17 December 2009

Here We Go Again

Some of you may know of, or even have read, a recent novel called No Going Back by Jonathan Langford. It's about a gay LDS teen and how he & his family deal with his situation. I haven't read it so can't judge it.

I recently ran across a blog post by Christopher Bigelow, the owner of Zarahemla Books, which published No Going Back. Bigelow is a former employee of The Ensign. His post was one of the most unusual I've ever read. On one hand, he talked very even-handedly about Langford's book and how he was glad to have been involved with publishing it. On the other hand, his personal beliefs about homosexuality prove to be startlingly extreme. The contrast between his tolerant tone about the book and his visions of The Gays Destroying Civilization was striking. I posted a brief comment to the ongoing thread, to which he responded. I plan to reply, so here we go on another interesting dialogue.

And as I've done before, I'll invite anyone who wants to chime in with suggestions on how I should engage with him. His post is kinda long, so here are his key points to which I'll be responding:

Homosexuality is "one of the most dangerous issues of our generation, with the potential of dividing our society as catastrophically as the slavery issue did back in the nineteenth century, if not more so."

Same-sex attraction and its difficult dilemmas are real, but they're not the world’s hardest challenge or even harder than some challenges within straight marriages, though some make it sound like mixed-orientation marriages are "absolutely unreasonable and undoable."

Open discussion of "this dilemma" within the Church is valuable and we need more of it to "better inoculate children against misinterpreting and mishandling the same-gender attractions some will feel during youth" and against "society’s growing encouragement and even pressure to pursue one’s gay impulses."

"Today's gay identity is a huge deception, and it sets off many of [his] last-days alarm bells" and "from a Mormon viewpoint, the emergence of the gay movement is clearly a sign of the times."

Mormonism can never "endorse the misdirection of romantic/procreative emotions and spirituality into gay relationships, let alone endorse actual acts of gay sex" and "at some point we Mormons will have to withdraw from society when society becomes wicked enough to try to shove homosexuality down our throats, which [he's] sure will eventually happen with even more gusto than when society pressured us to end polygamy."

The Church was wrong to endorse "Salt Lake’s ordinances spelling out special protections for those who’ve chosen to pursue their gay inclinations." Its support "counters what some apostles have said" and he "seriously doubts" the Church's move was "based on revelation."

"What pushes [Bigelow's] buttons most is when so-called fellow Mormons try to normalize and romanticize gay relationships." He has been banned from some Mormon blogs for saying so, and has "weakened" his ties with more liberal Mormons, but he doesn't care because "the gay issue alarms [him] so much."

Comments to his post included two from LDS women who'd been married to and divorced from gay men, with tragic consequences. I posted my own comment as follows:

Maybe if the Church recognized reality and hadn't tried so ferociously to pressure God's gay sons into marriages they weren't equipped to handle in the first place by telling them it's that way or the road to hell, no alternatives, then tragedies like Kathy's and Ann's could have been avoided.

Fortunately, it is finally moving in that direction.  It no longer promotes such marriages and admits that being gay is a "core characteristic."  Yet a generation ago, leaders sustained as prophets, seers and revelators preached with absolute certainty that being gay was a choice, was "curable" by traditional marriage, and was something people could be "recruited" to.  Now it's reversed course on all of that.  This record of flip-flops is one reason why it's difficult for many gay Mormons to trust anything the Church says on the subject.

Mr. Bigelow then replied with what is probably the best concentration I've ever seen of the attitudes and beliefs that I believe must be respectfully challenged, countered, and overcome if there is ever to be peace on this issue. Because if he and the Church cling to what he espouses, I fear such attitudes will themselves bring on the apocalyptic resolution Mr. Bigelow claims to fear from The Gays. I plan to try to engage him in a respectful discussion of the bases for his beliefs and see if we can't come to some common understanding. I'll leave my responses for another post, but here are his key points to me specifically:

"Your phrase 'God's gay sons' makes it sound like you think God purposely created them that way. I don't think he created someone to be gay anymore than he created someone to be an alcoholic or a pedophile or a shoplifter or any other mortal weakness/compulsion. Mortal life includes flaws for us to overcome through the atonement, and we're not meant to celebrate our flaws and embrace them as our identity."

It's true that some gay people shouldn't enter straight marriages, but "many can make hetero marriage work even if their same-sex attractions never go completely away" . . . while it's "a struggle at times, there's nothing any more special or exceptional about that struggle than many other marriage-related struggles not related to same-sex attraction."

"I've never heard your quote about gayness being a "core characteristic"—do you have a reference for that?"
[This confirms that he's not up to speed on the Church's recent statements, including the "core characteristic" description by Lance Wickman of the 70.]

"It is absolutely possible for one gay person to try to "recruit" or seduce someone else into gayness and be successful doing so, especially in a person's younger years when sexual identity and orientation are still fluid. I have heard many people say that they became gay through trying out the sex and enjoying it, not because they felt attracted exclusively to their same gender prior to experiencing gay sex."

"If the Church ever says it's acceptable for people to give in to their gay inclinations, then I'm going to go ahead and start giving in to my inclinations to, for example, enjoy intoxicants once in a while, which I naturally would like to do but don't do because it's not in harmony with the gospel and because its unholy and impure, which also applies to gay sex."

"While homosexuality is more complicated than most vices, it's still at heart a vice to be resisted, not someone's real identity that can provide eternal happiness, even if some temporary earthly companionship and sexual gratification can be found in living gay."

"This whole gay argument is really about something deeper: Is our society a secular society in which humans are the ultimate authorities and we should do whatever we feel like doing, or are we a god-fearing society that wants to find out God's will for us and obey? I see the fight over gay rights becoming an unprecedentedly intense focal point for that deeper struggle in our society, which is why it's so alarming to me. It's going to make the fights over abortion and the E.R.A. look like child's play in comparison."


Anonymous said...

The whole thrust of this guy's beliefs about homosexuality makes me shudder. He is a classic example of the extremism born from ignorance, fear, and lack of both imagination and compassion. He is also obviously an 'end of days' type, which group has always given me the heebie jeebies because of their emphasis on 'us' v. 'them' survival strategies.

Christopher Bigelow said...