Sunday, April 30, 2006

Right and wrong again

In a recent post I discussed the morality of homosexuality from a Mormon point of view. It is my view. But I don’t begrudge those who believe otherwise. I consider other views to be not only legitimate but often based on wonderful ideals as well.

I see the value and beauty of finding another person to love. Knowing that person and feeling his pain as your own. Feeling his successes as your own. Making him happy… and having that reciprocated. Reaching this ideal of having someone as an intimate partner makes life so much better. Having recently gone from no intimate partner to having someone who is on my side no matter what, the contrast is fresh and stark in my mind. It is truly amazing.

And why not? As I explained in the other post, the central objection I have is based on my view of the afterlife and my understanding of God’s commandments and the reasons behind them. In my belief, the reason we are living at all is to become divine, and this process ultimately excludes gay relationships for logistical reasons (and presumably broader reasons known only to God). But, putting that aside and viewing the matter from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know about God’s plan (or doesn’t believe), I see gay love as just as high an ideal to achieve during this life as straight love. At least they have equal potential to be moral when the love is unselfish and pure.

Whether or how gay relationships will last and ultimately bring long term happiness or disappointment, I think is irrelevant. For the same reason I claim the privilege to marry my straight wife and work out our own unconventional happiness in the best way possible, I believe in extending that privilege to everyone.

Unfortunately, Mormons are so zealous and full of love for their fellowmen, that they at times fall prey to the notion that compulsory obedience to God’s commandments is better than disobedience. This is not born out by scripture—at least, it is contradicted in many cases. The articles of faith make it clear that we ought to tolerate those who believe differently than ourselves. It’s part of the Golden Rule. It’s part of Jesus’ teachings. And for those to whom the veracity of the church is unknown, there should be freedom to pursue virtuous ideals such as love, support, fidelity, and contented partnership in whatever way is mutually satisfactory and does not detract from the rights of others.

There are terrible problems with communicating religious ideas, and I’ve posted on this before. So let me clarify that there are multiple meanings to words like sin, evil, and damnation—and they’re not all frankly pejorative. Sin in one sense is acting against the will of God, but in another sense is knowingly acting against the will of God. One obviously brings far more culpability than the other, but both kinds of sin will keep us from achieving the goals God would have us reach. To what level a person must know his behavior is sin, I can not say. Hence my emphasis on listening to conscience and vigilantly pursuing spiritual communication.

So, although I hold the view that gay love will ultimately damn a person (that is, keep them from achieving the potential God intends), I also believe that gay love can be a virtuous aim for those whose belief system accepts it. It is, in a word, moral. And at the same time, evil. Understanding how that is possible requires sophistication unachievable for some. And understanding how such a view is based on love and faith rather than fear and hate may be equally impossible for those whose own belief system is a scaffolding of dogmatic coping mechanisms.

Most immediately, I believe in religious and social tolerance, and that compels me to support my gay friends as they pursue the happiness they desire.

19 comments:

Dave Walter said...

Scaffolding of dogmatic coping mechanisms? Oh, L, what am I going to do with you?

Otherwise, your post is thoughtful, instructive, and reflective of the care with which you've considered the issues.

If only I could think of a way to nudge you to take one, small, additional leap....

Beck said...

Very eloquent and well put. You're not alone in your religious views nor in your tolerance and acceptance of others.

Keep writing! I love to read your thought-provocating entries.

-L- said...

what am I going to do with you?

Acknowledge that a good person like me isn't necessarily motivated by fear and hate. C'mon Dave, it'll be therapeutic.

Nudge away, Dave. What leap did you have in mind? I reserve the right not to jump off any cliffs.

***
Thanks, Beck, for your kind words.

gilmore guy said...

Yeah this is pretty much how I feel about it. There is nothing earthly that really ought to deny committed, loving, gay relationships. They can be just as beautiful or just as awful as heterosexual marriage.

It is my faith in the restored gospel's understanding of the afterlife that has helped me make a choice not to pursue a gay relationship. If, someday when I leave mortality and I find that God doesn't care whether I'm married to a man or a woman, well then I'll have eternity to work it out then.

In the meantime, I believe in the gospel and I make the choice to live accordingly. And at the same time, I support anyone, on any side of the issue, who chooses to enter a good, honest, and loving marriage: gay or straight.

-L- said...

Gilmore Guy, I am so pleased that you commented.

I've been meaning to ask you whether your pseudonym is in any way related to a particular WB show I'm fond of. :) We have very few shows that we watch with regularity, but we've seen every episode of that one.

Dave Walter said...

Acknowledge that a good person like me isn't necessarily motivated by fear and hate.

L, I've never stated or implied that good people like you are motivated by fear and hate.

However, there are many others who, unlike you, exhibit a pronounced antigay bias. Some of them are motivated by fear and hatred, while others are motivated by simple prejudice.

What the latter group has in common with good people like you is their belief in and adherence to what I maintain is a faulty religious belief. (But we've already covered that ground a few times.)

-L- said...

See, I've just taken an anti-gay-sex position. One that I hope is rational and thoughtful rather than based on blind religious prejudice.

I thought when you said,

There absolutely is no moral distinction [between gay sex and straight sex]. Any and every view to the contrary is informed by prejudice

and when you said,

Some assert that gays should be more tolerant of those who express anti-gay-sex opinions. But I, for one, can't do that. I have a strong and unambiguous moral opinion against homophobia.

you were talking about me, since I hold an anti-gay-sex opinion. Calling me a homophobe. Calling me prejudiced. Granted, the most generalized attribution of anti-gay-sex opinions to hate and fear in the comments in your third post on homophobia came from others. So, really, the scaffolding comment wasn't for you unless you want it.

I'm delighted to hear that you don't include me with the prejudiced, homophobic, or hateful religious folks. I just wish you didn't include any religious folks until they had undeniably earned it.

I know we've covered this ground before, but I just can't help myself. Many Mormons are labeled homophobic for their anti-gay-sex views, and I take issue with that. I don't think they are homophobic and I don't think they are irrational.

Dave Walter said...

See, I've just taken an anti-gay-sex position. One that I hope is rational and thoughtful rather than based on blind religious prejudice.

Thoughtful, yes. Rational, no. I don't believe religious beliefs fall within the realm of rational or irrational thought, but fall instead within the realm of the fanciful and/or hypothetical.

I stand by my comments that you quoted. Although I possibly use "prejudice" and "homophobia" more interchangeably than I should, both are at the core of "gay sex is always wong" beliefs. Even when a person is merely and sincerely following a church's anti-gay-sex teaching, that teaching reflects the prejudice, the homophobia of the person who created it and the institution that perpetuates it.

Gay Mormon said...

Very deep, as usual. I don't know if it was your intention to become the official church spokesman on gay issues, but I don't think the church could argue this one more thoroughly!

It's great to see the official gay spokeman of the world debating homosexuality with the official gay church spokesman. Great matchup. :)

Dave Walter said...

The world? I'm barely the official gay spokesman of the the mile between my Safeway and the fire house.

-L- said...

I don't believe religious beliefs fall within the realm of rational or irrational thought

Because something is not based on empirically reproducible phenomena doesn't change the fact that it can be rational or irrational. And if I weren't so lazy, I would go back and find a place where you yourself called it "irrational".

Bottom line: the position on sexuality makes perfect sense given the more fundamental tenets of the faith. Rational. And it used to baffle me as to why this is so elusive for some, but I think I'm starting to see.

Here's the irony. A Mormon might say, "Some assert that Mormons should be more tolerant of those who pursue a gay lifestyle. But I, for one, can't do that. I have a strong and unambiguous moral opinion against gay sex." Over and over again you attack those who refuse to concede that other points of view are legitimate, and in so doing are guilty of the exact same thing. This is the third time I've used your own words to show this irony, but still I think the point is lost on you.

I disagree with this hypothetical Mormon position for the same reason I disagree with you. Because I value tolerance for all, not just myself. Those with, ahem, coping mechanisms that constrain their thinking can't get outside themselves to really achieve any cultural competency although they demand it from others. True for gay advocates who won't tolerate Mormons, true for Mormons who won't tolerate gays.

GM: Oh, HELL no.

Chris (hurricane) said...

I keep thinking I'm going to have something to say here, but it never seems to crystalize in my mind.

I will say that I appreciate the dialogue between dave walter and L. I think L's defense of religious viewpoints is cogent and thoughtful but I think he is ignoring the problems that arise from a worldview that is essentially rooted in magic and myth. The religious point of view on homosexuality may be "rational" in that it can be present in a logically sound way, but it is based on assumptions rooted in faith rather than observable fact.

There. I said something.

Dave Walter said...

Because something is not based on empirically reproducible phenomena doesn't change the fact that it can be rational or irrational.

I don't agree. There's nothing rational in saying there's a kindly gray-bearded dude sitting on a cloud, surrounded by winged babies. There's nothing irrational in saying suicide bombers will find virgins awaiting them in heaven. And so on.

And if I weren't so lazy, I would go back and find a place where you yourself called it "irrational".

It is the belief that gay sex is sinful that is irrational, whether or not that belief is religiously based. Antigay bias is simply antigay bias. And that's the point I believe is lost on you.

The existence of a deity, heaven, hell, angels, an afterlife -- all of that is the subject of unprovable suppositions. Men employ those suppositions as tools to gain power, control human behavior, fill a pscyhological need, or whatever.

Society evolved to the extent that it was considered wrong to own a black person as a slave. As strides continued to be made against racism, a man in the LDS Church determined that the church ought to make more room for blacks.

Society has evolved to the point at which antigay bias is ever-diminishing. Eventually, a man in the LDS Church will determine that gays and straights are equivalent.

howller said...

. . . the reason we are living at all is to become divine, and this process ultimately excludes gay relationships for logistical reasons (and presumably broader reasons known only to God).

I'm curious what the "logistical" reasons are.

I don't really see why a gay relationship would necessarily lead one away from becoming divine. After all, I have to believe that, in the grand divine plan, I am gay for a reason. Perhaps denying me a life partner is actually impeding my eternal progress. This reasoning would be entirely hypothetical if not for the fact that the answer to the prayers of many gay Latter-day Saints is actually to pursue a committed gay relationship.

-L- said...

It is the belief that gay sex is sinful that is irrational, whether or not that belief is religiously based

Given: Acting against the will of God is sin
Given: Gay sex is against God's will for eternal families with Fathers and Mothers
Result: Gay sex is sin

Modus ponens, DW. You can say it's irrational til your face turns blue, but it is rational.

I'm not going to respond to your inflammatory polemics right now. They are irrelevant because whether or not the church is true (i.e., there is any merit to the two "givens" above) is not the topic of current discussion. Only that such a view should be tolerated by those who demand tolerance for themselves. Only why some people have a psychological need to attribute any anti-gay view to some faulty attribute, whether that's irrationality, prejudice, hate, fear, or something else. It's just not true in all cases, and asserting as much from an activist for tolerance is hypocritical, and probably stems from inviolable personal coping mechanisms--which is understandable.

Celebrity deathmatch over. :) On to the next post.

***
Hurc, you believe in the magic of the atonement, right? Just checking.

Nice to see you comment.

***
Howller, in the post I discuss the ultimate roles God wants us to have include fathers and mothers. Logistically, that's a challenge for two men to achieve together.

Chris (hurricane) said...

L,

I believe in the magic of atonement rather than the magic of the atonement.

Dave Walter said...

Given: Acting against the will of God is sin
Given: Gay sex is against God's will for eternal families with Fathers and Mothers
Result: Gay sex is sin


I could say that it's against the will of my God to, oh, I don't know, ride on a bus. That would be just as lacking in rationality as your givens and result. Cvilized society, independently of religious doctrine, holds that riding a bus is OK, and that being gay is OK.

It's just not true in all cases, and asserting as much from an activist for tolerance is hypocritical, and probably stems from inviolable personal coping mechanisms--which is understandable.

This the second time that you've speculated that I am "coping" wit being gay. More than anything, that's sad, as it suggests you have no concept of the sense of liberation one experiences when he embraces his gayness, including gay sex. The need to cope evaporates.

-L- said...

Let's say a man dressed as a muskrat named Pookie is driving the bus filled with explosive laden purple crayons that will ignite when the bus boards its next rider, killing many innocent gay men standing near the curb. One could rationally conclude that riding that bus would be evil.

DW, I'm trying to save your LIFE here by taking this evil bus ride seriously. Oh, DW. [sigh]

It's easy to de-contextualize isolated statements and call them irrational. It's tempting to appeal to the authority of "civilized society". But these are fallacies.

But rather than continue the dialog that goes something like:
DW: "irrational"
L: "rational"
DW: "nuh uh"
L: "yes huh"
DW: "nope"
L: "uh huh"
etc..., I will just comment this one time more to point out that I have no doubt indulging the romantic and sexual aspects of your nature is liberating. But, the only way I can think of to explain your ardent fallacies resisting the idea that good reasonable people with no character flaws whatsoever can believe that gay sex is a sin is that taking such a position in some way alleviates some of your anxiety or stress. I don't know if you are coping with being gay or just being wrong. Or something else.

But I'm not insulting you. There's nothing wrong with coping. We all do it.

Natasha said...

LOVE this. Completely understand the distinctions you make. Agree wholeheartedly. Wish we could be friends.