Friday, November 6, 2015

Telling My Story as LDS Church Refuses Baptism to Children of Gay Couples, and Houston and Kentucky Demonstrate Continued Political Power of Gay-Baiting

Dear friends, I'm posting today, despite my fast from posting, because — well — there's something I'd like to say! And here it is:

As I think about telling my story — the long, difficult making and instanteous unmaking of a (gay) Catholic theologian — there's this to consider: the timeliness of such a book. what message do people need or want to hear now, regarding such a story. What story are people listening for, as they think about the place of LGBT people in religious groups and societies today?

How to tell my story in a way that intersects with this need? I ask these questions on a day when the lead headline in the Salt Lake Tribune notes that the LDS church has just created a policy making  same-sex couples and their children apostates. Those children may not be baptized or blessed in the LDS church.

As Mormon blogger Jana Riess, who says she's livid about this announcement, points out, the LDS church will baptize and bless the children of rapists and murderers, children born out of wedlock, but not the child raised within a household headed by a loving same-sex couple who are committed to each other. As she also notes, this decision violates other (and more fundamental) aspects of Mormon doctrine, which reject the notion that children should be punished for the (perceived) sin of their parents.

Patriarchal religion, which is fighting tooth and nail today to smear LGBT people with the slime of impurity (to continue longstanding smears that are vanishing in many cultures), cannot tolerate — above all — any insinuation that LGBT human beings are other than impure slime.

The LDS church has tried to do some image-management scrubbing of its façade after the Mormons were exposed as a driving force behind prop 8, which stripped gay citizens of California of the right to marry. This new policy, which is as mean as they come, shows just how much that image management really means, when all is said and done. Fortunately, the excommunicated Mormon blogger John Dehlin has leaked these documents to the media, which assures that the LDS church can't enact these mean-spirited policies attacking the children of same-sex couples in secret. The LDS church is estimated to have lost a million members after prop 8 — church members outraged that their financial contributions to their church have been used to attack gay people and gay family members whom they love and support.

This LDS announcment comes on the heels of the surprising election of Salt Lake City's first openly gay mayor, so that Belle Gabriel tweets today,

But the announcement also comes on the heels of yet another demonstration (as if we needed this) in Houston that a majority of citzens in some areas of the country, given the opportunity, will freely and willingly vote to remove rights and protections from LGBT people. Houston is a reminder that in some parts of the country (and these have dominant political control in our national life right now, as a minority, due to successful voter suppression efforts and gerrymandering) citizens will gladly use the privacy of the voting booth to remove basic civil rights and protections from a stigmatized minority group they have been taught to view as impure.

They will behave this way because it has become critically important to them to continue stigmatizing LGBT people as impure. That's ultimately what the bathroom battles are all about — it's no accident that they focus on bathrooms, where vulnerability, sexuality, and liminality connect in people's deep imagination — and why this tactic is so effective for the religious and political right. We will see more and more of it, and so-called liberals, the pragmatic managerial class that dominates in the Democratic party right now, are absolutely unequipped to deal with the battle, because they refuse to get down into the mud of such battles. 

But in the mud is where people really live . . . . You cannot reason people out of the mud. You have to find ways to reach people living in the mud through which you yourself are slogging, with emotive rhetoric about affective commitments including religious and spiritual ones, rather than with cold, dry reason.

And the LDS announcement that the Mormon church will not baptize and bless the children of same-sex couples comes on the heels of yet another demonstration in Kentucky of the power of gay-baiting tactics in our country at present, as a minority of voters turn out to vote against their own economic self-interest in an election in which Kim Davis and her lawyers once again put her center-stage with ugly rhetoric about the "impotence" of Kentucky's Democratic governor.

What's that rhetoric about, with its insinuation that Democratic men or liberal men are inferior men, while Republican men, Christian men — the kind to whom Ms. Davis looks up — are real men? It's obvious, isn't it? And it's obvious why Ms. Davis and her team played this card just as the elections in Kentucky got underway.

And as I think about all of these issues in the context of a book project I'm contemplating, I also take note of the statement of Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa reported in AP stories yesterday that the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church exhibit a "special kind of homophobia," which makes the cruelty of those pastoral leaders to LGBT people keener and meaner than the garden-variety homophobia LGBT folks often encounter in society itself. As a priest-friend (and theological colleague) of mine explained to me some years ago, the men who run the Catholic church reserve a special kind of cruelty for those who are gay, because so many Catholic priests are themselves gay, but unable or unwilling to face that fact — and are therefore susceptible to the psychological tendency to project their own "darkness" onto scapegoats, which they then combat and try to destroy in order to purify themselves. As he also pointed out, the men running the Catholic church are especially frightened of and hostile to open, self-accepting gay men who form healthy, loving relationships, because they fear that the lives and relationships of those men might become a model for the many priests who are gay — causing more priests to come out of the closet and form open, committed relationships.

How — or whether — to tell my story in such a context? How does my story fit into these other narratives, which are very timely ones? Do I even have a story to tell, really?

These are the questions I'm asking myself these days.

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