Thursday, June 25, 2015

Defending Family Values - Are You Sure Same-Sex Marriage is the Threat?

"Defend the family!"

"Stand up for family values!"

"The family is under attack!"

Oh, you've heard it. From the pulpit to news media outlets to social media, you've heard about the war on the family. And you know exactly what it is they are referencing:

Same-sex marriage.

Now, I don't know exactly how increasing the number of legal marriages recognized by the state is somehow going to destroy marriage, but that's the argument. And because the family is the central unit of society (not to mention our religion), these claims that legalizing same-sex marriage will destroy a family can be very powerful appeals to emotion, and it's natural that we react defensively.

Except that I'm not convinced that that's the war on the family that we should be worried about.

The LDS Church is led by modern Prophets and Apostles, and what the the leaders say is often considered modern scripture by members of our faith. We listen to them for warnings and admonitions on our behavior, and they've been warning us about the destruction of the family since as early as 1971 when Thomas S. Monson warned against rifts between parents and children. These warnings have continued over decades, increasing in frequency with added warnings about protecting our homes against dangerous influences: avoiding inappropriate music and entertainment, pornography, drugs and alcohol, decadence, adultery and divorce, and contention in the home, just to name a few, while emphasizing the importance of Family Home Evening, quality time, family prayer, and scripture study (these links are to some of the earliest articles).

There have been over 550 general conference addresses on the dangers of pornography since 1971; there have been 11 on same-sex marriage (and only 22 on homosexuality in general). Are you sure that homosexuality and same-sex marriage is the biggest threat to the family? Our leaders don't seem to think so.

Oh, I believe that there's a war on the family, but I think it's far more subtle and pernicious than the obvious issues surrounding same-sex marriage. You know what I think is destroying the family? In addition to what is listed above, I think they include addiction to television and mobile devices that rob us of quality time with each other. Signing our kids up for every after school activity possible, effectively gutting time spent at home. "Mommy wars" where parents feel increasing social pressure to look and act a certain way in order to be perceived as a "good mom" while neglecting meaningful connection with children. Wages that haven't kept up with inflation, causing both parents to have to work longer and harder than they have had to before - regardless of whether or not they want to - in order to provide basic necessities. Kids who are kicked out of their homes upon telling their parents that they are gay/straight/bisexual/transgender.

In case you didn't know, estimates suggest that approximately 40% of Utah's homeless youth identify as LGBTQ and were kicked out of their homes because of it, and approximately 60% of them are from Mormon homes - even though we've been counseled to do the exact opposite.

I find it contemptuous that the dialogue concerning the destruction of the family has led to such vitriol toward homosexuality that we've managed to turn on our own children. In trying to "defend family values," many have destroyed their own families.

Just a few weeks ago, as I'm sitting in Sunday School listening to a lesson on the Good Samaritan and how we must exemplify the behavior of Christ, I heard story after story of parents who didn't give up on their children when they turned to drugs, alcohol, and sex. They were all applauded for how they kept loving their kids even as they turned away.

As I sat there, I couldn't stop thinking about the high rate of LGBTQ homeless youth in Utah, and I mentioned that this is behavior that we also needed to exemplify for our children who identify as LGBTQ. The attitudes quickly shifted. I heard someone yell from the back, "It's their choice!" (as though drinking alcohol isn't?) - apparently ignorant of the fact that the church does not support the idea that homosexual attraction is a choice. Someone else said, "Well, we need to keep out negative influences" (as though drugs, alcohol, and teen sex are positive influences?).

How is it that we can claim that we are defending family values when we aren't willing to actually defend our family? 

The church published a website in 2012 with the express purpose of addressing surrounding the church and members of the LGBTQ community. The leaders of the church published the following:

Jesus Christ commanded us to love our neighbors. Whether sinner or saint, rich or poor, stranger or friend, everyone in God’s small world is our neighbor, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Latter-day Saints believe that our true commitment to Christian teachings is revealed by how we respond to this commandment....But we can’t truly love the neighbors next door if we don’t love the neighbors under our own roof. Family members with same-sex attraction need our love and understanding. God loves all his children alike, much more than any of us can comprehend, and expects us to follow.
The issues surrounding same-sex marriage and our religion may be complicated, but loving our children shouldn't be.

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