Monday, December 15, 2008

Prop 8 Revisited

My brother is currently working on his PhD at Harvard and has seen his fair share of politics there this past year. He has a gay friend in his creative writing class who began e-mailing him a couple months ago about his feelings concerning Prop 8 and the LDS church. My brother sent our family his correspondence with this friend and I wanted to share (hope that's okay, Justin.) He is much more eloquent in his writing than I am and said so many things I've thought but didn't know exactly the right way to word it. Here are the latest e-mails from my brother's friend, and then my brother's response. (It's a little long but worth the read.)

Hi Justin,

Hope you had a splendid Thanksgiving. You have a right to choose your belief but this is the problem with our self-absorbed society. That for too long we make choices or vote based on what is best for our selves, our immediate family, or our Church. For example, I've heard endless Republicans voting in 2000 and 2004 for Bush solely for tax-break reasons and didn't really worry much about the other issues. This is quite the shame and the reason we are in the dire predicament we are today. I think model citizens must vote on what is best for the greater good, the betterment of society. Even you yourself admit, that gays are oppressed, by suggesting when gay marriage becomes universal that somehow you will be. First, let me assure you that as a married, hetero, white male you will always be accepted in society. I admire people like the famous Steven Young and his wife who are supporting our cause because they realize that "separate but equal" must not stand. For too long gays have lived on the fringes of society, even closeted, gay Republican politicians have been getting caught in public parks, bathroom stalls, and canvassing the internet for their longings. Many teens are driven out of their homes, physically and mentally abused, and end up homeless, addicted, and in many cases contract HIV. This is not the life that most gays want to live but being marginalizes has its consequences. GLBT's deserve to be part of mainstream America and part of humanity's social fabric. We make the world colorful with our creative designs, serve disproportionately yet discreetly in the military, and comprise some of the most caring teachers and care-takers. The time for suffering in silence is over. We demand the right to be happy and enjoy the fruits of unconditional love. We want to get married, have the right to adopt or bear children, and buy vacation homes in suburban enclaves, next door to our hetero counterparts, if we choose to. I know this idea might be hard for a devout person like you to chew on. But I have a problem with Mormons telling gays to be celibate in this life with the promise of quenching their thirsts in paradise. This false promise is like Al Qaeda promising its terrorists recruits to target Christendom with the promise of 70 virgins in paradise. I am sorry to compare your religion to rogue Muslim extremists but the reality is that a truly liberal democracy will separate itself from the vestiges of religion.

I think you are right that the tide is changing. PROGRESSIVES are increasingly become a powerful force and the good news is we accept and allow for ALL to be part of holistic and mosaic society. Progressive will never exclude anybody, not even Mormons. But for the sake of my book, I think its better the controversy ensues so I can sell more copies . . . just kidding. :)

Warm cordial regards,

XXXXX


Hello again, XXXX. I apologize for not writing any sooner, but I've had a lot going on with Christmas shopping and homework for classes.

If I may, I’d like to address the points of your email. I hope that as I do though you will understand that I am trying to do so in the least contentious way possible (I respect you as a friend and, though we disagree on this issue, I see it as no reason why we should have hard feelings with one another).

Regarding your comment that our country should not vote based on “what is best for our selves, our immediate family, or our church”... I think that’s a question of splitting hairs and I disagree. I think that each individual should vote how their conscience dictates to them and should not be swayed by popular opinion, Hollywood , cult leaders, superstition, or other silly things. However, I think a person should DEFINITELY vote to protect their family (especially their immediate family). I think the family is the basic building block of society (which is cliché but true nonetheless) and I feel very strongly about voting to protect my family. And if society tells me that I’m intolerant or a bigot because I want to protect my family, then it is they who are being intolerant of my own views and values--hence my aforementioned fear of being discriminated against. And it’s already coming true. Because Mormons don’t support gay marriage it has now conveniently become “pc” to attack us for other things that make us different (I’ve seen the news media and I’m not blind to what people in the Harvard community are whispering). That’s unfair though. It’s a tyranny on tolerance, and tolerance has to go both ways. You can call me “self-absorbed” if you want, but that is simply discriminating against me for my views.

As for republicans voting for Bush solely because of tax-break reasons: if that’s true, then they are all idiots. I believe and hope that the majority of people who voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004 did so because they thought he would best fulfill the office of president and not for personal/financial gain. Still, I realize that is the stereotype of the Republican Party and, I am the first to admit, in every stereotype there is a little bit of truth. So I agree that it is “quite the shame” and do not associate myself with anyone who would do that.

As for the question of whether gays are being oppressed, I can only say that I myself do not oppress anyone nor do I support people that do. That being said, the people who voted for Proposition 8 in California did not deny gays of any “rights.” Proposition 8 only sought to keep the definition of marriage between a man and a woman and only denied homosexuals the use of that definition. However, gays who cohabitate in California are still able to enjoy the same “rights” that are given by the US Government and California and enjoyed by married couples. They can have a civil union, but they are not “married.” And, for you, I suppose that becomes me forcing my beliefs on other people. For me, however, it is an issue of protecting my own rights as a heterosexual married man. You may not understand that though, so let me explain...

If Proposition 8 had failed, then gays would have been able to use the definition of marriage to support their lifestyle. That means that homosexuals could approach ministers, priests, and clergymen of any denomination and ask that they be married. The clergyman in question, who does not believe in homosexuality, refuses to marry the homosexual couple. The homosexual couple, in turn, feels that they are being “discriminated against” because the clergyman refuses to accept their definition of morality as his own. They approach the government for redress. The government, who has in this situation defined marriage as between any two persons of legal consenting age (man and woman, man and man, woman and woman, etc.) agrees that the homosexual couple has been discriminated against and prosecutes the clergyman, forcing him to comply with the law and marry the homosexual couple. This is an infringement of the clergyman’s rights (freedom of religion), but the government doesn’t see it that way. The constitution has been changed to incorporate gay marriage and thus the clergyman must abide by the state’s ruling. The clergyman refuses. The government, in turn, denies his church its tax-exempt status and strips him of his right to marry anyone (if he’s not willing to marry homosexuals, then they’ll take away his license to marry heterosexuals). The clergyman has now been completely stripped of his legitimacy and his rights as an American citizen. In the good ol’ U.S. of A, he has been denied the right to freedom of religion. He has been labeled as intolerant and so others have become intolerant of him.

Now, that may seem like an extreme situation...but it’s not. In fact, here is an example of something similar that happened in Massachusetts (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2006/06/25/they_cared_for_the_children/). If gays are unhappy with the definition of civil unions and demand to have the definition of marriage placed on that union, that’s just one step away from discriminating against me and my church for not upholding that definition. And, while I support your ability to choose your lifestyle and sexual orientation and I feel you should have the same financial rights as proscribed by civil unions and domestic partnerships, I only see the same-sex marriage question as ending badly for me and those that can’t personally support homosexuality as being moral. Thus my earlier point: you may now feel you are being discriminated against--that you are a “second-class citizen”--but I no longer see this as an issue of civil rights. I see it as a slippery slope that leads to my rights of freedom of religion being discriminated against. People are trying to redefine my definition of marriage.

Now, if Steven Young chooses to support gay-marriage, that’s his prerogative (although, from what I understand, it’s only his wife that has come out on that side of the fence). He is welcome to do so though and I wish him the best. But I don’t listen to what the media says (or football stars). I make up my own mind about things.

Regarding closeted gay republicans...that’s up to the gay republican. If he feels that homosexuality is immoral, then I understand his feelings of oppression (for, aside from feeling oppressed by his community, he must also feel he is oppressing himself), and my heart goes out to him (or her). If he feels that homosexuality is not immoral though, then he should not feel oppressed. That’s the thing. I’m not going to discriminate against you or our gay republican friend because I disagree with your or his lifestyle (that’s hypocritical, discriminatory, and frankly distasteful). But I’m allowed to believe it’s immoral. And that shouldn’t really bother you because I also believe that having sex before marriage is immoral (and gambling, and alcohol, and pornography), but even though none of my non-Mormon friends believe that, they are still my very good friends (whom I love and respect) and I don’t think ill of them for doing those things (why should I if they don’t hold my views?).

As for the “many teens [that] are driven out of their homes, physically and mentally abused, and end up homeless, addicted, and in many cases contract HIV,” I sincerely wish that weren’t the case. I abhor human suffering and would not shun or abuse anyone because they were homosexual. So frankly, the comparison is a little insulting...because it assumes that by not supporting homosexuality I am somehow a factor in that equation. On the contrary, homosexuals in our church and in my family are accepted with open arms. And, while I will never tell that person that I think what they are doing is moral, I will tell them that I love them and won’t ever treat them any differently because of that lifestyle choice.

Now, the following quote I especially disagree with because it makes too many false assumptions:

“GLBT's deserve to be part of mainstream America and part of humanity's social fabric. We make the world colorful with our creative designs, serve disproportionately yet discreetly in the military, and comprise some of the most caring teachers and care-takers. The time for suffering in silence is over. We demand the right to be happy and enjoy the fruits of unconditional love. We want to get married, have the right to adopt or bear children, and buy vacation homes in suburban enclaves, next door to our hetero counterparts, if we choose to.”

To assume that gays are the sole source of the creative arts in the world is very offensive. Some gays are colorful and creative and others aren’t. That’s perpetuating a stereotype which, as I said before, is obviously based in some truth, but is nevertheless a stereotype and, as a generality, is false. I don’t know how many gays serve in the military...but neither do you, so to assume that they serve disproportionately is to assume too much. Either way, I respect and appreciate the sacrifice that all our servicemen make (be they gay or straight) and value all their sacrifices equally. As for being caring teachers and care-takers, I never said you weren’t...but so are many straight people...so what exactly are you accusing me of? Not recognizing the talents and skills of people merely because they are homosexual? That’s bigotry because you are assuming something hateful which I don’t in fact do. And as for vacation homes in suburban enclaves, you are more than welcome to be my neighbor. I have no problem with it nor do I see any reason why there should be. BUT, if my children ask me why our neighbors are two men living together, I will teach them about homosexuality and I will teach them that it is wrong (because I am practicing my freedom of religion). I will also teach my children that our homosexual neighbors are our friends and, even though they don’t believe as we do, they believe that what they are doing is ok and we should not treat them any differently than we treat our other friends. Likewise, I would teach my children and family to serve and support our homosexual neighbors. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, nor should I be discriminated against for doing so.

As for the right of the homosexual to adopt or bear children...that’s a whole separate can of worms that I don’t have the time to get into right now. Besides, we both know our opinions diverge on the matter and neither of us will likely convince the other of his opinion, so we probably shouldn’t bother addressing it. HOWEVER, if you’re curious why I believe the way I do and, rather than argue with me, you wish to hear the reasons for my beliefs, then I’m happy to tell them to you. But I doubt that’s the case (most people prefer arguing about politics over being understood by their friends). Still, if you’d ever like to have a candid discussion about what our mutual beliefs are (outside of our recent emails), I’d be happy to talk to you. I’d also be curious to hear more about your own views (on homosexuality but also on religion).

“I have a problem with Mormons telling gays to be celibate in this life with the promise of quenching their thirsts in paradise”: I’m not sure what you mean by ‘quenching their thirsts in paradise’ but I assume you mean that the desire will be taken away from them in the after life. And that’s actually not the case. We teach that the same desires, appetites, and passions one has in this life are carried over into the next...which is why it’s so important to learn to control them here (while we have a body and ample opportunities to learn self-control), rather than in the spirit world or when we are resurrected and it is too late to change. Which just goes to show that you are still assuming a lot things about me and my faith.

“This false promise is like Al Qaeda promising its terrorists recruits to target Christendom with the promise of 70 virgins in paradise. I am sorry to compare your religion to rogue Muslim extremists...”

Yes, I admit, that’s a bit of a low blow. But I believe the comparison you are trying to make is that I actually believe and practice what my religion teaches me (like, in your example, the Muslim terrorists). But the difference is that I am not forcing my religion on people by blowing up mosques and churches and killing people. I am not forcing my religion on people period. I am asserting my right to vote (as were my Mormon brothers and sisters in California ) and they did not force any religious principle on homosexuals. It could instead be argued that homosexuals were forcing their beliefs on a religious institution (marriage). But again, that’s something we probably won’t agree on and so I won’t bother belaboring the point. Suffice it to say, I am not offended by the remark (because I choose to associate myself with the positive connotation that I actually believe and defend my religion)...but I’m not blind to the fact that the comparison is meant to be insulting.

“...but the reality is that a truly liberal democracy will separate itself from the vestiges of religion.”

Yes, a truly liberal democracy will separate itself from the vestiges of religion. I don’t argue that. I’m conservative though so, frankly, I see that as a bad thing. Religion should never interfere with government, true, but the government should also never oppress those that have faith in a religion or allow those that hold no religion to persecute those that do. And recently I feel like Mormons are being persecuted because of their religious beliefs (which it seems other people want to label as “intolerance”). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q28UwAyzUkE

One final thing though...

I’m willing to admit that Mormons played a critical role in getting Proposition 8 passed in California ...but Mormons make up less than 2% of California ’s population. So clearly other people were the reason it passed. In fact, all of the Bishops of the Catholic Church supported the measure (as did Evangelicals and other Christian groups). Even more interesting, the largest group of people that voted for Proposition 8 was African-Americans (who turned out in droves to vote for Obama). So, really, it was the African-American vote that caused Proposition 8 to pass...so, if people are going to accuse my church of being intolerant, why aren’t they saying the same thing of African-Americans? Actually...I just checked, and it looks like they are: http://volokh.com/posts/1226094712.shtml

I’m not trying to argue with you or convince you of my beliefs, but lately I’ve been getting a lot of guff from people for exercising my own beliefs (even though I really had nothing to do with Proposition 8 and am just a faithful member of my church). Frankly, I think everyone else is being hypocritical by saying I’m intolerant. They are welcome to say it and are welcome to believe it (I support freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion), but when people get upset with me for standing up for my own beliefs...well, it’s easy to get upset. So fine, let’s disagree with each other (that’s what democracy is all about after all), but let’s not persecute people for upholding their beliefs. Just let people vote and don’t give them guff for doing what they feel is right.

Anyway, that’s my response (for what it’s worth). I remind you though that you are still my friend and I regard you as such (I don’t feel that you’ve ever discriminated against me or that you dislike me because I’m Mormon), so I hope you will take all that I said with a grain of salt and not take any of it as a personal attack. Similarly, I hope you will still consider me your friend (in spite of our differences of opinion) and I look forward to talking with you more in the future (perhaps on topics more amenable to our mutual interests, like creative writing). I also would be happy to continue our current conversation (in email or in person), provided that we both respect each other’s views (which I am actually very confident you would do because you’ve always been a very gracious gentleman in class and it is one of the reasons why I consider you my friend).


Best,

Justin

5 comments:

Iliana said...

Jamie, Justin is your brother? I found his email wonderful. I'm interested though on how it was responded to. Thanks for sharing.

jamieschip said...

Yes, he's my brother. This was actually his third e-mail to his friend and the friend hasn't responded back yet to this latest one. I'll have to let you know what the guy says. I also thought it was a great response.

Anthony said...

Jake and Jamie - How great to find your blog...I look forward to much political enjoyment reading from my fellow left mormons.

link to my political blog if you are interested www.tiersetate.blogspot.com

Tony V.Haws

peter said...

Hey Jamie, I really appreciated this post. In the last few months since the election I continue to try to elucidate my stance on prop 8. I don't like being classified as a bigot because I wouldn't discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation, but I do believe that homosexuality is morally wrong. Your brother does a great job of setting forth his views on the topic and I agree with what he wrote. Thanks for sharing this.

peter said...

oh, it was Kristy leaving that last post, I'm just signed in with peter's account