Deaths, SSM, the Community of Christ and related issues …By: Stephen Marsh
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.
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).
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?
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.