So I know this post will be slightly dated but I figured I should hold my tongue before I spoke about Elder Oaks’ talk on religious freedom. I was originally going to address how the difference between religious belief and practice are akin to John Stuart Mills’ Harm Principle and Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics and if there is desire for me to connect the three I will in a later post. I decided last night that I would change tactics though and I hope you will agree with the shift in balance here.
Elder Oaks states
The greatest infringements of religious freedom occur when the exercise of religion collides with other powerful forces in society. Among the most threatening collisions in the United States today are… perceived conflicts between religious freedom and the popular appeal of newly alleged civil rights.
Now Alan has already discussed how Elder Oaks should know that these rights are not ‘alleged’ and I recommend that you give that post a read. I want to discuss what I believe this quote reveals about Elder Oaks’ mindset.
We know that Elder Oaks wrote this with the intent of being read worldwide, and thus he does a very good job at explaining the political need to defend the freedom of religion that he (and most Mormons, myself included) believes was divinely inspired by God. Religious freedom that is of utmost importance and it is needed “for the rights and protection of all flesh.”I think that Elder Oaks’ has some great points in this talk but that there is something lacking. What is lacking is a nationwide(and arguably worldwide) view of our society and the variant sides of this issue.
From what is argued, it appears that Oaks, while stating the primacy of religious freedoms is noting that they and civil rights are going to be head to head & unresolved for a long time and that the church needs to be on the defensive when it shouldn’t have to be. Last night I was reading an interview with Dan Choi and noticed a particularly potent phrase and so I decided to compare the two.
Oaks is asserting the need for religious freedoms above all others and Dan Choi recognizes the need for the religious and spiritual aspect of GLBT people’s lives. When asked if it was difficult to be a born-again Christian and gay he responded:
There have been a lot of people were a little bit taken aback; not only, ”How is this possible?” but almost like, ”How dare you?” A lot of people are so injured, so hurt by the religious establishment that they just go to atheism. They find their ethics and their values in different ways, because they see the damage that some people cause [using religion] as a weapon to strip away the rights of those people. Forgive me if I use it in a military context, but just because the weapon is used against you doesn’t mean the weapon is not viable for you to use — it’s something that’s important, it’s something that we can be empowered by.
When you look at some of the things that have been used against us, it doesn’t diminish the fact that we are a very spiritual people. I think the gay and lesbian community is deeply spiritual. It has a lot to do with us being oppressed, being different, and also having this innate ability, I think, to understand other people a little bit more. It’s really damaging, then, that people are essentially robbed of not just spirituality but religion. For some people that title in itself is very spiritually healing and uplifting — it is a part of the religious tradition to say you’re a born-again Christian. I don’t think we should be denied that, and I don’t think we should deny ourselves that.
The difference of opinion is striking and I will let you draw your own conclusion about it, but I want you to watch this clip from “The West Wing” that was played just after September 11th 2001 in an effort to use the show to discuss what was really going on. If you replace everything Islamic with Homosexual I think that this is what needs to be preached and that Elder Oaks is (ever so) slowly approaching.
As Josh Lyman said, we live in a plural society and as such we need to learn to live together without fighting and without repression. So what will you do to help live together with either the Gay rights or Church community?