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.