Thursday, December 20, 2007

Between Bacon and Breathing (Human Sacrifice, 3 of 3)

Giving up breathing is a big deal, and bacon, well, not so much. At the one extreme I think it’s a moral obligation to intervene; at the other we should probably keep even our opinions to ourselves. So what am I supposed to do in the middle ground? What is the right response?

And, of course, we are here in the middle ground. I look at all the blogs of gay Mormons and see some people struggling with their sacrifices, some giving up a lot for their ideas of faith. It’s a religious sacrifice somewhere between giving up bacon and breathing, but not really near either; though it does, at times, play the major role in a suicide. What is the right response from a guy like me?

The way I see it, and I really am working such out as I type (so be lenient :-)), there are a couple options when confronted with any faith-based sacrifice.

1. Keep your mouth shut and hands to yourself. I don’t care to debate, even on my own ground, the virtue or villainy of an exposed head of female hair, drinking tea, or eating bacon, as long as people are free to partake of or avoid either. It’d have to be some really good miracle bacon to warrant more.

2. Speak up against it on your own turf. I guess I’d actually place a religious sacrifice of one’s orientation here. I feel I’m obligated to speak out against such a substantial life-altering sacrifice on my turf, or neutral ground, particularly for what I’ve witnessed in my past (e.g.). Elsewhere, I should probably keep my distance from that topic, and just focus on being supportive in other ways. I feel this way because there’s no real arguing with any matter of faith, and, besides, the last thing you want is a gay man following his orientation while still believing it wrong. The sacrifice may hurt, but to only partially convince anyone otherwise would hurt worse. Furthermore, there are some instance where I think sacrificing one’s orientation can be the right thing to do, depending on the circumstances of families already in existence and the personalities involved. No, gays should not go to the home of such faiths and proselytize :-), and, though I’ve tripped up in places, I think I’ve done an okay job of backing my radical pro-gay agenda, if not my self, out of internet homes that would disagree, and have advertized their position clearly.

This is also where I’d put, say, a woman’s willing sacrifice of her education or basic human rights for religious reasons. But how many times have I brought that up? Sure, my passions are biased.

3. Speak up against it on their turf. Confrontation. There’s a difference between the person sacrificing for a faith in private, and the person telling others they should do the same, particularly when the second person isn’t actually willing to sacrifice the equivalent thing in their life. But is it enough to take this next step? For orientation? I’m not sure; here’s where I’d split hairs. If the person is advocating others sacrifice their orientation, and I see they’re doing so using lies about the real world, particularly when they’re about what gay people do and who they are, thereby attacking my home in the process, I’m more than willing to go to their soap box and confront. If they’re using faith alone, then there’s not much point in arguing; I should probably keep away. Though, if they’re using faith to advocate others do harm to anyone else, by law or other means, I think I’ve another reason to be confrontational.

4. Personally and physically get in their way. Here’s where I’d put the extreme questions of religious sacrifice. I’d wrestle the poison out of the hand of the Jonestown citizens, with absolutely zero, if not negative concern for their religious freedom. I’d rationalize this by the fact that a person next month is not completely the same person they are this month, and I have to believe saving that future person’s right to life is worth to them the violation of the current person’s right to practice their faith. But yeah, it’s a bad rationalization, and I also think their faith is bunk, worse than bunk. It’s a bit of religious bias I’d have without shame. Should I feel like a bigot for that?

FYI, I’d not put orientation in category 4 under any circumstance. No worries, my MoHo brothers, I’ll not hunt you down and throw naked men at you.

5. As a society, we should get in their way. I have a problem with government banning religious practices, though those that end in the practitioner’s death test my limits. Really, most mainstream religions, in theory, ask for a person’s life. Muslims are to be in complete submission to Allah, and Christians are to be willing to give up life for Christ. I know people who promised to slit their throats for the old ceremonies of the predominant religion. Most religions simply do ask for that sort of dedication to the organization, for understandable reasons, and I don’t think government should get involved in telling any adherent they cannot make such covenants. Even if they follow through, if a sane person wants to kill themselves for Allah, or Christ, or whatever they believe in, I’ll go as far as #4, but I’d worry about government getting into the business of banning self-targeted religious practice of most any sort.

Does that mean I’ll not go far enough? I’m not sure.

I hate it, but I don’t think it’s my government’s place to mandate, say, a blood transfusion for an adult Jehovah’s Witness. If a faith asks for you to kill someone else, like your children, of course the government should stop you. I think our government, as it did with the KKK, should also play a role when the religious leader encourages assaults on the life and liberty of a follower’s neighbor. I would even like to see government crack down on anyone like Jim Jones, using religion to get people to sacrifice their lives. But for law to stop the individual from following their faith, when it’s only their selves they directly harm? I don’t like where that road goes.

Of course, thinking on it more, all this means I’d have Abraham arrested before he got Isaac to Moriah, and I’d have Moses in jail for killing children, not to mention that unfortunate gentile he caught gathering sticks on the Sabbath. You have to draw the line somewhere, though, and where a religion starts to ask for your neighbor’s life is as fine a place as any; even at the off chance you upset the supernatural.

Anyway, I don’t know if I settled anything, but at least I feel more organized about what a guy should do in such instances. What he should feel is another issue altogether. It’s just tough, some days, to watch someone starve when you see no reason for it.

I suppose it’s the universal curse of having to watch a human give up anything for beliefs or lack thereof, from near any outsider’s perspective. All religions think those not in their group are sacrificing something wonderful, and I’m sure I’m regarded the same way by a Muslim, Mormon, Methodist, or even, extreme as it is, a person about to drink poison for their reward. Each claim to have special spiritual evidence that those who don’t hold their particular faith are sacrificing something far greater than what their organization asks of them; they have to. We’ll all be in some faith’s hell, after death, and I’m sure they cringe at the idea of my eventual pain too. They too have to figure out how to respond. To my point of view, though, the pain is all too apparent now, in religious sacrifices from the Muslim’s hunger to the Jonestown suicide. There’s no need to wait for promises to come true, from my perspective; I just hope I know how to rightly respond.

9 comments:

Mr. Fob said...

Wonderfully thought-provoking series of posts, Scot.

I asked on my blog last month why mixed orientation marriages are politically incorrect, and My Favorite Feminist (MFF) responded in a comment on J G-W's blog a couple weeks ago, saying, "Things that generally cause profound heartbreak and despair tend to be less politically correct than other courses of action." It's a valid point, especially taking into account the fact that the "profound heartbreak and despair" is not only that of the gay man making the sacrifice but also the woman he marries. When you're talking about a woman who is fully informed of what she's getting into beforehand, though, then we're talking about a self-sacrifice along the lines of "a woman’s willing sacrifice of her education or basic human rights for religious reasons." In her defense, MFF initially kept to the realm of your #2, speaking out only on her own blog, and has since gone no further than #3.

So I think I'm more or less comfortable with how you've broken things down here, but based on my experience as someone criticized for making what was initially a faith-based sacrifice, I'd suggest that before you do anything, first you make sure you have objective data supporting your belief that whatever sacrifice we're talking about "generally cause[s] profound heartbreak and despair" (which I don't think is true in the case of MOMs because there simply isn't any reliable data), and second that however you respond, even if you can't honestly respect the other person's religious beliefs, you maintain respect for the person. Which is something I think you've done an admirable job of, at least here and elsewhere around the MoHosphere.

Oh, and curiously, do you actually have a stock of naked men that you could throw at MoHos if you felt so inclined? Just wondering.

And completely unrelated, but I'm totally not linked on your sidebar. That's all.

playasinmar said...

Scot, I've dubbed your new device "The Man Cannon."

Peter said...

I was trying to get my dad to understand this morning how much the Church was asking me to sacrifice. He brought up Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son.

If Abraham said, "No, no I'm not going to kill my son, that is sick and twisted" would we blame him? If he said that was no way that could come from God, because God wouldn't want an innocent man to die, would we question him? If he didn't blindly trust in the revelation but instead questioned the ethics of it, wouldn't we all understand?

I suppose that's what makes Abraham stand out. I'm not Abraham. I'm not killing my son. And I'm not killing my chance to find romance and happiness in this life.

[əɪ̯ wʌndɹ̟] said...

ok, first of all, I just have to say:

mmmmmmm bacon.

secondly,

I’ll not hunt you down and throw naked men at you.

Um... please do.

Thirdly,

I look at all the blogs of gay Mormons and see some people struggling with their sacrifices, some giving up a lot for their ideas of faith.

I think that is sometimes one of the hardest things. For someone who has a very different perspective or belief about homosexuality (or any topic), it is easy to think that someone is doing it all wrong, just because they wouldn't do it that way.

Since I have come to change many of my feelings and ideas about homosexuality and the LdS church, it has become increasingly difficult for me to see people I care about often so miserable in their sacrificing for their idea of faith. I feel that I have to let them choose whatever they would, but I often feel that its so pointless.

I am very open about my opinions, but because I demand they be respected, I have to respect those of others, even when totally opposite to mine (for the most part - there are some few opinions I cannot and will not respect)

As for numbers 4 and 5, I agree with you Scot. I think that, for example, it was wrong and even unconstitutional for the US government to have prohibited the practise of polygamy.

I do have a question for you about that point. How do you feel about the government forcing children (i.e. those not able to choose to live the strictures of a religion for themselves) of Jehovah's Witnesses to receive blood transfusions in time crisis? Does a parent have the right to choose to let their child die rather than save their life through a medical procedure they feel is wrong based on their (not their child's) religious beliefs?

Its a hard question, I know. I am not sure myself what I think about that.

Scot said...

My Favorite Feminist (MFF) responded in a comment on J G-W's blog a couple weeks ago

My goodness, how’d I miss all that? I wonder how it’d be to have such a prolific critic ;-).

based on my experience as someone criticized for making what was initially a faith-based sacrifice, I'd suggest that before you do anything, first you make sure you have objective data supporting your belief that whatever sacrifice we're talking about "generally cause[s] profound heartbreak and despair"

I’d agree. As a guy in a similar boat, I don’t mind though when people rush into my turf with good intentions, as long as they’re open to learning more than their biases had taught them.

which I don't think is true in the case of MOMs because there simply isn't any reliable data

No, all the peer reviewed data out there suffers from some sort of sampling problem as far as I can tell. Nevertheless, I still think one can rightly advise, at least, great caution on the annecdotes. I’ve zero published data that show, say, having gay intimacy while holding a faith that the same "generally cause[s] profound heartbreak and despair," but I’ve seen so many examples that I’ll still speak out against gay intimacy in that case.

That doesn’t mean I’m always right, of course :-). I think I’ve enough reason to advise against some things, here or if asked elsewhere. But conventional wisdom, for some people, for some families, is wrong. At least, I know I’ve benefited by the unconventional variety.

Besides, as I commented on your blog a while ago. What do our critics want? Both our families are here, real, and we have real concerns about how to go on from here, not from decades ago, no matter who did what’s right by either side of the politics.

second that however you respond, even if you can't honestly respect the other person's religious beliefs, you maintain respect for the person. Which is something I think you've done an admirable job of, at least here and elsewhere around the MoHosphere.

I glad you’d say that. I’m sure it’s a worry for everyone, and I know in the past I’ve been more confrontational that I had a right to be.

Oh, and curiously, do you actually have a stock of naked men that you could throw at MoHos if you felt so inclined? Just wondering.

If you buy them in bulk, at Costco, it’s really not as impractical as it sounds.

And completely unrelated, but I'm totally not linked on your sidebar. That's all.

What ever are you talking about? ;-) (I couldn’t believe it until I looked myself!)

Scot said...

Playa: “Scot, I've dubbed your new device "The Man Cannon."

Patent Pending.

Scot said...

Peter, that must have been a very difficult discussion to have.

I know such isn’t much help in topics of faith, but it may be a bit of comfort to know some biblical scholars have found good reason to think this particular story is allegory, and there’d be no reason to prosecute Abraham on his way to Mariah if he were alive today. A complete explanation would take too long, but this story is a part of the OT that seems to consist of a couple different original documents, edited together (P, E, and J). In E, in fact, it seems Isaac never returns. But there is also reason to believe this particular story about Abraham was borrowed from an earlier tradition as well. For example, look at the story of Iphigeneia, who was to be sacrificed by her father, Agamemnon, to Artemis. Instead Artemis substitutes a female deer in the daughter’s place. Also look at the story of Phrixus, the son of Athamus. Athamus was about to sacrifice his son to Zeus, and at the preparation a golden ram, from Zeus, flew down and saved the boy. The ram, in this case, was sacrificed by Phixus, and this was in fact the origins of the Golden Fleece. Simply, the idea of that huge sacrifice has been around a long time and used by many religions, that may have borrowed from each other or shared a common source. But I, for one, think it’s more an allegory about allegiance to a religion, rather than a history where God actually asks for the sacrifice of the boy named laughter, even as a test.

Scot said...

Iwonder: mmmmmmm bacon.

You heathen.

But I know what you mean on the rest.

I do have a question for you about that point. How do you feel about the government forcing children (i.e. those not able to choose to live the strictures of a religion for themselves) of Jehovah's Witnesses to receive blood transfusions in time crisis? Does a parent have the right to choose to let their child die rather than save their life through a medical procedure they feel is wrong based on their (not their child's) religious beliefs?

Hey I thought I avoided that question well enough, and then you bring it up! ;-)

As a guy who’s parental rights are sometimes called into question by lawmakers, I’m all too wary of state involvement in families and their decisions. I know this is a very complicated area involving the rights of minors, parents, and the responsibilities of the state to protect citizen who can’t protect themselves. Nevertheless, I have to draw the line at death, serious injury, or any sort of physical or sexual abuse really, regardless of religious motivations. That is our business. I’m sure this belief about blood transfusions is a deeply held religious belief, and if it was an adult making the decision for himself, fine. But not when it’s a child. Let the JW God take it out on the government and people like me for forcing that sin.

Not that I’d nearly want revocation of all JW parental rights, mind you, but where it came to a clear choice between saving their child’s life or respecting their faith, I’ll want the law to subvert their parental rights, in this one instance, and disrespect their faith long before a minor’s right to keep on living.

Again, I don’t like where the road goes, and I hate thinking on it, but I’d feel forced by the parents to walk it. What do you think, Mr. Ask-The-Tough-Questions? :-)

Mr. Fob said...

I must've been seeing things. I knew you wouldn't have committed such a gross oversight.