Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Proclamation

Last Sunday we were invited to my nephew's mission homecoming. While several of my siblings' families have had sons return from missions, I think this may have been the first we were personally invited to by the parents. To be clear, I don't think we were not invited to other such events out of hostility. I imagine LDS church functions are a difficult subject for some family to bring up, even if we see eye to eye, and so they assume we'd prefer not to come or that we'd just hear about it through my parents and decide to come or not. Heck, things get lost in the mail and as phone messages too. Point is, the specific personal invitation made me feel we should go to this.

Going, though, presents a problem for us too. While I want to celebrate my nephew's return, there's the whole issue of a church that threw the first stone, one that teaches that my family is inferior, fights hard to politically harm the people I love most, and even tells its members our children are defective and questions their moral character... I can't celebrate my nephew's conversion of people to that way of thinking, any more than a mixed race family could celebrate the same back in the 60's when the LDS church was aiming at them. I also can't feel right taking my children into a church building and telling them to show respect to a place in which they and their family are slandered and plotted against.

I wish things were as they were when I came out and there wasn't this whole history of LDS involvement in Proposition 8, or Amendment 3, or on and on. Back then, going to a LDS church building would not have felt such like a betrayal to my home. I can take sitting though doctrine which I don't buy, but when that doctrine has aimed to do such harm to us, how can I take my family there, right? How could I risk my kids hearing something like what was heard at my sister's wedding?

So, it's another tricky family/faith decision. We ended up with a good compromise, though. We made the two-hour drive two-hours late, missing the church service, and meeting up to celebrate with my family back at my brother's home.

One thing, however... I walked into my brother's home and noticed he had framed and hung the "proclamation on the family" in his kitchen. He's in a new home, but I never noticed this in his old home. I suppose he must have it up, being the bishop, or maybe he agrees with it wholeheartedly now. Maybe he interprets it unconventionally as innocuous when it comes to his brother's family, as some around these parts have suggested.

I don't know; I was under the impression he was all for equal rights. As with that wedding, I wasn't about to make an issue of it there, though. All I know is that that "proclamation", with all its subtle and not-so-subtle language, has been often used as a weapon by church leaders and laymen alike against my family. It has been used to try to excuse harm to those I love most and to insult my children and my marriage on both real and supernatural scales. And it's framed and it's hanging in my brother's home.

I have to wonder how they'd react if I hung a proclamation in my home that states the unions of my siblings are inferior, threatening them that they will be "accountable to God" for violating "the family". What if I framed a paper and hung it in my kitchen, for them and their children to see, that encouraged governments to resist support of LDS marriages and families? I would, of course, never do that. I, of course, love and respect their families, but would they even come to my home, if I were similarly "pro-family"?

I'd like to think it's all unintentional. Who knows?

But, yeah. I'm not whining about anything new here. It's difficult. It's complicated. For all. Et cetera...

To be clear, I'm not saying I'll refuse to go to my siblings' homes and risk alienating family that has no ill intent because of such displays; we'll just be there feeling we are merely tolerated, which may, in fact, be part of the message intended by those encouraging LDS members to display such a thing. Also, yes, I know it could be a lot worse, and I know it is for many gay men and women.

It would just be nice to go without the wedges that strangers in the LDS HQ push down into my family with these "pro-family" proclamations from on high. It would be nice to just have the simplicity of typical family differences ;-).

15 comments:

Ezra said...

Yeah, life would be a lot simpler if people were able to decide what they believe on their own.

My grandmother (who I discovered upon coming out is a lesbian!) is Buddist, and she sent me this today, which I found amazing.

" It is true that in some sense Buddhism can be described as a do-it-yourself process. The Buddha himself said, "Work out your own salvation with diligence." So it seems clear that, to a certain extent, salvation is up to us and we cannot really get help from outside. There is no magical gimmick that will solve our problems for us without pain."

I'm thinking that rings really true for me anyway.

BigRedHammer said...

Reading this blog post I had an idea. You love your family and you also want to support them in the important events of their lives. However, you also are morally opposed to many of the practices of their religion. So you're placed in the difficult situation of choosing one or the other. You wonder how your relative can have the "Proclamation" hanging in his home *and* still support equality.

I think the problem/solution is this: They are able to compartmentalize their morals and you are not. We LDS people (and I think especially gay LDS people) are able to compartmentalize very easily.

They can talk to you, support you, and love you and then go to Church and wholly believe the Proclamation and all that is taught.

I can't debate the morality of compartmentalizing. I can't say it would be good for you, but I know it would make things easier for you. You could still love and support your family members while still dissent on what they believe in.

Scot said...

Ezra: I'd say, out of all the religious dabbling I did, I did enjoy Buddhism the most.

"Yeah, life would be a lot simpler if people were able to decide what they believe on their own."

Trouble I have is how to decide ownership of these ideas and how much association with and support of an organization means promotion of its ideas, both beneficial and deleterious. Some family have decided, in many areas, to believe what their chosen leaders tell them, even about my family. I know a person's religion is primarily a function of their place of birth and my siblings would in all probability be, say, Buddhist if born elsewhere, but at some point one has to say they've made a choice here, or just smooth it over and ignore it :-).

Scot said...

B.R.H.:

"They are able to compartmentalize their morals and you are not. "

Are you saying they are engaging in moral relativism?! Glen Beck says only secular humanists do that ;-).

I hear ya and think there is something to that, and can see how such could be comforting. There's a lot to think about.

It's funny; both sides are in a similar positions in finding a way to deal with this. There's not an anti-their-family proclamation on my wall, but finding a way to interpret theirs puts us both in a similar position.

I don't though think I could justify different sets of morals for different people, instead of circumstances. If they said about my kids or marriage what some anti-marriage equality folks have in the church, I'd be very angry. Oddly enough, I'd rather they didn't hold back though, as I think there's benefit to letting these moral issues duke it out until the right one is left standing. Simply, I guess if they think homosexuality is right for me but not for anyone else, good could come from examining why.

"You could still love and support your family members while still dissent on what they believe in."

I hope I didn't give the impression that I don't love and support them, on whole, even if some agree with this document. I don't know if I could take it if a sibling was, say, the head of the Eagle Forum, but up to now I can swallow some of the sharp pills.

The only part of them I have a problem with is the part that insults my marriage, children and harms us politically; it's the part that's the only part of me they have a problem with :-). I, of course, can't reasonably support the part that debases my kids husband or me, but I only feel the need to address that first stone. If their faith didn't harm my home, I'd like to think we could go back to the way things were. Ah, but if were fishes...

Scot said...

That should say: "if wishes were fishes" (a saying I often use but am not entirely sure if I do so correctly :-))

Scott said...

Um...

<very small voice>Sarah and I have a framed Proclamation hanging in our hallway...</very small voice>

I remember when the Proclamation first came out. I thought it was great that the church was making a statement that families are important, because it was obvious to me that a lot of people in the world didn't feel that way anymore. I saw friends' families torn apart by nasty, bitter divorces, leaving the kids to shuffle back and forth from one parent to the other. While on my mission in Philadelphia I saw I-don't-know-how-many teenage mothers, often with two, three, or more kids. I've known men who beat their wives and children, and families who have been abandoned by their husbands and fathers (or wives and mothers).

What I heard when I read the Proclamation was "Families are important. We should do all we can to build and maintain strong families, because in doing so we create a strong society."

I believed that then, and I still believe it. I still believe that there is truth in statements like:

Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love..., to provide for their physical ... needs, to teach them to love and serve one another ... and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.

(edited to remove religion-related "duties")

And, with some minor modifications, I think that this still holds true:

Children are entitled ... to be reared by a father and a mother [or father+father or mother+mother] who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.

Of course, not every family will match the "ideal", and the Proclamation acknowledges this:

...circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.

It's unfortunate that the Proclamation has been used to bludgeon families that differ from the LDS standard, and it's also true that some minor rethinking needs to be done to reconcile the Proclamation with an acceptance of same-sex-headed families, but it is a rather important document in cultural Mormonism, and I imagine there are many liberal, forward-thinking members of the church who have a framed copy hanging on a wall somewhere in their home. In my opinion, the mere presence of the document doesn't say a thing about your extended family's beliefs or their willingness to accept and embrace you as part of their family.

Evan said...

Scott took the words out of my mouth. I walk through my living room every day, and it is hanging there over the fireplace.

I remember being challenged to memorize the document while in the youth program. If we could, the bishop would give us some fancy pocket knife... I got about halfway though memorizing it and stopped.

Back then, I interpreted it as a document issuing a strong statement on the importance of families. I never thought that such a thing would be used against other families and in support for Prop 8, and I do find it unfortunate that such a "sacred document" is used for contentious matters.

Scot said...

"Sarah and I have a framed Proclamation hanging in our hallway..."

LOL, you jerk.

I can see the problem. I see stuff like this as common sense:

"Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love..., to provide for their physical ... needs, to teach them to love and serve one another ... and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live."

I can certainly get behind that. The problem in my perspective is that I've only ever seen the proclamation on the family used to attack gay-headed families; never once have I heard a politician or activist quote from it on any other sort of bill. Has anyone else? I mean, even though they seem to contradict the good in this proclamation, I'd be very surprised to hear it used to deny rights to, say, these people.

Because I only ever see it used as a weapon. All the common sense in it comes off as a sugar coating, like a politician coming out strongly against kicking puppies in his anti-puppy-kicking bill... which just happens to also be anti-child-immunization. I mean, you're not in favor of kicking-puppies... are you? :-)

Similarly, the tactic used with this, intentional by the authors or not, seems to tie all that's good with family to anti-gay rights, dragging down both.

I'll certainly admit, though, this is just the way I've experienced it, and I would see it in your home under very different light. I wish it didn't make me suspicious and that my family regarded it as you do, or, as I linked, as Andrew interpreted it.

Regardless, I am glad to know it may be up there without a thought that it's meant to demean or threaten.

Scot said...

Evan: "Back then, I interpreted it as a document issuing a strong statement on the importance of families."

Now that I think on it more, that was how I originally read it and was introduced to it. Wow, was that really in 95? Like I said, there's much in their I do agree with and I remember thinking as much. It wasn't only in recent years I was introduced to it against as mainly an argument against my family.

Scott said...

Here's my guess: The Proclamation hanging on their wall is simply a decoration--something that every Mormon household has--that means about as much to them as a counted cross-stitch sampler that said "Family" would.

You shouldn't let it upset you any more than a Baptist relative (if they have any) should be upset by a picture of Joseph Smith on the wall--it's probably fairly equivalent to that in meaning.

(In other words, if they were actually to sit down and think about it, they would probably have to admit that they agree with the common interpretation of the Proclamation and believe that your marriage and family are not as valid as theirs, just as they believe that a Baptist's religion is not as valid as theirs. But they probably never think about it and never see the thing on the wall as anything more than decor.)

Scott said...

(In fact, I'd guess that--as "trendy" as it's become to spout off about how important the Proclamation is--most members probably haven't read the thing for years and probably don't have more than a vague idea of what it really says.)

Scot said...

Yeah, thanks Scott.

Okay, I'm starting to feel... well, I'm looking at this too subjectively. You're right, they probably don't notice how often that proclamation is used as a political excuse here in Utah and may have no idea.

I'm still pretty sure if I put up a proclamation in our home used to declare the inferiority of their marriage, and if they read it, they'd be even more sensitive about it, but I can also see how all that is sort of overlooked from a non-gay LDS perspective.

Beck said...

For the record, we do not have the Proclamation decorating our home - and that is what it is for the most part in LDS homes - a decoration! We prefer a more eclectic style to our decour. :)

I see a positive in that your brother was reaching out to you and wanting to include you and treat you with love and respect. I do not see that he was trying to slap you and your family around by inviting you or by having the decoration on the wall. Other family members, as you've stated, didn't personally invite or extend any kind of hand of love to include in family events - probably because they feel uneasy and it's best to just ignore the "situation". But your brother didn't. I am glad he didn't.

And I am glad that you made the effort to respond to the invite and come to his home. That says a lot about you and your character, principles, and "family values".

Alan said...

I concur with Scott, Scot. Scotch the skittishness and skepticism. Scoffing too.

Sorry, couldn't resist. But I do agree, it's probably more "correlated decoration" than anything in most LDS homes. Like the US Constitution, most adherents will have a vague & incomplete notion of what it says but, put to the test, couldn't tell you a single detail with much accuracy. And I'm positive virtually none have thought through the implications you have.

Scot said...

Beck "I see a positive in that your brother was reaching out to you and wanting to include you and treat you with love and respect."

I do too, and, again, that's why we went. I don't think he's a bad guy, to be sure, it was just the strange sight of what I've only seen used as a weapon against me hanging in his home. I see now he probably reads it much differently.

Alan "I concur with Scott, Scot. Scotch the skittishness and skepticism. Scoffing too. "

I know, too many Scots; I should change my online name to Steve or Tony or a good Utah name like Levar or something.

And yeah, I think you're probably right.