Prince Gomolvilas

"Sleeping" With the "Enemy"

Filed By Prince Gomolvilas | November 18, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Baptist Church, Bible, Bill Maher, Book of Mormon, California, Catholic church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Doctrine & Covenants, election campaigns, evangelical Christian, gay marriage, Jack Bauer, LDS, Mormon, New Testament, Prop. 8, Religulous, same-sex marriage

After I posted a temperate and somewhat optimistic response to the disappointing news of Proposition 8's passage (which eliminates same-sex marriage in California), a friend of mine e-mailed me, insisting that I tap into my inner righteous indignation. "Foster some good, old-fashioned rage," he wrote.

081117_24-Redemption-Kiefer-SutherlandA.hmedium.jpgBut that's just not my thing. The last time I got really angry about something was when the seventh season of 24 was postponed for a year because of the Writers Guild of America strike. It was enough to make me punch walls in my apartment, while unleashing a litany of Jack Bauer-style "dammit's" and "son-of-a-bitch's."

I also suspected that, once the initial dust of outrage settled, we all would get a better view of what was really going on. And I was right. After the initial backlash the African-American community received for its overwhelming support of Prop 8, many of my peers came to their senses and backed off. After all, while 70% of blacks did vote in favor of the ban, they only accounted for 9% of the "Yes" vote. Additionally, it became clear that their disapproval of gay marriage was less a product of race and more a product of religion. As Mark Morford put it in the San Francisco Chronicle, "It's God's fault."

But I'm not about to foster some good, old-fashioned rage at the Mormons or the Catholics or the Evangelicals either. I'm doing something much more radical. I'm reaching out to them.

When the legalization of gay marriage starts becoming commonplace in the United States, it will represent a quantum leap in our struggle for civil rights. But one thing that pro-gay laws cannot do is shift the fundamental beliefs of those who condemn homosexuality. While having our rights acknowledged and protected by the law is indeed a top priority, the next step in the movement is finding full acceptance in the hearts and minds of people who view us as sinners, undeserving of equal rights. After all, how far will we have come if the law embraces us, while people do not?

As much as I laughed with Bill Maher as he relentlessly skewered the world's religions in his documentary, Religulous, I recognize that religion isn't going to disappear. In order to make lasting progress, we all could stand to "sleep" with the "enemy."

Going after the Mormons has served as a necessary outlet for those wishing to direct their anger. But I've been wondering if it's counterproductive to throw blanket condemnation over a group of people the same way that some of them did to the gay community.

I know that all most of us want when it comes to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is for them to leave us alone and stay out of politics. But what we ultimately need is for the Mormon church to shift its views about homosexuality, the same way it's shifted its views about women and blacks over the last few decades.

What some of us don't realize is that we have allies within the Mormon church, and they are the ones who will be instrumental in creating institutional change. It's got to the come from the inside, and it's going to come from them.

Prior to the election, I discovered Mormons in the blogosphere who support gay marriage and see it as a civil rights issue like we do. And these are not fringe members of the church or folks who have been excommunicated; these are people, straight Mormons, deeply rooted in the LDS community, so much so that they sometimes come under fire from their friends and family for their progressive views.

After Prop 8 passed, I e-mailed one of those Mormon bloggers in an effort to build bridges and gain some understanding. I wrote:

I wonder how it is you are able to reconcile the acceptance of homosexuality with your religion, when so many people have trouble doing so. I hope that your insight will help guide me in how to approach taking this issue to the next level. It's obvious to me that my community shouldn't just give up on the idea of religious people ever understanding - because so many of them do.

A few days later, she posted a rather insightful essay on her blog. Some highlights:

To assume LDS members are monolithic in opinion on this issue is both false and counterproductive....

There are progressive Mormons who take serious issue with Proposition 8....

I will not look my gay friends in the eye and tell them they don't deserve happiness, that their families don't deserve safety and security, that their love isn't the right kind of love. Not in my America. Not in my name....

Churches do not have the purview--or stewardship, to use a popular LDS term--to dictate laws governing civil marriage. In the New Testament, Jesus clearly states that we are to "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mark 12:17, KJV)....

In fact, this very principle is found within the bedrock of LDS doctrine. One of the sacred tomes of LDS scripture, Doctrine & Covenants, clearly states in section 134 verses 9-10: "We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied. We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members [...] according to the rules and regulations of such societies [...]; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world's good...."

Her full post can be found here, and I'm sure she would appreciate some words of support, as seeing her religion come under attack must be disturbing and disheartening.

I'll leave you with a personal anecdote that speaks volumes about where we should be headed.

When I came out as gay to a college friend of mine many years ago, he and his wife, both practicing Baptists, were shocked, and they subsequently shipped me books about how to cure homosexuality. I sent him a rather bitter "goodbye" letter and recommended books that interpreted the Bible differently than he did, interpretations that were able to reconcile homosexuality with "God's plan." My friend and I didn't speak again for many years.

Inexplicably, years later, our friendship started up again. Obviously, his views of homosexuality had changed, and he's been pushing for more dialogue on gay issues within his ministry, though we haven't really talked about it all that much.

I called him up recently and asked him what had happened in the past that helped shift his views about homosexuality. "Knowing you," he said. "Us being friends."

After I hung up and let our conversation sink in, I realized that, in this critical juncture in the gay rights movement, demonizing religion and people of faith will ultimately yield results of little consequence. I'm not saying we all should go out, find Mormons, and befriend them. But if we do make an effort to put ourselves out there in such a way that religious people can get to know us and we can get to know them, it'll be a lot more difficult for them to condemn us and to choose to take our rights away.

After all, how fundamentally different can I possibly be if I - an extremely liberal, gun-control supporting, closet pacifist, arty type - can embrace a series like 24 as fervently as the extremely conservative, NRA-loving, pro-war, anti-"elitists" that seem to be that TV show's base? Not very different, I would say. We all think Jack Bauer kicks ass. And we all believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


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No doubt Serena will be pleased with this contribution.

Oh, and 24 sucks!

OMG, you sure know how to get rise out of me! I will bitch-slap you with my official CTU coffee mug! :)

Ha, your behavior equally betrays your lack of good taste~

*giggles*

I'm really impressed by this column. I've been angry at religion over this issue, probably because I left my own religion -- partly because I just couldn't reconcile it with supporting LGBTQ civil rights.

But expecting everyone to choose between G-d and gay people (as they might see it, not me of course) just wouldn't be reasonable.

And essentially you're right: The less of a gulf there is, the more it will help.

prince...

you recently responded favorably to a letter i wrote you and posted it on your blog. i wanted to remind you of that as i disagree with you.

indeed, what he have here is a failure to communicate, and in that respect i am glad you are reaching across fences.

i believe the majority of those of us who are furious are not mad at ALL mormans, and those who do make blanket condemnations need time and space to calm down, because they have been grievously injured and are responding as any injured and cornered creature would.

our main grievance is with the hierarchies of the morman AND the roman catholic faiths, as well as the leaders of most of the evangelical churches.

while many of those who have hurt us are as innocent of real knowledge as a flock of sheep, if real sheep are trampling your ass, you hurt some until you get their attention...AND MAKE THEM STOP.

those same modern mormans you are talking to are still funding the better than $20 million campaign that went into the defeat of prop 8 and in my state prop 2, unless they have stopped tithing. keep that in mind.

by all means work your corner, but please remember that NON VIOLENT directed protest, worked for gandhi, king, and it will work for us. we can know longer allow them to ignore us.

you might enjoy this, i know it is amusing the heck out of me...

http://www.towleroad.com/2008/11/fort-myers-flor.html

jack

Hi, Jack, thanks for your thoughts. I don't have much more to add, but I appreciate your counterpoint.

As for your protest of one...THAT IS AWESOME!!!!!

Way to go, Prince. The intellect and effort to reach out that you display here are what will eventually win the day, while knee-jerk emotional reactions simply cause people to dig in their feet and start swinging. Keep it up, man.

BTW - 24 stresses me the fuck out when I watch it.

I'm glad you mentioned supportive Mormons...I think there's definitely the tendency to separate gay people and religious people, when they can overlap. If there was ever a time for gay Christians to come out of the woodwork and be visible, I think this is it.

Rosehiptea, John, and Asexy beast, thanks for your comments. Yup, "divide and conquer" is a dangerous path, so hopefully some us us will able to build bridges.

24 and religion have a common denominator for me too, Prince! I liked them both much more when I was younger, but as I grow older they both lose their allure.

It is entirely unrealistic to think that the LDS hierarchy will ever 'shift its position on homosexuality.' Serena posted an enlightening essay on this, from which the following:

****************************************
"But I think it's foolishly naïve to think the Church is ever going to change its tune. Why?

Well, for starters, temple marriage is the guiding metaphor for everything else that happens in the Church. As I mentioned earlier, you can't get into the highest level of heaven without getting married in the temple. Here's what Wickman says to anyone who thinks that the Church might budge an inch on the issue:

For openers, marriage is neither a matter of politics, nor is it a matter of social policy. Marriage is defined by the Lord Himself. It's the one institution that is ceremoniously performed by priesthood authority in the temple [and] transcends this world. It is of such profound importance... such a core doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the very purpose of the creation of this earth. One hardly can get past the first page of Genesis without seeing that very clearly. It is not an institution to be tampered with by mankind, and certainly not to be tampered with by those who are doing so simply for their own purposes. There is no such thing in the Lord's eyes as something called same-gender marriage. Homosexual behavior is and will always remain before the Lord an abominable sin. Calling it something else by virtue of some political definition does not change that reality.

If the definition of marriage is changed to allow anyone to get into heaven, then WTF is the point of having a Church with a hierarchy and handing over 10% of your income to the Church? Heaven has to be an exclusive party if it's going to be heaven. We can't just let in any sort of riff raff."
********************************************
Years of unhappy experience with the large (and growing) Mormon branch of my own family convince me that she's correct. And I've come to conclude that you do nobody a favor by encouraging individual Mormons to adopt a more tolerant position. It only gets them in trouble in the church; but they never leave it and they end up miserable.

Peter Varvel | November 19, 2008 2:53 PM

Prince,
Thank you very much for this.
As a gay man who was raised Christian, the points you make encourage me to be more gracious toward my Christian friends about Prop 8 controversy.
It would be convenient if we could continue to see this as a black & white issue, but I think people on both sides of it have been feeling that their personal feelings - and friendships - are in conflict with their ideals.
It helps to have gentle reminders, such as this essay, to continue making a mutual effort toward coalition.

Paige Listerud | November 19, 2008 9:31 PM

I definitely think we should sleep with the enemy, especially an enemy of the same sex.

Then, we should get it on videotape and put it on the internet.

The majority against gays is shrinking and it's very heartening to see the live-and-let-live attitude among young people in the polls.

LDS and the Catholic Church do change, but they are monolithic and the change is slow. We do need to keep up a generous dialogue, knowing that we do indeed have the RIGHT on our side. Keeping that in mind, we can take the high road in any argument.

The very fact that Prop 22 had a 61 to 39 vote and Prop 8, just eight years later, had a 52- to 48+ vote is a huge bravo for our side and shows where the future is headed.

In my "Reading Room for Kids" on my website: http://webpages.csus.edu/~boblocke/index.htm, I now have a "CIVICS 1A" link with arguments pro and con Prop 8. No, it was a scare tactic of the Far Right to say that "gay marriage would be taught in our schools", but now we really do need for our Civics students as low as 8th grade to understand how discrimination works with our constitutional amendments. Go take a look, and send lots of people there.

And Prince, thanks for ALL you do for this good world.
Bob

Rick Elliott | November 23, 2008 2:10 AM

I just read your article and found it most eloquently said. I'm a minister and gay and find it like trying to span two pieces of land with a stream going between. The stream's growing wider and more turbulent and, I fear, I may need to one day choose which piece of land I can stand on.
I grew up in the Deep South part of Texas. You made passing reference to Evangelicals in the great article. I've seen them "up close and personal" and don't want to let cover themselves in such a wide-encompassing word as Evangelical. Maybe Revivalists, fundamentalists, Selective Literalists--but not Evangelical--which means good news spreaders.