Monday, February 8, 2010
Hatred under the Guise of Loving God
By Mister Curie
I'd like to thank John Gustav-Wrathall for raising awareness of the current legislation being considered in Uganda. This legislation would make life imprisonment the minimum penalty for gay sex, with some instances necessitating the death penalty. Members of the public who fail to report homosexual activity would face three years in prison, and those who stand up in defense for homosexuals (such as family members) would face seven years in prison. Just as appalling, is that a group of American politicians and Evangelicals are supporting this measures in Uganda, as reported in the New York Times. While reading another article that John provided, one phrase in particular hit me:
promot[ing] hatred under the guise of loving Jesus
I received an email several months ago from a friend who was concerned about my family's public support for gay marriage, "in opposition to sustaining the Prophet." I frequently feel that the LDS church places itself as a mortal proxy for the eternal command to love God. This is reflected in the doctrine that only allows entrance to Celestial Glory for those who have experienced temple ordinances (where admittance to the temple for such "saving" ordinances is dependent on doctrinal orthodoxy, payment of tithing to the church organization, and "following the prophet"). This friend then laid out the by-now-familiar Mormon case against homosexuality, which I will not re-hash here. Essentially, however was the case that I must "follow the Prophet" to show my love for God. Somewhere in these arguments, I found the pernicious promotion of hatred under the guise of loving God.
I responded as a faithful Latter-day Saint, while attempting a rebuttal to the argument that obedience to the Prophet is the highest form of loving God:
I understand why you would be concerned that we are picking and choosing from the prophet's counsel. We have encountered all of your arguments previously and struggled for some time with our decision. We certainly have no desire to go against the Prophet of God or to put ourselves outside of God's guidance. We have made the matter a concern of deep spiritual reflection, pondering, and of course, prayer. We are counseled to obey the prophet, and some have gone so far as to say that "when the prophet has spoken, the thinking is done and the debate is over." On the other hand, we have been taught that God does not want us to be blindly obedient and that we should take all things to the Lord and ask Him for guidance and confirmation. As it says in Moroni, "he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things" (Moroni 10:4-5). I regularly taught the investigators on my mission that they should pray about the Book of Mormon and that they should pray about all the counsel they receive at church.
This matter has been particularly troublesome for us because, as I said, we have close personal friends who are gay, lesbian, and bisexual, most of whom have never been members of the LDS church. We see their pure love for members of the same sex and their sincere desires to share in a marriage relationship. We also know gay members of the church who have felt broken, hated by God, and full of self-loathing due to the stance of the church toward gays. In all cases, their sincerity has convinced us that their "homosexual tendencies" are not a desire to sin or receive a greater "sexual high," but rather they experience attraction not of their own choosing, but which in all respects appears to be the same as the God-given affection shared between a man and a wife. So life is messy and things are not always easily divided into good and evil, or good works and sin. We have made and continue to make this a matter of prayer. We try to keep ourselves open to the influence of the Holy Spirit so that we will not be led astray, recognizing the potentially hazardous ground we may be treading. In all respects, we have felt the influence of the Spirit and have been filled with the love of God toward our gay friends. We feel that we maintain our good standing before God and that he has approved of our actions, both toward our gay friends and toward the legislation that so personally affects them.
We do not feel that we have received Prophetic counsel that we must personally vote against legislature allowing gay marriage or that we must personally condemn the lifestyle of our gay friends. Our gay friends, both inside and outside of the church, do not need our condemnation, they need our love. I am sure that Christ is full of love toward gays and that, if he were here, he would as likely be found loving and forgiving and ministering among the gays as he was found among the "unworthy" classes of people in his own time, the sinners, the poor, and the lowly of heart. We do not feel that our own love, compassion, support of, and attempts at understanding the plights of our gay friends is condemned by the Lord in any way.
You quoted President Hinkley who said, "If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are." You then ask "why shouldn’t the Church today put its foot down when certain wickedness is prevailing in the world?" when the "the Church [is] a Gospel for all the world." As far as church discipline, the church itself has agreed that it only has authority up to being able to excommunicate a member. It can only punish its own members. The Church does not have authority beyond removing non-abiding members and does not have jurisdiction over those outside of its membership. Thus, we feel that as soon as the church attempts to directly influence those who are not members, it has stepped beyond its spiritual authority and has entered the realm of politics. Within the church, we believe the church can issue any statements or proclamations that it feels are necessary, those proclamations and statements can even be directed to the entire world. But we believe it is beyond the authority of the church to attempt to directly influence the lives of those who do not grant the church such authority over their lives through church membership. We do not feel that the proclamations and statements so far given by the church grant us the right nor the responsibility to punish or condemn anyone else, gay or straight, inside or outside the church.
Christ invites all people to come unto Him. We feel that Christ's church should do the same. We feel that God does not want us to be judgmental or unkind toward any of his children. We are convinced that God desires all of us to love one another, to serve one another, and to be kind to everyone. No one can understand the difficulties or temptations of another, and we are convinced that the judgment of God will be far more merciful and just than any in this life can imagine. If God does not feel the need to punish or strike down someone in this life, we do not feel it is in our authority to usurp his judgment or power. If you, like some, feel that God is striking down the gays (some have suggested through AIDS), then we are comfortable leaving that judgment in the hands of God while doing everything in our power to succor them in their infirmities and to lighten their burdens (I am training to be a physician after all and have pledged my life to caring for the sick). We are convinced that our support of gay marriage fulfills the injunction of Christ (and our church leaders) to lighten another's burdens, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to love all men.
While a response to Evangelicals would need to be couched differently than this response to the Prophet-following Latter-day Saints, I think emulation of Christ's example of love and service would be much more pleasing to God than intolerance and legislating the death penalty.