Friday, May 11, 2007

One Man’s Love Is Another’s Hate

Well, someone a while ago thought this long explanation had a point, may as well post it :-)…

Anyone paying attention knows that the words “love” and “hate” are tossed around often in regards to gay issues and the LDS church (many churches really). To simplify, the church claims to be feeling and showing love to gays and lesbians, and the other side claims it’s hate.

To me, it’s far from that simple, and I do believe, for its inaccuracy, the word hate should be dropped from most of such debate.

I’m still trying to think of the best word, but maybe it’s antagonistic. The LDS church is antagonistic to gays. It doesn’t hate them, nor is it filled with bigots (though some members certainly do and are, as in any group). The current LDS church is antagonistic, to my mind, because asking any human to live a life of celibacy, or a life that involves coupling with a sex, male or female, in a way they find unnatural, unethical, or otherwise repellant, causes that person (and sometimes their spouse) a good deal of distress, the sort no human would want. For some, it's even strong enough to make the end of their life seem a better choice.

Furthermore, it should be clear that such a moral requirement would distress any person, straight or gay. For example, a gay father teaching his heterosexual son that heterosexual sex and couplings are immoral, for, say, odd pagan beliefs, that would hurt the kid, right? But could the father still be “loving,” if he thought by faith he was doing best by his son?

That distress is there, and understood, and I don’t think anyone can deny it. The debate is whether or not it's justified, or for the person’s own good. Certainly, opposing people’s intrinsic makeup isn’t always a bad thing. The LDS are similarly hostile to kleptomaniacs as well, and rightly. There are instances where the antagonism towards and suppression of personal drives are called for, and I’ll do so right along with any church.

But this post is about love, a word in need of more words, like snow to the Eskimos. Up front, I am sure the church feels justified in causing this distress, and I bet most there feel love. It’s not, though, the same model of love people are using when they say the church feels the opposite. I think it’s important for both sides to understand what is in the details of these too-simple words, to both stop gays from crying wolf in claims of ‘hate’ and to get the other side to understand why such love doesn’t count as love in the eyes of many.

To my experience, love can mean a couple things to people. It can just be the feel-good emotion about another. Let’s simplify all this and just call that good feeling A. Then there’s that intuitive coupling love. Let’s call that B.

My love for the man I go home to is a love one builds with another mutually. I have A and B, but his wants have also become my wants. I sacrifice for him, and he does the same, to where it’s hard to say now where each personality ends. Furthermore, we’ve promised to make such choices even if A and/or B go. That’s a different sort of love. It’s not just a feeling, it’s love, an action, a way of life. In its best form, it’s selfless, not focused on personally feeling good in A or B. Its actions are dependant upon another’s desires; they hold your motivation. Call that C.

The opposite of this would be hate, to me: where you feel malice and your motivations are specifically to subvert another’s. Just call that ~C.

I think most of those in LDS church personally feel strong feelings of A towards gays and certainly don’t experience ~C, but the desires of the object of their love here are not as important. Let’s call this love D. The important thing here is what the LDS faith says God wants. By following their rules, it’s claimed God will make you happy, and, by that, the beloved’s sense of right and wrong and their desires are not the focus, as they are with C. There’s one side whose desires are thought to ultimately please everyone best, and they can feel love at the same time their actions are hurting the other person.

Now, as a parent, I know such isn’t always to be frowned on :-). Punishment and reward can sometimes be used with all the love in the world. Pain is sometimes necessary for greater gain, as any two-bit trainer will tell you. Also there are times when C becomes D, say, if a spouse starts a drug habit. But does it make sense when I say it’s a different sort of love than the love some gays are referring to when they, regrettably, use the word hate?

To a gay man facing D (particularly one of a different faith), all they see are the church’s actions: telling gay LDS teens they have to fight their attraction to men while encouraging others to follow it, trying to weaken their legal ties to each other and their kids, trying to keep it so some of us can’t adopt the children we are raising so as to get them on our health insurance, and much more under family law. As I’ve listed, here, there are many ways in which I’m personally harmed by the politics church members have been encouraged into supporting. That’s just a fact and, to a careless eye, it looks like hate.

But, personally, I’m glad to have come to believe it only looks like hate. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to know what another is really feeling, or their real intentions, and that’s the crux. Some gays see the actions and assume hate (or use the word because it’s politically easy, and it sells, and doesn’t require nuance). When it’s a misunderstanding, it should be clear to the church member as to why: People are judged most easily by their actions, not hopes. But this isn’t an easy topic, and there’s a difference between ~C and D, “hate” and “tough love”.

On the other hand, those expressing love should also know it doesn’t matter to some gays either way. To a person's family, your actions harming or helping them matter most. How you feel about your actions is less important, as the same result can come for love or hate. In fact, the fact a person feels D, with all the good feelings of love, A, almost makes it worse. I know because I’ve felt this too. Not only are they going to hurt you and your family--do things to you that you’d never want done to them--they’ll do it and feel good about it, righteous and loving about it, have their cake and eat it too. Still I know, to a person holding that faith, it all seems justified, and I do now appreciate the loving intention. It means there is hope for the middle ground.

To drive the point into the dirt :-), consider an extreme historical case: the Roman Catholic Church during the inquisition. Church officials would violently extract “confessions” regarding homosexuality. Why, did the RCC want a confession? To get the gay man into heaven, escaping eternal torture. For his own good, right? Once the man was absolved of the sin (and now an admitted criminal), he’d be “relaxed” into the custody of the state and burned. As stomach churning as that seems today, it had a logic to it, and it was, in a sense, loving, D, tough love. Really, ask yourself, if you honestly believed that’s how the universe worked and God would let you move a man from eternal torture to eternal bliss in that way, how would you view such an act?

To them, they saved a man from the worst fate, burning in a lake of fire forever, and all it cost was limited pain in this mortal realm, a sliver and a spark in their supposed eternal plan. And even if the gay man wasn’t sincere, the public was saved. Not only did the public example strongly discourage such “sin” in others, the town was saved, as was also believed as part of the faith, from the wrath God dishes out to any town harboring gays (You can find us blamed for everything from Muslim military wins to high rat populations :-)).

I’m sure most all modern faiths, including the RCC, have a different take on that historical “tough love” though (thank goodness!). But the parallels are there in a far less dire form; I’d certainly rather worry about being kicked out of our home than burning to death :-). And, if the member’s faith is right on this topic, such is justified; if not, then that’s something to be judged by time. But, both sides should know the love or hate of such actions can appear very different from opposite ends of the stick, even in the extreme examples.


Mr. Fob said...

I agree. That's all I have to contribute here.

playasinmar said...

this has got me so worked up I don't even know where to start.

...The road to hell is paved with good intentions...

...By their fruits ye shall know them...

...Blarg! Mormons bring only Warm Fuzzies to each person they touch! Blarg...

iwonder said...

This whole topic is one of the things that bothers me the most. I know, of course that none of it is motivated by hate, but that doesn't really ameliorate the pain of having to live like this.

I am told that what I want more than anything else is fundamentally wrong, even though it feels so right to me. And, I believe it and at the same time, I don't. I don't know what to believe anymore.

More than anything I want to have a normal life with a family, but apparently, I am one of the "special few" who is to be denied that privilege in this life. Why? Because my version of a family, the only version I can honestly entertain, is fundamentally "immoral" and "wrong".

I just cannot wrap my mind around it all. It makes no sense to me.

Scot said...

"I agree. That's all I have to contribute here. "

That’s my favorite sort of contribution ;-)

Playasinmar, I had no intention of causing tough feelings or make anyone say blarg. Look at our puppy in the next post. That’ll help.


I don't know what to believe anymore.

I know it sucks, but that is an opportunity that many folks never get. There are Mulslims, Buddhists, LDS, Catholics, and atheists out there who have believed about ethics and the supernatural what they’ve always believed. No reason to question and they can’t all be right.

I hope you find a way through this that you feel is right. Again, I’ll answer most anything I can from my end.

-L- said...

I don't care for the word "antagonistic" either, although your post is very good at showing the relevant inadequacies of language. I don't consider myself antagonistic to my children when I put them to bed, or give them unwanted medicine, or expect certain behaviors from them. They may feel that way, but precisely the opposite is the actual case.

Scot said...

Thanks L.

"I don't care for the word "antagonistic" either"

I'm wondering now if the word exists. If you remember I started with ‘hostile’ and dropped that. Does anything refer to causing a person pain without additional positive or negative qualification?

It is antagonizing to the focus of such behavior, and I see it is a problem of perspective. When, say, non-LDS Christians try to 'help' LDS towards their idea of God in ways the LDS find troubling for the same parental-esk reasons, how would you characterize that?

-L- said...

If they do it in a respectful and considerate way, I would probably call it "outreach" or some such euphemism they would find satisfying. If they were jamming pamphlets in my face or screaming at me and my family to repent and be saved, I would probably call it antagonistic. I suppose the LDS approach to gays could be seen as similar to either of those. I would hope my own approach is more consistent with the former.