Hate the Bigotry, Love the Person.
I think I have some insight into the bigotted actions of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), now.
I’m Facebook friends with more Mormons than any lesbian normally is, as my wife’s family are about half Mormon. I’ve attended their wedding receptions and family reunions, played with their babies, last year I even played King Herod in their nativity play on Christmas eve. (I didn’t know when I accepted the role he was the Pagan baby killer character, which I was appalled by but didn’t raise a fuss about at all.) I’ve given gifts at countless Mormon weddings, and supported their ceremonies and rites of passage. At my most recent Mormon niece’s wedding reception, I organized the punch and kept it full, helped decorate tables and made sure people arriving felt welcome. I am a great aunt (and actually, a great-aunt).
So imagine my hurt and disappointment when another one of my neices, who I really like and who has always been friendly, chose on facebook to raise money to take away my civil rights.
I think I get it. Her and the other niece that made this choice are career housewives who see and know no-one outside the family but other Mormons. Motherhood is the only career they’ve ever known so they have never had to work alongside and know people who are happy with beliefs other than their own. As mothers of large families, they rely heavily on a social support system that is organized by and through the Mormon church. In between babies, they are assigned unpaid full time jobs within the LDS infrastructure, and donate hundreds of hours a year to maintain this network. Unlike their more tolerant parents, they were raised Mormon from birth. They experience huge amounts of peer pressure to support the church and its ideology, and know nothing else.
Bigotry, whether racism, sexism or hatred of gay people, breeds in environments when you are surrounded by people who support its poison, and don’t get to interact with sympathetic people who don’t. This is why rural and small town people tend to be more racist and socially conservative, because they don’t rub shoulders on a daily basis with the people they were taught to hate. Large city folks don’t usually have this possibility. Before I came to Vancouver from Prince George, I never interacted with First Nations people. I had all the unfortunately usual prejudices, beliefs I no longer hold, because I’ve met native people, lived with them as room-mates and participated in their lives. The same goes with other groups I didn’t have close contact with in my home town.
I chose to make a point of letting my nieces know that their actions affect me, and why and how, as respectfully and lovingly as I can muster. It’s hard to do. I don’t want to lose what good will I have with them. I’m afraid that the power of hate is stronger than that of love. Both of them say they love me, but just don’t agree with gay marriage. This whitewashes the un-Christian lack of humility (if not hatred) embedded in what they do. If they didn’t agree with gay marriage, they would simply not have one, or not permit them to be solemnized in their church. The policy and history of forcing people (sometimes at the point of a sword) to comply with holiness rules or convert to their faith is the crux of what gives Christianity a bad name. To take action to restrict others, who are not Mormons, from doing something of no harm to yourself or others, is an act of evil.
I believe at core, that the truthful reason for trying to restrict civil marriage to heterosexuals is “we don’t want to legitimize your disobedience with our rules by granting it civil status” or less politely “we think you’re sick and dirty and letting you marry each other would make you normal like us”.
The thing is, just like interracial or inter-religious couples decades before us, we ARE just normal people like everyone else. In a democracy rather than a theocracy, the principle is that everyone has equal rights regardless of their beliefs.
Personally, I think marrying off young girls to old geezers is child sexual abuse, and that’s something the Mormon church should be looking after stopping before they meddle in other people’s rights, even if it’s only fringe members of their sect doing it. Assigning women to husbands and then switching them to other men at the whim of an all powerful leader is also immoral. How do I know that? Because it’s doing harm to someone – perpetrating abuse on them or making them into slaves.
I cooled down a little when I found out the main thing that scared my neice. She somehow believed that civil marriage was the thin edge of the wedge, with recruiting in the schools to be next. She didn’t want homosexuality as a normal and good thing to be taught to her kids without her consent. I thought that was what I have been doing anyhow, being a good auntie (or great auntie) at family functions, and no-one seems to object to that. Now, I know that objecting to kids finding out that most people think it’s okay to be gay is pretty insulting too, but I sort of get it. As someone who holds the Earth as sacred, If my kids (if I had any) were being taught that the only way to safely and properly clean a house was to use chlorine bleach, and anyone who didn’t was dirty, I’d be up in arms too. I probably wouldn’t bar them from attending the class if it happened just once, but I’d make sure I did a bit of remedial education at home. Mormons who don’t marry in the church don’t go to heaven, and that’s a big deal for them, so I can see them wanting to make sure their kids understand that the true right and only way to get married is their way, even if I don’t agree with it. That being said, why not simply pass a law that says controversial stuff will get caught in a way that parents can opt their children out of it in a face-saving way? If this will make them feel safe enough to back off it’d be worth it. With 70% of Canadians in support of marriage equality, keeping kids away from people who think marriage equality is fine will be hard, but they can try if they want.
My wedding day was one of the happiest of my life. My family travelled for hundreds and in some cases, thousands, of kilometres to be there. My brother was master of ceremonies and gifted my wife and I with our honeymoon. Our wedding caused nothing but happiness to anyone.
My hope for people whose religions demand that they hurt other people is that they are forced to interact with people who are different from them, that they learn to accept the differences of others and grow into people who can participate fairly in a democracy, without having to exclude or squash people with valid beliefs of their own. My hope is that I can continue to love my nieces, while being saddened and infuriated by their actions against me.
This link, talking about how one influential LDS family is supporting equality, gives me hope. As does this article in Newsweek that debunks the religious doctrine against marriage equality.
Solstice Blessings, everyone.