“What terrible sins I have working for me. I suppose it’s the wages.”
— George Spiggott (the devil), “Bedazzled,” 1967
It would be the sin of pride, writ very large indeed, were I to think that some of the utterances heard over the weekend from the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were specifically in response to anything written by little ol' me.
There is little reason to suppose that President Russell M. Nelson and First Counselor Dallin H. Oaks even know who I am, or care.
But it was hard not to read some of the statements made over the last few days in Salt Lake City’s version of The Great Hall of the People and not think that they were seeking to refute some of the stuff I have written about religion over the years.
Specifically, some of the calls from the church leaders seemed to be aimed at refuting the column I ran a couple of weeks ago, the one about not necessarily falling for the argument that someone who seeks to tell you what to think or do is really telling you what God wants you to think or do.
“Our knowledge of God’s revealed plan of salvation requires us to oppose many of the current social and legal pressures to retreat from traditional marriage,” Oaks said, “or to make changes that confuse or alter gender or homogenize the differences between men and women.”
So. It isn’t just Oaks, or his church, or his like-minded friends, who oppose marriage equality or the freedom of people who don’t feel comfortable in traditional gender roles, or abortion or euthanasia. It is God himself. Well, God’s revealed plan. As revealed by whom? The leaders of his church, of course.
As American writer Anne Lamott has said, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
Oaks did have a good point when he argued that, when making important personal decisions, one should not put too much stock in wild rumors or unsubstantiated claims found online, or on the views of actors or athletes or people who are famous, not because they have accomplished anything, but just because they are famous.
And I would not claim he is was wrong when he said that the things we know from science and logic are, “not the whole of life.” But they are a lot of it.
There’s an old saying about how lawyers in court argue the facts when the facts are on their side, argue the law when the law is on their side, and pound the table when neither the law nor the facts are on their side.
It now seems clear that those opposed to marriage equality and other aspects of gay rights have so thoroughly — and, in historic terms, astoundingly quickly — lost the battle in the court of public opinion that they have no other resort than to pound the Bible.
It is a rhetorical tactic designed to shut down disagreement because to take a different view is not to differ with another fallible human being, but to be against God.
The church’s continued assault upon the dignity and humanity of LGBT folks, their hopes and desires, their attachments and marriages and families, makes no human or humane sense. It’s basically institutionalized cruelty. But, to some, it makes religious sense. Because that’s all that’s left.
If what this church, or any church, says on that or any other issue rings true to you then, by all means, follow along. It’s your right as a human being.
But my previous point stands. It won’t be God’s decision. It will be yours.