Critique of a uniquely Mormon argument against same-sex marriage
I must admit…Adam Greenwood’s shenanigans were marketing genius. Now, I occasionally check out Times and Seasons. I guess you don’t get to be a Big 3 Bloggernacle blog through poor advertising! Even if I’m not liking some of the articles, their Notes from All Over section is always interesting.
Today I crossed an article that did catch my eye…It was an article by Julie Smith thanking Valerie Hudson. Why? Because Valerie wrote a defense of the anti-same-sex marriage movement that apparently didn’t make Julie cringe.
I dunno about you, but if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or not cringe-worthy, *I* seek after these things.
…but if I may first descend to the maturity level of a fourth grader…Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Movement? Did they not realize the acronym hell they would waltz into? It’s almost as bad as the Anti-tax protesters teabagging everything…
I will admit that Valerie’s argument was somewhat novel. Maybe that’s because she distances herself from the mainstream arguments against gay marriage by suggesting that the advocates of “traditional marriage” actually get the very purpose, or telos, of marriage wrong. Hudson boldly claims,
By missing the true telos of marriage, these men render themselves utterly incapable of protecting it. And there’s culpability here: because men, for the most part, do not understand the true purpose of marriage, we will lose it as a societal ideal.
Now, while I’m not so sure if I’m against losing the ideal of marriage (as it is propagated by people who would use it as an exclusionary, dividing institution), isn’t that something? Valerie recognizes that not only are advocates of traditional marriage not using in long-term successful strategies and arguments, but in fact, their strategies will destroy that which they hope to protect.
So, what is the true purpose of marriage?
It’s not about kids. And this is the problem, Hudson proposes. By making it about kids, people can actually open the gate for skewed institutions. For example, the “traditional marriage” that Valerie is so against is an institution that inherently subjugates women. Not to mention that if things are just about kids, then monogamy might not be the best answer.
Valerie suggests that for non-LDS people, it might be easy to get caught up in just the kids. However, for Mormon men and women who know, we have no excuse. We know the true telos of marriage and it is to…
…wait for it…you’ll never guess it…
create ultimate gender equality.
Valerie cites an article by a V.H. Cassler for much of her points…which is actually funny, seeing as it seems V. H. Cassler is none other than Valerie Hudson Cassler. (I’m wondering what that one T&S commenter wondered: why would a journal with such potential do something so strange? Maybe it’s a quirk like The Economist’s convention of eschewing bylines…). But as she says:
In LDS doctrine, we are taught that when God married Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He established, in the words of Elder Earl C. Tingey, “an absolute equal partnership between a husband and wife. Eve was to be equal to Adam as a husband and wife are to be equal to each other.”  President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that, “God our Eternal Father ordained that men and women should be companions. That implies equality . . . There is no basis in the gospel for inferiority or superiority between the husband and wife.”  Elder L. Tom Perry has told us that “There is not a president and vice president in a family. We have co-presidents working together eternally for the good of their family . . . They are on equal footing. They plan and organize the affairs of the family jointly and unanimously as they move forward.”  And Elder Bruce C. Hafen, putting the icing on the cake, teaches us that the King James translation in Genesis 3:16 (“and he shall rule over thee”) is a mistranslation. In Hafen’s words, “over in “rule over” uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling with, not ruling over.”  After her courage in partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—for Mormons believe that Eve was courageous and wise in that decision, not evil or airheaded, and that God was very proud of her for her choice to partake–Eve was told that Adam would rule with her, with Adam’s earning that privilege through fulfilling his family and priesthood obligations.
This was one of the most intriguing parts of the paper, because of its marination in Mormonism. But I was most interested about Elder Hafen’s retranslation/interpretation of Genesis 3:16…Wouldn’t that be convenient?
…If only it weren’t WROOOOOOOOOONG, as Nitsav elaborates.
It’s too bad, because this is the kinda important crux of her argument.
I don’t think this makes it all useless though. After all, if the Joseph Smith Translation is any indication, there’s a rich Mormon tradition of reinterpreting the scriptures for expedience (for equal opportunity: it’s not just Mormons that do this…every denomination does), so need we care about the past’s description of inequality when we can exchange it for our new and unusual kinds?
…and even if I don’t like her argument, Valerie does have a rather triumphant suggestion for church members:
It also matters which men make this argument, and here the LDS have a natural leadership role to play. Those men who have failed to form an intimate, gender-equal marriage with a woman are simply not convincing advocates on this issue. Whether this failure stems from confirmed bachelorhood, erroneous religious belief, or serial spousehood, it is very difficult to be persuaded to oppose same-sex marriage by a man who has never personally lived the true telos of marriage. Likewise, allying with, for example, Islamic authorities who embrace a heterosexual definition of marriage, but advocate hierarchy between husband and wife, is utterly counter-productive at this point in time. In the end, their vision of marriage is wrong-headed for the same reason as same-sex marriage—it does not promote gender equality and the sequelae of sustainable democracy and peace that attend it.
BUT…What if there weren’t any campaigning and voting against rights and whatnot? What if…novel idea…people just lived their lives…and we could see by the fruits of the joy and happiness in people’s lives who was living well? So the people following the so-called correct “telos” of marriage, if they were right, need not campaign a single step — their marriages and families would simply be so rock solid that no one could argue against them.