Wednesday, December 24, 2008

MORally MONStrous: A Response/Analysis to Bill Cope

Well here I go with one of those delayed response blogs I do on occasion. The subject matter in question, California’s Proposition 8, was really more immediate a month ago, but local columnist Bill Cope’s piece (the titular MORally MONStrous) didn’t appear in the Boise Weekly until its December 3-9 issue. In it the liberal Cope (whose political view point I mention simply for context and not as a judgment) laments the recent passage of California’s anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment. This amendment of course takes away the legally recognized marriage rights that became available to the states homosexuals this past summer, subsequent to a ruling from the state supreme court. As is well known many members of the LDS Church contributed time and money towards the campaign for Proposition 8, this at least partly do to the prodding of the Church hierarchy, though doubtless many Mormons would have done the same in the unlikely event that the Church had refused to comment on the issue. That the Church has incurred considerable public relations blow-back from Mormon involvement in Proposition 8, particularly from the homosexual community and the left, is also very well known; just do a YouTub search on the subject and you’ll see many a rainbow flag in front of many a Mormon Temple. Such indignation is not surprising, nor is it the part of this column that really got my interest. No what interested me about the column is best introduced in the following quotations there from:

“My opinion this week will upset many local people, I’m certain. It will bring responses about how bigoted I am. How intolerant I am. <> Specifically, it has to do with the Mormon Church, which swung its considerable clout to the travesty of denying gays the respectability and dignity that Mormons have spent well over a century trying to get for themselves. And which now, they themselves should be denied.

“ That’s right, you hear me. The Mormon Church has become a hateful bully and should be treated as such. Other people voted for Proposition 8, true, and much has been made of how black voters probably ensured its passage. But black voters aren’t a money-soaked, monolithic, corporatized, sanctimonious monstrosity that poured $20 million into the effort, are they?”

Mr. Cope recognizes, as again have many others, that it was the black vote (which went something like 70% in favor of prop 8) that was really the deciding factor, electoraly speaking, in the amendments passage. Yet he like many others refuses to place blame on that community, no doubt motivated in part by a kind of secular ecumenicalism, in which the left, the gay movement, etc. desires to have the nations blacks firmly within their big-ten coalition. Latter-day Saints however, are not desired as part of this collation, they have been given up on even before they were seriously considered, and not without plentiful reason. Mr. Cope is right, the Church is intolerant of opposing voices on this issue, it does seek to deny “gays the respectability and dignity” that the Church has spent most of its history attempting to gain for itself. In fact the parallels of the two movements long drives for ‘legitimacy’ are rather striking, which should only serve to cast further relief on the articles not even submerged, but rather blatant subtext. Again from Mr. Cope:

“We could challenge their tax exemptions and I would love it if someone asked some serious questions as to why there’s always a damn Mormon seminary within a stone’s throw of nearly every high school from here to Salt Lake City.

“But frankly, those o f us who grew up around the smug self-containment of our Mormon neighbors will realize none of that would work and, in fact, would probably only make them more smugly self-contained. The Mormon Church has always luxuriated in their history of being picked on.

“ Yet after this orchestrated disdain for the happiness and emotional well-being of their fellow citizens, my fear of saying what I really think of them (that variety of cowardice I spoke of earlier) is a thing of the past. I am now free to be as unaccepting of them as they are of gays.”

That for me is the key and reveling line: “My fear of saying what I really think of them is a thing of the past.” It says as much about life in large chunks of the Mountain West, where the Mormon/ “Gentile” divide is probably the most tense inter-group fissure; as it does about what is really an anti-Mormon bigotry held by many of the supposedly “enlightened”. “Yes the black vote is probably why Proposition 8 past, but I hate the Mormons anyway, lets vent our anger at them.” Mr. Cope would never equate being a Latino to being gang member, though many Latino’s doubtless are gang members, yet he seems more then willing to imply that Mormons are by nature bigoted. Yes many, even most Mormons (in this country at least) do have views about homosexuality that are decidedly retrograde by mainstream contemporary standards. Yet there are those who are decidedly not, such as Barbara GrahamYoung, Levi Peterson, and even Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. Mr. Cope should learn those names because they are undoubtably the kind of people he would like to see more Mormons become. Expressing unabashed hate will not help this happen, Cope admits this, but its just to satisfying to pass up. Not unlike the pleasure others get from gay-bashing.

I was not a supporter of Proposition 8, I would have voted against it for a number of reasons, just as I voted against Idaho’s anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment two years ago. I recognize the “smug self contentment” of many of my fellow Church members, it irritates me as well, I hope we as a people can overcome it. But I also think many outside the Church are to sensitive to the perceived slight of a people they claim not to care about anyway. Mostly I’m sick of intolerance, from whatever quarter, it’s so exhausting and I’ve had my full of it. Mr. Cope condescendingly offers to readmit the Mormons to American cultural pluralism once they “renounce the evil in their hierarchy and escape the sin of their dogma.” Perhaps Mr. Cope can come to recognize the extent to which he to suffers from exclusivity syndrom.


Andrew S said...

I should *not* jump into this, but I will.

Pointing out the overwhelming support of prop 8 by the black community doesn't case. If someone is going to argue against religious conservatism and its impacts on politics (and I just skimmed a few times over your post, but I assume you're trying to defend at least the church), then the black community's overwhelming support of prop 8 fits. One doesn't have to say "it's because they are black" or touch racially motivated doctrines, so that's why no one "blames" black people from the passage of prop 8.

It's more apt to say things like, "Religiously and socially conservative people were more likely to support prop 8 (e.g., people who regularly go to church voted for prop 8, generally -- I'll have to find the study that found that, but I thought it was a generally understood conclusion.). Blacks tend to be rather religiously and socially conservative, and they do tend to regularly attend and be active in their church. So no wonder we'd see overwhelming support!"

Take into consideration that many blacks see civil rights as an outgrowth of their religion (many of the civil rights leaders were big religious figures back then and even now), so it's easy to explain why some would reject the gay rights movement as being a "civil rights" movement, as some pro-gay groups want to frame it as. They would say, "Wait a minute: we view our civil rights as a religious struggle, but our same religion doesn't favor homosexuality."

The reason why I say this doesn't because someone who's arguing against religious conservatism would lament it anywhere. So, it does not necessarily follow that people are avoiding touching the black community because of some kind of "liberal" check on such a's because they realize that the issue isn't about black or white as much as it is about religious conservatism.

Andrew S said...

Actually, after reading the post more fully, I agree with the *major* points of your message (which I ignored in my last post -- whoops :3).

My question would be: how does the church move to a position where we have more Barbara Graham Youngs and Dustin Lance Blacks instead of the more exclusive and conservative majorities?

NateDredge said...

Well I suppose it would start with retaining those kinds of people so they can be an influence on others. I’ve skimmed through your blog and understand your are not practicing/believing. I respect that. I’m not saying you should come back or not, that’s your choice. But the truth of the matter is that many of the more progressive members of the faith leave it, or stay only marginally involved. They do this for several reasons, one is they lose their faith, in which case they probably should leave the Church (if they can) for there own mental health. They might also leave in protest, migrate elsewhere spiritually, or be forced out ala the September Six. Whatever the reason many of the more progressive individuals in the LDS Church leave it, or stay quite and allow the conservative majority to further right word retrenchment. Outside criticism, especially when the motivation reads heavy of the personal animas, only hardens the conservative reactionism in the Church, and pushes change further down the road. Ultimately the Church hierarchy promoting much of a move to the left is extremely unlikely to occur. A grass roots movement in this direction is slightly more likely.

Andrew S said...

I agree that the signs point to more progressive members either leaving the church or remaining in (but living lives of quiet desperation in the church.) And there are of course several blogs in the bloggernacle and elsewhere of all kinds of positions of the sort.

And I agree that the signs point to the official church hierarchy remaining and becoming more conservative.

But that is precisely why I ask how this is supposed to be changed? Retaining these people so they can have more influence doesn't seem likely since it is the progressive members who are most at risk for shunning or disciplinary action.

If you feel that members who lose their faith should leave for their mental healths, then I can't necessarily say I disagree, but then that gives even less hope for a grassroots movement for change within the church. All the people who would be able to conduct such a movement would either be 1) ex-members or 2) silent/quiet and alone. Obviously, the marginalized progressive members who are still faithful have little pull within the church because of their low numbers, but the former group, of former mormons, ex-mormons, etc., has just as little pull (even though this group has higher numbers) because the hierarchy of the church can easily label them as heretics and disregard any of their comments.

It's like the actions of pro-gay, yet pro-faithful group Affirmation. They don't seem to have any chance of making any meaningful change in the future because more conservative members will simply say, "The church won't bend for "sin" just because Affirmation doesn't like it."