David Rodeback's Blog

Local Politics and Culture, National Politics,
Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

Normal Version

Sunday, September 21, 2014
Why One Mormon Doesn't Go to Anti-Gay Marriage Rallies

They're asking why a lot of us don't go, but I can only answer for myself.

Rambling and Silliness -- Skip This Section If You Like

There hasn't been a lot of blogging here at the blog, lately. I've been tied up with other projects. More's the pity, too, at least in one sense. Look what kind of week it's been.

Wednesday was Constitution Day. I could have said a lot of things about that. For the record, I noticed but didn't blog. I do have thoughts on an intriguing news story percolating. The resulting brew may be an interesting discussion of constitutional issues and the rule of law generally, but we will serve no wine before its time. At least not this wine. (How's that for abominably mixing beverage metaphors?)

Thursday was a big rally in Salt Lake City, ostensibly in defense of traditional marriage. I was invited to that. News flash: I didn't go. Was that wrong? I didn't even consider the possibility. Was that wronger?

Friday was Talk Like a Pirate Day. Coulda had fun with that. Didn't. Had my 50th tomato sandwich of the garden season, give or take, which was probably better than faux piracy. I'm not quite sure why I mentioned that.

Saturday brought this headline -- and it wasn't in The Onion, either. It was at KUTV.com. "Polygamist women in ninja costumes attacked two adults in West Jordan [Utah], police say." Words fail me.

Today -- Sunday -- readers of USA Today found out that a lot of folks are in jeopardy of the IRS deciding that they -- the folks -- got too much help up front with their ObamaCare premiums, so the IRS will take back what it considers the excess by seizing it from the folks' 2015 tax refunds. Then again, another story about how ObamaCare costs a lot more than they promised isn't really news any more.

looking ahead wednesday september 24 is national punctuation day which can be a fun but surprisingly challenging day for blogging but i don't know if ill have a chance to celebrate it properly this year im giving you the short version now i guess in case i cant do something more about it wednesday see what i mean

Also, I've heard there's a fairly significant election coming up -- and did I mention the big vote on secession in Scotland this week, where they decided not to? -- but I'm not prepared with election goodies just yet.

So, eeny meeny miny moe. (I have no idea about the correct spelling of that, and it's not in my New Oxford American Dictionary (3rd Edition). At least I think it's not. Dictionaries are most useful for checking spelling when you already know how to spell the word, as you may have noticed -- rather like a meteorologist who stands your front yard, in case you want to go outside and ask him if it's raining.)

So, Thursday. Or Thursday's topic, anyway, with debatably tangential connections to Wednesday and Saturday, at least.

Why Aren't More Mormons . . .

There's been some chatter in the media, print and otherwise, on a question which seems to baffle a certain segment of Utah's population. To wit: "Why aren't more Mormons standing up for traditional marriage?"

Before we consider anyone's answers to the question -- which I heard several times in several different places in the last couple of weeks -- consider the assumptions behind the question itself:

  • Because most Mormons believe in the importance of family and in the existence of divinely-revealed standards of sexual morality, they will (or should) agree on how the law should treat same-sex marriage.
  • Because they mostly agree on what the law should be (see the previous assumption), Mormons should support a rally at the Utah State Capitol as an important and proper way to exert their influence on society.

Both of these assumptions are leaps more of faith than of logic. It's akin to the leap from "I believe this" to "this should be the law of the land for everybody."

It's easier to link to a web article than a radio broadcast, so as an example I'll offer a piece by someone I assume is a very nice, well-meaning person -- and talented too, judging by her bioblurb. Wendy Asay asked the "Why Aren't" question in a Meridian Magazine piece a couple of weeks ago, which was almost the first place I saw or heard it lately. She suggested the following reasons: "We" feel isolated. "We" fear being bullied or humiliated. "We" don't see (or understand) the complexities. "We" want to show love (presumably to people of other orientations). "We" have been caught off guard. Then she said that an excellent first step in standing up for traditional marriage would be showing up at that Rally in Defense of Marriage I mentioned, which was held Thursday at the Utah State Capitol.

Here's Why One (Supposedly) Isn't

So here are my responses to this very worthy question. I speak only for myself, but I suppose I must admit the possibility that someone out there more or less agrees with me on a point or two.

  1. You hint that "standing up for marriage" involves attending a rally. But there are other ways, not all political. I may be doing some of those, but you wouldn't know, even if you were less fixated on rallies and on politics generally.
  2. No one is attacking my marriage. (Make no mistake: It's pretty traditional. I'm a man. My wife is a woman. Our four children belong to both of us, legally and biologically. We live together. We're still married.) No significant political faction or government entity is trying to ban, abolish, dissolve, or otherwise destroy our marriage. Nor, as far as I can tell, is any significant faction attempting to make it impossible for any of my children to have a traditional marriage, once said child is prepared and able to persuade someone else to join the effort in perpetuity.
  3. We live in a pluralistic society, governed by laws and constitutions, with serious guarantees in place to secure and defend individual liberties, of which freedom of religion is (to my mind) the most basic. My commitment to freedom of religion includes great reluctance to compel others to abide by my principles, and it entails great suspicion of any effort by others to govern society on the basis of a particular set of sectarian principles, in the absence of a near-consensus in those matters among Americans generally.
  4. I actually do grasp a lot of the complexities. Earlier this year I spilled about 10,000 words here at the blog (spread across several posts), wrestling with the intersection of freedom, moral principles, marriage, civic morality, and the like. The real complexities in this picture -- for Mormons who are also Americans -- are far greater than the rallying types acknowledge. Not everyone who fails to rally to their banner is duped by easy slogans and bumper stickers.
  5. At present, I am far more concerned by threats to religious and other freedoms on both sides of the gay marriage debate than I am about whether the law allows John to marry Mike in the same way it allows Fred to marry Suzie. One side wants to maintain legal prohibitions against something it finds immoral, despite a growing consensus in American society that it should be permitted. This side has conjured for itself an Orwellian sense of religious freedom: not having to have people around who violate my religious principles. The other side -- at its all-too-familiar extreme -- thinks everyone should be forced to acknowledge and embrace its principles, and any dissent should be labeled, if not punished, as hate speech. Both sides, at least at their extremes, seek to distort or destroy freedom. A (figurative) pox on both their houses.
  6. I am able to separate these questions, as American principles require: "Is it moral?" and "If so, should the law require it, and if not, should the law forbid and punish it?" I don't want a tyranny of the pious any more than I want a tyranny of the impious, and I don't believe the law is an appropriate means for imposing principles on human conscience. When for any reason the law cannnot or should not enforce a moral principle, it must be left in the realm of debate, preaching, and persuasion, which are often better tools anyway.

Her Reasons Don't Work for Me

Now, a final word about Ms. Asay's reasons. (I call her Ms. because I wish to make no assumptions about her marital status -- though she is a grandmother -- or her preferred title. Offense is possible in this, but I mean none.)

Do I fail to act as Ms. Asay wishes because I feel isolated? No, but I do feel isolated. Too many people on both sides of gay marriage -- if there are only two sides -- act as if civilization stands or falls on whether civil law allows two people to marry when (some) religious law says they shouldn't. Far too few people on either side are weighing their words, actions, and political positions against the foundational principle of freedom, especially religious freedom -- which is a larger and more urgent question.

Is it because I fear being bullied and humiliated? No. Speaking in general terms, I've been bullied (verbally) by her side (not her specifically) far more than by her opponents for things I've said of a political nature in the past, and that didn't stop me from saying them. I know the other side has engaged in plenty of bullying too, but once you've been bullied by people who ought to be your friends and allies, bullying by your opponents isn't that much . . . different.

Is it because I want to show love? No. I don't think my Christian obligation to love precludes me from declaring what I believe to be right and wrong. It may affect the tone, timing, and medium of that message, I admit -- as it should.

Is it because I've been caught off guard? Not in the least. Some of what we're seeing I predicted years and years ago, to people who thought things could never get this far. Some of what we're seeing was percolating (there's that verb again, and I don't even drink coffee) in the Colorado city in which I spent my first decade of life -- nearly half a century ago -- and it was pretty hard to miss, even for a child.

"The time is past," writes Ms. Asay, "where we have the luxury of complacency." Perhaps -- if there ever was such a time. Oh, but how I wish for the luxury of debating consequential issues with people who are suspicious of their own urges to codify their particular moral principles into public law!

Normal Version