Thursday, June 07, 2012
Mormons Building Bridges: Backlash And Why I Marched
Well, as I assumed would happen, people on both sides of the issue have commented about the Mormons Building Bridges march in the Utah Pride parade that I participated in last Sunday. I've read comments ranging from gay people who thought the whole thing was a political stunt engineered by the LDS Church to improve their image to comments from pious LDS members who questioned just how "active" the members who marched really were and chastised them for breaking the Sabbath and supporting a deviant and sinful lifestyle. I've read comments from gay people who appreciated the sentiment of the marchers but berated them for continuing to belong to an organization that is so intolerant and abusive to gay people, and I read comments from LDS members who appreciated the sentiments of the marchers but berated them for showing support for gay people in a misguided way. Some people were mad at the group for not taking more of a stand in favor of gay rights and marriage equality; others were mad that they marched at all. I've read comments from gay and straight people who were touched and incredibly moved by what occurred and I've read comments from the marchers themselves proclaiming that it was such a spiritual, fulfilling, moving, and worthwhile experience and that there was a great feeling of love involved.
Look, I can't speak for anybody but myself. LDS members can certainly question my devotion and activity in the LDS Church since I am not officially a member anymore. As far as I could tell, the majority of marchers are active members of the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know some were nervous about being there because they didn't know what to expect, how they would be received, or what the reaction of their church leaders and fellow members might be. At the same time, they wanted to do something active to help bridge the gap between two groups of people that are often at odds with another and who don't seem to understand each others' position on this issue.
As for me, even if I'm not officially Mormon, I still consider myself Mormon. It's true that I don't support or agree with the Church's position on this issue, and I think there is a lot leaders and members of the Church have done in the past to cause harm to those who identify themselves as gay. Obviously my views and my relationship with Jonah are the reasons I have been excommunicated, and I own and take full responsibility for that. However, even though I have been excommunicated, I still feel connected to a religion that has given me a great deal in spite of its flaws. I still enjoy church and I go frequently. I'm pretty much as active as a non-member can be.
My reasons for marching in the parade weren't to change church doctrine nor were they to promote any sort of political agenda. For myself, I see so much hurt and misunderstanding from both sides. Obviously, I'm for gay rights and marriage, and while I'd love for the Church to come out in favor of that, I don't see it happening nor do I expect it to. So many gay Mormons or former Mormons have carried such pain and hurt from their families, their religious leaders, the society in which they grew up, and their religion. Whether intentional or not, that pain and heartache exists. Some people have felt abandoned by the very people and institutions who claim to love them. And there are many in the LDS faith who are aware of that pain and wanted a way to reach out and say, "Hey, we love you. We support who you are. We know you have been hurt and want to do something symbolic to tell you that you are not as alone as you might feel." Many LDS people are probably afraid to voice those feelings in a church setting for fear of being shot down or challenged.
The group went out of its way not to promote a political message, challenge church doctrine or to advocate anything other than love. As for me, the march provided more meaning for me by allowing me to march as someone who has experienced much of the same alienation from a religion I still very much love. It was my way of saying, "I know what some of you have experienced and where you've been and where you are, and even though Mormonism and the LGBT community have had their issues and conflicts, we can still close the gap in small ways like this and hopefully find more common ground and more love for one another over time." At least, that is my hope. I think I can understand the bitterness and cynicism other people feel toward the Church. I think I can understand the devotion LDS members feel and the need to follow the leaders of Church and the gospel as it is understood. I can understand that neither side believes it can or should compromise. But I just want to find ways that I personally can help either side understand one another better; I want to find ways to let struggling gay Mormon youth know they are not alone; I want to find ways to help Church members and leaders understand what it's like to grow up gay in the Mormon Church and surrounded by Mormon culture. I don't know if marching in a Pride parade accomplished any of that. I did feel it was healing for some and brought opposite factions closer together, even if but for a moment in time, and that made it worth it for me. It was also healing for me personally, and that certainly made it worth it.
I sometimes wonder if Thomas S. Monson were to stand up in a future General Conference and declare that after much contemplation and prayer, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve felt impressed that it was God's will that those who deal with same-sex attraction should be afforded all the same rights and blessings as their heterosexual counterparts, would those faithful Saints who currently oppose gay rights and gay marriage be able to get on board? That would never happen, many say - the Prophet would never declare such a thing - the Church will never, ever accept that - sin is always sin, etc., and they very well may be right in those assumptions. But what I wonder is, hypothetically, would those same faithful Mormons who follow Church leaders' counsel without question do the same if such a thing were to occur, and if not, why? If they believe God would never let the Prophet lead the Church astray and if they believe that the Prophet is indeed the mouthpiece of the Lord, if hypothetically the Prophet did make such a statement, would they have the faith to get on board or would they let old prejudices convince them otherwise. Of course, if the Prophet actually did make such a statement, and it really were God's will, I imagine that those who took issue with it might pray about it and receive their own confirmation of whether it was God's will or not. The point is probably moot, but it's something I think about.
Here are some various comments, posts, articles, and commentary, both positive and negative and also in-between, about the Mormons Building Bridges group's participation in last Sunday's Utah Pride parade. They are simply examples of many of the things I have read about our march. Some I like better than others; some I whole-heartedly agree with; some have valid points; and some annoy me and make me mad. Here they are, all for your perusal:
A post from a blog called Telestial State
A post from an active Mormon who didn't quite approve on The Cultural Hall Podcast
A simple and positive thought from somebody on PostMormon.org
A discussion on MormonDiscussions
Somebody who wished they had marched
Joanna Brooks' reporting of the event
An active Mormon who disapproved (and frankly, I think her sanctimonious tone negates the title of her blog)
This blogger says essentially the same thing, but in a less self-righteous tone, in my opinion.
A poster on GetReligion.org who criticized The Salt Lake Tribune's reporting of the story
A discussion on ExMormon.org that started with someone who was very cynical of the marchers' true intent and another on the same website that criticizes the marchers for not going far enough
Someone on Main Street Plaza who is a bit skeptical
A couple of posts on Wheat and Tares and a blog written by the same author, but which I have not finished reading. They look interesting to me, though.
Comments by Troy Williams, gay activist, on his personal blog
Reflections of some of the marchers here, here, and here
A guy who wrote an article for City Weekly and didn't have many positive things to say about the marchers or the LDS Church
A discussion over at Mormon Mentality based on the question, "Would you march?"
A beautiful collection on Feminist Mormon Housewives of firsthand accounts from some of the attendees
Jana Riess' thoughts and a blogger's reaction to what she posted
And I found this post rather touching. Stuff like that makes it all worth it to me.