Saturday, September 3, 2011

Glaciers and "Mormon Moments"

There has been quite a flurry of discussion in the online Mormon echo chamber about what some see as a significant development in the LDS church: the calling of an openly gay man as a ward executive secretary in a San Francisco ward. Some have called it a "Mormon Moment." These "moments" happen from time to time. They are often overblown. The winds eventually die down, often just in time for another whirlwind. This latest "moment" is  bit different in some respects. In fact, it's beginning to look a lot like a Kardashian-esque famous-for-being-famous reality television event. I guess we shouldn't be surprised given the trajectory of American culture.

Much gushing, much naysaying and much of all things in between have ensued over the past few weeks since the initial PR push of this latest "Mormon Moment." There has been discussion of the blurring of the lines between news and opinion, whether there is or isn't change in LDS policy and culture, and whether this "moment" is a harbinger of change or a non-event or something else. (My vote is non-event, in case you were wondering.) I'll save my concerns about the mischaracterization of the calling as "leadership position" for another post, perhaps.

In some online discussions about this "moment," some have voiced their opinions in a way that seems to label legitimate questions about the significance of this "moment" or other things taken to be change within Mormondom to be "bitching" about the pace a glacier moves. I think the glacier metaphor as applied to the LDS church is an excellent one. But I disagree with the "bitching" label.

Here's a question: If the leadership of the LDS church is indeed inspired by God, why is the church a glacier? And don't give me the "they're just not listening well enough to God." That's a cop-out. It's their job to listen, whether divinely called or appointed by a corporate institution. What lies below the glacier are almost countless lives that are frozen by dogma at the cost of genuine human relationships and the love that is supposed to be at the core of Christian religious life.

That's not bitching. That's recognizing the reality of the modern LDS church that talks about inclusion, fellowship and the importance of family in PR campaigns, press releases and general conference talks, but fosters exclusion, superficial judgment and divisions in families in day to day reality; and more so on Sunday. Also this isn't a case of "shit happens" or a few leaders and members making life difficult for gay people, doubters, intellectuals or other undesirable groups as designated by just a few within Mormon culture. It's a case of tone-deaf leadership slinging shit in their chosen pattern of willingly marching with the "culture warriors," and then blaming the people at whom they sling that shit.

Yes, I'm jaded and skeptical. But I have good reasons. So do tens of thousands of others. The story tells of Moses parting the Red Sea and performing all sorts of miracles to save Israel. And this amidst quite a bit of "bitching" by the host of ancient Israel. It's also worth noting that calling some of the concerns of skeptical gay people (and others) with Mormon backgrounds "bitching" can get awfully close to blaming the victim.

So, I'm curious why the leaders of "modern-day Israel" refuse to respond with anything but dogma to so many of us who have tried to voice legitimate concerns and poured out our hearts to those very leaders. Individual, local changes can be very meaningful at the local level and for individuals' spirituality. But there is no critical mass. Unless those individual, local things create a critical mass, the change will be only arbitrary and limited in scope---and just a few "moments" sliding down a glacier.