For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

- Mosiah 3:19

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mortal Thinking

Given the pending decision on whether a Disciplinary Council will be convened, I have been given to much thought on my predicament.

I am not afraid of the Disciplinary Council. If that is the decision, then I willingly submit to this course of corrective action. However, I must admit, I find faith that I did not know I really had. It is certainly small and un-nutured, untended for years. But it is there. This got me thinking about being gay in the Church.

Over the past years, I have had numerous discussions with many people about the place homosexuality has in the church. This discourse is dominated by two primary arguments. If I can summarize as generically as possible: 1) God makes no mistakes and 2) God makes no mistakes. These are clearly indistinguishable arguments on their surface. As I thought about this, I realized that my devotion to God and to His organization on earth (i.e. the church) is predicated on that primary assumption (we'll call it assumption for arguments sake) that God does not make any mistakes.

Before I go on, let me analyze each argument. For the left, the argument that God makes no mistakes is fundamentally not an issue of God, rather, one of equal or human rights. As such, the argument fundamentally rests on the notion of a right...of liberty. It is not a logical leap then to characterize this "God makes no mistakes" as a purely secular argument attempting to stress the importance of rights, namely that of equality before the law. Certainly, this has merit. However, there are numerous iterations of this argument. This brief commentary is a gross simplification.

The second argument, again to simplify a rather complex set of arguments, is primarily spiritual in its context. This argument is clearly connected to a set of beliefs about the nature of God, human rights or the dealings of man are a secondary consideration. This argument embodies millenia of norms and powerful institutions that have shaped the understanding and perception of human behavior and sexuality. These norms and institutions, tradition if you will, have been derived from and perpetuate a belief in God and proper human behavior. As a result, when this group argues that "God makes no mistakes," they are saying there is a reason for why things occur they do, it is not random - there is order.

To summarize, these two arguments are fundamentally different, which is nothing new. In short one argues for a more secualarized acceptance of human behavior, because liberties and a plurality of beliefs is sustained with least resistance in a secualized society. The other contends the moral absolutes are authored by a being known as God, and that socities for millenia have maintained certain moral standards because they have worked to the betterment of society.

This is what is problematic about the discourse. Each group has failed to find common ground. A belief in God is common ground, but easily given up when each attempts to articulate what that means. As such, they tend to argue past each other and fail to geniunely engage each other.

I find this same pattern in the Church. There are the many gays who have left the church because God does not make mistakes, and many who remain in the church because God does not make mistakes. It is here that I wish to spend some time.

I am gay, I have come to terms with my sexual attractions to men. I may still need time to come to terms with my sexuality, but I have consciously chosen to stay in the church as have many others. The argument where God comes to represent an all-loving being who upholds equality is problematic. This argument, first assumes that all share the concept of God, that is God is all-loving, which He is, and that he makes no mistakes, which He doesn't, and that God desires each of us to be happy, which He does. Thus, God is all-loving, omniscient, and desires our happiness. I agree. However, this is as far as this argument seems to take the character of God. Those of this persuasion fail to define God adequately to get a sense of His full character. That is, what does it mean for God to be all-loving? and so forth? Certainly, those of this stance would argue that there are certain moral standards - incarnate principles of behavior, if you will - that govern human interactions. In other words there are generally accepted norms proper human behavior - the new morality. This consists namely of not harming others (honesty, integrity, reciprocity, equality, etc). And there are behaviors that are not proper (i.e. those that harm others). As such, the question often asked, since God is all-loving, who is my behavior harming? If this argument seems to make logical jumps from God to harming, it is. Those in the church who attempt to define their behavior on an ill-defined concept of God, find themselves in a logical quandry. It seems that because God is all-loving, He does not punish. But what are the parameters of God's love?

This argument while logically incoherent, raises some very important issues: 1) How does one define harm? Certainly both stances would argue that God asks us to love one another. Those of us in the church who feel we have been harmed, what is the foundation of that assertion? Are we the object of harm? If we are harmed, does that mean particular type of behavior that caused harm is not God-like? But the problematic is what constitutes that harm? Who defines that harm? How does one know they are harmed? I submit that this failure to define the limits of harm is a result of a faulty understanding of God. Even in secualar society, harm is up for debate, there are degrees of harm. For example some indigenous people completely reject the notion of human rights as a western imposition on their way of life - this because the very notion of rights is inherently western. As a result, human rights harm their way of life. Human rights is seen a western universalism gone awry. As such, the pluralistic secular society struggles with defining the limits of harm. This failure is easily transposed into the church, those advocating the church harmed them, fail to define the limits of harm - it is difficult to understand what is meant by the term. But yet, it is that very notion that provides the impetus for their aspersions against the church. It is here that individuals of this persuasion politicize the church and more importantly the gospel. This ill-defined theology them provides lens for them to interpret the scriptures and re-define the meaning of salvation. This then leads to characterizations that the church is out of touch with reality, but they fail again to properly define reality - whose reality? These arguments however are merely justifications for the individual to behave according to the desires of their body. Following the desires of the body is implicitly included in the notion of an all-loving God. As such, their statement that God does not make mistakes, says a great deal about God, the human condition, and the body. That is, in short, I have the desires I have because God does not make mistakes, if He did I would not have these feelings; because I have these feelings, God must want me to act on them within the accepted norms of incarnate principles of behavior. This argument then makes implicit critiques about the nature of revelation, the validity of Prophets, and moral absolutes. In short, the argument is, in essence,"who knows?"

The second argument has just as many problems, but within the church, there is clarity on the nature of God, there is clarity on moral standards, and there is clarity on harm. However, the problem is that individuals who understand this, cower before its clarity and attempt to find fault with the clarity by then attempting to re-interpret God, to cause confusion. Because within confusion, the range of acceptable behavior is expanded.

I struggled coming to know God, rather I struggled to come to know that there was a God. Coming to know God allowed me to come to understand Hid character, however firm it might have been at times. But God loves me always; this I am coming to find out.

It is late, and I did not intend to ramble this long...I will try to address the second argument in the near future.

For the time being, I await the decision on my Disciplinary Council. I continue to struggle with unwanted behavior, but I am becoming increasingly hopeful.

1 comment:

  1. If you ever want to talk about what the process is like, my email is on my profile. I've been on both sides of the table, many times in bishoprics and high councils, as well as my own.

    When I reached the point of wanting to right myself with God no matter the consequence, healing began.