Monday, July 21, 2008

Church Ladies

The backbone of religious America is the faith of its women. I'm sure this is what Todd had in mind when he got out of his car, waved at us, and shouted, "Hey Girls!" I attended a faith community yesterday, the Pioneer Day Picnic sponsored by Affirmation, the officially apostate group that provides a safe place and a needed voice for Lesbians, Gay Men, Transsexuals, Bisexuals, Queer and Questioning, and their Families, Friends, and Neighbors (LGMTBQQtFFN) who are part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) universe. Affirmation has an inclusive mandate.

The picnic featured more than dogs and potato salad. Affirmation recently requested a meeting with LDS authorities, and Affirmation leaders will be meeting with church officials on August 11. Dave and Olin asked the rest of us what message they should take to church officials. We talked about it for the next hour and a half, while eating our dogs and potato salad. Several of the men recounted some of their own stories. Apparently, I'm the furthest out of the church. Several of the men remain members in their wards, and some are active members. But trouble is brewing in Zion.

The men at the picnic were seriously concerned about the church's letter that was read over the pulpit to California congregations about the referendum to overturn gay marriage in California. The letter appears dishonest, in that it talks more about the sanctity of family, rather than about the actual substance of the referendum: gay marriage. The church is diverting attention from the real issue of the referendum.

What still puzzles me about the church is its need to stamp out any diverse opinion or thought in the church. I have to ask, why is the church leadership so concerned about homosexuality? It's only a big issue because the church, and other denominations make it a big deal. Even the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of Mormon really have nothing to say about homosexuality as it is practiced in America today. It's more like the church uses the issue as a hammer to keep people in line.

This hammering is painful. It takes a toll on individual members of the church, on their families and wards, and on the doctrine of the church. I pray that church leaders comprehend in their hearts and in their Courts of Love that taking action to remove gay people from the church is not a loving act, but is an attempt to rob gay people of their spiritual birthright, and to deny gay people the legitimacy of their spiritual life with their Heavenly Father. In fact, these hateful acts of these Courts of Love are sinful in that their excommunications effectively harm the relationship that gay people have with their Heavenly Father.

Of course, the toll goes far beyond the individual. Every gay person grows up in a family. The stigma of homosexuality in the church is very sticky and gets applied to family and friends. The sense of isolation and abandonment are great. Families feel forced to forsake their family member or to act against the church. And what's more perverse is that this is done in the name of Love - Hate the sin, love the sinner. I have news for church leaders, it's really hate the sin, hate the sinner.

And danger runs deep. Many gay church members contemplate suicide, and more than a few follow through on their resolve. Their blood is on a church that cannot reconcile its gay sons and daughters, and that blood is on the head of a leadership that refuses to recognize the problem and do something about it. Their blood cries out as a testimony about the failed mission of the church's broken dialogue with its gay members.