But God has something better planned…
A while back, I wrote on whether religions approached the world pessimistically or optimistically. That is, given all sorts of personal and institutional injustices that we face, should we view them as things that we can work to change in this world and in this life, or should we look to them as things so fundamental to the human condition that we have to learn to accept these things?
In the latter case, the answer for coping usually comes in making some sort of break between the ideal and the real. Some people might put all of the sins and bad stuff in the world on the material body, and as a result, they will adopt a religious system that idealizes a future, spiritual/non-bodily existence.
Even for religions that do not demonize the body (or in fact, make the body central to the religious framework, as Mormonism does), there is this sense that there are some things that must be borne out, and the way to do this is by hoping that an idealized future will be brought (divinely) into being.
I’ve recently begun rethinking the pessimistic framework that religions can have, and I think there’s one major problem to it.
What things ought to be changed?
I could probably summarize my previous link in the following way: The optimist feels there are things that ought to be changed, that one can work on changing in this life. The pessimist feels there are things that ought to be changed, but one cannot work on changing them in this life.
But in either position, it’s unclear what things ought to be changed.
Earlier, I talked about personal and institutional injustices. But what are those injustices? I’ll use one extreme example to illustrate:
Currently, there are a lot of “issues” regarding race…there’s a lot of racial inequality, racial oppression, and things like that. It wasn’t too long ago that Mormonism had its own issues with race and the priesthood, of course. What does a black person undergoing the unfairnesses of having a darker skin color respond? Does she…
- Hope that in the idealized future, she will become white?
- Work toward dismantling social privileges toward certain races and against other races?
Either addresses the injustice, so to speak. But depending on what side you are on, you will probably view the other option as being inconceivable or repugnant. (I have met people on both sides of this issue, btw. It’s pretty awkward when you hear from a guy who thinks he’s complimenting what he perceives to be your righteousness by saying that he’s sure you will be white in the celestial kingdom. I’m not saying that is an official LDS viewpoint, but I think that there are some people who grew up Way Back When who still hold these folklore views.)
But this isn’t a post about race.
So What Is This Post About?
Have any of you checked out (Gay) Mormon Guy? (It’s just Mormon Guy, he will say in comments…the (Gay) is just in the title, and it’s silent anyway.) It’s a conservative LDS blog to the whole being-gay-and-being-LDS at the same time deal.
The one thing that I like about the blog is that Mormon Guy seems to be really gay.
Wait, I don’t mean it like that.
I don’t mean that he’s “stereotypical” or whatever…but that he doesn’t seem to be a fake. He seems real.
(Does that make it clearer? Maybe not.)
As an example, check out his post from earlier this year: Homosexuality Isn’t Just About Sexuality. Within it, he adeptly explains a concept that I’m sure many gay people would love to explain: that sexuality isn’t just about sex. As such, the problem with celibacy isn’t just the lack of sex, but the lack of companionship, the unfulfilled emotional, social, and intellectual needs. His current attempts to date only highlight the problems: he’s going through motions with women because he is not attracted on any of these levels.
The double standard between heterosexuals and homosexuals exacerbates this issue…Although there are many aspects of lack of companionship that single straight individuals absolutely face as well, there is this sense to which they generally have possibility or potential to fulfill those needs in a socially accepted way. However, gay individuals don’t get to say, “One day, I’ll find the right guy whom my parents will approve.” Because in this sphere, no gay relationship will be approved.
This continues further: what can chaste, celibate straight couples do and remain chaste and celibate? No one bats an eye at hand-holding, hugging, kissing (as long as it’s not too steamy), etc.,
Men don’t have these options available, and gay men don’t even have language in an LDS discourse for a “chaste, celibate gay relationship.”
So, in the comments to the article, Mormon Guy laments at how society has changed…how in the past, there were socially accepted venues for chaste male touch, and what-not. Today, you basically only get that possibility through full-contact sports (and this makes me wonder…how many guys playing football/rugby/wrestling/whatever are doing that because no one will bat an eye if they touch another dude’s butt?)
Anyway, I’m digressing. The point is, Mormon Guy seems to have an acute awareness of these issues, of the double bind here, and the way that human institutions are in many ways inadequate. Even more, Mormon Guy has a captive audience — whereas liberal/disaffected/non-LDS gay people can’t even get a foot in the door of more conservative or religious straight or gay individuals, Mormon Guy definitely has an audience of people who probably learn a lot from his blog.
…and that’s what I like. The blog, however, is kinda depressing and frustrating at other times…because, as I mentioned earlier on, Mormon Guy will point out that the (Gay) is silent. He is Mormon Guy. He is really Mormon.
So, while each blog entry usually has a pretty well-thought out thing about gay issues, it usually has a very LDS conclusion. A couple of paragraph ago, I noted that Mormon Guy is aware of the ways that human institutions are flawed. But in the end, it’s all about trusting God and the Gospel, so that’s that. As he states in a comment to that article:
There may be tons of gay Mormons, or just gay guys, out there who are willing and anxious to hold my hands, cuddle, look into my eyes, and practice abstinence until same-sex marriage… but all of them have already lost my interest completely… because I don’t believe that a romantic relationship between two men is the right answer. I know you don’t agree with me. But God has something better planned… something that requires that I turn to Him, completely, and rely on Him for all my needs. From my perspective, God really is asking us to sacrifice more than just physicality – He’s not just asking us to give up sexual activities, but romantic ones too…. same-sex marriage, romance between guys, gay dating, and a host of other facets – whether or not they have been explicitly outlined in General Conference.
As this post’s title references, it was the line that begins “But God has something better planned” that drove me to write about this post. This points to the idealized future for which Mormon Guy hopes.
Although Mormon Guy’s comment wasn’t addressed to me, he’s right that I don’t agree with him. Mormon Guy realizes the depth of the injunction to celibacy; he understands the social implications thereof, double standards and social unfairnesses…but the distinction to me is that his religion compels him to hope not for a world in which those double standards will be resolved, but rather for one in which…he’ll be rid of that same-sex attraction and will be able to have companionship with a woman.
The frustration comes from the sense that, at least at some level, Mormon Guy may realize that he could have a fulfilling relationship and have his emotional, intellectual, and physical needs met. He’s not at the place that many repressed or closeted individuals are where they don’t even think a relationship could be anything more than physical flings.
Yet, for him, since his religion says that’s not the right answer, it’s off the table. As he himself says, he’s not just giving up sexual activities, but romantic ones…companionship itself.
A Different Example
Of course, this isn’t the only way that Mormonism can compel people, however. In many ways, John G-W at Young Stranger is in a similar boat — believing Mormon who is also gay and has a deep awareness of the issues with both of those — but G-W comes to a considerably different position. I don’t mean that he has rejected Mormonism (although in official respects, the church has rejected him), because he hasn’t.
Rather, he takes a look at a more complex and Mormon framework for embodiment, the value of companionship and relationships, etc., and points out that these ought to be viewed positively — whether for straight people are for gay people. S0 his hope is considerably different — it’s more that one day, the church will allow him back within (and recognize his relationship as good.)