Deaths, SSM, the Community of Christ and related issues …

by: Stephen Marsh

April 22, 2012

There is a lot of discussion about same sex marriage and how it relates to deaths, or preventing deaths.

The leader in that discussion, in many ways, is the Community of Christ (f/k/a RLDS).

But not in the way you probably are thinking.

First, a word of background.

While the Community of Christ is moving forward on active gay clergy and solemnizing same sex marriages (SSM), they are reserving the “doctrine” and the practice to being decided at a national level by local conferences.

The reason they are doing that is because of concerns for the lives and safety of their Church employees and members who live in countries where embracing SSM is seen as moving those who do outside of the status of being “people of the Book” (i.e. in compliance with the Bible) and thus entitled to live in a country under the Peace of God (or Islam).

Those who are outside the law are those who are allowed to be enslaved (according to some.  I need to be clear that the king of Saudi Arabia about 1975 started executing slavers and those who own slaves, so there are Arabs who take a very strong anti-slave stance.  I’ve seen the villages built by freed slaves on the Saudi coast, driven by them myself).  But “lives and safety” means “you have a significant risk of being executed or enslaved for your own good” — and the “enslaved” part is happening to tens of thousands of people, often on sectarian lines.

Second, slavery has made a huge comeback.  To quote:

Yes, we mean real slavery. People held against their will, forced to work and paid nothing.

Sometimes the slave holder ‘pays’ a few grains of rice to keep the slaves alive, or uses a bogus payment that the slave holder reclaims at the end of the month. But the end result is what slavery is today and has always been—one person controlling another and then forcing them to work.

Through Free the Slaves’ research, first published in Kevin Bales’ Disposable People, our conservative estimate is that there are 27 million people in slavery today. This means that there are more people in slavery today than at any other time in human history. Slavery has existed for thousands of years, but changes in the world’s economy and societies over the past 50 years have enabled a resurgence of slavery.

Three trends have contributed most to the rise of modern-slavery.

  • The first, a recent population explosion has tripled the number of people in the world, with most growth taking place in the developing world.
  • The second, rapid social and economic change, have displaced many to urban centers and their outskirts, where people have no ‘safety net’ and no job security.
  • The third, government corruption around the world, allows slavery to go unpunished, even though it is illegal everywhere.

In this way millions have become vulnerable to slave holders and human traffickers looking to profit through the theft of people’s lives. This new slavery has two prime characteristics: slaves today are cheap and they are disposable.

Cheap, Disposable People

  • An average slave in the American South in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s money; today a slave costs an average of $90.
  • From:  http://www.b-fair.net/?p=793

    Third, some direct examples of this problem have arisen in the anti-Starbucks campaign.  You will remember how some groups sought to demonize the LDS or get Mormons fired over Prop 8.  People on the other side have started using similar tactics, except the stakes are higher (and no, I don’t believe either side should have done what they did, I especially do not approve of the escalation).

    Here is an article that lays out many of the issues.

    In case the National Organization for Marriage has not significantly proven its intent to “drive a wedge” between racial groups by “fanning hostility,” its latest action is the most detestable yet. Today, NOM’s Brian Brown announced it will be exporting its Dump Starbucks campaign — a massive failure stateside — to countries that are significantly less supportive of LGBT rights:

    BROWN: In our first week, we gained 25,000 pledge signers in the U.S. alone; today we go international, expanding DumpStarbucks.com campaigns into Mandarin, Arabic, Turkish, Spanish, and Bahala (one of the chief languages of Indonesia). DumpStarbucks.com online ads will also start running in Egypt, Beijing, Hong Kong, the Yunnan region of China, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.

    What happens in Seattle won’t to stay in Seattle. By making gay marriage core to his brand, Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz is telling millions of customers and partners who support traditional marriage in the Middle East, China, South America and North America that they aren’t truly part of the Starbucks community.

    As Joe.My.God. notes, NOM is specifically targeting countries that criminalize homosexuality, like Kuwait and Oman, and even some that punish it with the death penalty, like the United Arab Emirates. The Dump Starbucks webpage tells its visitors that the coffee company’s support of marriage equality will “eliminate” the “definition of marriage between one man and one woman.” Sowing such seeds of fear in countries already opposed to homosexuality extends far beyond “fanning hostility” and could foster increased hostilities against people just for the coffee they choose to drink.

    I know, if you are anti-LDS you will not approve of the article for not focusing on this as an excuse to bash Mormons.  Just edit that into the quote if you are hung up on that issue.  The core issue is that employees of organizations like Starbucks,  well, let me quote the “top commenter” “I would suggest that the potential victims here go beyond LGBT people and coffee-drinkers in these countries, but that NOM in fact has put all Starbucks employees in these countries in harm’s way.

    So, how do you handle the issue of the risk of death and slavery created by identifying an entity as supporting same sex marriage?

    How would you handle the risk of slavery and death from being identified as an entity that supports same sex marriage?

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    The problem is that the issue is no longer as simple as it looks when you expand the focus beyond your own back yard.  If I’m living in Berkeley, California, the solutions seems obvious.  If I’m living in South Africa or Nigeria the answer seems obvious — just in the opposite direction.  If I’m working in Saudi Arabia … well, I lived through my parents being part of a group subjected to intense scrutiny by the Saudi government until they decided that they were people of the Book rather than not.

    Someone had made the claim that Mormons are not Christians and were instead cultists, triggering an investigation by the religious police — and, of course, a large number of Mormons were peremptorily deported from Saudia on short notice (grabbed wherever found and ejected from the country for some) and absent their possessions prior to anyone even taking the time to investigate — and not necessarily deported in family units or otherwise with any coordination or humanity.  My father was the last person to be interviewed by the religious police.  But it did not make me particularly pleased to see demonizing efforts directed at the LDS in California post prop 8 and I’m decidedly not pleased with the anti-Starbucks campaign. As an aside, the execution of the evangelical who started the mess in Saudia was one of the things that could have happened had certain LDS individuals wanted it when the matter was all over.  It did not occur, though neither did anyone who was deported get their possessions or jobs back.

    The risks are real, even in the more enlightened countries with checks and balances systems vis a vis the religious police.

    So, what is the solution you think is best?  Why?  How?  Especially for an institutional hierarchical Church whose members could face expulsion, execution or enslavement over a doctrine.

    ….


    Also, my thanks to Andrew S ‎for his significant help and aid in editing and to Fire Tag for additional help with this post. Neither is to blame for anything said herein, only for editing mistakes in usage (e.g. how to refer to the RLDS and their new name), making the polling software work correctly and other significant helps.

    30 Responses to Deaths, SSM, the Community of Christ and related issues …

    1. Bob on April 22, 2012 at 3:54 AM

      I beieve ” labourer is worthy of his hire”.
      That carrys over to a minimum/ living wage. IMO. If you are not for slavery, you should be making a minimum/living wage standard in your society.

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    2. MikeInWeHo on April 22, 2012 at 6:54 AM

      This is great, Stephen, thanks. Church-wise, the Community of Christ is taking a novel approach. What they basically feel called to do is allow themselves time to assimilate new light while preventing the kind of schism that has so horribly impacted the Anglican communion and other denominations. From my perspective, that’s inspired leadership.

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    3. el oso on April 22, 2012 at 7:51 AM

      The big problem is that NOM (and many other groups that do similar things) are using a tactic that is great in a modern republic where the rule of law and limited governmental powers are the norm. The primary outcome in the US, UK, and many other countries is a more or less effective boycott of a private NGO.
      In autocratic societies around the world, the whim of the rulers is all it takes to put your life or freedom in danger. The one big difference between the LDS pogrom Stephen describes and any Starbucks backlash is that it is much easier to dissociate oneself from an employer. Just quit and get another job. Of course, that is easy for me to say living in an prosperous 1st world society with lots of potential employers all around.

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    4. MH on April 22, 2012 at 9:24 AM

      I thought NOM was New Order Mormon. Now it’s National Organization for Marriage? Hmmm…. I wonder how both sides view this???

      As for the slavery question, it this sex slavery, or old-fashioned cotton-picking slavery? My bet is the former. I’m clear on how points #1 and #3 are related, but not point #2. Why are you relating slavery with SSM?

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    5. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 22, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      It can be very hard to change your job in such a country, especially since these things start off without warnings many a time.

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    6. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 22, 2012 at 10:15 AM

      MH — this is good ‘old fashioned chattel slavery. Forced labor, not the sex trade variety. It is, of course, limited to people of the Book enslaving those who are not. You may not enslave people of the Book, since you can not offer them submission in return.

      A huge issue of personal safety in some areas. Which is why identifying people as supporting SSM endangers them so much. Some Christian faiths are “not” Christian (the “Book” at issue is the Bible, which is why Christians and Jews may live in a country “under the peace of God” — they believe in “the Book.”

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    7. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 22, 2012 at 10:20 AM

      I have tried to be clear that this is not a teaching of all who embrace the peace of God and submission to His will (Islaam) and that many Arab rulers oppose slavery and the doctrine.

      But. But, those who embrace it are enslaving tens of thousands each year in Africa. A change in formal doctrine or practice can change someone’s status from immune to target.

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    8. mh on April 22, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      steve, pardon my ignorance, but i am still not clear. it appears that you are saying that slavery is legal in some arab countries, but christians and jews are immune from slavery in these countries. is that what you are saying? if so, in which countries is slavery legal?

      now, assuming that the previous paragraph is correct, are you saying that christians and jews who support ssm can become slaves in these countries?

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    9. FireTag on April 22, 2012 at 11:56 AM

      MikeinWeHo:

      Community of Christ has BEEN debating the issues that will be debated at the largely first-world national conferences at world (general) conferences since at least the last standing high council statement on the issues in 1982. “Taking time” has become increasingly untenable as that time becomes comparable in length to a generation, and so people who wish to be accepted fully into the church have forced the issue legislatively.

      A solution does HAVE to protect the church members and ministers in the third world countries (or at least those are the people who have to make the call about what Christ demands of them, not North Americans who can travel to Independence for world conference). But that is only a NECESSARY requirement rather than obviously a sufficient requirement.

      CofChrist will attempt to hide any changed policies in the West from the authorities in Africa; we don’t even put biographical info on Apostles assigned to such nations (or other authoritarian nations) on our website. (No, we do not have a Quorum of Ten Apostles. :D) But how well can changed policies toward homosexuality stay hidden, and for how long?

      The issue of avoiding schism, I would suspect, is even more important in the thinking of CofChrist leadership. BUT WHY?

      Who is served by that other than the institution? We’ve already said we believe we are NOT the ONLY true church, thereby implying that God is perfectly comfortable with people finding their service to Christ through other Christian institutions. And we’ve sort of been committed to the idea that God isn’t stuck with using existing Christian institutions since about, oh, 1830. What, then, does it matter that the Community of Christ CENTER on our organization? Is it really Christian to endanger third world saints, expect first world gays to deny the community of family, or force first world conservatives (and many third world conservatives) to violate their consciences so that the tithing keeps coming in on Sundays? Or is permitting a separation in which each group can be permitted to try and follow their own path to Christ better. I think THAT’S the decision CofChrist really faces.

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    10. prometheus on April 22, 2012 at 12:08 PM

      I am really torn on this:

      Do you sacrifice principles for safety?

      Do you sacrifice the safety of others for principles?

      What would have happened to Christianity if the early Christians had just agreed to worship other gods when the state demanded it in order to remain safe?

      Then there is the example of polygamy being terminated due to state pressure.

      People have been willing to die for their theological beliefs – what light does that shed on how we should protect our brothers and sisters – both in the church, out of the church, and throughout the world?

      Should we still hold to gathering to Zion as a means of escape from the situation or should we brave the dangers to change those countries? Can we even do so?

      I honestly don’t know what to answer, really, especially without feeling like a hypocrite, or feeling like I am passing judgement on people whose situations are totally foreign to my experience.

      Food for thought, Stephen.

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    11. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 22, 2012 at 12:23 PM

      MH — I am talking about a de facto norm rather than a de jure one. Just because slavery is not statutory in some countries does not mean it is not a widespread practice with government involvement.

      Prom — those are great questions.

      Fire Tag — if I had answers I would have given them. I very much respect your anguish and your thoughts.

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    12. Jon on April 22, 2012 at 8:05 PM

      Sad to hear. Really, I think people need to understand the concept that it is not OK to use other people’s labor as a means to an end. When the governments do this (all governments do) then how can we expect the people to not do it either?

      I think we need to be consistent. People that know of people like this need to rise up and help, just like in slavery of the old days (underground railroad, etc). But first the minds of the people need to be changed, through persuasion, this should be the number one method used, followed by a close second of rising up and taking on our responsibilities to help each other.

      Now, if I lived close by, would I do anything? I don’t know. I would hope so. But until you are in the situation who knows what one would do?

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    13. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 22, 2012 at 9:34 PM

      My thanks to everyone for a thoughtful and respectful discussion.

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    14. Nick Literski on April 23, 2012 at 11:37 AM

      Third, some direct examples of this problem have arisen in the anti-Starbucks campaign. You will remember how some groups sought to demonize the LDS or get Mormons fired over Prop 8. People on the other side have started using similar tactics, except the stakes are higher (and no, I don’t believe either side should have done what they did, I especially do not approve of the escalation).

      Stephen, this is a bit aside from your main point, but I think some clarification is still in order. Your above paragraph is really quite misleading. In fact, you have the order of events reversed. Religiously-based anti-gay groups have boycotted businesses, and even demanded firings, for many years prior to Prop 8. Such moves have been made against Microsoft, Disney, Pepsi, Campbell Soup, and many other corporations for daring to provide domestic partnership benefits to employees, let alone for supporting marriage equality. Supporters of marriage equality did not “invent” public protesting, boycotts, etc. In fact, even arch-conservative Justice Anton Scalia openly mocked religiously-based groups which claimed these actions to be “persecution” and “harassment,” noting that they were Constitutionally-protected, long-standing traditional means of expressing dissent in the public square.

      Also, with regard to the NOM-sponsored boycott of Starbucks, you might be interested to know that as of this morning, NOM’s website reports 34,120 signatures pledging participation. By comparison, the “Thank You Starbucks” website, which provides visitors with the opportunity to express their appreciation to Starbucks for supporting marriage equality in Washington State, has 647,985 signatures as of this morning. That’s a ratio of 19 to 1, in favor of Starbucks’ decision.

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    15. Jam on April 23, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      Could this be another reason that the Church remains committed to the traditional family, they are afraid it would adversely affect missionary numbers? I really don’t know how society in South America, Africa or other high baptizing areas view the gay issue.

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    16. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 23, 2012 at 12:40 PM

      Nick, good points. What I wanted to emphasize is that exporting the anti-Starbucks campaign in a way that endangers lives is something I consider wrong. It is not “turn about is fair play” and is not fair play at all.

      The CofC has 12 apostles, yet feels it can only publicly identify ten of them, for safety’s sake.

      I do not like the fact it is necessary for people to worry.

      It is not a matter of which group started what, or who escalated what and when — it is a matter that what is happening now is wrong. Just because the “thank you” campaign in the US is a landslide does not make it acceptable to export the issue if it puts lives at risk.

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    17. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 23, 2012 at 12:46 PM

      Jam, Aftica is a core conflict area with entrenched attitudes, death penalties and strong regional feelings. It is a source of the power of the huge schisms within the Anglican communion because of the dramatic differences there and the practical impact of those differences.

      Nick, I know the anti-Starbucks campaign is within the constitutional rights, but that they are allowed to do it does not make it moral.

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    18. annegb on April 23, 2012 at 1:17 PM

      I will solve this problem for me personally by never traveling to Africa or any Arab country. Or possibly Seattle.

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    19. Nick Literski on April 23, 2012 at 2:27 PM

      You’re always welcome here in Seattle, annegb, and Starbucks will even sell you a tasty non-coffee, non-black-tea drink. :-)

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    20. Nick Literski on April 23, 2012 at 2:30 PM

      Nick, good points. What I wanted to emphasize is that exporting the anti-Starbucks campaign in a way that endangers lives is something I consider wrong.

      I get that, Stephen, hence my “aside from the main point” disclaimer. Personally, I worry that these highly-paid (the president of NOM is paid over $200k per year) zealots genuinely believe that lives endangered or lost are “acceptable collateral damage” in what they see as a holy war.

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    21. Henry on April 23, 2012 at 3:24 PM

      comparison, the “Thank You Starbucks” website, which provides visitors with the opportunity to express their appreciation to Starbucks for supporting marriage equality in Washington State, has 647,985 signatures as of this morning. That’s a ratio of 19 to 1, in favor of Starbucks’ decision.

      When the majority of people clamor for that which is not right, everything is headed for disaster.

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    22. Nick Literski on April 23, 2012 at 4:05 PM

      When the majority of people clamor for that which is not right, everything is headed for disaster.

      Yes, when this country promoted racial discrimination (often justifying their bigotry by an appeal to the Bible), it was headed for disaster. Fortunately, the righteous minority rose up, demanding justice and equality. Now, racial bigots lack the numbers and influence to create havoc for peaceful citizens. The disaster that was impending due to the “clamoring” of a wrong-headed majority has largely been averted.

      Likewise, though many have once again prostituted their religious faith as an excuse to bring legal disaster upon fellow citizens, a righteous minority has risen up to demand justice and equality. The wicked plans of those who wish to oppress GLBT citizens will be overcome by the righteous, who like Joseph Smith, refuse to discriminate against those who disagree with them on matters of religion. Though you’ve brought shame to your own deity by “clamoring” and praying for disaster, Henry, your evil will be overcome. Repent, Henry, before you bring upon yourself the very curses you’ve pronounced upon others.

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    23. FireTag on April 23, 2012 at 4:51 PM

      Nick:

      The disaster that racial bigotry brought on was called the Civil War, plus Reconstruction, plus everything leading up to the Civil Rights era. It was definitely NOT averted, and all of its damage hasn’t abated yet.

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    24. Henry on April 23, 2012 at 4:54 PM

      Nick:
      I have seen that world up close and it is not a good one. The deceiver is well, deceiving many.

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    25. Mike S on April 23, 2012 at 5:15 PM

      #21 Henry: When the majority of people clamor for that which is not right, everything is headed for disaster.

      Who defines “not right”? For years, our church leaders taught us that the civil rights movement was a front for communism, among other things. They taught that was “not right”. Yet here we are today, with men and women of all color beside each other in churches and temples.

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    26. Nick Literski on April 23, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      Henry:
      Spirituality is best worn within the heart, not as a pious outer cloak with which to hide your own whited sepulchre. When you begin to believe that you alone are righteous among a deceived world, beware. Repent, Henry, before your prideful heart becomes incapable of recognizing its own imperfections.

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    27. Stephen Marsh on April 23, 2012 at 6:07 PM

      annegb — love your clear honesty.

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    28. Jon on April 23, 2012 at 11:22 PM

      @annegb,

      Often times, it is through trade and good will that brings peace and love. I see where you are coming from, but I don’t know if that would necessarily solve the problem. On the contrary, it could make things worse by impoverishing the people even more so they cannot fight against tyranny. An example of this are many, if not all, the economic sanctions the US government puts on different countries. It is the poor who suffer the most. It is the the political elites and the well connected who suffer the least.

      Maybe a more targeted response would be better. It is nice to think about what each of us, individually can do to help others. Sometimes it seems difficult to do.

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    29. Escaping from Lost Tribes | Wheat and Tares on April 28, 2012 at 1:03 AM

      [...] expressed my views on the third theme several times — most recently in the comment thread to Stephen Marsh’s post — and will undoubtedly do so again as the national conferences approach. However, the first [...]

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    30. [...] This trend also places an important check on what CofChrist progressives, particularly in the United States, can hope to achieve in the National Conferences. Indeed, as I’ve written about previously, minimizing schismatic potential from the disagreement between American progressives and American and African conservatives on sexual cultural issues is one of the key motivations for addressing the discussion within National, rather than World Conferences (See also Stephen Marsh here). [...]

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