Culture War

Culture War Armistice  Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 11:28am

 Another in a series of old Facebook Notes to share here. 
 (Can you identify the authors of the quotes in the first paragraph?)

I am a conscientious objector in the Culture Wars. “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more, forever.” “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.” “Let us have peace.”

Not that I am any kind of an example of anything, but I don’t know too many people who lead a more culturally conservative lifestyle than I do. And yet I absolutely reject the cultural war posturing of the religious right. The simple reason is that as a practicing Latter-day Saint, I am considered by many on the religious right to be a cultist non-Christian and condemned to hell along with all the gays, abortionists, communists, liberals, hippies, etc., but it goes much deeper than that.

And I don’t find a home on the left, either. While my politics certainly tend left of center and I am a registered member of the Democratic Party, I am not at all comfortable too far left of center. For example, I used to follow the blogs and postings on the Huffington Post. But with the recent Gay vs. Mormon controversies, I read some of the vilest and most hateful postings directed against the church and its members beyond anything I could imagine. I thought my tolerance level was pretty high. And while I take the tolerant view as best I can, it shook me to the core. Yet I refuse to be angry. Just as I believe hatred never made a gay stop being gay, hatred towards the religious conservatives will not help increase tolerance of gay lifestyles.

Let me be very clear. I am firmly committed to my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and to what I believe to be His true and living church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And there is not an official position of the LDS Church that I dispute or fight against. But I respectfully reject so much that is culture in the church with no basis in sound doctrine. And even the official positions in their application to my life lead me to some admittedly unusual conclusions. The best example of this is abortion.

If you read the official position of the LDS Church:, it is very clear that abortion is generally a serious moral wrong but there are rare exceptions that can be allowed after counseling with competent medical practitioners and religious leaders in the cases of rape, incest, “serious jeopardy” to the “life or health of the mother” and when “the fetus has serious defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.” My conclusion is that if there are these rare, appropriate exceptions, I cannot support an absolute ban on abortion. And if these rare exceptions are only to be determined in consultation with religious leaders, then that is exactly the kind of process I want the government to have no part in. If I do not want the government to set the rules for exceptions but to allow the free exercise of deeply serious religious decisions, my conclusion is to be politically pro-choice. And this comports with the church’s position that it “has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.” I am free to choose and be responsible for my choices and allow others the same.

In fact, most people that support a woman’s right to choose do not favor abortion as the best choice. The solution to all this is a compromise. Declare a policy of making abortion as unnecessary as possible by providing all kinds of other options for women, but allow the right for them to choose under the exceptions of rape, incest, viability of the fetus, and the health of the woman to be determined with her doctor and, of course, within her religious tradition which government can neither force nor deny. Yes, the exception for health of the woman is a very broad exception. But it allows women to be responsible for their choices and it still allows all of us to preach, expound and exhort whatever we want in our own spheres of influence.

Government intrusion in personal life and morality issues is simply inappropriate. The classic example of this is the Terri Schaivo case. The Congress of the United States had absolutely no business in that very private and tragic family matter. And some politicians of the right used that horrific tragedy to manipulate political advantage. It was appalling and disgusting. I prepared a living will and no one but my wife (or my eldest daughter if my wife is not able to act) has any right to determine what medical treatment I will or will not receive in an extreme situation. And that is the way it should be IMO.

With regard to the gay issues I have no answer. I have thought a lot about it and just don’t understand. I cannot get my brain around it. The policy statement on the church website is a dialogue (for heavens sake!).  Once again, I have no problem with the LDS teaching, particularly the Proclamation on the Family.  The doctrine is that sexual activity is to be limited to marriage between husband and wife. And I recognize, believe me, that is a very difficult standard and if rare in the world at large, it is not at all impossible, and it has always been this way. And this standard is the same for people with same sex attraction as it is for hetero singles. As much as sexual activity is a private behavior with which government or society should not interfere unless it is associated with force and injury, acceptance of what should be private sexual behavior should not be forced by government or society at large. I am willing to live and let live but I draw the line where the church does- at marriage, even if that war is very nearly lost. Otherwise, I have no problem letting gays be. I am even willing to allow legal rights and opportunities right up to some form of civil domestic partnership in which sex and gender are irrelevant. But I will not fight these issues on either side. I will let them be and hope people will do the same for me. But you see how I have no home in either side of the culture wars.

The reason why I cannot support the religious right or the extremes in my own religious tradition even though my lifestyle is rather conservative, is because when faced with these terribly difficult issues of personal behavior, I have nothing left but my religious faith to fall back on. I see the essence of my religion as the atonement of Jesus Christ and His judgment of me based on my faith, repentance, sacred covenants, living by the Holy Ghost and continuing to end, and that is what I want to share with others. Yes, I believe there are commandments and behaviors that draw us closer to God or cut us off from His presence if we sin. But I cannot force or impose those on others under the principles of righteousness that I impose on myself and admittedly fall far short. It can only be accomplished “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” “For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth Faith, Hope, Charity, these three, but the greatest of these is Charity.”

Peace. And Charity.
________________________
Addendum
February 20, 2013
As the Culture Wars march on, there are some interesting developments. The church website has been updated with MormonsandGays.org. The debate over Scouting and Gays rages on as the LDS Church was caught by surprise and asks us not to speculate. And then there is this very interesting blog post and video.