Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Scapegoating Gays

When my mate Ronan responded to the bigotry of a Scottish politician on By Common Consent I agreed with him but also expressed regret that we ourselves continue to scapegoat vulnerable minorities. In the back and forth, I eventually pointed out that scapegoating has a tradition in Mormon history that seems to be deeply entrenched.

Daniel Peterson joined the debate today and took issue with my view. I tried to engage his argument on BCC but due to some technical glitch, the blog did not accept my posts. The BCC moderators also feel that they would rather not continue the debate there. (That's fine. It's a great and hospitable blog). Therefore I am posting a response here and invite Daniel Peterson and anyone else at Beyond Ourselves.

I hope that Daniel Peterson will feel welcome and safe on Beyond Ourselves. Here is my response:

Good to meet you, Dan.

Scapegoating refers to behavior that blames or sacrifices people for deeds that are not their own.

Connecting the crisis of the family to gays and lesbians meets that definition.

Therefore, I am deeply troubled by the efforts of our leaders to blame our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters for the travails of the family in our age. The notion that parenthood is more virtuous than loving outsiders contradicts the Sermon of the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and has lead us down a path where we once again pick on a weak minority.

That says a lot more about us than about gays. It's sad.

I agree with you, Daniel, that there are many Mormons, probably in every ward, that do not condone scapegoating.

Unfortunately, there is a strand of rhetoric among Mormon leaders spanning from Brigham Young's to our lifetime that alienates the Saints from their neighbors. It does so by defining enemies that are supposedly a threat to the welfare of Mormons and our church.

Targets have shifted over time. It used to be Blacks. During the seventies until today, people who believe that women are human beings who ought to enjoy human rights (code word: feminists). Intellectuals were always an opportune target. Now it's homosexuals.

In light of the Journal of Discourses, the speeches of Mark Petersen and Boyd Packer, there is a sustained tradition of scapegoating in Mormon leadership practice. (When Neal Maxwell preached against crossing cultural boundaries in marriage in 1996 at a CES fireside in Provo, I was shocked.) I presume that most people are familiar with those texts. On demand, I shall be happy to cite them.

Given that our theology emphasizes authority, it is not surprising that the leadership's practice has shaped Mormon culture. Just look at how we talk about people. There are Saints, gentiles, and apostates.

To be fair, scapegoating and stoking animosity (Feindbild) to outsiders is an effective leadership technique that has been used in many communities and societies. As Christians, however, we cannot take solace in the shortcomings of others whether that means invoking a pathological custom or blaming groups so weak that they make convenient targets.

69 Comments:

Blogger Clark Goble said...

Hellmut, would you not agree that to people who hold a certain view those who teach and persuade against that view are a threat? For instance wouldn't a civil rights activist in the 60's be justified in saying that those teachings bigotry were a threat?

I think that's all that some religious people are saying. Certainly some might go beyond that and I'd disagree with them in that. But I think those going beyond aren't as common as you suggest.

But I think it very fair to characterize those who teach what religiously would be considered "devilish doctrines" as a threat. Clearly the meaning of that will vary.

So I think for those who strongly disagree with them, calling feminists and homosexuals a threat is entirely fair. Just as it is entirely fair for secularists to consider many conservative religious individuals a threat. (And that rhetoric is fairly common on the secularist blogs I read)

Is this scapegoating? Clearly not because in terms of the battle of ideas these people are threats. It's only scapegoating when you make people a threat who clearly aren't in terms of the debate at hand. I think the scapegoating rhetoric arises simply because you likely disagree with the majority of Mormons on issues related to feminism and homosexual rights. Which is fine. But it seems quite incorrect to call it scapegoating.

18:26  
Blogger Hellmut said...

That's a good point, Clark. Certainly, one would have been justified to refer to Adolf Hitler as a threat to world peace during the twenties and thirties.

It's not reasonable to blame homosexuals for the decline of the family. Heterosexuals get divorced, cheat on their spouses, and have children out of wedlock without the assistance of gays and lesbians. Isn't the sexuality of straight people the real issue?

Moreover, Christ challenged us to overcome our fear and reach out to those who are different. He taught us that our love is only complete when it extends even to our enemies. Therefore it is a mistake for disciples of Christ to invoke fear and feed alienation.

Unfortunately, that's what the artificially induced campaign about gay marriage is doing.

18:52  
Blogger annegb said...

I haven't heard the brethren make blanket statements blaming gays for problems with the family.

I don't think the church blamed blacks all that long, either, less time than the rest of the country blamed them for problems. I don't think Joseph Smith or Brigham Young were racists at all. I don't know if blame is even a good choice of words, Hellmut.

I didn't see your conversation with Daniel, I'll have to check it out.

19:46  
Anonymous Daniel Peterson said...

First of all, thanks for bringing this discussion over here. Some of the folks at BCC seem to think that strong disagreement is by definition nasty, and they were clearly uncomfortable with it.

I won't, I think, have much time to pursue this, but I do want to respond to your kind invitation here, as well as to the utterly misguided things that you've said. (I object on principle to smiley faces and the like, but feel free, if you desire, to insert one at this point.)

Scapegoating refers to behavior that blames or sacrifices people for deeds that are not their own.

And that's where I immediately have a problem with your claim.

I see little if any scapegoating of gays, in the sense you and I understand the word scapegoating, among Church members or in the leadership of the Church.

Church leaders at all levels have long expressed disapproval of homosexual acts, but the disapproval is of those acts intrinsically. Or, in other words, to borrow your terminology, those engaging in homosexual acts reap the disapproval of the Church and its leaders "for deeds that are . . . their own (emphasis added)."

Connecting the crisis of the family to gays and lesbians meets that definition.

That would depend upon the nature of the proposed connection.

If the crisis of the family were blamed wholly or largely on homosexuals, the claim would plainly be false and would represent a transparent case of scapegoating.

But I don't see Church leaders asserting such a proposition, and, although somebody over at the BCC board appeared to be claiming that he had heard such an accusation many times from Church members and leaders, I myself have never heard it, and, thus, cannot believe it to be anything more than a marginal position in the Church, if, indeed, it rises even to that level.

Seeing attempts to redefine the words family and marriage as part of a larger societal breakdown, however, is another matter. This is an opinion that I do hear fairly frequently within the Church. Whether such a view is accurate or not, it doesn't seem to be a case of "scapegoating."

I am deeply troubled by the efforts of our leaders to blame our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters for the travails of the family in our age.

I simply haven't seen any such efforts.

The notion that parenthood is more virtuous than loving outsiders contradicts the Sermon of the Mount (Matthew 5-7) . . .

I have never in my life in the Church ever heard anyone assert that "parenthood is more virtuous than loving outsiders."

I have, it is true, heard the statement that our primary responsibility as parents is toward our children, and as husbands and wives toward our spouses. This simply seems reasonable to me. But it isn't quite the same proposition as asserting that "parenthood is more virtuous than loving outsiders."

and has lead us down a path where we once again pick on a weak minority.

I'm quite confident that my political views are substantially different from yours, and, accordingly, I realize that you and I are looking at the world from very different vantage points. Still, I cannot see any evidence, even in this recent flap about same sex marriage, that the Church is "picking on a weak minority." Nobody in Church leadership is calling for an affirmative program of mistreatment of gays or for an innovative set of new limitations or stigmas. What we see, instead, is resistance to innovation, a reluctance or unwillingness to grant seemingly novel recognition or privileges to homosexuals. Whatever you may think of that resistance, it doesn't seem to be "picking on" anybody in the normal sense of that term. "Picking on" somebody requires initiative on the part of the person doing the "picking on." But, in the gay rights context, the initiative for change is coming from gays and their supporters.

I agree with you, Daniel, that there are many Mormons, probably in every ward, that do not condone scapegoating.

My claim is substantially stronger than that. I see exceedingly few Mormons, whether leaders or ordinary members, who do condone scapegoating. In fact, truth be told, I haven't met any who do.

Unfortunately, there is a strand of rhetoric among Mormon leaders spanning from Brigham Young's to our lifetime that alienates the Saints from their neighbors. It does so by defining enemies that are supposedly a threat to the welfare of Mormons and our church.

There have been plenty of people out there, and there still are plenty, who do represent such a threat.

Targets have shifted over time. It used to be Blacks.

There were a few Church leaders (notably Ezra Taft Benson) who expressed worries about the civil rights movement during the 1960s. Their concerns seem to have arisen out of a particular political orientation (e.g., the John Birch Society, etc.), which shared precisely the same concerns, rather than specifically from their Mormonism. Beyond that, I'm not sure that I know what you mean.

During the seventies until today, people who believe that women are human beings who ought to enjoy human rights (code word: feminists).

Sorry, but I won't let the rhetorical sleight of hand go unchallenged.

I'm aware of nobody in the Church, in leadership or out of it, who is offended at the thought that "women are human beings who ought to enjoy human rights." That's a straw man, and not worthy of serious discussion. Moreover, as you surely realize, feminism, is a term that covers a multitude of different "feminist" positions, ranging from the conservative kind of feminism that sought the vote in the early twentieth century or that pushed for reform of child-support laws in the last couple of decades to the kind that hopes, by means of eventual miracles of modern reproductive technology, to dispense with men altogether. It simply won't do to ignore these far from subtle nuances, and to pretend that the Church's attitude toward all brands of feminism is uniform. (You will recall that women had the vote in Utah Territory long before they achieved in the United States as a whole.)

Intellectuals were always an opportune target.

Intellectuals always represent a potential threat. The rise of Hellenized theology in the early Christian church (at Alexandria and elsewhere), and the supplanting of the mantic or vertical tradition by the sophic or horizontal tradition, represented a kind of coup -- of the same kind that occurred in Islam when the ’ulama’ successfully asserted themselves against the religious authority of the caliphate.

Now it's homosexuals.

I cannot agree. Homosexual behavior is classified as a sin by the Church, as is adultery, but I don't hear much if any talk of homosexuals themselves as "the enemy," and, as I say, I hear no scapegoating of them for the broader failings of society.

In light of the Journal of Discourses, the speeches of Mark Petersen and Boyd Packer, there is a sustained tradition of scapegoating in Mormon leadership practice.

I would need to examine specific instances of this alleged tradition. I'm unfamiliar with it.

(When Neal Maxwell preached against crossing cultural boundaries in marriage in 1996 at a CES fireside in Provo, I was shocked.)

I'm not familiar with that specific address, but I doubt that it contained anything that I would be willing to classify as "scapegoating." (Incidentally, I knew Elder Maxwell reasonably well, and a kinder, more benevolent person I would find it difficult to imagine. He seems to me to have been temperamentally incapable of the kind of rather vicious sentiments that you seem to attribute to him.) If the speech was warning about the perils of intercultural marriage, I think that I would be inclined to agree with him on that subject. And I say this as someone whose entire career has been focused on intercultural communications and on the high valuation of a very foreign civilization. It's no more than a practical realization that marriage is always difficult, that it always involves the melding of two different cultures -- my own American-born wife refers to the glove compartment of our car as a "cowl pocket," of all things, and regularly puts the hangers in our closet facing the wrong direction, and fails to appreciate some of the Christmas traditions with which I grew up, while clinging irrationally to her own, which are manifestly inferior -- and that the strains will be greater in proportion to the distance between the two merging cultures.

Just look at how we talk about people. There are Saints, gentiles, and apostates.

And Quakers and Catholics and Lutherans and Buddhists and Muslims and Jews and any number of other categories.

As Christians . . . we cannot take solace in the shortcomings of others whether that means invoking a pathological custom or blaming groups so weak that they make convenient targets.

I see no evidence that this is occurring within Mormonism to any significant degree, and, candidly, think that the accusation is grossly unjust.

22:23  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

Dan stole some of my thunder Helmut and gave some of the response to your comment (19.52) that I was going to. Still, let me throw in a few comments.

First can I take it that we agree that it is fair to considers others a threat if their ideological teaching is disruptive to ones own groups' ideology? I'll take that as a point of mutual agreement. Please clarify if I'm missing a nuance.

Now the issue at hand is, to use your words, "It's not reasonable to blame homosexuals for the decline of the family." Now that can be taken two ways. Do we mean "as a significant contribution" or do we mean "the main contribution." Certainly the latter would be unreasonable to assert. Although I've never met anyone who rails against homosexuals as part of the decline of the family who doesn't see divorce, pornography, a lack of seriousness towards marriage, lack of communication between spouses and so forth as the greater problem. But just because there are larger contributions doesn't mean we can't (and shouldn't) acknowledge other serious problems.

Would you agree with me thus far?

So the real issue is whether the homosexual community in general is a threat to the social structure of the family that Mormonism sees established in our society.

Now the idea of a family in Mormonism entails chastity and men married to women and raising children in a dual gendered family unit. Homosexuals are pushing for adoption rights, marriage rights and the acceptance of homosexual behavior as a completely normal kind of relationship. I completely understand why they feel that way. However it seems that these aims as an ideology are completely in conflict with the Mormon ideals and practical judgments regarding the family. So by our first agreement over ideological conflicts I just can't see how you can make the claim you make.

Now you can point out that there is some subset of homosexuals who don't push for adoption rights, gay marriage, and public acceptance of homosexual rights. Indeed there are actually a reasonable number. But I think we can all agree that these are distinct minorities relative to the cross-section of homosexuals across the nation. No, I can't prove that. But I think it fair to assume that any poll of homosexuals would find widespread support for those ideas. Given that it seems fair to see a conflict.

Of course we can dispute whether Mormons are right in holding the ideal of family they do. And that's a perfectly fine thing to debate. However it seems to me that you are taking the issue to be this issue of scapegoating rather than the real issue of conflicting views of the family. And that just seems wrong.

23:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DP said: If the crisis of the family were blamed wholly or largely on homosexuals, the claim would plainly be false and would represent a transparent case of scapegoating. .... Homosexual behavior is classified as a sin by the Church, as is adultery, but I don't hear much if any talk of homosexuals themselves as "the enemy," and, as I say, I hear no scapegoating of them for the broader failings of society.

Mr. Peterson is playing a technical word game. He is correct that the language the LDS church uses portrays Satan and "homosexuality" as the great evil threats and not homosexuals. But in practice, the rhetoric has the effect of demonizing homosexuals.

For three good examples:

"The traditional family has coming under increasing attack during the past decade, with same-sex marriage now threatening God's plan of happiness for his children here and in eternity. Families continue to be assaulted openly and viciously with gender being confused and traditional roles being repudiated. In God's plan, the traditional family is not just the basic unit of society but the basic unit of eternity. Thus, the church and its leaders must stand firm at this time when the adversary is using differing lifestyles in an attempt to replace the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman."
- Apostle M. Russell Ballard, BYU Devotional Address "The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood," August 19th, 2003

"Good men, wise men, God-fearing men everywhere still denounce the practice as being unworthy of sons of God; and Christ’s church denounces it and condemns it so long as men have bodies which can be defiled."

"This heinous homosexual sin is of the ages. Many cities and civilizations have gone out of existence because of it. It was present in Israel’s wandering days, tolerated by the Greeks, and found in the baths of corrupt Rome."

"This is a most unpleasant subject to dwell upon, but I am pressed to speak of it boldly so that no youth in the Church will ever have any question in his mind as to the illicit and diabolical nature of this perverse program. Again, Lucifer deceives and prompts logic and rationalization which will destroy men and make them servants of Satan forever. The difference between the reprobate and the worthy person is generally that one yielded and the other resisted."
- Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, "President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality," LDS New Era, Nov. 1980, Page 39

"The Church’s stand on homosexual relations provides another arena where we offend the devil. I expect that the statement of the First Presidency and the Twelve against homosexual marriages will continue to be assaulted. Satan is only interested in our misery, which he promotes by trying to persuade men and women to act contrary to God’s plan. One way he does this is by encouraging the inappropriate use of sacred creative powers. A bona fide marriage is one between a man and a woman solemnized by the proper legal or ecclesiastical authority. Only sexual relations between husband and wife within the bonds of marriage are acceptable before the Lord."

"Alternatives to the legal and loving marriage between a man and a woman are helping to unravel the fabric of human society. I am sure this is pleasing to the devil. The fabric I refer to is the family. These so-called alternative life-styles must not be accepted as right, because they frustrate God’s commandment for a life-giving union of male and female within a legal marriage as stated in Genesis. If practiced by all adults, these life-styles would mean the end of the human family."
- Apostle James E. Faust, "Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil," Liahona, Nov. 1995, Page 3.

These church statements help justify members taking the next logical step. What are members to think about homosexuals after their church leaders use such rhetoric.

Perhaps DP has observed nothing but love and kindness from believing Momrons towards homosexuals. But in my experience, the more "loyal" a Mormon is to the church, the more they express disparaging comments directly at homosexuals.

DP's debate technicalities are not appreciated by many Mormons I have observed.

-Deconstructor

P.S. I also find it interesting that the LDS Church spent decades using the same rhetorical language against good-old heterosexual monogamy. The church has absolutely no moral authority when it comes to statements on marriage.

See:
http://www.i4m.com/think/sexuality/homosexual_ruin.htm

01:10  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

"He is correct that the language the LDS church uses portrays Satan and "homosexuality" as the great evil threats and not homosexuals. But in practice, the rhetoric has the effect of demonizing homosexuals. "

Deconstructor, if we are now focusing primarily on the connotations (connotations for whom?) of the discourse aren't we forced to then do this with all the discourse of disagreement? That is why should we privilege the religious discourse against homosexuality? Doesn't the disagreement over beliefs regarding homosexuality by sectarians also have the connotation of demonizing the religious? Can we avoid this "demonizing" discourse without simply remaining silent?

Must we therefore be cast into a rhetoric of negative theology. That is of the theology of silence?

Don't your examples also in fact demonstrate the point I was making? That the threat is seen not as a scapegoating but as the perception of a real change? That is the issue is the acceptance of homosexuality.

To return to example I gave earlier to Hellmut, what if instead of it being a discourse about homosexuality it were a discourse against racism and those who promote racist views? It would seem the logic of the rhetoric would be identical.

It seems to me once again that what people really disagree with isn't the logic of the rhetoric (as the scapegoat appellation suggests) but the content of the beliefs: that is the belief that acceptance of homosexuality is wrong.

I don't mind if people disagree with that belief. But shouldn't we focus on the belief rather than this rhetoric of false demonization?

02:03  
Blogger Todd said...

First, the key with the idea of the scapegoat is the emotional release (that is, the psychological role) it plays. It is not a mere political act, but an emotional experience of expiation. The religious metaphor is important here: people in the society who are experiencing frustration, anxiety and fear, usually about ongoing changes and transformations in the society, don't mere blame the scapegoat, but seek to punish and control the scapegoat. This provides a contextually reasonable framework to explain the anxiety, to control the perceived causes (rarely the actual causes), and to experience an emotional release in the process. In other words, people only blame gays and seek to contain them because they get something out of doing so.

This kind of social-catharsis ironically usually forecloses the possibility of seeing what is in fact causing the anxiety and rarely, if ever, results in the desired social effect of fixing the perceived problems.

To add another level of complexity to this debate, it is pretty clear that scapegoating gays and lesbians is intimately connected to the scapegoating of women, especially educated, powerful, independent or otherwise feminist women. There has been a lot of research done (historical and sociological) about American culture at large blaming women (feminists) and homosexuals for the "destruction" of the family and the decline of civilization. Actually, this is a trope in American culture that can be traced back nearly 200 years to the first wave of reform movements during the second great awakening.

Basically, as family structures, values, and social institutions have changed, Americans' anxieties have been expressed as hostility toward women who don't conform to gender norms. As homosexuality became more visible in American culture (say, mid-20th century), gay men and women (also people who violate gender norms) became obvious co-scapegoats with women.

In this context, the actions of the Mormon church are put into a particular historical-cultural context. I bring this up merely to point out the ways that the Church's policies and "doctrines" are actually inextricably linked to larger flows of conservative culture in the U.S.

02:08  
Anonymous Daniel Peterson said...

Mr. Peterson is playing a technical word game.

Ah yes. A representative of the RFM crew has arrived, brandishing the well-poisoning insinuation of bad faith on his target's part that is always so healthy for civil discussion.

DP's debate technicalities are not appreciated by many Mormons I have observed.

Nothing like an irrelevant and gratuitous ad hominem to raise the level of discourse, eh Deconstructor?

But in practice, the rhetoric has the effect of demonizing homosexuals.

I see condemnations of homosexual behavior -- which can scarcely be a surprise to anybody -- but I don't see any "demonizing" of homosexuals.

Still, when the words don't actually say what one needs them to say, it's often helpful to say, rather vaguely, that "in practice" they have the alleged "effect." Thus, one can seem to have provided hard evidence when, in fact, one has really presented none at all.

Perhaps DP has observed nothing but love and kindness from believing Momrons towards homosexuals.

I've observed remarkably little attention to the issue, on the whole, of any kind at all from believing Mormons. Not nearly as much as certain critics imagine there to be. There is certainly no particular obsession among mainstream Mormons with this issue, and, to address the point directly, I don't recall having ever observed hatred and unkindness from believing Mormons toward homosexuals.

But in my experience, the more "loyal" a Mormon is to the church, the more they express disparaging comments directly at homosexuals.

That hasn't been even remotely my experience, and it's light years away from my personal practice.

02:18  
Anonymous Daniel Peterson said...

These church statements help justify members taking the next logical step. What are members to think about homosexuals after their church leaders use such rhetoric.

In other words, Deconstructor doesn't have direct evidence for his claim. The statements don't actually show what he promised they would. Instead, we're to take a purportedly logical "next step" beyond the evidence furnished, which, Deconstructor assures us, will prove him right . . . if we put ourselves into the hypothetical state of mind of people who have read or heard these statements and interpreted them as Deconstructor assures us they must interpret them.

If Deconstructor had real evidence, he would have shared it.

02:25  
Anonymous Daniel Peterson said...

In this context, the actions of the Mormon church are put into a particular historical-cultural context

I would find the analysis relevant if I agreed with the characterization of the Church's actions. But I don't.

Moreover, it verges on mere propagandistic pop-reductionism and stereotyping caricature to attempt to dismiss all negative judgments of homosexual behavior and of certain aspects of certain strands of feminism as products, merely, of a single easily categorized psychological process. Those calling for greater sensitivity to gays do themselves and their cause no service by stereotyping their adversaries in so blatantly dismissive a fashion.

02:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daniel Peterson, as a faithful Church member, I'm shocked at the extent to which Deconstructor actually did provide evidence of scapegoating homosexuals. His quotes contain the following statements:

The traditional family has coming under increasing attack during the past decade, with same-sex marriage now threatening God's plan of happiness for his children here and in eternity. Families continue to be assaulted openly and viciously with gender being confused and traditional roles being repudiated.

This heinous homosexual sin is of the ages. Many cities and civilizations have gone out of existence because of it.

Alternatives to the legal and loving marriage between a man and a woman are helping to unravel the fabric of human society. I am sure this is pleasing to the devil. The fabric I refer to is the family.

These are three verifiable quotes from General Authorities in which homosexuals are characterized as the primary threat to the family or, in one case, the cause of the fall of "many cities and civilizations." On the discussion at BCC, you claimed that there were no such quotes and that you would have heard them if there were. I thought you were right. It turns out that you weren't.

I have to go think about this.

09:43  
Anonymous Daniel Peterson said...

Thinking is always good.

Deconstructor provided NO evidence of "scapegoating homosexuals."

As Clark Goble and I have both pointed out, using Hellmut's own definition of scapegoating ("Scapegoating refers to behavior that blames or sacrifices people for deeds that are not their own"), that does not appear to be occurring within Mormondom.

Clark is entirely correct in noting that those who see the prospect of same-sex marriage as threatening to family values in contemporary America also typically cite "divorce, pornography, a lack of seriousness towards marriage, lack of communication between spouses and so forth" as threats, too. (President Kimball, President Faust, and Elder Ballard -- Deconstructor's three sources -- are each on record as having delivered numerous speeches on those subjects.) "Scapegoating homosexuals" in this regard would involve blaming homosexuals for all or most of the breakdown of the family today, rather than merely citing homosexual behavior and the homosexualist movement as one aspect of, or one contributing factor to, that contemporary breakdown ("Alternatives to the legal and loving marriage between a man and a woman," said Elder Faust, "are helping to unravel the fabric of human society [emphasis added].") The latter position, true or false, can be reasonably debated; the former position would be transparently inaccurate and a rampant case of scapegoating.

Deconstructor's best quotation is the one from Spencer W. Kimball, in which President Kimball, speaking of homosexual behavior, says that "This heinous homosexual sin is of the ages. Many cities and civilizations have gone out of existence because of it."

I have little doubt that President Kimball was referring to examples from ancient history ("This heinous homosexual sin is of the ages"). He almost certainly had in mind the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and, very likely, a reading of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire that has been quite common in and out of the Church for a very long time. (In Sodom and in some versions of Rome, incidentally, and much as in ancient Athens, all or most of the male population appears to have been engaging in homosexual acts, far beyond the number -- 1%-10% -- that might be predicted to occur as a result of genetic nature or childhood nurture, which suggests a social fabric powerfully oriented toward encouraging homoerotic behavior.) Both societies did in fact fall, and, in the search for causes (which has involved such intellectual titans as Edward Gibbon and St. Augustine), sexual immorality has often been cited by moralizing commentators and historians well beyond Mormonism as a factor, and perhaps even as the principal factor, in that fall. (The biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, essentially our only source for the event, canonizes precisely that same sort of moralizing commentary.) This may well (as I myself think) be an oversimplification, but it is not, I believe, wholly without merit, and it is by no means peculiarly or distinctively Mormon.

Even here, though, I see no evidence of "demonizing homosexuals," as Deconstructor claims, and which he says is a principal mode of Mormon discourse. I see a denunciation of homosexual behavior (largely, if I'm thinking of the right cases, by people who were not, by nature, exclusively or even predominantly "true" homosexuals) as a very serious sin with dangerous ramifications for society. This is scarcely news. Moreover, in that same address President Kimball talks about such topics -- going by the section headings -- as "Necking, Petting, Fornication," "Dating Standards, "Self-Abuse," and "Repentance." Only a relatively brief portion of the address treats "Homosexuality." And anybody who recalls President Kimball will remember that he very frequently discussed other perceived threats to the family and to the moral fabric of society, such as divorce, selfishness, lack of proper care for children, and the like.

On the discussion at BCC, you claimed that there were no such quotes and that you would have heard them if there were.

Here's what I said at BCC:

I don’t think I’ve heard many Mormons, let alone many official Church spokesmen, “using language about threats to the family as simply code for gays and lesbians.” . . . Hellmut seems to be presenting his “scapegoating” notion, however, as the dominant if not sole key to understanding the Church’s stand on homosexual acts and gay marriage — and, even more remarkably, as a fundamental and continuing characteristic of Mormon history and culture. . . . The notion that I, a rather observant fellow, have lived as a Latter-day Saint in various states of the Union and on four of the six inhabited continents (and worshipped with Latter-day Saints on the other two continents), that I have been intensely involved in the study of Mormonism for decades, that I have lived and worked among Latter-day Saints in the heartland of the Latter-day Saints, while essentially having failed to encounter or notice a very striking principal feature of Mormon belief, behavior, and (it is claimed) official Mormon discourse — a supposed passion for scapegoating first blacks and then gays — strikes me as so improbable as to be virtually impossible. I don’t require random-sample survey data to support the very strong picture that I have and that is based upon decades of interactions with Latter-day Saints around the world and decades of reading on Latter-day Saint topics. But I would require such data to OVERTURN the picture I have developed over that long period. And it would take a considerable amount of such data, too, since the claim that has been made here is so powerfully counterintuitive. . . . Here is some of the language that I garnered from Hellmut’s posts, above: Mormons “exploit others” and “scapegoat vulnerable minorities,” Mormon behavior is “intolerant, threatening and dangerous,” and Mormon leaders “are again [!] instigating a movement [that] scapegoats a marginalized group for society’s ills.”

It seems, in fact, that your experience as "a faithful Church member" has been essentially the same as mine:

I thought you were right..

But now

It turns out that you weren't.

I find it exceedingly strange that three brief quotations from General Authorities, two of which have no direct relevance to the question and the third of which -- more than a quarter century old -- is ambiguous, are enough to convince you that demonizing and scapegoating homosexuals is the dominant if not sole key to understanding the Church’s stand today on homosexual acts and gay marriage, reflecting a fundamental and continuing characteristic of Mormon history and culture, and that it is a very striking principal feature of Mormon belief, behavior, and official Mormon discourse that we habitually “exploit others” and “scapegoat vulnerable minorities,” behave in an “intolerant, threatening and dangerous” manner, and, today, “are again [!] instigating a movement [that] scapegoats a marginalized group for society’s ills.”

11:10  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Gibbon, of course, does not blame homosexuals but identifies Christianity as one force that undermined civic virtue.

By the way, Dan, if you read my posts more carefully you will find that I am accussing Mormon leaders, not Mormons in general, of scapegoating. I do challenge Mormons to overcome their lack of commitment to the rights of outsiders.

Given that most Mormons are outsiders in their societies that seems to be a matter of enlightened self-interest.

With respect to the relevance of Deconstructor's evidence, I am astounded that you will not recognize it as proof of scapegoating by the LDS leadership. The audience will have to pass it's own judgment on this matter.

By the way, be sure to see my response in today's post.

11:50  
Anonymous Daniel Peterson said...

Gibbon, of course, does not blame homosexuals but identifies Christianity as one force that undermined civic virtue.

I'm well aware of that, of course. I merely identified him as one of those who expended a lot of effort trying to discern the "cause" of the fall of Rome. He wasn't, by the way, the first to suggest that Christianity was somehow responsible. St. Augustine's Civitas Dei is already an attempt to rebut that charge.

By the way, Dan, if you read my posts more carefully you will find that I am accussing Mormon leaders, not Mormons in general, of scapegoating.

Which, for the record, I deny.

I do challenge Mormons to overcome their lack of commitment to the rights of outsiders.

A lack of commitment that I do not see.

With respect to the relevance of Deconstructor's evidence, I am astounded that you will not recognize it as proof of scapegoating by the LDS leadership.

And I, in turn, am astonished that you think it is such evidence. The Ballard and Faust quotes seem to me wholly irrelevant to any such accusation. The Kimball quotation comes closest, but isn't very strong, and, both because it is more than a quarter of a century old and almost certainly refers to ancient history, does not seem directly relevant as evidence of today's attitudes to today's homosexualist issues, let alone as proof of a dominant program, today, of "demonizing" homosexuals as specific people.

12:03  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Lets take a look at what Ballard actually said. You can download the speech here from BYU’s server.

I will begin at page two, the last paragraph of the left column.

Ballard invokes the frame of war by saying that there is a relentless assault on the family. In the next sentence, he uses the word war explicitly. The adjectives relentlessly and viciously are attributed to an aggressor who is submerged by Ballard’s use of the past tense. However, Ballard is explicit about the victim of aggression, which is supposed to be the family.

Remaining in passive voice, Ballard claims that unidentified foes are repudiating the divine conception of gender. According to Ballard that constitutes God’s plan, a claim, which he emphasizes with the adverb “directly.”

Ballard then identifies his preferred gender role with the plan of salvation. Juxtaposing Mormon virtue with the viciousness of his opponents, he identifies his own agenda with God complementing the previous identification of his opponents with the devil.

If that is not scaremongering and scapegoating then the term is meaningless.

14:10  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Lets take a look at what Ballard actually said. You can download the speech here from BYU’s server.

I will begin at page two, the last paragraph of the left column.

Ballard invokes the frame of war by saying that there is a relentless assault on the family. In the next sentence, he uses the word war explicitly. The adjectives relentlessly and viciously are attributed to an aggressor who is submerged by Ballard’s use of the past tense. However, Ballard is explicit about the victim of aggression, which is supposed to be the family.

Remaining in passive voice, Ballard claims that unidentified foes are repudiating the divine conception of gender. According to Ballard that constitutes an attack on God’s plan, a claim, which he emphasizes with the adverb “directly.”

Ballard then identifies his preferred gender role with the plan of salvation. Juxtaposing Mormon virtue with the viciousness of his opponents, he identifies his own agenda with God, which complements the previous identification of his opponents with the devil.

If that is not scaremongering and scapegoating then the term is meaningless.

18:51  
Anonymous Daniel Peterson said...

Ballard invokes the frame of war by saying that there is a relentless assault on the family. In the next sentence, he uses the word war explicitly. The adjectives relentlessly and viciously are attributed to an aggressor who is submerged by Ballard’s use of the past tense [passive voice?]. However, Ballard is explicit about the victim of aggression, which is supposed to be the family.

I agree with Elder Ballard, and I think you have to work really, really hard to read this speech in the way you evidently do, as somehow vicious, violent, and hateful. Truthfully, what I think I see here is a tendency to demonize those who disagree with you. How ironic that is, given the subject of this thread!

Remaining in passive voice, Ballard claims that unidentified foes are repudiating the divine conception of gender. According to Ballard that constitutes an attack on God’s plan, a claim, which he emphasizes with the adverb “directly.”

Right. So? Are you wanting me to believe that, by those unidentified foes, he is referring to homosexuals, and that he is advocating "war" against them? Or, even, that he's advocating some sort of genuine "war" against non-Mormons or liberals? I see nothing of the sort in his remarks. He's simply using a powerful and stirring metaphor.

I'm not put off by the metaphor of "war." There is, one author claims, a "war against boys." Lyndon Johnson launched the "war on poverty." The young Joseph Smith was crucially influenced by what he called a "war of words." Bill Clinton had his "war room" (which had nothing to do with actual war, but, rather, with his political campaigns), and Hubert Humphrey was "the happy warrior." One can easily speak of "warring theories," and of "the warfare of science and religion." None of this is really as inflammatory as you seem to want it to be.

Latter-day Saints often speak of "the war in heaven," by which they really mean a conflict over ideas, rival ideologies, competing plans. That's all Elder Ballard is drawing upon in his speech. He's not trying to conjure up images of poison gas attacks and thermonuclear bombs.

I think you're overreacting by a mile.

I can imagine that you find it somewhat frustrating that he stuck with the passive voice, failing to specifically identify the homosexuals and political progressives against whom, in your view, he was attempting to rouse the masses by means of vicious, hostile, and hateful demagoguery. Why didn't he simply come right out and name them? you might ask. Had he done so, you would have had the smoking gun, the equivalent of catching Elder Ballard while he was still in his Ku Klux Klan robes. But I read the speech quite differently. In my view, he used the passive voice precisely because he didn't intend to identify any specific people as evil or demonic. (Rather unlike those who wish to portray him in a hellish light.)

Ballard then identifies his preferred gender role with the plan of salvation.

That shouldn't be surprising, coming from a leader of a church that believes eternal marriage and eternal increase to be essential to exaltation, and that asserts that God himself lives in heterosexual, gendered, family relationships. I can't see any reason to be shocked or horrified by this, even if you happen to reject Latter-day Saint theology on this point (and probably other points). Elder Ballard is advocating his position as correct. Why should he not? Does he really deserve demonization simply because his position differs from yours?

Juxtaposing Mormon virtue with the viciousness of his opponents,

Huh? Your text must differ from mine. How in the world do you deduce that from what Elder Ballard said?

he identifies his own agenda with God, which complements the previous identification of his opponents with the devil.

Again, what is so horrifying about a religious leader claiming to represent God, or to be preaching a God-approved view?

But you're overreaching to an astonishing degree to misread him as literally identifying with the devil those who disagree with him. The kind of rhetoric that you claim to see in Elder Ballard's speech simply isn't there. Dehumanizing rhetoric of the kind that the Nazis used about Jews and Slavs and Gypsies, or that certain Bolsheviks used when asserting the need to eliminate counterrevolutionaries and the petty bourgeoisie, or that the Inquisition used against heretics and Jews, simply isn't present in Elder Ballard's remarks, and, candidly, I think it outrageous for you to act as if it were.

If that is not scaremongering and scapegoating then the term is meaningless.

Your attempt to demonize Elder Ballard does indeed constitute scaremongering and scapegoating of an extreme kind. I find it rather distasteful and remarkably offensive, as well as incomprehensible.

20:39  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Look, Dan, Ballard used words such as vicious and attributed them to the actions of his opponents. Your assertions to the contrary, I didn't use that kind of vocabulary. You are not doing your cause a favor when you are projecting Ballard's language and attitude on me.

The fact that other people are using martial language is no excuse. The unfortunate implications of the war metaphor have been well analyzed. More importantly, however, Johnson's language is different from Ballard's because the former does not raise the spectre of threatening outsiders. Rather Johnson's use of the war metaphor is an indication of his commitment to deal with the issue of poverty. By contrast, Ballard speaks of war when he claims that there is a "vicious" assault on the family. That is a different metaphor than Johnson's. Unlike Johnson Ballard is invoking the image of his community under threat. Johnson's metaphor is one of hope, Ballard's one of fear.

Attributing evil to one's opponents is an act of aggression. Blaming people for effects that they cannot reasonably have caused constitutes scapegoating. Ballard is blames gays and lesbians for bringing down civilization. That's an unreasonable attribution. Therefore Ballard has engaged into scapegoating.

If you don't want to accept that, that's your right. But it's not a reasonable argument.

The audience will form it's own opinion about this exchange. You might not realize it but in that process your arguments will bolster my position better than anything that I could possibly say.

21:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's one audience member who feels like Mr. Peterson has made a pretty good showing and who finds Mr. Lotz's characterization of the attitude of Church leaders toward gays and his accusations of scapegoating just plain silly. I can't see how any semi-conscious person could listen to or read what's being said in General Conference and taught in Church meetings and come to the conclusion that the Church's attitude toward gays is one of demonization and scapegoating. The only people who President Hinkley has harsh words for are pornographers and unrighteous priesthood holders. Homosexuality, and, more specifically, the push in our society to normalize and sanction homosexual relationships, is only one of the many cultural forces that President Hinkley and other leaders have decried as destructive to the family. Furthermore, they have cited and decried forces and behaviors by people within the Church that weaken families. So to say that the leadership generally blames gays for all or most of society's ills is, again, just plain silly.

I'm not going to debate whether this or that instance can be characterized as scapegoating, because you'll see what you want to see, but to say that scapegoating and demonization is the general attitude of Church leaders toward gays is false.

22:32  
Anonymous Daniel Peterson said...

Look, Dan, [Elder] Ballard used words such as vicious and attributed them to the actions of his opponents.

Whom he pointedly did not identify as any specific persons on earth, but only as Satan and his forces. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [that is, heavenly] places."

He demonized nobody, but he is surely being demonized.

His is the venerable language of the scriptures, of prophecy and apocalyptic, of religious warning. It is not the language of genuine warfare against dehumanized earthly enemies. That is what the Nazis did. It is not what Latter-day Saints do. It is not what Elder Ballard did.

The fact that other people are using martial language is no excuse.

I don't seek to excuse it. I see nothing to excuse. "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."

Attributing evil to one's opponents is an act of aggression.

Unfortunately for your attempt to portray Elder Ballard as evil and hateful, he very deliberately failed to identify any specific mortal opponents. (Do you think that was simply an oversight on his part? Perhaps he was simply too consumed with frothing hatred and bile to be thinking straight?) He did, however, attribute evil to Satan.

Blaming people for effects that they cannot reasonably have caused constitutes scapegoating.

And he did nothing of the sort. What people did he blame? Please name them. Better, please show where he named them.

[Elder] Ballard is blames gays and lesbians for bringing down civilization.

He does not. He doesn't even talk about homosexuals, and his remarks don't even concentrate particularly on homosexuality. (Strictly speaking, he speaks, passingly, about confusion of "gender roles" and about "same-gender marriage," which, he says, "is being promoted in direct opposition to one of God's primary purposes for His children to experience mortality." But, as we both know, revisions of gender roles and same-sex marriage are backed by many people who are not at all homosexual. Yet that is the closest he really comes -- which is not close at all -- to "attacking" homosexuals.) The overwhelming bulk of his speech is devoted to such subjects as abortion, tyrannical or abusive husbands, the need for fathers to know and bond with their children, the importance of maternal nurturing, the necessity of spending time with kids, listening, holding family councils, and other such themes. It is a grotesque misrepresentation of his remarks to present them as if they were an extended rant against gays and lesbians. He doesn't even mention "gays" or "lesbians," so far as I recall.

The audience will form it's own opinion about this exchange.

I don't know how much of an audience this blog has, but, if anybody is paying attention, I hope that person will actually read through Elder Ballard's remarks and judge for himself or herself whether it is really the vitriolic specimen of demagogic hate speech against gays and lesbians that you represent it to be.

22:38  
Blogger Hellmut said...

I'm not going to debate whether this or that instance can be characterized as scapegoating, because you'll see what you want to see, but to say that scapegoating and demonization is the general attitude of Church leaders toward gays is false.I am sure that there will be many believing Mormons who will agree with you.

You are entitled to your opinions. Unfortunately, I have data. Your refusal to engage the issue based on the evidence indicates that the problem of selective perception applies to you rather than me.

You might be pleased to notice that I have not made any claims regarding the "general attitudes of Church leaders." My argument pertains specifically to the role of scapegoating as a leadership technique in the Mormon experience.

06:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'm afraid that presenting data to prove that the Church leadership overall doesn't scapegoat or demonize gays is beyond my ability. That would take a comprehensive analysis of everything that's been said in General Conference and everything that's in the Church manuals. It would seem that the burden of proof is on the accuser in this case. All this thread has proven is that there have been a few instances over the years in which some Church leaders have made some remarks that you construe as scapegoating and demonization. Even if those instances could rightly be construed as scapegoating and demonization, that's not near enough to support the claims that you have made regarding the Church.

You might be pleased to notice that I have not made any claims regarding the "general attitudes of Church leaders." My argument pertains specifically to the role of scapegoating as a leadership technique in the Mormon experience.

Come on. Your claim is much stronger than that scapegoating is a leadership technique employed by Mormon leaders. You have characterized the Church and Church leadership as being generally guilty of scapegoating, not just that some leaders sometime use scapegoating rhetoric.

Some examples:
there is a tradition of scapegoating among LDS leaders

scapegoating has a tradition in Mormon history that seems to be deeply entrenched

If it's "deeply entrenched," then it must be a very prominent feature of our leaders' actions.

. . . efforts of our leaders to blame our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters for the travails of the family in our age.

Are you saying that our leaders blame gays for the travails of the family or that some leaders have blamed gays for some of the travails of the family. If the former, then we can chalk it up to fallibility and move on. But the latter indicts the leadership generally.

Given that our theology emphasizes authority, it is not surprising that the leadership's practice has shaped Mormon culture.

Given that our authority emphasizes authority, it should be surprising that scapegoating and demonization isn't the general attitude of Church members.

It is unfortunate that we continue to scapegoat vulnerable minorities

Is it unfortunate that some leaders sometimes scapegoat vulnerable minorities? That would be unfortunate, but, again, we could chalk it up to fallibility of individuals and we wouldn't claim that it's a feature of "our" community.

our leaders are again instigating a movement, which scapegoats a marginalized group for society’s ills

You're indicting the Church leadership generally here.

Scapegoating, of course, has a venerable tradition in Mormon history. Everything is the fault of nefarious outsiders.

Again, a general indictment of the leadership and the Church.

One needs to wonder what’s the matter with us that we require scapegoats perpetually.

You're citing scapegoating as a principal motivation for the Church's actions over the years. Again, a general indictment of the Church and its leaders.

If all you had to say was that some leaders do it sometimes, you might not find agreement among many members, but you wouldn't get so much resistance. We're all well aware that some of our leaders have made mistakes and have said unfortunate things. But your indictment is of the Church generally as a force for ill in the world and as an institution that persecutes minorities so that we can blame our problems on them rather than taking responsibility ourselves. You're wrong.

07:40  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry. In mixed up former and latter up there. This part should read:

. . . efforts of our leaders to blame our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters for the travails of the family in our age.

Are you saying that our leaders blame gays for all of the travails of the family or that some leaders have blamed gays for some of the travails of the family. If the latter, then we can chalk it up to fallibility and move on. But the for indicts the leadership generally.

07:43  
Blogger Hellmut said...

I don't expect you to conduct a comprehensive content analysis, Anon. It's logically impossible to prove a negative anyways. It is the obligation of people who claim that there is scapegoating to identify instances. I would settle for arguments why the texts that Deconstructor and I have cited do not qualify as scapegoating.

Regarding the nature of my claims about LDS leadership behavior there is no contradiction beween the various statements that you are citing. The previous statements specify the problem better.

While one can show that scapegoating is a common leadership practice throughout the Mormon experience, I don't think that it's reasonable to say that this behavior characterizes the LDS leadership generally. There will be LDS leaders that have not engaged into scapegoating.

08:25  
Blogger Hellmut said...

I cannot find that passage in the transcript of Ballard's talk, Dan. I suppose that you are citing some other work of him.

There can be no vicious attack without a vicious attacker. Therefore when Ballard says that there is a a vicious attack he implies that there is a vicious attacker.

If the vicious attack is same sex marriage then the supporters of same sex marriage are the vicious attackers. You say that Ballard does not mean homosexuals but satan. That may or may not be correct. Ballard's text is ambiguous in this regard.

Notice that Ballard would still be scapegoating when we stipulate your reading. If same sex marriage is the agenda of the devil then that means that those who support same sex marriage are the allies of satan. Identifying the supporters of gay marriage with the devil's agenda Ballard would be literally demonizing his opponents.

The satan argument is still troubling. It removes the aggression by only one derivation. That's not exactly progress.

08:49  
Anonymous Daniel Peterson said...

I have data.

It will be interesting to see it sometime.

09:43  
Anonymous jared said...

In my reading of Ballard’s talk, it seems clear that the adversary is Satan, and that his plan is to thwart the ‘traditional’ family by using gender confusion and same-sex marriage. Hellmut’s points regarding this are accurate in the sense that the demonization is quite literal. Nevertheless, even if Satan is left out of the syllogism, there still is an adversary and this foe is attempting to foil God’s well-laid scheme of traditionalness, however you interpret that. Gays are on the wrong team of Ballard’s war narrative.

Does this narrative amount to scapegoating of gays? I think it does amount to scapegoating because gays are not the reason heterosexual couples fail to get married in the temple, fail to stay together, or fail to have as many children as they are commanded to.

Would the problem with families be remedied if gays stopped asking for legal protection? If they simply shut up and went away, would the family as an institution be cured of its ills? How about if all gays were forced to marry opposite-sex partners and have children? Would that solve the problem? Clearly it wouldn’t. Therefore, scapegoating is an apt description. If gays cannot be shown to be causing any of society’s problems – in particular having to do with “the family” -- then Ballard’s defensiveness and aggression are misplaced.

This point has already been made above: Blaming people for effects that they cannot reasonably have caused constitutes scapegoating.

17:21  
Anonymous Daniel Peterson said...

Jared: Hellmut’s points regarding this are accurate in the sense that the demonization is quite literal.

Yes. Satan is a demon.

Jared: Gays are on the wrong team of Ballard’s war narrative.

"War narrative"? For heaven's sake, we're not talking about Tolstoy's War and Peace here, or Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War or Churchill's account of the struggle between the Axis and the Allied Powers. We're talking about a brief and pretty tame portion of a quite innocuous larger address.

But you're right: The Church opposes same-sex marriage and disapproves of homosexual acts. This is news?

Jared: I think it does amount to scapegoating because gays are not the reason heterosexual couples fail to get married in the temple, fail to stay together, or fail to have as many children as they are commanded to.

The version of Elder Ballard's remarks that is accessible to me lacks the passage in which he evidently says "Gays are the reason that heterosexual couples fail to get married in the temple, fail to stay together, and fail to have as many children as they are commanded to have. The problem with families would be remedied if gays stopped asking for legal protection. The family as an institution would be cured if they simply shut up and went away."

But, it seems, the straw man never loses his appeal.

21:12  
Blogger Tom said...

First of all, let's get this out of the way. The "quote" of Elder Ballard's that Deconstructor cites does not exist. It is a selection of some of Elder Ballard's sentences and phrases re-worded and spliced together. Go to the source next time, Deconstructor. Don't use words that the speaker didn't use (Elder Ballard never uses the word same-sex and he doesn't say "Thus, the Church and its leaders must stand firm . . ." There may be other words in there that he didn't use). If you do substitute a word so that the quote makes sense out of context, use brackets. Use ellipses to denote that you are skipping text. Failing to do those things makes it look like you're being dishonest, whether you're trying to be or not, and that undermines your credibility. Now I can't take any of your other quotes at face value.

Now a response to Jared:
Jared: In my reading of Ballard’s talk, it seems clear that the adversary is Satan, and that his plan is to thwart the ‘traditional’ family by using gender confusion and same-sex marriage.

It's fair to say that Elder Ballard asserts in this talk that Satan's plan is to thwart the traditional family, and that part of his strategy is to use gender confusion and same-sex marriage. But it is not true that he asserts that that is the entirety of Satan's plan, as it seems like you are implying. The part about Satan using gender confusion and same-sex marriage to attack the family might constitute about one-fiftieth of the talk. He talks about many other ways that the family is coming under attack and the bulk of his talk is dedicated to other warnings and affirmative advice and counsel.

What else is Satan doing? What other forces and behaviors are working to attack the family that are not solely associated with homosexuality or homosexuals. Here are other things that Elder Ballard mentions: "the people of the world wanting to define the family in ways contrary to God's eternal plan for the happiness of His children." And "Major agenda items [that] were introduced by some delegates that would have greatly weakened the family." And "gender roles are being repudiated." And "the adversary is using differing lifestyles in an attempt to replace the marriage of one man to one woman." And "About 1 million children per year experience parental divorce and its aftermath, and about one-third of all children in America are born out of wedlock." And "[Satan] works to drive a wedge of disharmony between a father and a mother. He entices children to be disobedient to their parents. He makes family home evening and family prayer inconvenient. He suggests family scripture study is impractical and not doable." And "Couples unhappy in their marriages tend not to give appropriate gospel instruction in the home, both through formal family home evening lessons and through exemplary living. They are less likely to be committed to gospel principles in their own lives." And "Apathy can overcome even the active members, keeping them away from the temple and weakening their capacity to be effective leaders and teachers---thus leaving countless lives untouched and slowing the Lord's work. And the Internet, when not properly used, is a vicious influence in the home. So we know without question, Lucifer is the enemy of the family." [All emphases are Elder Ballard's]

Elder Ballard has a lot to say about things that Mormon families should be doing, ways that they are failing, reasons that they are failing, Satan's efforts to work on them individually to make it so that they don't make the decisions that will strengthen their families. In the twelve page talk he mentions same gender marriage and gender confusion in passing but does not expound and does not dwell on them.

Contrary to what has been repeated here numerous times, scapegoating isn't just blaming people for things they can't be responsible for. That's accusing falsly. Scapegoating entails a shift of blame. Given that Elder Ballard dwells extensively on affirmative advice for his audience and decries the ways that WE are not living up to our responsibilities vis a vis our families and only mentions anything specifically associated with homosexuality in passing, and never once refers specifically to homosexual people, it would be false to say that Elder Ballard is scapegoating gays. He is not shifting the blame from us to gays.

Does he demonize them? Absolutely not.

Jared: Hellmut’s points regarding this are accurate in the sense that the demonization is quite literal.

Wrong. Let's compare some (real) quotes from Elder Ballard's talk.

Here are the only times Elder Ballard directly associates anything related to homosexuality with Satan:

"We must stand firm, brothers and sisters, at this time when the adversary is using differing lifestyles in an attempt to replace the marriage of one man to one woman."

and

"When Satan truly wants to disrupt the work of the Lord, he attempts to confuse gender and attacks God's plan for His spirit children."

If that constitutes demonizing gays, literally or otherwise, then this quote constitutes demonizing heterosexual church members:

"[Satan] works to drive a wedge of disharmony between a father and a mother. He entices children to be disobedient to their parents. He makes family home evening and family prayer inconvenient. He suggests family scripture study is impractical and not doable."

You see, Elder Ballard is saying that Satan is working on people to get them to do his will. Some people (all people) do it sometimes. Some of these people are inside the church and some of them are outside the church. None of these people are evil. None of them are demons. They're humans who are susceptible to the wiles of the adversary. In this talk, and in LDS theology generally, all sinners, including heterosexual Mormons who don't fulfill all their responsibilities, and homosexuals and heterosexuals who attempt to replace traditional marriage, are guilty of doing the adversary's bidding.

Does this narrative amount to scapegoating of gays? I think it does amount to scapegoating because gays are not the reason heterosexual couples fail to get married in the temple, fail to stay together, or fail to have as many children as they are commanded to.

First of all, there is no narrative. There is passing mention only.

Second, Elder Ballard did not make this accusation or any specific accusations against gays. He didn't blame gays for any of those things.

Third, how many children are we commanded to have?

Jared: If gays cannot be shown to be causing any of society’s problems – in particular having to do with “the family” -- then Ballard’s defensiveness and aggression are misplaced.

But some homosexuals are causing some of society's problems. This is undeniable by anyone of any ideology. But that's not what you were getting at. You're denying that homosexuals, or more generally, that those who are responsible for the movement to redefine marriage, can be blamed for any ill effects on the family in society. But from the Church's perspective, some of them absolutely are responsible for some ill effects on the family.

Clark and Dan have handled this pretty well already. Here's what Clark said way up there:

"Now the idea of a family in Mormonism entails chastity and men married to women and raising children in a dual gendered family unit. Homosexuals are pushing for adoption rights, marriage rights and the acceptance of homosexual behavior as a completely normal kind of relationship. I completely understand why they feel that way. However it seems that these aims as an ideology are completely in conflict with the Mormon ideals and practical judgments regarding the family."

Finally, I don't see in Elder Ballard's talk any "agression" toward anyone. That's an accusation you would have to back up with a quote. If you don't have it, please retract your accusation.

21:40  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Tom, you might have noticed that I linked the BYU transcript of Ballard's speech so that people can check it themsleves. The textual analysis in my post does not rely on Deconstructor's summary but on Ballard's speech as published by BYU. You are merely engaging Jared's validation without considering the original analysis.

When Ballard says that gay marriage is the agenda of the devil then that means that those who support gay marriage are in league with the devil. There is no way around it. Any eighth grader will recognize that, which leads me to suspect that you and Dan are in denial.

My complaint against LDS leaders is that they are criticizing gay behavior in terms of evil based on a dogmatic belief whose biological foundations (homosexuality is chosen trait) have been shredded. Polite or otherwise, such criticism merely manifests a pre-modern, anti-scientific, tribal custom.

Homosexuality is one of the few remaining purity issues. It viscerally disgusts many people and that disgust comes through in the language of Mormon leaders.

08:00  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Tom and Clark have a point that homosexuality is only one problem that Mormon leaders identify as a threat to the family. That's true. However, homosexuality is clearly the priority on the agenda of the LDS leadership.

LDS leaders did not support any of the other issues with millions of dollars. They did not issue proclamations to the media. They did not ask members to write their legislators about any of the other issues.

That is astonishing especially in light of the fact that there is no evidence that homosexuality harms families but there is a lot of evidence that other problems are harming families and children.

08:27  
Blogger Hellmut said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

08:32  
Blogger Tom said...

Tom, you might have noticed that I linked the BYU transcript of Ballard's speech so that people can check it themsleves. The textual analysis in my post does not rely on Deconstructor's summary but on Ballard's speech as published by BYU. You are merely engaging Jared's validation without considering the original analysis.

I appreciate that you linked to the BYU transcript. That's what I based all of my analysis on, which should be obvious to anyone who read my comment. My analysis clearly debunks Jared's validation and your original demonization accusation.

You could just reread my comment to see how, but I'll do it again, this time more concisely, perhaps.

Hellmut: When Ballard says that gay marriage is the agenda of the devil then that means that those who support gay marriage are in league with the devil.

Read my analysis, Hellmut. Ballard says that gay marriage is one agenda item of the devil. As is creating disharmony between parents. As is inciting children to be disobedient. As is making us feel that family home evening and family prayer inconvenient. As is suggesting that family scripture study is inconvenient.

If we apply your logic to the rest of the talk then Ballard is also accusing parents that do not have harmony as being in league with the devil. Also, disobedient children and people who don't have family prayer or scripture study are also in league with the devil. But like I explained, he's not saying that anybody is evil. I'll quote myself:

"You see, Elder Ballard is saying that Satan is working on people to get them to do his will. Some people (all people) do it sometimes. Some of these people are inside the church and some of them are outside the church. None of these people are evil. None of them are demons. They're humans who are susceptible to the wiles of the adversary. In this talk, and in LDS theology generally, all sinners, including heterosexual Mormons who don't fulfill all their responsibilities, and homosexuals and heterosexuals who attempt to replace traditional marriage, are guilty of doing the adversary's bidding."

I have given you reasons that the demonization charge is false. In order to keep making that charge in good conscience, you should deal directly with this argument that I have presented and give reasons why it is not valid. Otherwise you should retract your charge and stop making it.

09:03  
Anonymous Daniel Peterson said...

Contrary to what has been repeated here numerous times, scapegoating isn't just blaming people for things they can't be responsible for. That's accusing falsly. Scapegoating entails a shift of blame. Given that Elder Ballard dwells extensively on affirmative advice for his audience and decries the ways that WE are not living up to our responsibilities vis a vis our families and only mentions anything specifically associated with homosexuality in passing, and never once refers specifically to homosexual people, it would be false to say that Elder Ballard is scapegoating gays. He is not shifting the blame from us to gays.

Excellent points, Tom. (Among several other excellent points.) I should not have let that sloppy definition of scapegoating go unchallenged. You are precisely right.

11:19  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

"My complaint against LDS leaders is that they are criticizing gay behavior in terms of evil based on a dogmatic belief whose biological foundations (homosexuality is chosen trait) have been shredded. Polite or otherwise, such criticism merely manifests a pre-modern, anti-scientific, tribal custom."

While I believe most of our sexuality is biological in nature (although clearly not all) I'm not sure one can argue that the biological foundations of homosexuality have been established. I think most expect it will. But it hasn't happened yet and there are definitely even homosexual activities who seem uncomfortable with a genetic basis for homosexuality. (For perhaps different reasons: if it is biological it might at some future time be 'cured' - although I doubt that myself)

However I think you are quite wrong in claiming LDS leaders oppose homosexuality due to a mistaken understanding of biology. The reason LDS leaders oppose homosexuality is for textual reasons. It's said to be wrong by God. Now one can deny the reliability of such claims. But it's odd that's not what is being attacked.

Now it is true that a few people do try to defend these religious views by appeals to bad biology. (Likewise some homosexual activists engage in bad apologetics as well) However let's realize what this is. It is defending an existing belief and not creating the belief due to the misunderstandings of biology.

So let's not confuse the cart and the horse in all this. Disagree with religious people if you want. But I think if you want to do anything more than make people who already agree with you feel better you have to understand and engage with the beliefs of those you are disputing. Thus far your rhetoric suggests that you aren't doing this.

Really in these matters it all ultimately comes down to the nature of privileged texts. Now you'll almost certainly disagree with those texts. And you can make your case for why folks ought not agree with those texts. But when you simply accuse people of demonizing or scapegoating you're engaging in the same kind of rhetoric you claim to be attacking. Which, as Dan pointed out, is a bit ironic (or perhaps hypocritical would be a better term?)

11:57  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

In my first paragraph that should read

"... there are definitely even homosexual activist who seem uncomfortable with..."

I'd written activities by accident.

11:58  
Blogger Hellmut said...

I understand that LDS leaders are opposing homosexuality for theological reasons. Insofar as theology claims to pertain to reality, they are subject to reason. There are no biological foundations in support of the claim that homosexuality is harmful.

While it is true that we have been unable to identify a genetic cause of homosexuality, the record of comparative zoology and anthropology is strong. Homosexuality occurs across a wide variety of species from primates to birds and reptiles. Therefore the claim that homosexuality is a life style is unreasonable.

People are responsible for their unreasonable beliefs, especially, when they want to invoke the coercive powers of the government in pursuit of their religious agenda.

10:07  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Tom, by definition accusing one's adversaries of doing the devil's bidding is demonizing. Ballard might escape the charge of scapegoating if he would provide reasons as in evidence for his assertions. He doesn't. Instead he is relying on religious authority. That's not enough when you are blaming your opponents for the doom of society.

There are many proven challenges to American families. Homosexuality is not one of them. Yet Ballard, Kimball, and Faust have chosen to target homosexuals. That's the issue that they are agitating. They are not staging referenda over any other issue than homosexuality. They are not raising money for any other political issue than homosexuality. That's scapegoating.

Actions speak louder than words. Not only are the actions of LDS leaders with respect to homosexuality without rational foundation. They are contradicted by scientific consensus that homosexuality is a harmless natural phenomenon. That's the issue that the actions and the rhetoric of LDS leaders have chosen as the greatest threat to American families.

That's unreasonable. Therefore it's irresponsible and crosses the line of both demonization and scapegoating.

10:21  
Blogger Tom said...

Your demonization claim has been proved false. I have given you reasons why this is so and you have failed to address them. Elder Ballard did not single out homosexuals as being in league with the Devil any more than he singled out imperfect parents as being in league with the Devil. Respond to my reasons with reasons or stop with that.

Not only are the actions of LDS leaders with respect to homosexuality without rational foundation.

As are their actions with respect to heterosexual premarital and extramarital sex. None of our doctrine, none of the Plan of Salvation is based on reason within a materialistic paradigm. So what? It has a rational foundation within our own paradigm, which we believe was revealed by God through prophets. Telling a Mormon that their theology is based on something other than reason within a materialistic paradigm gets a "no duh."

They are contradicted by scientific consensus that homosexuality is a harmless natural phenomenon.

What a thing to say! Science has nothing to say about values. Nature has nothing to say about values. The existence of an inclination in nature is irrelevant to the question of what God expects of us. I already gave you reasons why this is so on this thread at Messenger and Advocate and you were unable to respond reasonably.

Science will never be able to tell us what is or isn't harmful to our souls. If you want to choose nature as your God, that's fine. Just remember that science has proved that natural selection doesn't create optima, either in terms of adaptive traits or in terms of human ideologies, it creates entities that are able to self replicate in a given environment. Nothing more. An important implication of this is that it is unreasonable for any person to assert that their brain and reasoning abilities, which, within a materialistic paradigm, are nothing more than products of natural selection, are able to identify correctly what is right and what is wrong. It is even more unreasonable to assert that your brain and reasoning abilities can lead you to a correct understanding of the mind of God, whether your God be Nature or the God of Abraham.

That's unreasonable. Therefore it's irresponsible and crosses the line of both demonization and scapegoating.

Your terminology is incredibly imprecise. According to this statement, any claim that is unreasonable is irresponsible and crosses the line of both demonization and scapegoating. Demonization and scapegoating entail far more than unreasonableness and irresponsibility.

You seem to be saying that holding beliefs about what constitutes right and wrong and advocating against what one believes to be wrong constitutes demonization and scapegoating when the belief isn't based on reasoning within a materialistic paradigm. You may say that it's immoral to advocate against something based on such a belief if one's advocacy causes what you or others perceive as harm. But that doesn't mean that doing so is demonizing or scapegoating.

14:27  
Blogger Hellmut said...

You haven't proven anything, Tom. You seem to take comfort in the fact that Ballard is not singling out gays. Singling out is not a characteristic of demonization. Demonization means to associate people with the devil. That's what Ballard is doing to gays, lesbians, and straight supporters of gay marriage.

Nonetheless, the agenda of Mormon leaders continues to single out gays. As I pointed out before, there is no comparable effort to proposition 22 and the other referenda against gay marriage.

Even though values may be contested that does not mean that they cannot be rigorously analyzed. For example, we have been able to demonstrate that Marxist values do not meet human needs. However, values are not the issue. The issue is that Ballard and other LDS leaders are advancing causal claims about the relationship of homosexuality and the welfare of families. Such claims are subject to scientific enquiry.

Claims regarding the evil of somebody else better be correct. Ballard's claims are false. Homosexuality is neither a pathology nor is it damaging anyone. Therefore his claims are proven false.

And no, Ballard is not scapegoating because he is wrong. He is scapegoating because he is blaming gays for the demise of the family when homosexuality has nothing to do with that problem. I have been very clear on why Ballard's rhetoric constitutes scapegoating. If you are chosing to misunderstand me then that's your fault.

14:50  
Blogger Tom said...

So you're willing to admit that Ballard doesn't demonize gays any more than he demonizes heterosexual church members? Fine. If he's demonizing everybody the same, I don't see how you can be uspset at that.

You've been thoroughly beaten on the scapegoating claim, even if you won't admit to it. I trust that any reasonable reader (if there are any readers) will be able to see that.

16:17  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Tom, you are imagining things. I did not say that Ballard is associating members of the LDS Church with the agenda of the devil. That's not in the text of the speech. Ballard links words such as "attack," "vicious," and "war" to supporters of gay marriage.

16:27  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Ann, we know a lot about homosexuality. Even BYU professors teach that homosexuality is not a life style but a feature of human nature.

For a review of the research, you might want to check my friend Todd's blog.

09:28  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

Helmut, regarding the "demonizing" issue. Isn't that an odd charge to make in a religious context where the meaning of "demonizing" isn't merely metaphoric? That is aren't most Christian religions theologically committed to the belief that sin is inherently demonizing?

It seems to me that all you are doing is criticizing the literal use of a metaphor which is odd when you are attacking the source of the metaphor.

I hate to say it but this seems like a second strike out on the rhetorical front.

12:25  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

"Therefore the claim that homosexuality is a life style is unreasonable."

I think the problem is that most conflate homosexuality as the likely biological inclinations with homosexuality as the lifestyle. i.e. the social aspects separate from the biological aspects. Now I fully agree that many incorrectly deny the biology. Although I think many in the homosexual community do a lot of this themselves. (i.e. the frequent downplaying of bisexuality as just denial of a purported biology) Sexuality simply isn't as simple as extreme views on either side paint.

Having said that those once we are dealing with the social rather than the biological is seems one can and ought be able to attack it as a life style.

Now if one adopts a thorough-going Libertarianism then one certainly can reject this line of attack. Especially when it is made on religious grounds. But it does seem to me that the assumption that the biology entails all the social is itself very problematic. To the degree you are doing this Hellmut I think you are in error.

Now as I said you can make the Libertarian attack. You can also take the attack you've touched on a few times by arguing that decisions in the public sphere ought be based only upon public knowledge. (i.e. discount entirely religious considerations) I think myself and others would probably typically reject both these political perspectives quite independent of the whole homosexual debate.

The point is though that it seems to me that on religious grounds religious people are quite able to rationally explain why many aspects of homosexual culture becoming normalized as part of acceptable society is a threat. Now you are right that this can't be demonstrated to the non-believer. But frankly that's true of many of our decisions.

The problem is that once we wade through your rhetoric of demonization and scapegoating and get down to the fundamental issues and premises, your perspective simply isn't apt to be compelling to religious believers.

I think the more interesting question is whether you can justify your position in a fashion compelling to a religious person. I'll be up front and fully admit that I doubt I can justify religious views of homosexuality to someone who denies the premises of the various forms of Christianity. Does this mean we are at an impasse? Is this why all the perhaps misleading rhetoric of both sides is inevitable? Because there is no rational common ground?

12:37  
Blogger Hellmut said...

The association with Satan may very well be metaphorical. If you take that line, however, you will preclude the earlier argument that Ballard is talking about Satan rather than homosexuals.

If Ballard literally invokes the devil then his words associate homosexuals and other proponents of gay marriage with Satan. If Ballard's word are metaphorical then he attributes descriptors such as "attack" and "vicious" directly to homosexuals. Either way, the text crosses the threshold of demonization. And when Ballard claims that the family is under siege because homosexuals want to get married then his conclusion is so unreasonable that it becomes an act of scapegoating.

One mustn't go as far Libertarianism to justify the notion that homosexuals ought to be treated as complete human beings. Anything I have said regarding this issue can be justified in terms of the Sermon of the Mount. Treat others as you would like to treated if you were in their place and Christ's demand that we treat our opponents with love entails a prohibition of demonization and scapegoating.

With respect to sexuality, of course, it is true that many behaviors are social constructs. That's the difference between sex and gender. Sex is a biological property. Gender is socially constructed. For example, gayness can be negotiated. Same sex attraction cannot. Monogamy and polygamy can be negotiated. Heterosexuality cannot.

There might be an infinite number of constructed genders but that set is narrowly confined by the biological requirements of sex.

Sex can be satisfied in many different ways. Some are morally justifiable. Others are not.

If we believe in God the creator then the creation is the ultimate revelation. Therefore the life sciences are relevant to theology. Christians are theologically obligated to take biology seriously. When LDS leaders ignore the state of the research then they become responsible for bad theology.

Unlike some other religions that privilege celibacy, Mormon theology acknowleges the sex drive, especially when the brethren advise young Mormons to get married as soon as possible.

For conservatives marriage is the legitimate venue to have sex.

If you have sex you ought to be married. Homosexuals will have sex. Therefore homosexuals ought to be married.

But that's really another issue. Ballard is not scapegoating because he does not want gays to get married. In that respect, he is merely in denial. Ballard is scapegoating when he claims that gay marriage is a "vicious attack" on the family.

13:42  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

Hellmut, you miss the central role of sin in Christianity. Sin makes all of us Satanic.

"O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe." (2 Ne 1:13)

The very meaning of sin is wrapped up with the notion of evil and the devil in most Christianity. One cank, as in most liberal churches, allegorize this away. But really your beef is with the notion of sin.

The scriptures are pretty explicit that those who don't hearken to God are

"For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil." (Mosiah 16:3)

Now you are of course free to disbelieve in the notion of sin. But your criticism basically comes down to Mormon leaders speaking in terms of the concept of sin. Which is just a criticism that religious people speak in religious terms.

So can you frame your argument in a fashion that doesn't just deny religion and religious discourse? I'm not sure you can.

15:00  
Blogger Tom said...

If we believe in God the creator then the creation is the ultimate revelation. Therefore the life sciences are relevant to theology. Christians are theologically obligated to take biology seriously.

This is rubbish, man. According to Christian theology this world is fallen. Creation is currently different from what it was before the Fall. So if you want to look to creation as a basis for value judgments, you'd have to look at Creation as god created it, not as it currently is. None of us knows what Creation was like before the Fall.

Biology has nothing to say about values. It describes what exists, and how things work. I'll say it again: the existence of an inclination in nature is irrlevant to the question of what God expects of us.

Anyways, I'm done, dude. Your refusal to engage arguments and your poor reasoning is too much for me. And don't think it's because I can't stand people disagreeing with me that I'm leaving this conversation. I enjoy tallking with people who think carefully and engage reasonable arguments with reasonable arguments, no matter what their opinions. You don't do that. You don't read carefully and you don't engage peoples arguments.

Take care.

15:03  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

"One mustn't go as far Libertarianism to justify the notion that homosexuals ought to be treated as complete human beings."

But no one denies they ought be counted as complete human beings. The question is what it means to be treated as complete human beings. There are hundreds of views on that and your rhetoric tends to adopt the Libertarian sense of what that means.

Put an other way, you are presupposing a particular theory of what it means to be human. That theory is (I strongly suspect) in conflict with the theory within Christianity of what it means to be human. But rather than address that issue you simply presuppose your answer and then attack our rhetoric because it's not resting upon your presuppositions.


"Sex can be satisfied in many different ways. Some are morally justifiable. Others are not."

But that avoids the central issue of what justifies acts. And once again you are assuming a particular answer to that question that many (most) don't share.

"If we believe in God the creator then the creation is the ultimate revelation."

But once again most people will not agree with you there. Deists might. But then Deists tend to limit God and meaning quite a bit.

I note you are also continuing to use the word "scapegoat" despite the abundant evidence you are misusing it semantically. That makes me think that you are less interesting in actually finding a rational understanding of where we differ (and where we may be wrong) than just in finding useful labels with powerful rhetorical force.

15:05  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Scapegoating refers to blaming people for an evil for which they are not responsible, Clark. That's what Ballard and Kimball are doing when they blame gays for the crisis of the family and the demise of ancient Rome.

What Ballard is not doing is giving a speech about the evil condition of mankind. He gives a speech about a vicious attack on the family.

Unlike you I have closely cited Ballard's text in support of my claims. Therefore I am confident that my interpretation does Ballard more justice than yours.

Anybody is entitled to their opinions. Opinions are not sufficient, however, to dislodge arguments that rely on data.

16:18  
Anonymous Equality said...

Tom said:
"Read my analysis, Hellmut. Ballard says that gay marriage is one agenda item of the devil. As is creating disharmony between parents. As is inciting children to be disobedient. As is making us feel that family home evening and family prayer inconvenient. As is suggesting that family scripture study is inconvenient."

Tom, the examples you cite are interesting but irrelevant. The Church is not actively supporting efforts to enshrine in the U.S. Constitution measures opposing any of these other so-called devilish agenda items.

On the argument over the meaning of the Church leaders' words, I think it is reasonable to read words like Elder Ballard's in conjunction with the Church's political support (in terms of dollars, statements from church leaders, and providing volunteers) for state and federal legislation or constituional measures that seek to deny homosexual couples the same legal standing afforded heterosexual married couples. In the context of the Church's active role in the politics over same-sex marriage, the comments of church leaders about Satan's plan to confuse people on gender issues and destroy families, it seems to me, obviously carry just the inference Hellmut suggests. Here is another recent quote from an LDS apostle:

"Lucifer relentlessly assails and distorts the doctrines that matter most to us individually, to our families, and to the world. Where is the adversary focusing his most direct and diabolical attacks? Satan works unremittingly to confuse understanding about gender, to promote the premature and unrighteous use of procreative power, and to hinder righteous marriage precisely because marriage is ordained of God and the family is central to the plan of happiness. The adversary’s attacks upon eternal marriage will continue to increase in intensity, frequency, and sophistication.

Because today we are engaged in a war for the welfare of marriage and the home, in my latest reading of the Book of Mormon I paid particular attention to the ways the Nephites prepared for their battles against the Lamanites. I noted that the people of Nephi “were aware of the intent of [their enemy], and therefore they did prepare to meet them” (Alma 2:12; italics added). As I read and studied, I learned that understanding the intent of an enemy is a key prerequisite to effective preparation. We likewise should consider the intent of our enemy in this latter-day war.

The Father’s plan is designed to provide direction for His children, to help them become happy, and to bring them safely home to Him. Lucifer’s attacks on the plan are intended to make the sons and daughters of God confused and unhappy and to halt their eternal progression. The overarching intent of the father of lies is that all of us would become “miserable like unto himself” (2 Ne. 2:27), and he works to warp the elements of the Father’s plan he hates the most. Satan does not have a body, he cannot marry, and he will not have a family. And he persistently strives to confuse the divinely appointed purposes of gender, marriage, and family. Throughout the world, we see growing evidence of the effectiveness of Satan’s efforts.

More recently the devil has attempted to combine and legally validate confusion about gender and marriage. As we look beyond mortality and into eternity, it is easy to discern that the counterfeit alternatives the adversary advocates can never lead to the completeness that is made possible through the sealing together of a man and a woman, to the happiness of righteous marriage, to the joy of posterity, or to the blessing of eternal progression."


Are such remarks from David Bednar, printed in the June Ensign, only timed coincidentally with the First Presidency's letter on the marriage amendment? That strains credulity.

17:07  
Blogger Todd said...

To Tom and Clark Goble (heh):

What it really boils down to is this: Who gives a crap about Christian theology in the public sphere? We live in a country that, although majority Christian, is NOT a culture with a consensus on what Christianity even is. In fact, one of the results of American pluralism has been the fracturing of Christianity. Most mainline and liberal denominations have no problem with homosexuality or gay marriage, for example; Christianity in the U.S. is a diverse and multiple religion, not a singular, unified thing. Add into that mix 10-15% atheist or agnostic, Jews, muslims, growing numbers of buddhists, native american religions, etc., and you have a religious mess, who disagree on many issue, not just homosexuality.

If Christians want to argue with each other about "fallen nature" or sin, they can knock themselves out and have a ball doing so. But those arguments must have no bearing AT ALL on the public sphere or the enactment of a democracy. If you want to live in a culturally unified society where personal behaviors are dictated and controled by the government, move to Saudi Arabia.

You are right that the naturalness of homosexuality is neither here nor there for its morality--that is the naturalistic fallacy. But it is the anti-gay argument that it is unnatural, and that the sexually exclusive, monogamous, nuclear family (a historical oddity, by the way, in the scope of human history) is natural. Why? Because the anti-gay people make the inverse fallacy, the "moralistic fallacy," that they way things are is the way things ought to be.

But in a democracy, efforts to curtail or abridge civil rights, or to privilege one group of people over another, must meet the strictest standards of evidence and harm. All of this talk about Ballard is giving me a headache. You may believe that this man speaks for god, and that is your right; but his arguments are unsubstantiated and aesthetic: Homosexuality is wrong because it doesn't match what we think the world is supposed to look like (or what our God says it's supposed to look like).

Harm--that is, the infringement of other people's rights--must be clearly shown and demonstrated and balanced. The harm in this country now is that a practice--same-sex relationships and sex--creates a second class citizenship across the nation. The whole nation waits for one solid, rational, substantial argument for why that should be.

God is not an argument--you may have him in your personal life, but he's not my God, and I get to be free to in a democracy.

Elder Ballard is not an argument--he is your spiritual leader, not mine.

Aesthetics are not an argument--my way of living may be offensive to you, but you don't have to live this way, so go back to your family and leave mine alone.

Morality is not an argument, unless it is about the balancing of individual rights--otherwise, your morality is your private affair and I have a morality that may be different from yours.

Finally, when you take a real or perceived social ill and blame it on an individual or a class of people, you are, by definition, scapegoating. Helmutt uses the word correctly and aptly in this case. The anti-gay argument is a scapegoating argument: they feel the "decline of the family" (a favorite argument among Americans since the 18th century (you'd think we'd've come up with something else 220 years later)) or simply that the world is changing (which scares the shit out of many people), and so it must be the fault of Gay People and Feminists!

Please.

19:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hans Hacker wrote:

After reading the exchanges here, as a non-Mormon I have to interject. You can say what you like about my lack of knowledge of the Byzantine doctrines of Mormonism. This posting is just the reflections of a non-adherent on what this discussion reveals about Mormons and Mormonism.

Those of you arguing so violently against Hellmut do a terrific job (you've been taught by the best) of trying to distract the discussion from the centrally important question which Hellmut raises - "shall we show others the love of Christ, as he showed love to social outcasts, or shall we live an isolated, superficially pure life, vilifying others as unpure just to encourage artificial distinctions among people and make ourselves feel undeservedly superior?"

The message of Christ was that the kindgom of God is at hand. His message was not "Lucifer seeks to disrupt God's plan." The Elder who spoke those words knows that authority is a solvent of humanity, and he knows precisely how to push your buttons for greatest effect. The fact that most of you feel threatened by the idea that gays might not actually be threatening the family as you've been taught says volumes.

I see very little real concern about demonstrating the love of Christ to those that are outside mainstream community, in this case gays. Christ came to those who were outcasts. The last place he would appear today is in a Mormon church among leaders who say the things that have been transcribed above. Shame. A wise man once said to me "The problem I have with Mormonism is that it confuses Utah provincialism with the Gospel of Christ." Very little that has occurred here on this blog has changed my mind on that score.

On the other hand, I actually find it encouraging that a small number of you (primarily, but not all of, those supporting Hellmut) have engaged in a reasoned discussion. I had thought that Mormons were largely bereft of any kind of real civic community of diliberative democratic character, and that this empoverished state characterized the Mormon church at large. I haven't been disabused of that notion by two or three people - only that ancient homosexual and paederast Aristotle would buy a collection of two or three as an authoritative proof of a proposiion.

Good Lord! Aristotle a homosexual?Think about that the next time you or your children read the Nicomachean Ethics - one of the most important ethical works in human history was written by a gay. Chew on that for a bit.

22:44  
Blogger Tom said...

Equality,
I'm tired of defending against the demonization claim because it seems that we'll perceive whatever best fits in with our preconceptions and prejudices (I'm not excluding myself from the "we," although I do think my position on the question is the reasonable one). I'll just direct you to something I already said a couple times at least:

"You see, Elder Ballard [and LDS teaching] is saying that Satan is working on people to get them to do his will. Some people (all people) do it sometimes. Some of these people are inside the church and some of them are outside the church. None of these people are evil. None of them are demons. They're humans who are susceptible to the wiles of the adversary. In this talk, and in LDS theology generally, all sinners, including heterosexual Mormons who don't fulfill all their responsibilities, and homosexuals and heterosexuals who attempt to replace traditional marriage, are guilty of doing the adversary's bidding."

And I'll just give you one data point by saying that the message that I have gotten from reading the scriptures and paying attention to and assimilating what the leaders of the Church have been saying over the past ten years or so is this: people who have homosexual relationships are children of God and are to be treated with love and respect like all other Children of God. They are not living up to God's ideal, but neither are any of us. However, we have an obligation, for the good of our families, for the good of our children, for the good of future families, for the good of future children, to uphold God's ideal of the family. I am sorry that some people feel that this position demeans them and makes them feel like second-class citizens. But I can't in good conscience support measures that put homosexual relationships on the same footing as heterosexual relationships and give them the same social status. To do so would ultimately be a disservice to all concerned, especially to future generations of my family.

If you find hatred, bigotry, demonization, or scapegoating in my attitude, then so be it. All I can do is tell you that none of that is in my heart.

23:25  
Blogger Tom said...

Mr. Ormsbee,
In a democracy, no citizen's voice is priviledged over another's and no ideology is priviledged over another. All that matters is what the people want, not why they want it. Nobody has to make or win any arguments. Nobody has to have any reasons. You want things one way, other people want things a different way. Whoever is in the minority will be upset with the way things are, but that's part of democracy. The way I see it, an increasing number of people want it the way you want it, so take heart.

Who gives a crap about Christian theology in the public sphere?

Some Christians do.

If Christians want to argue with each other about "fallen nature" or sin, they can knock themselves out and have a ball doing so. But those arguments must have no bearing AT ALL on the public sphere or the enactment of a democracy.

Unless people want it to. You don't. Others do.

If you want to live in a culturally unified society where personal behaviors are dictated and controled by the government, move to Saudi Arabia.

I don't. I want to live in a democracy where the people decide what the law should be. And, luckily enough, I do live in such a place. That doesn't mean that the law is always going to be the way I want it to be, though. It's not.

For the record, opposing state sanctitoning of homosexual marriage has nothing to do with controlling personal behaviors. It's a question of whether certain personal behaviors should receive state sanction.

You are right that the naturalness of homosexuality is neither here nor there for its morality--that is the naturalistic fallacy. But it is the anti-gay argument that it is unnatural, and that the sexually exclusive, monogamous, nuclear family (a historical oddity, by the way, in the scope of human history) is natural. Why? Because the anti-gay people make the inverse fallacy, the "moralistic fallacy," that they way things are is the way things ought to be.

None of this has anything to do with anything. The LDS opposition to premarital and extramarital sexual relations has basis in the Plan of Salvation.

But in a democracy, efforts to curtail or abridge civil rights, or to privilege one group of people over another, must meet the strictest standards of evidence and harm.

In a democracy, what constitutes a right is far from clear cut. Some people say that X is a right and some people say that X is not a right. Ultimately the question is decided through the democratic process. The only standard that must be satisfied is that the will of the people ultimately be done.

All of this talk about Ballard is giving me a headache. You may believe that this man speaks for god, and that is your right; but his arguments are unsubstantiated and aesthetic: Homosexuality is wrong because it doesn't match what we think the world is supposed to look like (or what our God says it's supposed to look like).

Elder Ballard makes no such argument.

Harm--that is, the infringement of other people's rights--must be clearly shown and demonstrated and balanced. The harm in this country now is that a practice--same-sex relationships and sex--creates a second class citizenship across the nation.

Harm is subjective. Rights are subjective.

The whole nation waits for one solid, rational, substantial argument for why that should be.

This doesn't seem to be the case. I'm pretty sure that many people on both sides are waiting for no such thing.

Aesthetics are not an argument--my way of living may be offensive to you, but you don't have to live this way, so go back to your family and leave mine alone.

I don't know how you live. Unless you're hurting people, I'm not offended by the way you live your life.

Morality is not an argument, unless it is about the balancing of individual rights--otherwise, your morality is your private affair and I have a morality that may be different from yours.

Everybody's moral sensibilities inform their public actions as a citizen. We select representatives who we think will represent us best in the country's decision making process. I don't think it's right for anybody to turn off their moral sensibilities when they step into a voting booth, and that includes people whose moral sensibilities differ from mine.

Finally, when you take a real or perceived social ill and blame it on an individual or a class of people, you are, by definition, scapegoating.

No. That's not the definition of scapegoating.

The anti-gay argument is a scapegoating argument: they feel the "decline of the family" . . . or simply that the world is changing . . . and so it must be the fault of Gay People and Feminists!

The scapegoating thing has been thoroughly beaten dead.

23:38  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Though it makes me happy that your quote includes yourself, Tom, that's not relevant because the same cannot be said for Ballard's text . . . especially not when one puts it into the context of LDS political campaigns since Proposition 22.

Ballard does not say that we all serve the devil. Neither does he say that some people serve Satan some of the time. Particularly, Ballard does not confess that he serves the devil at times.

You say that. Ballard associates people who oppose his agenda with the devil. Those are his words.

With respect to your heart, good intentions are not sufficient to exculpate people. You are well aware that the agenda that you are advocating creates second class citizens. You also know that a number Mormon children and young adults are attempting and committing suicide when they give credence to such preaching. (We know even of one lynching of a teenager by a Mormon boy who considered his target a gay person.)

That's not right. Whatever is in your heart does not undo the damage that the anti-gay agenda is wreaking.

Of course, since you are willing to impose that price on people other than yourself, it's not surprising that you do not consider Kimball's, Peterson's, Faust's and Ballard's language demonizing and scapegoating. You think that they are saving the world. But what does that imply about your fellow human beings?

What properties must a God possess to create human beings such that their essence is a "vicious assault" on the Plan of Salvation?

Don't you find it troubling that the agenda of your heart and the consequences of your actions are so far apart? Clearly, something is going wrong. It's up to you to figure out what.

Ten years ago I would have agreed with you, Tom. When people suffer then it's time to question ourselves. I wish I had figured it out earlier.

23:56  
Blogger Tom said...

Hans,
Those of you arguing so violently against Hellmut do a terrific job (you've been taught by the best) of trying to distract the discussion from the centrally important question which Hellmut raises - "shall we show others the love of Christ, as he showed love to social outcasts, or shall we live an isolated, superficially pure life, vilifying others as unpure just to encourage artificial distinctions among people and make ourselves feel undeservedly superior?"

Violently? That's a weird way to characterize the conversation.

The discussion hasn't been about the question of Hellmut's that you quote. It's been about whether the LDS Church is guilty of demonizing and scapegoating gays. I'm sure you can understand that people who are part of the Church would want to defend against such a claim. We personally don't hold this attitude towards gays and neither does our church. This has been all about a defense against Hellmut's attack (which he has repeated ad nauseum around LDS blogs).

The message of Christ was that the kindgom of God is at hand. His message was not "Lucifer seeks to disrupt God's plan." The Elder who spoke those words knows that authority is a solvent of humanity, and he knows precisely how to push your buttons for greatest effect. The fact that most of you feel threatened by the idea that gays might not actually be threatening the family as you've been taught says volumes.

Your mind reading ability is astonishing.

On the other hand, I actually find it encouraging that a small number of you (primarily, but not all of, those supporting Hellmut) have engaged in a reasoned discussion.

I hope you're including Clark in this "small number." The dude's a genius.

And I hope you're not including Hellmut. I'm sure he's a good guy. But a good arguer he's not.

I have become frustrated with some people's unreasonable insistance on using the wrong words to describe things, so I haven't had my usual measured tone. I apologize to all for that.

00:01  
Blogger Tom said...

Hellmut, my conscience is clear with respect to my attitude and actions toward homosexuals (which you do not and cannot know). I regard people who have homosexual relationships the same as I regard people who fall short from God's ideal in other ways. I will answer to God for what I believe and what I do, not to you.

00:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Posted by Hans:

Tom,

"Hellmut, my conscience is clear with respect to my attitude and actions toward homosexuals (which you do not and cannot know)."

How melodramatic. You are quite the martyr here.

"Violently? That's a weird way to characterize the conversation."

You of course are the final arbiter of the perceptions of others (sorry. I become easily frustrated with some people's unreasonable insistence on dictating how I should perceive things). I found this to be a very rhetorically violent attack on a particular position. One lacking in any real consideration of Christ-like behavior. I tried to get that across. You found quibbles.

Anyway, here is what your petulant remarks evince - for you, taking issue with your church is interpreted as a personal attack (see above). You should think about why that is, and why you feel the need to respond so dismissively.

I'm sorry you feel personally theatened by the discussion. Clearly, you are threatened enough to say that your conscience is clear. But, if gays are no different than anyone else outside the will of God (being a non-Mormon I guess that includes me), I think you should ask yourself why you are compelled to defend a church that treats gays as being especially out of God's will - in fact, from what I've read, it appears the Mormon church views homosexuality as a demonic threat?

I ask the question because I really want to know, and not as a personal attack. I would really like to know. Not even Catholics feel compelled to defend their church so vociferously.

Try understanding Hellmut before attacking him. It's an old trick used by people who really prize arguments and who are not afraid of ideas.

"All that matters is what the people want, not why they want it."

I just wrote a book called "The Culture of Conservative Christian Litigation." It is all about why the "why people want it" is the most important question to ask.

01:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing, and then I'll stop. I've suddenly realized why I had such a viseral reaction to the thread at the first read, and why I characterized it as "violent". Perhaps Tom was right - I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong, so I grasped at words. But, I just got it - Tom has been arguing unfairly and doing so very consistently with an end in mind. Here is but one example:

"Your terminology is incredibly imprecise. According to this statement, any claim that is unreasonable is irresponsible and crosses the line of both demonization and scapegoating. Demonization and scapegoating entail far more than unreasonableness and irresponsibility."

Tom, you are using these kinds of statements to cloud the issue and drop you obtuse logic bomb on the conversation. But, you don't do it well. Two problems here: 1) Demonization and scapegoating entail far more unreasonableness and irresponsibility? Let's talk about imprecision - how much more unreasonableness? To what level of irresponsibility must the statement rise? Can you quantify that precisely for us, or is it just a gut feeling for you? 2) Hellmut is clearly making a statement about **another specific statement** made in the course of this conversation. You turned his remarks into universal statements about the qualities of "any" discourse. I can only assume that this is why Hellmut simply didn't respond. There is a word for this kind of reasoning. Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum contains a passage that helps illuminate it for us:

"Ah. Morons never do the wrong thing. They get their reasoning wrong. Like the fellow who says all dogs are pets and all dogs bark, and cats are pets, too, and therefore cats bark. . . All great apes evolved from lower life forms, man evolved from lower life forms, therefore man is a great ape. . . Saint Anselm's ontological argument is moronic, for example. God must exist because I can conceive Him as a being perfect in all ways, including existence. . . In such statements you suspect that something's wrong, but it takes work to show what and why. . . Morons are tricky. You can spot a fool right away, but the moron reasons almost the way you do; the gap is infinitesimal. A moron is the master of the paralogism."

Tom, I think you know this, so you drop your obtuse logic bomb on the conversation, make grandiose statements about how you wish people would be precise in language (i.e., would be just like you), hoping that by the time we figure out just what rule of logic you violated we will have lost the thread of our original argument.

You need to stop that. People will figure you out eventually.

02:34  
Blogger Tom said...

How melodramatic. You are quite the martyr here.

I'm making myself a martyr by saying my conscience is clear in response to Hellmut saying I'm culpable for the suicides of others? I'm being melodramatic?

You of course are the final arbiter of the perceptions of others (sorry. I become easily frustrated with some people's unreasonable insistence on dictating how I should perceive things).

I never said I was the final arbiter. I expressed my opinion of your perception. Is that a problem?

I found this to be a very rhetorically violent attack on a particular position. One lacking in any real consideration of Christ-like behavior. I tried to get that across. You found quibbles.

I find this a weird way of seeing the conversation. And who are you making out to be a martyr here? Using the word violence isn't melodramatic?

That I haven't been very nice to Hellmut the person in a couple of comments, I admit. But violent? I'm sorry, that's just too much.

I'm sorry you feel personally theatened by the discussion. Clearly, you are threatened enough to say that your conscience is clear.

Threatened? No. Again, melodramatic. I said my conscience is clear because Hellmut asserted that it shouldn't be.

But, if gays are no different than anyone else outside the will of God (being a non-Mormon I guess that includes me), . . .

Yes. It also includes me. It includes all imperfect humans, which is everybody. And I am no less guilty of falling short of God's ideal than you or any other human. We just fall short in different ways.

. . . I think you should ask yourself why you are compelled to defend a church that treats gays as being especially out of God's will - in fact, from what I've read, it appears the Mormon church views homosexuality as a demonic threat?

The Church doesn't treat gays as being especially out of God's will. No more than you or me. The Church does not view homosexuality as a demonic threat. It views homosexuality as a natural inclination to do something that is against the will of God. Just like the natural inclination for heterosexuals to have sex before marriage and to commit adultery after marriage is against the will of God. That's why I feel compelled to defend the Church, because I feel that the way that it has been characterized here is unfair.

Try understanding Hellmut before attacking him.

I do understand Hellmut's assertions and I think they are unfair and/or false. That's why I'm taking exception with them. I didn't attack him. Grown-ups can dissociate ideas from people. All ideas are fair game. I never said anything about Hellmut the person until after I made several arguments against his ideas and I became frustrated with his failure to engage the specific points I made, and then all I said was that his reasoning was poor and that he wasn't reading carefully or engaging people's arguments.

It's an old trick used by people who really prize arguments and who are not afraid of ideas.

I don't know why you would imply that I am afraid of ideas. I disagree with Hellmut's ideas. I don't fear them.

I just wrote a book called "The Culture of Conservative Christian Litigation." It is all about why the "why people want it" is the most important question to ask.

I agree that when we're deciding how to act as citizens we should ask that question. We should listen to reason and weigh arguments and cast our votes in a way that we feel will lead to the greater good. All I was saying is that democracy as a system of making decisions doesn't distinguish among reasons. A democracy allows the people to ultimately decide what the law will be, irrespective of their reasons.

02:59  
Blogger Tom said...

Tom, I think you know this, so you drop your obtuse logic bomb on the conversation, make grandiose statements about how you wish people would be precise in language (i.e., would be just like you), hoping that by the time we figure out just what rule of logic you violated we will have lost the thread of our original argument.

You need to stop that. People will figure you out eventually.


I'm not nearly clever enough to have a strategy. I just take arguments as they're made and respond the best I can. If I don't communicate effectively, then that's because I'm not perfect at communicating effectively. Heck, I may even be terrible at it. I may even be a moron. What I write makes sense to me and, frankly, your judment of my arguments and my character doesn't mean a lot to me.

03:11  
Blogger Tom said...

By the way, you misread me. I said that demonization and scapegoating entail far more than unreasonableness and irresponsibility. You left out the than. So this bit of yours:

Let's talk about imprecision - how much more unreasonableness? To what level of irresponsibility must the statement rise? Can you quantify that precisely for us, or is it just a gut feeling for you?

doesn't apply.

Your number 2:
2) Hellmut is clearly making a statement about **another specific statement** made in the course of this conversation. You turned his remarks into universal statements about the qualities of "any" discourse.

He was demonstrating a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word. If the way he defines scapegoating (in that instance, an unreasonable and, therefore, irresponsible attribution of blame) is not the definition of scapegoating, then that should be pointed out.

And let's make this clear, Hans--you were the first one to come on this thread and impugn the character of other persons. We were talking about ideas and opinions, not about each other. Furthermore, you were presumptuous enough to say that "The last place [Christ] would appear today is in a Mormon church," which was more direct and more inflammatory than any attack previously made. So get off your high horse. You are in no position to judge how other people have conducted themselves in this conversation.

03:46  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

"Scapegoating refers to blaming people for an evil for which they are not responsible, Clark."

No it doesn't. As I think we've rather clearly demonstrated that is not the meaning of the word. Once again, a semantic point. But one which you sometimes seem willing to accept and other times seem quite unwilling to accept.

And with that I'll drop out of the discussion.

11:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom is absolutely right - I swung into the discussion like Batman in defense of my hommie Hellmut and said inflamatory things. I apologize sincerely. Let me clarify one or two things, commend Tom on pointing out a particularly moronic argument I made (based on the definition I supplied), and then try to explain one thing before dropping out myself (I don't deservge to stay on).

First, I should have said that Christ wouldn't show up at a list of places, one of which is the mormon church, and others as well including my own church. I'd put us on the list, too. I say this mainly because I believe that one place Tom gets it wrong is that as individuals in community with others (the earliest definition of human assumed community) we are responsible for the actions of our institutions. So, one cannot have a clear conscience ever, frankly because Tom is also right about another thing - we are all out of God's will. We should be taking the time to consider the justice, fairness and goodness of not only our own actions, but thsoe of institutions in which we participate. That was my main point, the definition of "scapegoat notwithstanding which I think is just a distraction.

Second, Tom pointed out that I assumed too much about the motivations of LDS leaders (mindreader remark. He is right). I should have said that leaders have a responsibility to consider the results of their words, the effects those words have on an institution's general response to others not in community. Only the worst organizations either seek or inadvertently encourage stigmatization of others not in community.

Having said this, I declare victory and depart the field (that's a joke, okay?)

Hans

11:40  
Anonymous Equality said...

Yes. It also includes me. It includes all imperfect humans, which is everybody. And I am no less guilty of falling short of God's ideal than you or any other human. We just fall short in different ways.

. . .

The Church doesn't treat gays as being especially out of God's will. No more than you or me. The Church does not view homosexuality as a demonic threat. It views homosexuality as a natural inclination to do something that is against the will of God. Just like the natural inclination for heterosexuals to have sex before marriage and to commit adultery after marriage is against the will of God. That's why I feel compelled to defend the Church, because I feel that the way that it has been characterized here is unfair.


Tom,

Again, I think you have missed the entire point of this discussion. Hellmut's argument is that statements from LDS Church leaders combined with the Church's efforts to codify in law discrimination against homosexuals unfairly singles out homosexuals for the so-called undermining of the family that is allegedly part of some grand Satanic conspiracy. You mention that homosexuals are not singled out as being any more out of God's will than you or me and that we all fall short of God's ideals. However, you have not explained why, then, if that is the case, the Church is seeking to enshrine in state and federal constitutions discrimination against gays. The Church is not seeking to make divorce unconstitutional; it is not seeking to make adultery and fornication unconstitutional; the only ones falling short of God's ideals (as you and the Church see them) who are singled out for special negative treatment in law and public policy are gays. Hellmut explains this rather puzzling focus of the Church on homosexuals by asserting that the Church is trying to lay disproportionate blame on homosexuals for the ailing health of the family in our society. The definition of a scapegoat is a person or group bearing blame for others. In the same way that some Europeans blamed the Jews for the economic hardships faced by Europe in the early 20th century, so, too is the Church blaming gays for the deterioration of the family. That some Europeans also blamed Gypsies for Europe's problems does not negate the scapegoating of the Jews. Similarly, the fact that the Church also blames pornography and small-stakes poker for the declining strength of the family does not mean that gays are not being scapegoated.

Finally, if, as you and Clark suggest, we are all "satanic" because we all sin and fall short of God's glory, what is the solution? Is it not faith and repentance, etc.? Or would you like to see the Gospel enshrined in law? What makes the Church push for laws and constitutional amendments with respect to the "sin" of homosexuality but not the "sins" of fornication, adultery, pornography, etc? One answer might be that gays make an easy target. And that gets us back to Hellmut's original point, doesn't it?

11:42  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Clark, here is the definition of scapegoating from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

"scapegoat
1530, "goat sent into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement, symbolic bearer of the sins of the people," coined by Tyndale from scape (n.) + goat, to translate L. caper emissarius, a mistranslation in Vulgate of Heb. 'azazel (Lev. xvi:8,10,26), which was read as 'ez ozel "goat that departs," but is actually the proper name of a devil or demon in Jewish mythology (sometimes identified with Canaanite deity Aziz). Jerome's mistake also was followed by Martin Luther (der ledige Bock), Symmachus (tragos aperkhomenos), and others (cf. Fr. bouc émissaire). The Revised Version (1884) restores Azazel. Meaning "one who is blamed or punished for the mistakes or sins of others" first recorded 1824; the verb is attested from 1943."

Let me emphasize Meaning "one who is blamed or punished for the mistakes or sins of others", which is almost identical to the definition that I have provided you. I am using the concept correctly. Therefore your criticism is not justified.

13:14  
Blogger Hellmut said...

Tom's argument that democracy allows majorities to withhold rights at will, illustrates how slippery a slope the discrimination of gays is. When we label gays second class citizens then we might need to surrender the notion of rights in favor of the tyranny of the majority.

The founding fathers were quite clear that democracy in America was not simply about majority rule but a system that protects the rights of minorities. I refer readers to Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. They helped to write the US Constitution. Federalist Numbers 9 and 10 are dedicated to the problem of majority tyranny and what the United States Constitution does about it.

The founding fathers carefully designed a system that provides minorities with considerable resources to preserve their liberty.

Discrimination challenges American democracy. Discrimination begins with denying the full rights of citizenship to a seemingly marginal minority. But when we need to justify that we might be compelled to argue that we can take anything from anyone as long as the majority condones it.

Therefore discrimination threatens everyone. It compromises the core of our constitutional system. Discrimination is tyrannical and the seed of tyranny.

Not least, discrimination threatens the integrity of the abusers who might not have considered that the implications of their position will pitt them against liberty, democracy, and the rule of law.

The safest way to avoid the slippery slope of tyranny, of the few or the many, is to oppose discrimination in the first place.

19:37  

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