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Burn-Out and going viral

11 Nov

Last year, I was in definite odds with the position that my church was taking on Prop 8. It was very clear to me that the Prophet of the Mormon church and his fellow (all male) leaders were obscured in clarity on the subject of marriage, discrimination, and what it means to be gay. I understand – these men are human. They feel that their values are threatened by gay people. Their core doctrine rests definitively on the sanctity of marriage.

My husband and I disagreed with their stand. I didn’t like getting political pitches from the pulpit, being handed bumper stickers in the lobby and the conversations about gay people that ensued within the church walls. What was going on, wasn’t in keeping with Christian values, or the stand our church has normally taken on staying out of politics and “voting with your conscience”. Unlike myself, my husband was less than thrilled about wearing his politics on his sleeve. He wasn’t keen on putting a No on 8 sign on the lawn on our very visual and prominent corner lot. He didn’t want a bumper sticker on the car, even if I was the one to be driving. I respected that he felt the matter was private so I held back. He appreciated my pain and winced along with me.

I worked very hard with myself and my frustration. I donated money to No on 8. I decided that church did not have a place for me and mostly stopped going. I did loving-kindness meditations for the prophet and the brethren and myself to work through my negative feelings. I was OK doing my own things and letting the church go their own way. Problem solved.

Then, Elder Ballard gave a talk  and said:

Elder Cook reemphasized Elder Ballard’s encouragement of sharing the gospel through the Internet.

“It is my hope that you will engage. It is my hope that you will go viral,” he said.

I saw all sorts of my sweet Mormon friends who would normally never engage in public politics, posting on their family blogs. I got e-mails from people I haven’t heard from in years. The influence that that Elder Ballard’s speech had on the Mormon community was so influential.

I got angry, except this time – I was observing that anger. That anger and shock wasn’t damaging. It was a wake up call to action. That was it for me. I stopped being quiet. Go viral? Sure, now that’s something I can do! I can speak up for what Jesus taught – peace and love. Sure, I’m just a female in our church and I have no power what-so-ever, but I do have a voice. I will not blindly obey something I know in my heart to be wrong. The leaders of the church are human, they have made mistakes in the past and will make more mistakes in the future. (blacks and the priesthood? fighting the ERA?) I have to live with my own conscience, listen to the spirit in my heart.

On November 2, 2008 I felt something strange. I weird anxiety that I haven’t felt in years. It was a helplessness – I wanted to see Prop 8 fail and I wanted to see a shift in the governing party. (we needed that shift simply for balance and hope) What does a helpless feeling girl do? I impulsively ran down to Supercuts and cut off 10+ inches of my hair! I may not be able to control American politics, but, by DAMN, I can control my hair. Let me start the winds of change by cutting off years of dead weight that I’ve been carrying around.

Two days later the votes were in. My kids were on the couch with me, watching each state’s votes comes in. I’ve never swayed my kids in their politics, and even so, my 8-year old sat on the couch in dismay when the Utah votes came in, “WHAT?!!!! Why did Utah voted for McCain?” I was over-the-moon about having our first black president. (and after the previous 8 years, one that can speak articulately) It was a very sacred moment for me. It was bitter sweet as Prop 8 results came in. My heart just sunk. As I realized the role my church had played in passing the proposition, it made me so sad. I thought of my gay friends and neighbors, those who have been together longer than Dan and I, those who are raising children. I felt so sad that many of my LDS friends do not have these connections and this understanding of equality and looking out for those who are different than us. I can’t remember the last time that I’ve been so disappointed and let-down.

I get all of the e-mails from Mr. Geoff Kors, Equality California. That’s what happens when you write a check. I’ve been deleting them for a year. Bloggers have written insightful pieces on Prop 8 and analyzed the role of the church, the role of the minority vote, etc. I’ve just barely skimmed. I have been in complete and total burn out.

This morning, I read this. Salt Lake City has passed anti-discrimination legislation with support of the LDS church. My response? WHAT?!!!! It’s 2009 and they don’t already have anti-discrimination legislation? Shameful, you highly Christian and moral upstanding community! Isn’t anti-discrimination the very LEAST a community can do to protect their minority population? I remind myself that every journey starts with one step. I’m glad that the church is supporting anti-discrimination for gay people. I’m also a bit saddened that this seems to be a big deal. It’s a very overdue protection for basic human rights.

I know this is a yoga blog for the most part, but I am reminded again of Ballard’s urging, “Go viral”. Suddenly I’m not feeling so burned out any more. The shakti within me has taken on a new resurgence. Here I go again, back into that dance of life called following the spirit as your conscience dictates.

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It’s almost over.

31 Oct
Sorry for kicking you

Sorry for kicking you

I know. I KNOW. We are all so tired of the political discussions. However…. my e-mail box is constantly being visited by my sweet Mormon friends (many from out of state) sending me Yes on Proposition 8 information. So far, I haven’t answered back as I’m trying to save my energy. But – most of the information is inaccurate and based on unsubstantiated fear. I’ve been doing a lot of research on a lot of issues for this coming election, and I’ve spent literally hours reading legal arguments and reasoning for both sides of Prop 8. I’ve been doing lovingkindness meditation when I get frustrated. I don’t want to get sucked into contention – but I also don’t want to be silent on this issue.

My tribe is Mormon. Mormons have taken a very visible stance on this issue and it makes me wince every time I read about it. Just because there are many Mormons behind this issue, does not mean that we all think alike. Sometimes we need to say something, more than we need it to be heard. Here’s what I felt compelled to write to my church leaders about Prop 8. FWIW – I apologize for veering off of the norm on this blog. Regular programming will resume after next Tuesday. Consider the dead horse kicked. (Oh there goes my bodhisattva practice – oy!)

August 14, 2008

Dear President Monson, First Presidency, and Quorum of the Twelve,

I write this letter with a lot of respect for what you do, not as a means to affect change within the church of any kind, but to simply bring more awareness to a quiet side of the issue on Proposition 8.

As a wife and mother of three, I understand the importance of family and the value of morality. After much consideration, I have decided not to support Proposition 8. I am saddened to see the church take such an organized effort against gay marriage. I have always respected the church’s statement about voting which I understood to be: pray, ponder and vote according to your own conscience. Creating an organized effort to support this proposition, speaking about it in church meetings, asking for help with polling and monetary contributions is contradictory to this teaching.

I am concerned about the amount of time given to this during church. I understand that many members already oppose gay marriage, and that is just fine for them. There are also some of us who believe differently about the subject. It’s not a matter of being right or wrong, but about being able to vote and discuss all things openly and lovingly and create respect for a difference of opinion. Even though my views are different, I want my chapel to be a comfortable and safe place to worship. I would also like to feel comfortable bringing a non-member friend to church, but right now that is out of the question for me given the inordinate amount of time being devoted to this topic.

It is incomplete to say that this is a moral issue, therefore it is okay for the church to organize a political action. I understand that the church teaches that homosexuality is a sin, yet I cannot find one real threat to my own traditional marriage by legalizing the marriage of my gay neighbors. My marriage will not be adversely affected if our gay friends marry. The success of my marriage is up to my husband and I. It appears to me that the church is choosing to make a statement about the nature of homosexuality, more than it is trying to protect marriage.

There is a lot of fear about what might happen within our society, our church, our schools and our families if we allow gay marriage. I literally hear, “I’m afraid we’ll have to add gay parenting to school textbooks, I’m afraid that the church will legally have to perform marriages for gays, etc. ” I’ve learned through experience that most projected fears have very little to do with the reality of how life actually unfolds. They almost always end up being more of a reflection of our internal state of mind. As a group, it’s a good opportunity to step back and reflect on what our collective fears are telling us about our culture within the LDS church and how we should proceed from here.

We cannot hide behind this proposition. We need to deal with these fears and concerns regardless of whether gays receive the right to marry. They are independent issues that need attention. Regardless of what the community teaches our children, we need to teach them about homosexuality and how to interact with our gay friends. As members we need to be educated about how to love and lead a child who we suspect might be gay. We need to find a place and a way within the church for gay members.

Gay couples are not going to disappear from our culture. The stance within our church will not affect gay couples outside of the church. Gay couples will continue to commit to each other, regardless of the initiative. They will continue to raise families. We can encourage a loving attitude towards them and their children or foster an attitude of alienation and superiority. I want my children to know that under no circumstances are their friends with gay parents any less whole than our own family. In no way is their family inferior to ours. To me, this is an important part of morality and maturity.

I have heard the reasoning, “Have faith and follow the brethren.” With great respect, I must say that we are all simply human, and throughout the history of the church the leadership has occasionally missed the mark. During the civil rights movement, the church had similar fears about the Equal Rights Amendment. The leadership and many members were afraid that marriage and families would be threatened. Members were asked to be politically active and many who supported the ERA publically were reprimanded. The womens’ movement has created huge opportunities for me. My husband, who is a hands-on parent, has a much more intimate relationship with his kids than the generations of fathers before him simply due to the equality of parenting time and division of parenting responsibilities. Equal rights have benefited us both tremendously in so many ways that I can’t list them all here. Looking back, the church’s defensive stance against the ERA was not what was best for me while growing up in that era, and I believe that denying gays the equal right of marriage is not in their best interest either. It is also another example of how a movement that is already started will continue to move forward, whether or not the Proposition passes. Thankfully, the women’s movement was propelled forward, even with the failure of the ERA, and my life is incredibly different because of the women who followed their conscience and spoke up. I believe that a similar movement is moving through our society as we deal with this issue of gay marriage.

It is clear to me that opposing gay marriage will alienate a group of people already rejected by the Mormon faith, creating more pain for these couples and families who are trying to make peace in this often intolerant world. I’ve lived in California most of my life. I have gay friends, neighbors and students who are wonderful, moral people. It is clear to me through study as well as talking with my gay friends, that homosexuality is a genetic trait, not a choice. Research backs this up over and over. Statistically, it is nearly impossible to change sexual orientation, despite radical and experimental treatments, some of which were conducted at BYU at great cost to their subjects. I do not think that people should be denied the pursuit of family, or the pursuit of happiness because of their sexual predisposition.

I would love to see more members of the church reach out in understanding for what it is like to be a gay person in the world, let alone a gay member of the LDS faith. I would encourage you to sit back and reflect on your own sexual attraction and where it comes from. What if your nature steered you toward a same-sex attraction? Where would your place be within the church, and how would you find a realistic and fulfilling lifestyle? I see no support or advice within the church for these members who are trying to navigate their lives and achieve a sense of wholeness and happiness. They are often rejected and left feeling broken and hopeless with nowhere to turn. I believe that God’s plan includes happiness.

Ultimately, I was looking for a motivating force for whether to support or reject the initiative. Around me, I see that fear and defensiveness are the motivating forces for those members opposing gay marriage. As I grow in understanding of the nature of God, I understand that fear is not the Divine motivating force. Love is the divine energy that connects us all, and love is the motivation for my support of gay marriage. I do not believe that God works through fear. As a Christian, I choose love, acceptance and understanding. I have an opportunity to wage war or to wage peace, and peace is why I will vote no on Proposition 8.

I know that you are all extremely busy men – thank you for reading my letter.

Much love,
Laurie Gallagher

Prop 8

15 Oct

I totally get that people disagree about politics – that’s cool. I like to give people their space and I like to have space when it comes to political opinions. Proposition 8 though, really hits home to me and I’m glad to have the right to a voice in the matter.

I think of all the titles I’m uncomfortable labeling myself as yet accurately describe me and shape my path in this world: yogi, student of Christ – Buddha, Mormon, mother, bodhi-sattva, bhakti, straight, female, etc. and how can I possibly vote against gay marriage?

Equality, love and acceptance. The pursuit of happiness, the art of accepting your true nature as whole and perfect. The world could use a little more of this.

Please vote No on Prop 8.