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Religious Conservatism

December 27, 2008

You know…I’ve never gotten why the Church aligns itself with the Religious Right.

Well, actually, that’s a bald-faced lie. Of course I know why; the church is a socially conservative entity and regardless of its attempts to distance itself from politics and say that faithful members don’t necessarily have to be Republican, in America at least, it’s going to take a moral stand on issues that will probably happen to fit into the Republican Party’s (or, at the very least, the socially conservative wing of that party’s) agenda. Out of all of the things the church could’ve spoken up about in the world, we have the church fighting against gay marriage. It’s really quite obvious and predictable.

But…the reason why I don’t get why the church aligns itself with these groups is because…it’s not really doing any favors for it. Its traditional marriage coalition didn’t get hardcore evangelicals to think that Mormons are any more “Christian” than they’ve ever thought. Remember: right before Prop 8 was an election process in which Mormons found out, painfully, that many Americans don’t trust Mormons and are willing to vote against a Mormon candidate because of it (ok, so Romney did have other faults, but and it’s not like Huckabee became the nominee, which one might suspect if religion were the only factor.)

In an unfortunate discussion I’ve been having (arguments are very unfortunate, I think, yet I keep on jumping in them…), one of my Mormon friends noted that he didn’t necessarily want to deprive gays of any rights, but he was strongly concerned that if gays got the right to marry, this would inevitably end up infringing on his religious rights. He emphasized things like the shutdown of Catholic Charities adoption arm (never-minding the fuzziness behind Catholic Charities and exactly why it was closed), and then even brought up Reynolds v. United States. He predicted Armageddon and warned that if gay marriage were legalized, then the groups who would want to silence religion or reduce its influence in a public sphere would have all the tools they would need.

(This article isn’t a gay marriage argument, I promise!)

Eventually, I just had to point out…from history, I have to say that I agree that religion’s influence in a public sphere should be limited.

(This article isn’t an atheism argument, I promise!)

While my friend is still seething from the mistreatment and distrust of Mormons throughout history and he sees this as a justification to vote in ways that protect and strengthen religion, I see a different picture. Whenever I look at Mormon persecution, I recognize that it too was based on religion. I see a struggle that in many ways mimics the struggle today — a conservative majority bullying a minority, and using the law to reach its aims, when the law should have reserved protection for that minority.

Now, of course, the gay rights movements and the LDS Church stand for very different things, so I don’t mean to equate them completely. But when I look at it…my friend had said he wanted to protect the “sanctity of marriage” from those who would destroy it. I’m not touching that theologically — this isn’t a gay marriage post…but it appeared to me that all the anti-Mormon groups were doing in the past was protecting the “sanctity of Christianity” (and perhaps civilization itself) from a very strange group that would, they believed, destroy it. These people believed as strongly as they do about what is Christianity and what is cult as my friend doubtlessly believes about what is marriage and the eternal role of the family.

Is it bad to have beliefs? Well, this isn’t a gay marriage post or an atheism post, so I’m not going to say that it is. But the point is…we oughtn’t use these beliefs to restrict the rights and liberties of others. Especially — and this is my point, really — in the case when we ourselves would be next up.

I don’t know if Mormons realize it, but the alleged allies in the prop 8 struggle (who continually reject Mormons from Christianity even as they accept Mormon aid) would stab us in the back in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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  1. “I don’t know if Mormons realize it, but the alleged allies in the prop 8 struggle (who continually reject Mormons from Christianity even as they accept Mormon aid) would stab us in the back in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

    Oh yes. We realize it. We knew it going in, and we haven’t forgotten it. The fact that we see the occasional “Hug a Mormon Day” out there is the world of evangelical Christianity after Prop 8 passed is meaningless in the big picture. The funny thing is, I’ve always felt a bit awkard standing shoulder to shoulder with evangelical Christians on this issue, but not because I think they’re using us.

    It’s because I don’t have any idea why they stand next to us on this issue, since we have completely different doctrinal reasons for our beliefs regarding marriage (our beliefs all hinge on a belief in a pre-mortal existence and eternal progression. Mainstream Christianity doesn’t share those beliefs with us.

  2. that’s a really good point that I thought about, but never really…thought about. (haha, I need synonyms)

    Because you’re right…the church doesn’t take such a stance against gay marriage for anything that could conceivably mesh with mainstream doctrine. Even in taking a socially conservative position, the church has rather radical religious justification.

    This reminds me of when an Evangelical Woman’s Conference essentially wrote an Evangelical Proclamation on the Family — it was relatively clear to see how the language differed based on the different religious background.

  3. I didn’t much like the Evangelical Women’s Conf Proclamation.

    Yeah, the doctrine really is like two ships passing in the night a lot of the time.

    It’s the same story on abortion. The LDS Church opposes it, but not because we believe in some ex nihilo creation of a “person” at conception the way Evangelicals do.

    Which is probably why our leaders can throw in a few exceptions for rape, incest, and serious threat to health of the mother without agonizing much over it.

    On issues like school prayer, evolution in schools, and any other attempt to government enforce the “civil religion” we can be lukewarm to downright indifferent.

    So no, the Evangelicals aren’t anything more than temporary allies of convenience to us. But they’ll find the same thing about us. We aren’t really in their corner in the quest to establish a “Christian Nation” as they term it.

  4. Your point is excellent. Blind faith is something I don’t exactly believe in. Its a delicate balance but things need to make sense. What doesn’t make sense for me is seeing the Church lose thousands of brillent and creative souls leave the church or commit suicide or hide in darkness because they are told they are evil for being a “soul” not of their choosing. They find that there is no place at the table of Christ. They are among us…they hide or make some other peace at another table. It is so devastating to see friends slip away or do the unspeakable. It happens far more than we know.

  5. @ zinj

    Your point is a valid one–it’s very sad that so many great minds and souls struggle to find a comfort zone. I expect (hope, pray, cross my fingers) that part of the struggle will improve in time as the differences in doctrinal treatment and cultural treatment of homosexuality are made more clear, and the latter are dropped from the menu. However, the former must remain, and as such, the easiness of finding comfort in the LDS Church will not likely come. Not impossible, but not likely easy.

  6. hawkgrrrl permalink

    “we oughtn’t use these beliefs to restrict the rights and liberties of others” This is my feeling exactly. It’s also the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

  7. ooh, hawkgrrrl, I don’t like the golden rule much.

    After all, in a scenario…gay marriage opponents would argue something like, “we are treating you exactly like we would want to be treated. We would want someone to care enough about our “souls” and traditional marriage and society to preserve it.”


    The golden rule is intrinsically selfish. Treat others as *you* would like to be treated? A better one (that I’ve never found a nice metallic term for, even though we have golden rule and its cousin the silver rule) is, “Treat others as THEY would like to be treated.” I think it is so much more simple and empathetic, but it’s also more difficult.

  8. hawkgrrrl permalink

    Andrew – We’re in violent agreement. The golden rule, though, is only problematic as worded when we assume that “how we would be treated” is specific (e.g. I want X, Y, and Z whereas you might prefer A, B, and C). If applied generally (e.g. I want to be treated well), that works. I certainly agree that it’s better to know others’ preferences and treat them accordingly.

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