Sunday, April 3, 2011
A Jihad for Love, part 2
Some thoughts on the parallels between being gay in Mormonism and being gay in Islam. Both Mormonism and Islam are much more than churches, they are both cultures with deep and often unspoken expectations and norms. Both have a history (one short and one much longer) that contains contributions to humanity of both great worth and terrible tragedy.
I was stuck by how both cultures now equate homosexuality with sin but both were much more tolerant in earlier centuries. I'm sure this is an oversimplification, but both seem to have become more focused on the outward appearance of obedience than the inward conversion, spirituality, and connection to God.
I wondered, as I was watching, if Mormonism had the same kind of total control over government than Islam has in some countries if the same harsh penalties (even death) would exist for homosexuality and other non-conforming lifestyles and activities. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the truth is probably yes, based on a short experience of Mormon leaders having total control over the city of Nauvoo and early Utah history. I don't mean to imply that they did not do many good things but they also certainly did not hesitate to use their governing power to quash and punish dissent. World history is so full of religions that have abused non-believers or non-conforming persons that I find it hard to believe the Mormons would be much better if they were in charge.
As Mormons we tend to believe that the freedom of expression and belief that has swept the world in the past 200+ years was the Lord preparing the way for the spreading of the restored gospel. While I tend to think that is true, may it also have been to prevent the restored gospel from being able to control governments in the way that religions of the past had done?
I was most impressed by the enormous spiritual struggle experienced by gay Muslims who wanted to be both true to their nature and obedient to their religion. It was fascinating to me how these men and women came to the same conclusions as many of us after seeking to know God's will for many years. Some left both their country and religion, some stayed and gave themselves space (either openly or in secret) to be true to themselves while fitting into their religion and culture as best they could. Others stayed to openly work for change. In the end, it seems we all need to come to a point where we are comfortable with ourselves and our relationship to God. There are many paths to that end.