In the wake of California’s decision to re-define marriage for trendy political expediency, two of the blogs I list on my blogroll have put up serious posts on the topic. I’ve chimed in at #18 and #21 here, and then at #192 here.
Clearly, I’m addressing this issue as someone who, because of his religious beliefs, finds gay relationships to be an undesirable alternative to the traditional nuclear family unit as enshrined by God through prophets (though much sociological research supports this). It is no more and no less harmful to that institution than infidelity, pornography, divorce, or zero population growth. However, nobody involved in any of these lifestyles or situations is to be scorned or treated rudely because of it; to paraphrase Dr. King, we all deserve to be judged by the content of our character.
After all this sound and fury, it occurs to me that we might look at our treatment of homosexuals as a justice/mercy conflict. How do we balance our need to stand up for the family and morality, as well as to extend love to all those who differ from us?
When justice and mercy collide, mercy should win. But what would that look like here? Extending heartfelt friendship and support is laudable, but accommodation is not. Do we introduce gay men living next door to our children as a couple? Do we have them over for dinner? Would we go to their wedding (in California)? I honestly don’t know that there is a cut and dried standard for such scenarios (though my instinct would be to say no to the last one). I can only say for sure that any such interaction would probably occur after an understanding exists between us and our gay friends that we do not approve of any sex outside of straight marriage, and that we would discourage anything that might harm that institution. Such conversations might be dead ends for some associations. But at some point we have to stick to our guns and say, so be it.
That would seem to be the ideal position at this point: gay people knowing that religious conservatives oppose their relationships, but genuinely welcome them as decent human beings in every respect, and our gay neighbors not assuming that we’re secretly boiling with intolerant indignation, looking down our noses at them. After all, isn’t this the same standard we’d endorse for fellowshipping anyone who lived outside of our values, be they cohabitating heterosexuals, abortion advocates, or any such neighbor?
Such understandings may not be perfect, but they might be the best we can do. I ponder if the Savior would follow such an approach, and I feel good about it. On this issue as with so many others, the best improvement we could make in our discourse would be to accept that those who disagree with us are acting out of good will.