Friday, March 27, 2009

Neighbor-to-Neighbor...


For the most part, I have been spared the barrage of personal confrontations regarding the political/religious war that most have had to deal with - until now...

I received this in an email from my neighbor (a couple of houses down my street).

Dear Neighbor:

The Sutherland Institute has taken the lead in the fight for the preservation of marriage as between a man and a woman in Utah. They testified forcefully and convincingly in the last legislature to the end that all of the proposals of the (misnamed) homosexual group "Equality Utah"*, were soundly defeated. (My wife and I) attended both a "State of the Union II" presentation that Sutherland sponsored on this subject at Thanksgiving Point and the debate that they sponsored between themselves and "Equality Utah" representatives at the University of Utah. We were very impressed by their message and their personnel.

Unfortunately, although all of the 2009 "Equality Utah" initiatives were defeated, they have vowed to return to the legislature next year and every year thereafter until they get what they want. In response to this challenge, The Sutherland Institute is initiating a Neighbor-to-Neighbor effort to educate Utahans regarding the homosexual agenda and ways we, as citizens, can become involved.

(My wife and I) are planning to hold a meeting here in our home with personnel from The Sutherland Institute and any of you who would like to attend. We don't know when this meeting will take place but would like to find out who is interested and then coordinate with Sutherland. Would you please reply to this e-mail if you are interested? We are looking forward to an exciting meeting with you and Sutherland.

Regards,(Neighbor)

* I have placed the name of this group in quotation marks because their objectives are aimed at achieving special treatment for homosexuals instead of equality.


He is a fellow high priest, and as such, I am his priesthood leader. He is the one who has always made strong and hurtful statements in quorum discussions (regarding gays and marriage) that I have alluded to in the past, and where I end up hanging and shaking my head in disgust, but remain silent... and then proceed to get upset at myself for biting my tongue instead of speaking out for fear of exposure.


Now it has become personal. He is rallying the "troops" of the neighborhood (obviously fellow quorum and ward members) to his house. I know I will be confronted with this personally. He will ask me personally, I am sure.

So, before he does, how shall I handle this?

1. Should I ignore the email and hope it just goes away?
2. Should I acknowledge the email, but decline to participate due to lack of interest?
3. Should I acknowledge the email, and spell out my reasons for not wanting to participate?
4. Should I face him personally and tell him thanks for his offer, but "no thanks"?
5. Should I offer him any explanation?

I fear, knowing how vocal and outspoken he is on this issue, that he will make reference to his "meeting" and invite all in the quorum to come and become "educated". If he brings it into the church meetings, I will have to speak up and shut him down.

So, how shall I handle this situation?

1. Should I let him have his say and let it go, not adding any undo attention to it?
2. Should I politely tell him that political announcements are not part of the quorum meeting and to take his rhetoric outside?
3. Should I have a pre-prepared statement reiterating the church's stance (though they don't follow it) on the gay-rights initiatives?
4. Should I taken him on in a debate right then and there?
5. Should I "out" myself in front of the quorum and see their reactions then to one of their leaders being gay, ripping my shirt off and throwing my temple recommend at him?
6. Should I have a "neighbor-to-neighbor" meeting and invite Scott and Sarah to help me "educate" the ward neighbors in a fireside setting, and have Cog and his family there as guest speakers?

I thought this would be going away... It obviously isn't, and more likely sooner than later, I will be forced to stop being a fence-sitter...

22 comments:

Kengo Biddles said...

I think you should tell him you're not interested. You don't owe him any explanation, and I think it would just make him venomous toward you if he knew.

I think if he brings it up in church you should shut him down, but I would say to council with the bishop on this because, although the Church does encourage us into political things, it isn't the forum for it. He can invite the members of the quorum personally to come to him home and be indoctrinated with hate, but he shouldn't do it "under the auspices" so-to-speak. That's my take.

I very nearly bought some red- and yellow-cards to give to repeat offenders in my Sunday School classes -- "You're ejected from today's lesson for inappropriate comments!"

Will Carlson said...

Beck,

I was just led to your blog for the first time this morning because you mentioned Equality Utah. I don't know your history as I've only glanced over your most recent posts. But one way to see this is as an opportunity that God has given you to come out. It seems that you have arrived at a place where you are comfortable with the truth, but for the truth to set you free, you must share it.

Just my thoughts.

Becky said...

Good luck with that. I'm not sure how I would handle it. I actually haven't been to Church in awhile because of the whole Prop 8/gay marriage debacle. I'm sick and tired of hearing about it.

Bravone said...

I almost posted what I really think, but better cool down first.

kgwz77 said...

Greetings Beck
You could reply that you have some very good friends that are gay (true) and you have talked extensivally with them(true). Then something to the fact that you don't believe that this is the way the Savior would handle this(true). This would out you as a gay sympathizer and maybe thats not where you would like to be but it is a thought and would put you somewhere in the middle.
From a long time lurker and fellow Moho

Sean said...

I would tell him that you aren't interested and if he presses further as to why not, you could give him an explanation of your beliefs and what you think. Then I would mention that he should not mention this in quorum meeting, but rather outside of it since the topic doesn't deal with church material.

I hope this helps.

Beck said...

KENGO: You're not very fun. Where's your passion? I wanted you to tell me to go TP his house or something...

WILL: Wow! That was fast. I hope you enjoyed your visit to my blog. I appreciate your encouraging words as I come to terms with this "coming out" process and embracing the "truth" and sharing it! Thanks for commenting.

BECKY: I am sorry that this issue has got between you and church attendance. I hope you can find a reconciliation that works for you and Chris and the church as you put it all together.

Personally, I've been able to see beyond this issue - whether that means I'm putting on blinders or not, remains to be seen. Frankly, in my ward, it isn't mentioned very much, but when it is, this particular neighbor is the one stirring things up. Now, however, I feel as if I will be forced to make a statement or stance of some kind.

Beck said...

BRAVONE: NO, no, no! You can't leave a comment like that and just walk away. I want you to say what you really feel - in the raw, original form - and not some watered-down version of a calmer composure... Passion, my friend, where's your passion? Give me your advise. I need it.

P.S. Hai visto le foto aggiunto al mio blog? Ti piacciono?

Beck said...

KGWZ77: This sounds very appropriate. It doesn't "out" me too far, I can remain calm and non-combative, and yet make a statement of passion instead of being totally passive or dismissive. I like it...

Thanks for continuing to lurk my fellow MOHO..

SEAN: Good advice. Your response is practical, but I can see myself saying those words while dancing around him in a pose similar to your blog picture, ready to fight! Not wise for a priesthood leader, I know, but somehow I want him to know that this action of his is hurtful and not supported by everyone in the ward that has a testimony.

Scott said...

I'm definitely a proponent of being out and proud, and I'm certainly very passionate about this subject...

But I'm also horrible at in-person confrontation, so I don't know how effective I would be, if I was in this situation, at providing any coherent counter-arguments if I attended his meeting.

I do think it's inappropriate for any discussion on this topic to take place in a church setting. In fact, how did he get your email address? Is he using a ward directory to promote his meeting? If you have a compelling reason to believe that he is, you (or your bishop) have every right to firmly remind him that he's breaking the rules.

It's been my experience that members of the church have no reason to question their assumptions or prejudices until they learn that someone close to them is gay. It could very well be that your coming out could do much good and go along way toward changing attitudes and combating bigotry.

Unfortunately, it's also been my experience that, in my case at least, I'm not "close" enough to the other members of my ward for my coming out to have made any obvious difference (yet, anyway). I hope that I've made people think, and that the changes have simply not been noticeable, but at times I wonder if I've done any good at all...

And, in my experience, there are members who are so thoroughly convinced of the righteousness of their cause that nothing you do or say will convince them that they might not have all the answers. I expect that this particular neighbor might very well be one of those people, and I wouldn't be surprised if coming out did not result in any change in his attitude, other than to make his opinion of you change dramatically.

If you do decide that you'd like to host a fireside or FHE in your home to "counter" this neighbor's efforts, Sarah and I would be happy to come (and I imagine Cog might be willing as well).

Good luck in figuring things out!

Kengo Biddles said...

Beck -- It's not my fault that option wasn't on the list. I'd've jumped on it and told you to count me in! I'm 29 (and counting) and I've YET to TP someone's house!

Sarah said...

Beck,

Alan posted this on Evan's blog recently and I thought it was very good. (Alan, I hope you don't mind if I post it again here. :) ) Maybe you could make a fridge magnet of it for the high priest quorum ;). Seriously, though, I don't know how you might use it, but maybe somehow. And Scott is right, we will help any way we can, but know that with as much good as we have done, there has been consequential pain and suffering from neighbors and family. You just have to decide if it is worth the possible ramifications.

Anyway, here are some talking points from Alan.

Provocation: "Gay marriage = Sodom and Gomorrah and will threaten the nation with the same destruction"

Response: Gay marriage has been legal for years in many countries where the Church has a strong presence, including Canada and Spain, and those societies are as stable as ever. The Church didn't lift a finger to protest gay marriage in Canada. And Joseph Smith said Sodom was destroyed not for homosexuality but for rejecting the prophets.

Provocation: "If gay marriage becomes legal the constitution will hang by a thread and the elders of the Church will have to save it"

Response: "Hang by a thread" means on the verge of total destruction. How does expanding the availability of marriage to a persecuted minority threaten the Bill of Rights, or the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven, or the right to vote, or the balance of power in the federal government, all of which rest directly on the Constitution?

Provocation: Gay marriage will deny children the best upbringing with a father and a mother

Response: Gay marriages will always remain a small portion of all marriages. Infertile heterosexual couples wishing to adopt will always far outnumber gay couples wishing to do so. And so far, evidence is that children raised in a home with gay parents do just as well or better in all areas than kids from "traditional" marriages.

Provocation: "The Church has the right and duty to stand up for traditional marriage"

Response: Of course it has the right to speak freely about whatever it chooses. Its scriptures also say "we do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government" (Doc. & Cov. 134:9) yet that was precisely what the Church did with Proposition 8--push into secular law a religiously based definition of marriage. In the process, it did something unique in American history: a church financed the removal of an existing civil right from a specifically targeted group of people, for religious reasons. The same church whose scriptures say it does "not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government."

MoHoHawaii said...

I think you should push back on this. Don't stay silent. However, you certainly don't have to come out in order to do this.

You can just say (in a short, matter-of-fact e-mail) that you don't agree with the goals of the Sutherland Institute on this issue and further that the Church has not come out against civil unions or basic protections (like hospital visitation rights) for same-sex couples. You could say something like "I can't see how the agenda proposed by Equality Utah is anything other than basic fairness. I don't see how it would harm my marriage in any way."

Romulus said...

Sigh. They won't stop, will they?

Max Power said...

Romulus: Not until they all have an out gay kid.

Public Loneliness said...

I would probably just tell the person that you're not interested and not elaborate on the reasons. Ignoring it won't make him stop pressing the issue.

But as others have expressed, it is also a chance to shed light and make people aware of other points of view (although in my experience, open-minded people are not easy to come by).

hugs, PL

Scot said...

Beck, I vote for 6:

"6. Should I have a "neighbor-to-neighbor" meeting and invite Scott and Sarah to help me "educate" the ward neighbors in a fireside setting, and have Cog and his family there as guest speakers?"

I'll bring me boxing gloves. Should I come in my drag or my leatherman outfit?

Hey Will (we just had a meeting together yesterday morning ;-))

Bravone said...

Beck, Even after sleeping on it and attending the temple, I feel like telling your neighbor to take the fast track to Hell.

I don't often get too riled up about things, but his arrogance and condescending attitude really gets my goat. After taking a few deep breaths, I think I would ask him if he personally has any friends or family who are gay. I would tell him that I have several gay friends and family and know them to be good people.

While they may not have made some of the life choices that I have, they are living respectable lives. In my opinion, allowing marriage or unions that provide rights equal to those of married individuals encourages fidelity, discourages promiscuity, and strengthens ties between partners that ultimately strengthens society.

I would encourage him exercise his right to hold all the meetings he wants outside of the church and without taking advantage of church resources, but to allow others, whose opinions differ from his, the same privilege.

I'll leave it at that.

And, by the way, I LOVE the foti.

DocHolladay said...

I avoid going to prieshtood meeting. When I go I try to sit near someone near the back where we can have a quiet chat.

I pretty much know who is going to say the inflammatory comments.

I guess that all fits with my non-confrontaional personality.

If Bro. Bigot tries to advertise his soiree in PMeeting, a good portion of the bro's will find his invitation platform inappropriate. Maybe just let him make an ass of himself. I'm sure most people have already decided which part of a horse he resembles.

Beck said...

SCOTT / SARAH / SCOT: I'm pleased and tickled that you'd consider coming to a counter-fireside, and I find it very comforting to know that you really would do it if I asked. Thanks for being friends of support behind your words.

Because it was 5th Sunday yesterday, there wasn't Quorum meeting as usual, and so the occasion for him to make his "announcement" did not present itself. We made eye contact, but nothing was said between us. It wasn't the right time...

And with General Conf. this next week, it will put it off another week... Maybe the whole thing will die by the following week (one can hope), or maybe he got no positive response from anyone? (one can hope), but I still feel the desire to send him an email and let him know my feelings on the issue, which I will do.

Thanks again for your support.

Beck said...

KENGO: I'll be sure to let you know when the TP party is scheduled. If you haven't done this before - it's a hoot!

SARAH: Thank you for Alan's talking points. They are very appropriate and helpful. Alan is a champion of sound reasoning and legal arguments!

MOHOH: Yes, I'm going to push back a bit. I'm not after a major confrontation, but a message that will make him think what he's really doing here. Silence doesn't serve anything but enforce his efforts.

ROMULUS: *sigh* - no, they won't. I feel that well-meaning and mis-informed people feel empowered to take these extra steps because of the stance the Church took, and we're in for enduring this for a good time to come.

MAX: May we all pray that each General Authority be blessed with a gay grandchild.

PL: I'm not after a fistfight as much as helping him to realize how hurtful his actions are - even if in his view, they are well-intentioned. I've calmed down, and think I can now face him more reasonably without emotion and bitterness.

Beck said...

BRAVONE: I really feel that HE feels he's doing what is right for fighting the "good cause" that the Church has taken up, and it is his duty to do something regarding this cause. For the most part, I don't see a major upswell in the quorum or the neighborhood to join him in the cause - I guess that remains to be seen.

I, too, had an emotional reaction to this, but now that a few days have passed (and I had the 5th Sunday buffer and now General Conf. buffer coming), I feel the emotions are being replaced by sound reason and rational thought and I can reply by email to make him at least think that this one neighbor is not in his court without punching him in the nose!

Thanks for your passion!

Regarding the photos - they're all from Liguria (if you couldn't tell), one of my most favorite regions. (FYI: I'll spotlight other regions from time to time - if anyone cares). Doing so expressed a unique part of me, a small part of me coming out...

DOC: So you're the one who's always talking in the back of Quorum meeting during my lesson or conducting? I thought so! :)