There's been a lot of commotion in Utah lately over gay marriage.
Here's the gist if you missed out: On December 20 a judge in Utah overturned Utah's ban on gay marriage saying it was unconstitutional. Then a whole lotta people married their same sex partners. Then the court put a hold on same sex marriage. Then the people who got married were told their marriages might not be recognized. Then the attorney general said they would be recognized. It has been a lot of back and forth and a lot of uncertainty.
Utah is a very conservative state. It is highly influenced by the Mormon church and culture. The Mormon church believes marriage is between a man and a woman. (The church's most recent statement can be found here.) At the same time, there are many people in Utah who desperately want the rights to marry someone of their same sex and resent Utah for withholding these rights.
To be honest with you, the whole debacle is very confusing to me. I am a Mormon and believe in Mormon doctrine. But then what happens when some doctrine seems to counteract other doctrine? These are all things I believe:
- God loves all His children.
- God put us on Earth to be tested.
- God also put us on Earth to find joy. (One of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon states, "Men are that they might have joy.")
- One of our greatest gifts from God is our agency- the ability to make our own choices.
- Marriage is between a man a woman.
- We are to live Christlike lives which means showing charity, kindness and compassion toward our fellow men.
- One of my favorite teachings of Christ: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
Currently, my facebook wall is awash with passionate rants and raves from both sides of the argument. Many people that I love and respect believe to their very core that we should never allow same sex marriage. Many people that I love and respect believe the exact opposite. I have Mormon friends on both sides; I have non Mormon friends on both sides. I expected that there would be a little tension over the issue, but I have been absolutely appalled by some things that have been said by both sides. I have been embarrassed for people, shocked that people would say things that are so insensitive or cruel. After a friend of mine blatantly attacked the Mormon church and its beliefs I typed out a biting reply and stared at it for ten minutes before I finally decided to delete it. I didn't want to feel hatred or bitterness which is what I was feeling in that moment. I have stayed quiet mostly because I do not know the answers.
This is what I do know. In our search for correct doctrine and what God wants for marriage, we may have forgotten completely what God wants in the way of kindness, compassion, and joy. I have heard incredibly ignorant and hateful remarks toward people with same sex attraction. I have seen people blatantly attacking my religion and choice of beliefs.
What we all need is more understanding. I had a student with same sex attraction say to me once, "Churches are awful places. In "church" they teach you to hate gays." Well. I have spent a lot of time in "church." Pretty much every Sunday, in fact. I've never once heard anyone say to "hate gays". The boy was clearly misinformed. He heard something about a church or a religion and believed it point blank without ever having stepped a foot in the actual church. Likewise I have many friends with very passionate beliefs for traditional marriage. I have an acquaintance who is very passionate about the subject- she will go off for hours on how gays should not be allowed to marry or adopt or enjoy the rights that heterosexuals enjoy without batting an eye. She doesn't know any one who is gay. Pretty easy to make a lot of decisions for people when you don't know anyone personally involved, right?
In many ways I feel like I am right in the middle of this argument which puts me in the unfortunate position of being offended by nearly everything that is said by either side. On one hand I am fiercely defending what religious leaders have said on the subject and what I believe God intended for marriage. On the other hand I am fiercely defending agency and the right to choose our own paths. And with what little time or energy is left I find myself pleading, "Where is the Christlike love in any of this?"
On Sunday Greg and I invited my two brothers, sister in law, and niece over for dinner. It was a small group, just enough to barely fit around our little table. My brother asked what we thought about the recent debates and he expressed frustration at people who had said insensitive or unkind things about the issues. He said he had walked out of lunch at work one day because the conversation had turned nasty. We talked about it much longer than we should have with many of us with differing views on the point and in the end we came to no conclusions. But it felt good to be able to discuss a difficult topic in a safe environment and feel love and kindness during the discussion instead of resentment or hatred. My brother commented that it was the most civilized, kind conversation he had ever been a part of on the topic.
I don't know the answer to what God intends for people with same sex attraction, and I may never know the answer. I have thought about it a little more in the days since, however, and these are things I do know:
-It is not our place to judge.
-God understands everything much better than we do. At some point we will be blessed with more knowledge, but for right now we are asked at least these two things: 1) faith and 2) charity.
-This life is a test. I believe our reaction to things like the gay marriage debate are part of our test. How kind can we treat each other? Can we be respectful towards others' beliefs and desires no matter how much we personally disagree with them? (This goes for both sides.)
-Sometimes it is best to just be quiet.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite things that have ever been said on the topic, and I think about it many times when I am frustrated by not knowing the answers. This was a comment my friend, Sally, left on a post on the same topic that I wrote nearly two years ago:
The New Testament is rife with stories that try to explain that God doesn't judge us all the same. The story about the talents - he gives some 10, some 5, and some 1...the story about the workers in the field that are called at different hours of the day...
I think the most important thing that we need to do is just show love and kindness. God does not ask us to be judgmental or cruel. He asks us to love one another. If we all had Christ-like love, I believe that God would bless us with the knowledge of why some things are.
(P.S. This is one of the most genuine and heartfelt posts I have ever read on what it is like to be a gay Mormon. Chad is a friend of mine from BYU- the "Mormon University".)