17 September 2011

Very Touching

Like virtually everyone else, my kids love hugs. Who doesn't. They need hugs. They thrive on them, on the wordless reassurance of love and acceptance and comfort and security. It's my job and my privilege as a dad to give all that to them so they can grow up happy and healthy and well-adjusted.

Everybody needs hugs. The sense of touch is a remarkable thing. Humans need to touch each other. Babies who aren't held and cuddled when they're tiny don't grow as well, and I think I remember reading that they end up having other emotional problems as they get bigger too.

The touch of a good friend is heart-warming, and the touch of a wife or husband or partner is even better. In a class by itself. It can set the heart racing, endorphins flowing, make the world brighter and more beautiful. It's magic. It makes life amazing.

Even if you don't have such a person in your life (which I don't), one can always hope to find them in the future, and can look forward to the thrill of that kind of touching.

And, at the risk of sounding like Johnny One Note, this is another reason I find the Mormon church's teachings about gay people not just wrong, not just cruel, but hypocritical. Nevermind the fact that the scriptural basis of the whole approach is highly questionable. The requirement that in order to remain in full fellowship a gay person must cut themselves off from all hope of this most fundamental need, the need to be touched, there's just no other word for that but "cruel."

And I'm not talking about sexual touching either. That's a completely separate issue. I'm just talking about the holding hands, the rubbing backs, the hugs, tne arms round shoulders, the stroking of the backs of necks or earlobes, all that innocent stuff that straight couples have been doing publicly in Mormon worship services since anybody can remember. The kind of thing that Mormon culture welcomes and encourages. But if two gay people do it, OMG OMG OMG. Call Church Security and throw them to the ground on the public sidewalk at Temple Square and have them arrested. Ask them to stop, ask them to leave. Mustn't even allow a public expression of such a thing.

OK, disproportionate, yes. But hypocritical? How?

Since the Prop 8 debacle the Mormon church seems to have been trying to repair some of its self-inflicted damage by taking what some characterize as a kinder, gentler approach toward gay people. I see this and basically shrug. Self-motivated penitence is one thing, the forced penitence of somebody who picked a fight, got beat up, and then tries to make up afterward is not quite as trustworthy or praiseworthy, I think, but hey, if it's an improvement at all, then good. I guess.

But so far, it's all cosmetic. It seems forced. Purely reactive. It wouldn't have happened if the church hadn't provoked such indignation by intervening in politics the way it did. The theological box into which the church has painted itself--and which forces it to act as it does--remains as airtight as ever. So while it's nice that the church has stopped coercing gay male BYU students into electroshock conversion therapy and stopped (publicly) calling gay people "perverts" as it used to do, the underlying reasons for that earlier approach haven't changed. Just the packaging.

And that's why I think it's hypocritical. I know they're doing what they think is their best to put a nicer face on things, and that's good. But an organization that claims to be led by revelation from God should be out in front leading advancements in truth and knowledge and learning and doing better in loving, charitable treatment for all God's children. It shouldn't have to be dragged kicking and screaming toward accommodation of social change (like no more racial discrimination) that all the less-inspired have long since accepted as basic fundamental humanity.

So the fact that the kinder gentler approach is just a new veneer over the same old doctrine that justified such horrible treatment before, well, in a sense it almost makes things worse. Because as long as the doctrine remains unchanged there will be people who cling to the old brutal homophobic ways of doing things and insist they're justified. I know some will say it takes time to change big organizations. But this one can turn on a dime if it wants. That's what it did in 1978 with the change in policy on priesthood. But the key there was a leader who realized how wrong the church had been and had the courage to change it. I don't see any indication of any current Mormon leader heading that direction as far as rescuing the church from its self-constructed box on the gay issue.

That makes me sad because I have friends who cling to their faith and desperately want to see that kind of reconciliation. But as long as the church holds to its current doctrine I don't see how that's possible. They will never be anything but second-class citizens, permanently excluded from eligibility for the eternal rewards which the church teaches are the only things worth striving for. Unless the doctrine changes. And that would require a re-write of everything in a way not seen since the time the church started polygamy. I don't see that happening for a very long time, if ever.

And that's why it's so sad that the Mormon church tells its gay members not to touch each other. You must deprive yourselves, it says, of this most fundamental of human needs, one so basic that babies die without it. This is what God wants you to do. Would that be the same God, I ask, who said it's not good for man to be alone? Yes, that would be Him. Oh, I see. And that's consistent how?

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