of friend I want to be. I believe that this is very much what CWC wants as well.

Papa D said...

I respect that immensely, Chandelle. Please tell CWC I said so.

As I said to her, "May there be a road."

Papa D said...

Oh, and Chandelle, I have never thought of your comments as "cluttering up (any) blog" and never will. I hope you know that.

Anonymous said...


You people just took tore up 18,000 marriage certificates. You people and your money and volunteers.

Its not civil to deny someone their civil rights. They're not being civil back. Well, you get no sympathy from me. Civil discourse didn't work. Maybe rage will. Gays aren't waiting anymore.

Oh, and after you guys have spent litterally 100 million bucks (and Mormons have) over the last ten years running around writing LAWS hateful to Gay people, don't turn around now and hide behind your temple. You can't engage in politics and the claim you're attacking our religion when they do the same thing to you you've done to them.

How would you feel if someone spent 100 million dollars to pass LAWS saying that all Mormon marriages are invalid?

Civility? Not this time.

Christy said...

I think "turning the other cheek" is one of the hardest commandments to consistently keep. As I think I've written here before, I have been persecuted for my beliefs and at the time, the Spirit has been with me and guided my responses. But to consistently feel the way I did at that moment? I haven't gotten there yet. Therefore, I have to limit my watching or reading about the aftermath of Prop 8, because angry feelings raise their ugly head in the name of justification.

You are so right, Ray, in that we need to love one another, no matter what. This is what I have been fervently praying for over the last week or so. I admit that there is part of me that feels this is an equal right issue, and I am torn between that feeling and following our leaders. I think our problem is in our inability to see the larger picture. What seems as "right or fair" (to some of us) at this time, is, in the larger picture, a stepping stone to the eventual destruction of our society. That, at least, is where my focus leads me when I ponder why our leaders have asked us to fight this.

Papa D said...

Anonymous, if this is the first time you have been here, please read the comment policy. I will leave your comment up for now (largely because I believe it proves the point of my post), but please do a little research and, if you come back, keep to real facts and not broadside, hyperbolic attacks.

Anonymous said...

"Charges have been made that the Church is tearing apart families. I don't see that in this case. Differences over homosexuality have existed for many, many years without tearing apart some families - when those families truly understand and strive to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I can have a gay brother or sister, disagree strongly with legal recognition as 'marriage' of their civil union I support fully and still have a close, loving relationship with that brother or sister."

I live in California. Sorry to disagree, but the results of Prop 8 are tearing up my family right now. It's real, and it hurts. Since the Church was such a strong force in ensuring the passage of Prop 8, I do indeed charge the Church with responsibility here.

And as for your hypothetical "close, loving relationship", don't kid yourself. The feelings of hurt and betrayal would be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. Please trust me on this. I'm witnessing the meltdown of formerly close, loving relationships between my kids over this issue.

Anonymous said...

A different Anonymous-could someone define for me the difference between civil partnerships and marriage as viewed by the church,and perhaps the state of California?This is a big ask I guess,but what does the gay community see as being unavailable to them at present.?Here in the Uk there has been no rush into civil partnerships as the gay community largely see themselves as exploring alternative gender identities rather than seeking to emulate the status quo.My gay friends who might seek to marry would I think be likely to be more comfortable with concepts of fidelity than those who would not,so this all feels like a mystery to me.Perhaps this attempt might help us to define our terms,something which seems to get lost in the rush to stereotype the enemy.

Papa D said...

SLO Sapo, I find it fascinating that you assume my example is a hypothetical. I don't have blood-relative brothers or sisters who are gay, but I am VERY close to gay "family". They know of my love for them, and I know of their love for me. We disagree on a lot of things, and, frankly, this isn't even the most fundamental one. We still love each other, however.

Just so it is clear:

I have said elsewhere that I believe the best indication of the sincerity of those who voted for Prop 8 would be efforts to ensure that there are NO civil rights differences between marriage and civil unions. I also have said that I believe ALL unions licensed by the state should be "civil unions" - with "marriages" left to non-government agencies that can attach whatever private rights and status they desire to imbue in the word. The Mormon version would be the "sealing". In my opinion, that truly would make marriage distinct and sacred - and it would mean nothing "special" to those who don't hold it sacred, just as is the case now.

I also have said that the biggest danger to the sanctity of marriage is the disdain with which WAY too many heterosexuals treat it - not the desire of gay citizens to be married. Finally, I have said that I despise many of the arguments that have been used to defend Prop. 8. I believe many (probably most) of them are abominable.

In the end, however, I really do believe we can love those with whom we disagree - and that is not a theoretical exercise for me. It is a real one.

Papa D said...

adA, that can vary according to the state, but many of the rights / privileges gay couples want are federal rights (like tax filing status), not state rights. If there are civil rights exempted from gay couples in CA, I support those rights being granted - as I said in the previous comment.

Unknown said...

Well, there's something we agree on. I believe that on the state/federal level, all companionships should be domestic partnerships or civil unions and marriage should be a private, religious matter, whose benefits have nothing to do with state/federal rights or responsibilities. People taking care of aged parents or siblings who live together in, essentially, domestic partnerships should also have the benefit of those rights, in my opinion. I have no idea how likely it is that something like this would happen, but I believe it's already come to pass in some European countries.

It's disappointing that the Church states its support for equal rights between unions and marriages while also supporting Amendment 3 here in Utah, which passed with overwhelming support even though it would have instituted many of the aspects of this equality between gay and straight unions. Perhaps the Church should suggest that Amendment 3 be overturned so that some of those basic partnership rights can be extended to gay families in Utah, "married" or not.

Papa D said...

Frankly, Chandelle, I agree that many of the beneficiary, visitation, designee, etc. rights should not have any restrictions except the will of the consenting adults involved - and should include siblings or just good friends.

Here is a radical idea:

If we want marriage (no matter the sexual orientation issue) to be sacred and sanctified, how about assigning the "special" or "extra" civil rights to the first one and stipulating that they only will be granted once - except in the case of death or incarceration or other specifically articulated issues. Divorce would still be available, but without the breaking of a pre-established condition by one spouse the dissolving of a marriage would remove the formerly granted "special" rights from being granted in the future.

I'm just throwing that out there as a hypothetical, since I haven't stopped and really thought about all the implications - but I think it would do more to make marriage special (and a more careful decision) than perhaps anything else that the government could do - and it would remove all reviling from the situation imediately.

Unknown said...

Hm, interesting idea. Unfortunately, I don't really think this would impact the divorce rate at all, though I suppose there's some possibility that first marriages would be more carefully considered. Then again, I think people are already carefully considering their first marriages, as indicated by the trend toward marrying later rather than the first person you meet right out of high school. The truth is that people who want to divorce will divorce. I support no-fault divorce laws but I also believe that divorce is pretty serious for everyone who chooses it. I don't believe that people truly consider this issue as lightly as seems to be believed by others. Considering the loss of - what? - tax breaks? I doubt this will provide an impetus for crippled relationships to persist.

"Divorce would still be available, but without the breaking of a pre-established condition by one spouse the dissolving of a marriage would remove the formerly granted "special" rights from being granted in the future."

Can you explain more about what the practical ramifications would be of this?

Papa D said...

Yeah, I know deep down it's not practical, and I also do not want to forbid divorce or encourage truly bad marriages from ending. Some things are just interesting to consider, and how to reward good marriages and/or unions is something about which I occasionally think.

Ultimately, I believe teaching that a union can last forever is the best incentive, but I still like to think about these things.

Papa D said...

meant "discourage" instead of "encourage". It's been a long day.

Anonymous said...

as you sow so shall you reap. What's so surprising?

djinn said...

If so many Mormons feel so deeply that this isn't about hate, but rather about a specific defintion of Marriage, and if the actual office of the Presidency has now said that they're for Domestic Unions, I say, step up to the plate, guys, and repeal prop. 3 that passed in 2004. It specifically forbade, with the explicit blessings of the Mormon church hierachy, any such thing. The fact that I have been buisily proposing this right and left with no response makes me believe that the Official Mormon Church Office of the Presidency is just saying it, with no real meaning behing the words, just another way to avoid responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for your response PapaD,this has all got so acrimonious,has'nt it.We really need to comport ourselves with a little dignity.I'm still unsure whether the gay community want to pay alimony.or whether prop8ers are in favour of promiscuity?But I guess if I stood on a street corner,with my children,holding banners campaigning against rights that a section of the community currently enjoy,I might be exposing my children to some negative experiences.I don't think I would consequently have a right to think myself hard done by.So I just wouldn't do it.Clearly the law needs to be re thought to make it less discriminatory in terms of equal rights,and it will take some less polarised thinking in a civil society.Perhaps there can be some intelligent horse trading by well meaning men and women behind the scenes here,the best of American democracy at work creating something less oppositional .I'm hoping the church can be better advised as to how it can be a force for healing and unity,allowing the mission of the church to move forward rather than be hampered by a wounding confrontation.Hopefully now is the time for such people to be in the ascendancy.A Prophet of God has spoken,we listen and we work for unity.

Papa D said...

Anonymous1 - I never said I was surprised. I just said I don't want either side to get caught up in reviling.

djinn - Amen.

Anonymous2 - Thank you.

I'm in between meetings today, so I don't have time for more detailed comments, but I really appreciate everyone's input.

Anonymous said...

I actually missed all the whoopla over what happend at the temple. I live in KC so we don't hear much news here.

I know that I feel very strongly that marriage is between a man and women. I also strongly feel that people who are homosexual have the right to be treated with respect and that has been lacking for a long time.

I feel that if they had proposed some kind of official partnership, or contract maybe that was very specific in what rights they got through signing one, I don't think there would be all this mess.

I feel, that the gay community overreached this one, trying to name something that it's just not. Trying to obtain a right, that doesn't exist. But on the other end if we had always treated the gay community with the right to spend the last days with spouse dying of AIDS, or not taking custody of the lesbian daughters child when she passed instead of the partner ect. That this might of not happened. And I don't mean legally. We as the hetrosexual community could of just been empathetic to the situation and not be so spiteful and hateful. Instead they got hate and spite so they revolted. And I can't exactly blame them.

It's now in there court. If they continue to behave in a way, like they did at the temple, it will be there bad, not ours. We must be very specific in what we belive, and what is appopriate but never lose compassion and empathy in there situation.