Join us at the Stand for Marriage Rally, Thursday, Sept. 18th at the Utah State Capitol Rotunda at 7:00. States are depending on Utah to defend marriage at the U.S. Supreme Court. We need your support.
A number of years ago I observed an elementary school class where the teacher used movement to help the children understand the power of peer pressure. The children were each given a piece of paper with a number on it. They were told to squat down and when the teacher beat her drum the number of times listed on the paper, the children were to pop up and make tall shapes with their bodies. All the children thought they had the same number, but in reality only a few of the children had the number that the teacher beat on her drum. When those few popped up they looked around confused and embarrassed and quickly squatted down again. The children had popped up at the right time, but none had the confidence or courage to stand there alone.
I was amused at the time, but now I find myself in a similar situation. Just like those school children, I have been afraid to stand up publicly for something I know is right. The clear principles outlined in “The Family-A Proclamation to the World” should give me enough motivation to actively support the cause of marriage between one man and one woman. So, why have I been afraid to speak out? The reasons are complex, but I’m sure that many people share them.
Many of us are not speaking up for marriage because-like those school children-we don’t want to stand alone. Even some of us that live within strong LDS communities are feeling more and more isolated on this issue. The “marriage equality” message has penetrated into every facet of our society, creating an impression that virtually everybody supports it. News and social media put out a constant stream of sympathetic stories, memes, and text posts equating gay marriage with civil rights, while articles supporting traditional marriage are met with a barrage of caustic, derisive comments. Many around us, particularly young people, now view gay marriage as a step toward a more enlightened society, while supporting traditional marriage is considered an extreme position. Meanwhile, there is silence from the very voices that should be standing strong for marriage. It’s starting to feel very lonely.
Additionally, with all the negative messages bombarding us, self-doubt can easily creep in. Just like those school children who actually counted the drumbeats correctly, we can begin to question our own judgment. We know the Church’s stand on marriage and the family; but when everyone around us seems to hold a different opinion, it’s easy to let doubt and uncertainty shut us down.
Fear of being bullied and humiliated
An even bigger obstacle to speaking up for marriage is the intimidation we are likely to encounter when we express our traditional views. One brief Facebook comment in defense of marriage is all it takes to trigger an onslaught of bullying, belittling, and name-calling. For most of us, this kind of blatant persecution is a new experience; and we often haven’t built up a personal strategy to counter it. We are continually on the defensive about this issue.
We are also observing situations around the country where people’s livelihoods are actually threatened because of their stand on gay marriage. The firing of Brendan Eich, head of Mozilla, because of his support for California’s Prop 8 is a recent example. Cake makers, photographers, florists, and other wedding industry businesses that object to participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies are being taken to court.
Chase Bank recently conducted a company wide survey of its employees asking questions about their sexual orientation and whether they consider themselves allies of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community. The list goes on and on. It’s starting to feel unsafe to even open your mouth.
Not seeing the complexities
Some of our confusion over gay marriage happens because gay marriage supporters are successfully steering the message in their favor. They do so by: 1) simplifying the message, 2) making sure it’s emotionally charged, and 3) repeating it so often that everyone believes it’s true. Their equal-sign bumper sticker and catch phrase, “marriage equality” are very effective because everyone wants to be loving, everyone wants to be kind, and everyone wants to feel that they support equality. Their message reduces a massive, untested social experiment to a simple idea that is difficult to contest without your response being labeled “hate speech.”
A deeper look into the issue of gay marriage reveals, however, that redefining marriage would bring with it a host of consequences that everyone- not just Latter-day Saints-should be uncomfortable with. These include the undermining of religious freedom; the legal support and promotion of gay adoption, which deprives a child of a mother and father and gives no consideration to the child’s rights; the promotion of the “gay lifestyle” to children; the introduction of gay sex education to younger and younger children; the stripping of parental rights to opt children out of gay sex education; and the campaign to replace the terms mother and father on birth certificates with Parent A and Parent B, thus disconnecting newborns from their biological parents.
Many of these outcomes are already happening in Massachusetts where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2004. We need to become much better at identifying and verbalizing the potential consequences of re-defining marriage, so that we can begin to change the dialogue about it and get the truth out.
Wanting to show love
Everyone deserves to feel loved and accepted. Unfortunately, gay marriage advocates claim that the only way to show love to SSA (Same Sex Attracted) people is to support the gay lifestyle and same sex marriage. They claim that SSA people can only find happiness and fulfillment through a sexual relationship with a gay partner. Many of us accept this argument because we see the hurt and confusion our SSA friends and family members are experiencing, and we want to help. Unfortunately, too few of us are questioning whether that limited view of happiness is even true, or whether accepting the gay life-style is really the most Christ-like way to show love.
The idea that there are only two choices for SSA people-happiness within a gay sexual relationship, or misery in a celibate lifestyle-is unfairly limiting. Many religiously devout SSA people freely choose to live within the standards set by Christ’s Church. They do so because they value what they gain from that choice. We need to support them as they negotiate their intensely personal journey.
If we want to truly show love, we should look to Christ as our guide. Christ loved all people unconditionally and always lifted and encouraged them. Although he respected an individual’s agency, he never excused actions that were contrary to his teachings. Likewise, the most significant and profound way we can show Christ-like love to SSA people is to welcome them wholeheartedly into our circles of friendship and to treat them with love and understanding, irrespective of their personal choices. It isn’t necessary to abandon our commitment to the doctrines of Christ’s gospel as we love and cherish our SSA friends and family.
We have been caught off guard
Those of us who are middle-aged grew up in a time when the values of the general culture were not much different than our own. We accepted the truths in “The Family Proclamation” as obvious, and underestimated how easily people could be swayed by the gay marriage argument. The societal shift happened so quickly that we have been unprepared to respond in effective ways. Since we don’t know how to talk persuasively about this issue, we avoid talking about it at all.
Unfortunately, what has always seemed obvious and right to us doesn’t necessarily seem so obvious and right to the younger generation. Many are being swayed by attitudes they encounter at school, within social groups, and even from their peers at church. The arguments that gay marriage supporters use are compelling and can even seem Christ-like to an unprepared mind. Many of us know people who have left the Church because of this very issue.
What can we do?
I recently had a personal trainer design an exercise program for me. The first thing he did was to identify the obstacles that keep me from exercising and help me eliminate them. Since then, it’s been easier to follow a regular exercise schedule. Likewise we must identify and eliminate the obstacles that are keeping us from supporting marriage at this critical time. The good news is that we are not alone. There are people gathering and reposting excellent articles and scholarly research about marriage. There are people who are working to prepare materials for cottage meetings and family home evenings so we can teach each other and our children. There are even people who have compiled lists of things that we can do to support marriage that match our individual abilities. All of these things and more can be found at: www.thecelebrationofmarriage.com.
An excellent first step in standing for marriage would be to attend the “Rally in Defense of Marriage” at the State Capitol Rotunda on the evening of September 18th and/or attend the “Stand for the Family Conference” on September 19th at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo. All the information you need is on the website. You can also go to the website and read through the right-hand column for suggestions about how you can support marriage. Decide what actions fit your abilities and commit to do one or more things on the list.
The time is past where we have the luxury of complacency. As Melissa Moschella said in her article, “A Time For Heroism,” (which is linked to the web site) “Perhaps there are times and places in the history of the world in which it is possible to go through life as just an ordinary, good person . . . leading a normal, quiet life, not making waves or standing out in any way. Perhaps. But the United States of America in the year 2014 is not one of those times and places. Rather, in our contemporary society, the only way to be good is to be heroic. Failing to act with heroism inevitably makes us complicit in grave evils.” There is a way that each one of us can speak up for the truth about marriage. The time to stand is now!