When There’s Love in the Home – By Common Consent, a Mormon Blog
Robert George is in a difficult situation. As co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, opposing same-sex relationships has been a major focus of his public intellectual work, even as the tide has changed in the United States – polls show that more and more people approve of same-sex marriage. A record 70% support him today according to the latest Gallup poll. Even Latter-day Saints follow this trajectory, with support has doubled over the past decade.
I’m not optimistic enough to think the battle is over. America’s political make-up ensures that for the foreseeable future, a growing minority will have outsized influence over everything from abortion rights to the content of elementary school libraries. George seeks allies among conservative religious groups to keep his hope alive that the state can be used to discourage and even prevent same-sex relationships from flourishing. George seeks allies to advance his cause, including among Latter-day Saints. One of his recent thoughts can be found in the unofficial LDS publication Public place.
In a nutshell, George thinks that queer people wrongly place their gender or sexuality at the heart of their identity. He (disdainfully) calls this “LGBT+ identitarianism.” Considering how much time and effort George has devoted to issues of sexual orientation, it is strange to see him accuse others of placing sex and gender too much at the center of their identity!
One of the biggest problems facing conservatives like George is how to be kind and loving to gay people while insisting on the moral inferiority and even danger of their sex or gender identity. If being gay is detrimental to oneself and society (and also threatens one’s salvation) as George believes, it would be “unloving” to assert that identity in others. That’s why George says we should “treat each other with decency and compassion” and seek loving friendships with people even when there is “deep disagreement.” He has gay friends, apparently. I wish he had spent more time talking about how a person can be loving towards someone while condemning an important part of their identity (I suspect homosexuality would be less “central” to someone’s identity). a person, the less they would face social pressure and regulations about it).
George is among a minority of conservative thinkers who recognize the existence and power of social constructs. According to him, sexual orientation “is an artifact of the 19epsychology of the last century. By invoking history, he invites us to draw an obvious parallel. We could swap “race” for “sexuality” in his article and basically make the exact same arguments. He could have written the same essay on “The Philosophical Basis of Biblical Segregation”, emphasizing how we (white people) should love and be kind to BIPOC people, but that racial identities are not really central to our identities. eternal as children of God. , that the whole idea of ”race” is a human construct, and therefore there is no problem in asserting the importance of traditional marital relations in racially homogeneous marriages – as this can easily be interpreted as binding on from the biblical account (Acts 17.26 for example, as well as the frequent commandments prohibiting Jews from marrying Gentiles).
In fact, Latter-day Saints believed that such a sexual/racial hierarchy was the will of God. Taylor Petrey is one of many scholars who have discussed this history. It’s not just an afterthought equation of race issues and sexuality issues. Within Mormondom, “the doctrines of race and the doctrines of gender [were] common ideologies emerging in the mid-twentieth century. They dominated the way the Church structured its teachings, its public policy, and the practices in which they engaged. (Check out Petrey’s interview with me about it here.)
George’s initial assessment seems quite correct:
If one believes that “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” is truly central to one’s identity or being, then the teaching of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on marriage and the family, including but not limited to the Proclamation on the Family, will always be highly problematic and, indeed, mysterious. It will be arguable, if at all, only by appeal to authority.
Instead of gender identity/sexual identity being ‘central’, I could say ‘important for’. Because things are more complicated than George thinks. Some queer people feel tension with a larger culture precisely because sexual attraction isn’t really their thing, for example. But since the church recognized the value of sex not only for procreation but also “to express love and strengthen emotional, spiritual and physical bonds“, it is even trickier to claim that there is something inherently sinful about same-sex intimacy.
George (and Public Square by extension) are concerned that Mormons are falling back on little more than an appeal to authority (especially General Authorities) to shore up their anti-LGBT+ stances, and he offers resources that might help. to stabilize the intellectual arch a little. He invites us to listen to a chorus of philosophers, historians, theologians and others who have raised objections to a kind of hyper-individualism – bordering on narcissism – of the modern age, believing that being gay is somehow an extreme and above all dangerous way to be too individualistic (as if queer people are unable to form meaningful relationships?)
In fact, I share many of these concerns about hyper-individualism – it’s one of the reasons I’ve become more progressive politically. But I do not share George’s belief that God inherently disapproves of homosexuality or that it is against the laws of nature. For me, basic gospel principles like faith, hope, and charity—as well as more general values like respect, commitment, and service—can just as easily (or with just as much difficulty) play in relationships beyond the heterosexual binary. I believe there is beauty everywhere when there is love in the home, including gay homes, because I have witnessed it myself.
Happy Pride Month!