This is the first guest post from Justin. He also blogs at LDS Anarchy.
Interviewer: But did [Oscar] Wilde identify himself as gay?
Stephen Fry: No, I don’t think he did. He talked about his nature — he was aware of what people’s natures were, to have sex with their own kind. He wasn’t an idiot — he was fully aware there was such a sexual orientation, but the noun “homosexual” did not yet exist in the English language.
I think Wilde had that advantage that he lived in a time when people were not nouns. You didn’t ascribe labels to them. While he was aware of his nature and never apologized for it, he didn’t shout it from the rooftops in the manner of a modern actor with a Larry Kramer sort of gay sensibility.
And I think those who try to read that into Oscar won’t find it there. You might as well wonder why Oscar didn’t have a Web site. He was more mature than our age is. I mean, he had very little interest in sins of the flesh, or he realized that it isn’t very important whether you call them sins of the flesh or not. The only things that matter are sins of the spirit. In that sense Oscar was quite religious.
That’s what so ironic — the religious complain about sins of the flesh, but sins of the flesh are not the kind of thing that Christ would object to. What you do with your penis or your bottom or anything else is so supremely irrelevant in a moral sense. It’s what we do with our personalities and other people that matters.
I still haven’t heard a convincing argument on how allowing gay marriage would affect my marriage in a negative manner. It bothers me that we’re so focused on the hot button issue of “gay marriage” that the real issues affecting marriage [like spousal abuse, poverty, emotional fulfillment, etc.] end-up being ignored.
I think [despite what evangelical Americans will suggest] that the scriptures are largely silent on the issue homosexual relationships. The scriptures that do condemn “men lying with men as with a woman”, etc. refer more to the practice of either:
- sex-rituals [as in, not among married couples]
- using anal sex to show “domination” or “subjugation” over a conquered group
- the physical lust for the pleasure of the sex-act
So it’s possible that those scriptures are condemning those behaviors — not “homosexuality” as such. As Stephen Fry is explaining in the quote above, homosexuality as a sexual orientation and same-gender relationships based on marriage covenants of fidelity between same-gender couples simply did not exist until relatively recently.
Marriage is not about religion because atheists marry. Marriage is not about procreation because the infertile marry. I’d like to say that marriage is just about “love” between two people who desire to get married – however, the problem is we have allowed the State to license marriage and ascribe civil benefits to obtaining that license. Cohabitation, shared beliefs, procreation, love, etc. – do not require legal permission from the government. Civil rights and IRS benefits, however, do.
Marriage is basically the formation of a “corporation” between individuals. This “corporation” gets legal benefits from the State [like any other corporation]. I don’t get upset every time a business incorporates — so why should I get upset when people want to incorporate a relationship? The prohibition against same-gender marriage isn’t an issue because they’re not allowed to live together and love each other. It’s an issue because the government’s involvement in marriage means that same-gender couples are not allowed to enjoy civil privileges: receiving insurance through the spouse’s coverage, visitation rights in a hospital, adopting a child, filing jointly for income tax, taking family leave when the spouse is sick, making arrangements after death, etc. because their status is not legally recognized by a State-issue license.
Obviously, the solution to many of these problems is ejecting the State out of our home, family, romantic, and sex lives. We have such a problem because with the power of civil benefits, the State is seen as legitimizing what relationships matter and which ones don’t. The church should be at the forefront of getting the State and Marriage divorced because we [with all other Abrahamic religions] believe that humans were gathered into families prior to the establishment of civil governments. Whether a couple is considered married “in the eyes of God” or not can have nothing to do with a State-issued license. Thus, a good first step in this direction would be to no longer require a marriage license to perform religious services like for-time marriages and eternal family sealings.
But even if we want to be secular about it – the historical basis of the “family” was multihusband-multiwife tribes that shared food, labor, childcare, and sexual partners — not our present narrative of the two-parent nuclear family with a college-educated urban employment and a suburban house, with the 3 or 4 kids and a dog. The church adopted itself into that institution [which is politically-termed “Pro-Family”], and re-framed our “Eternal Families” narrative to garner wider recruitment in the wake of the 1890 Manifesto and renunciation of polygyny.
The church, as presently organized, is a gerontocracy — so leadership today represents a 1950′s era American-style Mormonism from a Utah-centric, cis-, hetero-, anglo-, middle-class privileged lifestyle point-of-view. And so, with the power concentrated in the hands of these few, we get a gospel presented in those terms only — with nothing for people whose narratives differ either slightly or greatly from that. I think that with legalized gay marriage in the US being standing a good chance in the near future, the church could be at the forefront of presenting a family doctrine of fidelitous sexual ethics for both straight and gay members.
However, doing so would necessitate a re-evaluation of the stated positions on:
- what the fundamental purpose of marriage covenants really is
- what God’s design for getting adults together into families is really all about
- and what is He wanting us to do/foster in human society by organizing ourselves this way
Because presently the regurgitated, stock-responses are not internally-consistent with themselves:
- We parrot traditional American Christianity by saying that marriage is about One-man-and-One-woman, but we’ll all allow marriages after a spouse’s death and after a divorce [which would be serial monogamy — not a true mono-].
- Then, as LDS, we take it further by sealing polygynous and polyandrous eternal families through our policy of sealing any deceased person to all spouses they had while living [which is, again, not one man and one woman].
- And we’ll also use the natural law argument along with the other Christians to attempt to tie the purpose of marriage families together with reproduction — when many couples are infertile, or marry after reproductive age, and many couples are not economically-sound enough to provide for the maintenance of large families [especially when we keep them separate with sanctions against plural husbands and wives], and there are plenty of already-born children who aren’t cared for well-enough and could be adopted instead.
I think LDS are unique in the position of being able to associate marriage covenants with fidelity, cooperation, commitment, service, intimacy, fellowship, emotional fulfillment, and companionship — without needing them to be hetero- and monogamous. And I think we can associate “the family” with greater purposes than reproducing children to fill-up the earth. And while I think that marriage has a God-given “purpose” — I think it needs to be better associated with people having happy, loving, consensual, and faithful cooperative-unions. If anything’s an “abomination”, it’s not homosexuality — it’s unions where people are taken advantage of, abused, lied to, cheated on, etc. That should be illegal. That should be a sin.
The problem is we get more interested in the outwardly-observable behaviors of the flesh — when the only things that really matter are state of the spirit or the heart. The religious complain about sins of the flesh, but sins of the flesh are not the kind of thing that Christ would object to. What you do with your penis or your orifices or anything else is absolutely irrelevant in a moral sense — especially when compared to our personalities and how we relate to and treat other people.