20 January 2010

Next Round With Dad

OK boys and girls, here we go again, the next chapter in the continuing dialogue.

A few posts back, I included a paragraph from my dad's latest letter in which he said the following:

"The core issue [is] that homosexuality is an abnormal sexual behavior in the broad sense of societies sexual practices. A socially healthy society does not condone abnormal sexual or moral practices (eg. Animals, children, satanic practices, prostitution, and same sex, etc) and remain healthy over a long period of time. You are a history aficionado and clearly know from your reading and study over your life what has happened to cultures that have stepped out of the mainstream of normal interpersonal behavior; they are not around anymore. As the statement goes: "A man is a fool who does not pay attention to his past...he is destined to repeat it." Love, Dad."

To which I have now written the following response which I submit for your review, consideration, and suggestions for improvement:


Dad:

Thanks for your note, I'd like to respond to a couple of points you raised.

First is the definition of "normal." I don't know that you and I will ever agree on this. When we talked before, you said "normal" was "what most people do," so anything that a minority of people do would presumably not be "normal." And since gay people are not a majority, they're not "normal." If that is the definition of normal, then no Latter-day Saint is normal anywhere.

Let's put aside the particular percentages for a moment and look at the big picture. Since homosexuality has always been present in every civilization, we have to consider it a "normal" feature of the overall spectrum of orientation and behavior. The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have both called homosexuality "a normal variant of human sexuality." The fact that it may characterize a minority of people within the population pool isn't really relevant to this perspective. In this light, any civilization that truly had no homosexuality whatsoever would not be "normal."

"Normal" as a purely statistical measurement is one thing, and that's the tack you took during our face to face discussion last time. But now you're using "normal" as a measurement of morality to argue that civilizations which allow behavior that's not "normal" will perish as a result. This suggests that you impute a moral dimension to "normal" behavior just because most people do it.

With all due respect, here's why I disagree.

First of all, prophets of the LDS Church disagree amongst themselves about this. Spencer Kimball said "many cities and civilizations have gone out of existence because of" homosexuality. But he offered no evidence for his statement whatsoever. He wasn't a historian. He was an insurance businessman and entrepreneur who then became a full-time church leader.

President James Faust said that "so-called alternative lifestyles must not be accepted as right, because they frustrate God's commandment for a life-giving union of male and female within a legal marriage as stated in Genesis. If practiced by all adults, these life-styles would mean the end of the human family." This sounds exactly like some of the things you've said to me. And with all due respect to President Faust, nobody is talking about "these life-styles" being "practiced by all adults." You can't convert or recruit somebody to being gay, I'm sorry, but despite myths you may have heard, it doesn't happen. You're either gay or you're not. The process of coming out may look to some like a conscious choice or a conversion, but it isn't. It's merely self-discovery. So Pres. Faust is setting up a total fantasy as a straw man here.

But beyond that, the problem is that past LDS leaders have used essentially your same arguments against the heterosexual monogamy you now say is the only "normal" behavior that will save a civilization from ruin. In fact, President John Taylor called it "degenerate" and a "curse"! It can't go both ways, Dad. Here are some sample quotes:

"It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome...was a monogamic nation and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her." - Apostle George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 202

"The one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people." - John Taylor, Millennial Star, Vol. 15, p. 227

"Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire....Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers." Brigham Young, The Deseret News, August 6, 1862

"This law of monogamy, or the monogamic system, laid the foundation for prostitution and the evils and diseases of the most revolting nature and character under which modern Christendom groans,..." Apostle Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, page 195

All of this suggests to me that the early Church leaders, at least, blamed heterosexual monogamy for corrupting civilization. Not the gays. I'm curious to know the sources for your belief about this because my own study leads me to conclusions opposite from yours. Greece thrived for centuries while accepting homosexual behavior. The Roman empire didn't fall until long after Christianity became the state religion and started legislating the heterosexual monogamy that Brigham Young and other LDS leaders blamed for that downfall. I have a book called Civilization and Homosexuality, it's over an inch thick of exhaustive research into every civilization's treatment of homosexuality from the most ancient up through the 18th Century. I've seen nothing in it that justifies believing that homosexuality has brought down any society, let alone multiple ones. No civilization lasts forever, and all ultimately die out or collapse from a variety of factors.

So please tell me because I'm very interested. What is the basis for your belief that homosexuality has destroyed civilizations in the past? I'm not being snarky here, this is a sincere question. Because I just don't see the evidence. If you know something I don't, I'd be very happy to learn.

4 comments:

TGD said...

This has always been what bothers me about being gay. There is always someone out there who demands I justify myself.

As a result, even though you are being honest and sincere, I completely interpreted your response as snarky. Especially when you said you weren't.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is, I like what you wrote but my own anger and hurt has totally clouded my perception. I'm lost in my own head. I'm not really sure how it's going to be perceived.

J G-W said...

I LOVE the monogamy quotes. Beautiful.

Your reasoning is flawless... I guess the question is, will Dad come to see things differently because of flawless reasoning?

You know your Dad better than I do, so I couldn't answer that question better than you. But in my experience, these arguments are never won by reason. The real movement in every argument is heart movement.

Mister Curie said...

Well reasoned response, although I'm not sure that any logic can break down an essentially religious belief (that homosexuality is sin) if someone is not willing to have an open mind.

Interestingly, these same quotes against monogamy were important on my journey to disaffection with the church.

boskers said...

I agree with Mister Curie. No matter how perfect your logic is, I wonder if any of it would ever be enough to break down his personal beliefs.

He could easily explain away the monogamy doctrine by saying that the church is not a static church, but an evolving church--and he'd be right. It seems that a lot of the church's darker history is explained away by that concept.

I wonder what exactly you want from your dad? You already know he loves you, at least it sounded like it from your previous posts. If you're searching for mutual understanding, don't you feel you have that already to a larger extent than many? I'm not being cynical. I'm honestly curious about what you expect or hope from your dad.