Mormons and Gays…at Wheat & Tares
As you can tell from my “…@ Wheat and Tares” section of this site, I like to write on this blog about posts that I’ve written at Wheat & Tares. And — I’ve said this many times, but I’ll say it again — what I like to do with these posts is provide some sort of supplementary perspective…maybe my thought process in creating the post…or parts of the post that I couldn’t keep in the final version because I was pressed for space…or maybe even a different perspective that I didn’t feel was right for the Wheat & Tares crowd.
I want to do that here, of course. I actually wrote two articles this week at Wheat & Tares, but I’m going to cover my more recent article, All You Need to Know about Mormons and Gays, here.
When the church released its site “Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction,” I initially was not going to cover it. I was swamped with work and the internet in my apartment has been spotty, so I could barely read the site and the various articles written about it, much less think about post anything. Plus, the site came out after my regular day for posting at Wheat & Tares (Wednesday), so I realized that it would take at least a week for me to get a post out.
And with breaking news like this, it’s important to get something out within a short time, before the news gets stale.
Hawkgrrrl brought up the idea of someone doing a post, and some of the other permas raised that they didn’t want to touch the topic with a ten foot pole…and I understand that…Homosexuality is always a charged topic at the site — it was at Mormon Matters, and it probably will remain that way forever.
But even though I have steered more and more away from controversy recently, I wanted to take up the post as a personal challenge. Firstly, I was inspired by Kent Larsen’s genius super-post in response to the Randy Bott race stuff — where instead of trying to get on the scene with the first post, he attempted a chronology — which, of course, works best when you’re one of the last people to cover an issue, yet still gains a lot of traffic.
I wanted to offer an index of a lot of the blog posts that have discussed the site, providing a balance through coverage of all the different perspectives — on one end, the conservative faithful Mormons who do not even regard acceptance of gay relationships as being something to look forward to…to gay folks celibate, mixed-orientation married, or even gay married (man, these are awkward prefixes…can’t it all just be “married”?)…to former Mormons and non-Mormons.
And I wanted to problematize the narrative. Because I don’t want any point on the map to think that this is the best or worst thing that could ever happen. There are challenges, limitations, ambiguities. In some ways, it has the plausible deniability that I think allows people to draw whatever conclusion that they want.
…all that being said, I understand why there are plenty of folks (especially former Mormons and non-Mormons) who look past all the challenges/limitations/complications and are frustrated.
I mean, here’s the deal: for anyone looking for progress, the site is not that good. There is basically no change in theology, and there is little proof that there will be any institutional changes (like the two I suggested at the bottom of my post) to back up the “lofty” (but extremely and condescendingly limited) ideals the church has for family and ward members “loving” their gay brethren, friends, and children.
I raised a post that Nate Oman had written (that has attracted many responses and counterresponses) to try to frame some of the limitations and challenges to the institution shifting direction (if it indeed wants to do that — which as many commenters raised, I seriously doubt that we have leaders that are more progressive than the brunt of the church membership who are just raring to unleash a bunch of progressive changes, but who feel constricted to wait because of the conservative membership…)
…but you know, you don’t have to buy that approach. And if you don’t, then it seems sufficiently clear that the site is inadequate. Too little, too late. As some people have put it, “polishing a turd.” It is bigotry in nicer guise.
And I see that. I get that. There were several points in the site where I thought to myself: “These guys aren’t really seriously about helping to improve anything.”
Nick voiced a lot of those concerns on my post — and I was trying to point out that that wasn’t the discussion I was trying to have there, but I don’t think that’s the message that came across. Nick seems to think that I meant the discussion to be about, and I quote, “Why this website is such a glorious thing, and everyone should be happy that it makes everything all better for gay and lesbians subject to the religious and socio-political influence of Mormonism.”
And I kinda feel like it’s an insurmountable challenge to introduce gray to a matter that someone else, who is not used to the dimness, can only see as pitch black in contrast to the light of the outside. (ugh, i sound like dan wotherspoon or something).
But…my intention was really something like this: if you look at the site, then you have to come to it knowing that there are no changes substantively to the church’s position, to the church’s theology. But just as well, you cannot expect there to be, given what the church has to work with. This is not a glorious message. This is not a message people should be unilaterally happy with. In the post, every time I write about “positive developments,” I wanted to capture the sense that in absolute value terms, we are at best moving from -500 to -499. This is a positive shift, but we started out so far down the hole, and there’s so much further, that if you’re living in sight or in grasp of the numbers beyond 0, you won’t be impressed.
So, I guess one of the things that the exchange has made me think about is how this relates to authenticity. In the post, I am trying to present a deliberately more balanced viewpoint than I might personally otherwise have (my first response on the issue was to John G-W’s guest post at Doves and Serpents, and it definitely was not charitable). Even here, I’m trying to be balanced, but also a little more candid than I was in my post.
…so am I lying? Am I lying to myself? Am I lying to my readers? I mean, Nick probably thinks I’m a horrible (at worst) or ignorant (at best) person based on the conversation at W&T, but I didn’t feel like it would be appropriate for me to divulge all of my opinions over there.
…What I think is that neither is lying. Neither is dishonest. Rather, I have different modes of thinking (probably because I’m one of those nuanced wishy washy types???) and at different places, I exercise different parts. I really was trying to have a different kind of discussion at Wheat & Tares.