When the Mormon church asked for its members to send money to California to support the “Knight Initiative” in 1999, it countersunk the holes the church had already drilled in my dead beliefs. The Knight Initiative became Proposition 22 in 2000 and was intended to ban gay marriage in California. Prop. 22 was passed by over 60% of the state. I was not among those who voted in favor of Prop. 22 and that the Mormons got involved opened my eyes to the politics of hate coming from Salt Lake. I have friends who were conveniently away from church that day, but it didn’t lessen the awakening sting of realization.
The irony of my discomfort with churches being political isn’t lost. If it wasn’t for church organizations in the south in the 50s and 60s, where would the civil rights movement be today?
However, the fundamental difference is easy to see for me; asking for rights and denying rights seem to have a clear demarcation in American churches. Asking for humans to be treated as equals would seem to follow Christian ethics and mores. Today, most churches want to take away rights or “defend” a status because they feel threatened or believe that God will punish those who believe differently. Is this so different than what was being said about African Americans in the mid-20th century by those who didn’t want to grant equal status?
Last week, the Mormons who attended church services were read a letter (PR release from church) from the leaders in Salt Lake. The letter tells the followers that they need to contact their Senators and voice their support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and defining marriage as between a man and a woman. There are a couple of ironies in the anti-gay stance of the church in this instance. First, the church allows men to have plural “eternal” wives by allowing them to remained sealed for all time and eternity despite a secular divorce. So a man marries a woman in the mormon temple. They later divorce. He remarries another woman in the temple. Without going through a “temple” divorce, the church allows him to keep his temple marriage to the first wife and the second wife. Polygamy. So much for “a man” and “a woman”.
The second irony is that church marriages in the Mormon temples in England (at least when I was there) weren’t recognized by the state as being legitimate. Mormon couples had to first be married in a “civil” ceremony (which could be performed by a Mormon bishop) and then travel to the temple for the temple ceremony. The couple was not allowed to consummate their marriage until the temple ceremony had been performed. This discrimination against the church and its teachings might lead one to think that the church would warrant a more open, accepting stance on marriage issues.
In my idealistic mind, I’ve always felt the church could take the lead on being open about marriage. Not so much “open” marriage, but open to the idea that it’s not just “a man” and “a woman”. A chance to lead, not follow.
I remember having a discussion about ten years ago with a friend about how political the church is and how they trod dangerously close to the law when doing so. He was shocked and denied that the church would do any such things. I believe most members agree. Here are some examples of the kind of political thinking that most Mormons in Utah exhibit.
While the church, indeed any church, has the right to lobby its members, not all members agree with the church’s stance. I wonder how long he’s going to have his job at BYU…
In an election year where the GOP hasn’t shown a lot of leadership ability, they know it’s over unless they can somehow divide and conquer. What better than a wedge issue? Are you buying it?