Monday, March 31, 2014

On Differences of Opinion and Treating Folks with Respect

I’ve been writing this post in my head for months and on paper for weeks. It’s something I’ve thought about and wrestled with, since I’ve wanted to make sure I got every word right. I don’t know if I’ve done that, but I have given it a lot of thought, and I hope you’ll read it in the same spirit in which I wrote it.

I know that what follows will be a politically unpopular opinion (so if you prefer to avoid politics--and religion--in general, you should probably stop reading now). I know I might lose followers and perhaps people’s respect. But I cringe every time I hear someone refer to me as a bigot without knowing anything about me, so even though I post this with some amount of trepidation, I feel strongly that I need to post it.

Please know that it’s not my intent to argue. I didn’t write this post to try to change anyone’s mind. You feel the way you feel because of your beliefs, and I respect both you and them. I only want to explain why I feel the way I feel and perhaps shed a little light on why we feel so differently. I don’t think it’s because you’re a heathen and I’m not (or I’m narrow-minded and you’re not). I think it’s because we start with very different premises.

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Lots of folks see this life as a blip of self-awareness between an unknown past and an uncertain future (or between nothing at all), but because of my religious beliefs, I see it as the second act in a three-act play. I believe we lived with God before we came to earth. What’s more, I believe we lived with Him as children. I call Him Heavenly Father because I believe He is a man, with arms and legs and hands and feet, and because I believe He is the father of my spirit, the part of me that cannot die. And if I have a Heavenly Father, I must also have a Heavenly Mother, for it takes a mother and a father to create human life. I know nothing about Her except that She exists, but I believe that They rule as equal partners and that Their only goal is to help us find peace and happiness in this life and in the life to come.

They sent us to this earth to gain physical bodies, obtain real-world experience, and overcome trials and challenges beyond the protective circle of Their home. They gave us families, patterned after the one we had in heaven, to help us achieve these goals.

I don’t think God intended these relationships to end at death. Because our families were patterned after the one we had in heaven, He wants us to return to live with Him together. What’s more, He wants us to live in these families forever. Because it takes a mother and a father to create human life, families based on another pattern won’t be viable eternally.

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In other words, my position on same-sex marriage is wrapped up in my belief in God and what my religion teaches is His plan for His children. If you don’t believe that this is His plan for us, I would never expect you to feel how I feel about same-sex marriage.

At this point, some of you might be thinking, “Yes, but what right do you have to force your beliefs on me?” As I said at the outset, it isn’t my intention to force these beliefs on anyone; I’m only trying to explain why I feel the way I feel. Now, having said that, I will say that I do vote for laws that define marriage traditionally, but that’s because I think that God will hold me accountable for the choices I make and the laws I vote for. I feel that marriage is defined by Him and not subject to our interpretation.

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Even though I don’t support laws that redefine marriage, I do support civil unions for same-sex couples. Also, I don’t believe that same-sex couples should be discriminated against or treated unkindly. For instance, if I were a nurse and my supervisor told me that I couldn’t allow the partner of a homosexual patient to spend the night at the hospital, I would be the first to defy that policy. Similarly, I don’t think that same-sex couples should be denied housing or banned from stores or restaurants because of their sexual orientation.

Furthermore, I strongly condemn hate crimes. In the early 1800s, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as Mormons, suffered mistreatment and abuse at the hands of the majority--at one point, it was actually legal to kill Mormons in one state in this country for no other reason than that they were Mormon--so I empathize with those who’ve experienced similar mistreatment. Hate crimes are hateful and NEVER okay.

If God is my father--and I believe that He is--then I must believe that He’s your father, too, and if He's your father, you're my brothers and sisters. I believe our Heavenly Father expects us to treat each other with compassion. He can’t look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, but He loves those who sin--which is all of us, of course--treating them with kindness and respect. He wants us to do the same.

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Now that I’ve said my piece, I’m going to let this post speak for itself. You’re welcome to share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments, but I ask that you don’t engage previous commenters in a debate. Similarly, while I usually respond to every comment on my blog, I’m not going to respond to the comments on this post. Despite the world’s opinion to the contrary, I still believe it’s possible to respectfully disagree.

18 comments:

Rena said...

I hear your point of view, but I don't believe laws should be used to deny people privileges that are based on our laws. Your objection is religious, and you are welcome to it.

The issue of marriage isn't about your faith in God, it's about the right to stand by your loved one when they are dying in the hospital. In our society, marriage grants rights to people aside from the sacred union in a church (that's why judges can marry people--hell, there's a form you can fill out online and you can marry people!). These families are real. Their love is real, and by voting against same-sex marriage you are actively opposing love. I understand your belief in God, but I believe that God's greatest gift is love.

I despise the politicization of this particular issue. It wounds me greatly that organized religions will spend millions to defeat the rise of love when that money could have fed the hungry and healed the weak.

Vote how you like, but understand that if you actively contribute to an organization that has prioritized how someone else was born to love over helping the sick, the hungry, and the less fortunate, then there is something inherently unchristian about it.

Would Jesus Christ give his last coin to a group of people feeding the poor, or one campaigning against same sex marriage?

Sarah Ahiers said...

Rena said pretty much everything i was going to say. And she said it way, way better than i ever could

Faith E. Hough said...

It's hard to speak up for what you believe in in a culture that thinks tolerance is the highest virtue--except that if you disagree with the popular views, you certainly won't be tolerated.
I know you don't want this post to turn into an argument of any sort, so I won't address other comments. However, I want to thank you, Krista, for stating your beliefs so eloquently, lovingly, and bravely.

erinpetti said...

Hi Krista,

You are someone whom I know to be compassionate and caring. I respect you and your faith very much, but I feel compelled to chime in a little.

The first piece is the factual, legal argument - the previous commenter wrote to that point.

The second piece, the part that compels me to write this instead of just wringing my hands, is the harm that comes to kids. Some children are gay and they hate themselves. They get the idea that the way they were born is flawed and wrong. Some kids kill themselves.

Creating, and voting for, a society that honors the humanity of all its citizens is a way to fight for life, in my opinion. It just seems like one of the most important things in the world to me.

Again, I adore you, Krista. This is such an emotional topic I hardly ever weigh in on the conversation.

-Erin

Rebecca Gomez said...

Well said, Krista. It is hard to come out and say these things without the "world" seeing it as some form of hate. You voiced it beautifully.

TYHatch said...

Krista, as someone who shares your religious affiliation, I respect your view on this topic. And I completely understand why you feel the way you do. I am so grateful that you've stated your beliefs in a kind way. I only wish the comment boards on local news sites had more loving people like you.

However, my vote would be the opposite of yours.

Let me explain. I value the ability to practice my religion in the way I choose - and I would hate to lose that ability through legislation that outlines what my moral values should be. I will be forever grateful for my ancestors who suffered greatly at the hands of biased and bigoted individuals, and who sacrificed and pushed a handcart to Utah. I feel blessed to live in a country where religious freedoms are valued.

But what I see happening in my home state of Utah is a mirror image of Illinois and Missouri. Sadly, this time the people of our faith are the aggressors in many ways.

It starts with forgetting that we are all children of our Father in Heaven, and ends in the phrase 'if you don't like the way we want you to live, leave'. Sounds eerily familiar to me. (BTW, Utah didn't just ban same-sex marriage, but civil unions, as well.)

I can't stand by and watch personal liberties taken from people, based only on the fact that their Father in Heaven allowed them to be created differently than I am. A familial relationship with someone who is homosexual has led to deep discussions and soul-searching, and I do believe that if given the choice, he would have never had same-sex attractions. The only choice he had was whether to act on the attractions - and if he chose to never act on them, he was choosing to be alone for life. The depression he suffered is the antithesis of the joy that God intended for us.

There are many things in this world that I don't understand. But I know that my Father in Heaven does, and that Jesus Christ has felt the pain suffered by all of us. My reaction to the differences in others is a measure of my ability to follow the Savior, and to trust that He knows better than I.

I do believe that religious organizations (like ours) should be allowed to continue the traditions of marriage that have been cherished over time. But marriage, at least in our country, has many, many civil ties, not just religious ones.

And I fear that if we legislate by a chosen set of religious values, one day I'll lose the ability to worship as I see fit. Someone else's values could become the law of the land.

Thank you for allowing comments on this topic. My hope is that people will respond with the kindness you used in your blog.

Abbe Hoggan said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. These are my beliefs as well, and you expressed them perfectly.

Steve Moran said...

I often ask myself what Jesus would have done when confronted with a particular problem or situation. And then try (my limited best) to emulate. I think Jesus had less to do with the form of things, and more to do with treating people with boundless love and endless respect.

Katy White said...

I love how beautifully, kindly, and eloquently you shared the feelings of my heart, not to mention your own. Thank you for writing this.

Ryan Hancock said...

Krista,
I appreciate you giving us a forum to discuss this sensitive issue. I have a least a dozen good friends that are gay. They are some of the most caring and wonderful people I know. I want them to feel accepted and loved and to find happiness.
But if I had to choose between loyalty to these friends and loyalty to God, I have to choose God. That's not to say I'd judge my friends or tell them they're sinners and going to hell. I just worry about myself (I have plenty to work on) and try to be kind to everyone.
When it comes down to the vote, however, we're sort of forced to choose sides. I've often wanted to vote yes to same-sex marriage, just because I know it would make my friends very happy and it even seems like the unselfish, magnanimous thing to do. However, when you look at the big picture (as you described a three-act play) you realize what it would mean to redefine marriage. Believing what we do about the eternal nature of gender and God's plan for His children we realize that what He stated in the Bible and in other places is true. We can try our own way, but in the long run it's not going to make us as happy as His way will. If I was to vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, I would be saying to God, our way is better than Your way. And that is something I just don't believe. It doesn't make me a bigot or a hater. I don't look unfavorably on those that vote for same-sex marriage, and if same-sex marriage is legalized I won't be out there protesting with a sign shouting rude comments. It's just in that quiet moment when I'm alone with the ballot and I feel God's eyes on me that I know I have to trust that He knows best. Even if it means taking a little flack for it. Because I'm not the first one to take flack in Jesus' name and I won't be the last.

HEATHER LYNNE DAVIS said...

It's nice to see that there can be a measured and honest discussion about this topic. Thanks, Krista for explaining your reasoning and beliefs. I think the tide is turning on this issue, largely because this country is at heart egalitarian and our founders understood how important it is to separate church and state. Even if a religion doesn't want to recognize same-sex marriages as legal, which is fine, the state should because that is how those couples and families will receive all of the protections that come with a legal union. I don't think there is any justification for not allowing same-sex couples those protections and benefits (ones provided by the government, not any church). Personally, I could never look my beautiful, creative, soulful little brother in the eye and tell him he will not be part of my eternal family. If there is an afterlife, all of my siblings will be there. And I want every gay child in America to know that they are not wrong or abominations or cut off from God. I want them to know they are not a mistake. They have every right to heaven. That's a message those kids need to hear. I hope all of the organized religions who do not believe gays and gay couples have a place in heaven will evolve. For me, God is not about exclusion.

Rebecca Gomez said...

Heather is absolutely right that God is not about exclusion. As a matter of fact, his Word says that "he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) That, then, is the key. Repentance. A person can "be gay," but choose a life in obedience to Christ, turning away from sin.

There are so many sins that people struggle with in life. As a Christian, I am constantly at war with myself. But to give up--to stop struggling and choose to embrace sin in my life--would be to turn away from the One who has covered me with his grace.

Heather (Hamilton) Senter said...

Thank you. These are my beliefs as well and you have expressed them beautifully.

To those who disagree with those beliefs, please remember that this is the heart of a democratic society - the right and the responsibility to vote for the laws which express your beliefs and desires. No-one has the right to take that away. The question of how to balance our political views with our religious beliefs is always a difficult one to answer. I neither condemn nor applaud anyone that votes contrary to or the same as myself.

But I will stand up forever for the right to vote in the manner I believe is best - whether anyone agrees with me or not. If we lose that right - and the right to do it without being molested or vilified or intimidated by the moniker of 'bigot' - then that will be the beginning of the end of a free and democratic society.

HEATHER LYNNE DAVIS said...

I would never ask my brother to repent for the way God made him. I guess that is the essential disagreement. And yes, the right to vote peacefully is critical.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thank you, Heather Lynne Davis and Rebecca Gomez, for sharing your opinions in a respectful way. I think you've both communicated your feelings very well, so I'm going to ask you both to stop there. (I'm sure you were already planning to leave it where it is, but I'm trying to stay on top of these comments so the conversation stays peaceful.)

Janice Sperry said...

It's hard posting something that goes against the norm, Krista. I applaud you. I think the only point you missed is that while we can't always control our feelings, we can always control our actions. There is no need to feel guilt for being attracted to someone of the same gender. The church teaches children that they are not evil or condemned for being gay. If they choose to act on those feelings, then it is between them and God.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I can't quite get over the fact that one can assume the parents we have in heaven/spirit world adhere to the same biological processes that allow procreation here. Do physical penises and vaginas matter in heaven? Probably not. Love on the other hand? Yup, I'd think so. My guess is, if anything, that's what we're patterned after. That's my two cents.

Ben Spendlove said...

Your courage inspires me again, Krista. I've become quite cynical about politics in the U.S., especially where it intersects religious beliefs. It seems everyone who speaks up is either itching for a fight, or quickly attacked by people who are. I find it heartening that in your little corner of the Internet, you can raise this topic and get such comments. It speaks highly of the readers you've accumulated. (Of course, we're probably not seeing everything. Oops, there's my cynicism again.)

Everyone thinks they're right. Everyone has their reasons. Students of rhetoric and those who would persuade should remember that it's unlikely you'll pull someone from the other side to your own, but you may be able to reach common ground.

There's far too little effort to find common ground these days, so I really like this statement, Krista, and the comments. Thank you.