Shut the door!

The intersection of LDS discipleship and conscious citizenship

Category: Politics

I am not afraid

My faith informs my politics. I think the same can be said of anyone. That is why I welcome refugees to this country. The thought of another 9/11 or attacks like the ones we saw last week in many places around the world can be scary, but I am choosing not to respond out of fear, but of love.

We can read in 2 Tim 1:7 that, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” and in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” And we all know that the two basic commandments of the gospel are to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This tells me that while the natural man may be afraid, that response does not come from God.

God commands us to love everyone, for who is our neighbor? When questioned about this, Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritans and the Jews were enemies, and yet according to Jesus, they were still neighbors. It is easy to love your fellow citizens or your fellow religionists. As Jon Bytheway said in a memorable talk from my youth, “Even Skeletor has friends.” But the call of the gospel of Christ is to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matt 5 44-45). God requires a greater effort out of us than only loving the people that love us. God requires us to actively do good to those who hate us. God requires us to love.

But what if we let them in and something happens, you may ask?

To which I respond with careful boldness, “So what?”

Beyond the evidence which has repeatedly shown that refugees do not turn to domestic terrorism but quickly become productive members of their adopted countries, so what?

So what if we bring in 100,000 suffering children and women and men and a handful of them turn to terrorism? Yes, people could die, but so what? From a utilitarian standpoint, the number of people we have benefited and saved is greater than the number of people who have suffered and lost. From an egalitarian standpoint, it isn’t fair to make others suffer to protect ourselves when those who are suffering are not the creators of their suffering. And from a religious standpoint, the last thing I should be afraid of as a Christian is death.

I believe in Christ, and I believe in the idealized America that I was taught in kindergarten, and whether it’s the call inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty to

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (“The New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus)

or the call of Christ to

Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matt 25: 35-40)

the message is the same.

There is no justification for turning away refugees seeking safety and a better life. Whether we are a golden lamp or a city on a hill, if we owe our loyalty first to the Kingdom of God or the United States of America, as Christians we cannot look away from the suffering and expect God to approve of our actions. We have an obligation to succor those in need of comfort, to strengthen the weary knees, and to care for the widow and the orphan. We have been commanded to love everyone.

I am a Christian. I am an American. And I am not afraid.

Today

Today I pray for the mothers in Turkey, who have gone from holding their children in their arms to forming human barriers with those same arms; mothers joining together to protect their own children and the children of the fallen from their own government.

I pray for those fighting in Syria, who face suppression and sarin and certain death with courage and resolve.

I pray for those who are lonely and afraid, wherever they may be in this world. I pray for those who wake up each morning with the credible fear that they will not make it through the day.

I pray for the child soldiers and the child starving.

I pray for all those who work for a better tomorrow that they may be filled with hope and peace and the ability to keep the horrors at  bay as they dream.

I pray for the knowledge of what I can do to make a better tomorrow for all of those for whom I pray, and I pray for the ability to act in accordance with that knowledge.

Blessed are the peacemakers, Father. Let me be a maker of peace.

Why I am in favor of marriage equality

I have been privileged to attend several weddings of people I love. Many of these weddings have been in the temple. Some have not. I’d like to talk about one particular wedding today.

Many years ago, I think it was twelve, my brother Jon met the love of his life. His name was Todd. They have been together ever since. In the intervening years they have supported each other through job insecurity, major health problems, parenting children, home remodeling projects and dealing with each other’s families. They were married in all but the word.

Jon and Todd happen to live in California. In the scant few months that marriage was legal in that state, they got married. They had been together close to a decade at that point. They held their wedding at a friend’s house, and in the beautiful sunshine of a Southern California afternoon, they pledged to each other the commitments that they had already been living. And I felt the Spirit in my heart, confirming to me the sanctity and holiness of what they were doing.

My experience witnessing the wedding of these two men that I love was no different from witnessing a sealing in the temple. Their love is as welcomed and recognized by God as the love between a man and a woman.

Does this make me outside the LDS mainstream? Yes. Does this make me less of a Mormon? Culturally, yes. Doctrinally – probably, but hopefully not for long. I don’t know what the consequences are for saying this out loud, but it would be dishonest not to say it.

With my educational background, I can make a legal argument. Conservative judges can strike DOMA down as Congressional overreach easier than liberals will be able to strike it down with the equal protection clause. You can make gender arguments that it is discriminatory to let a man marry a woman, but not a woman marry a woman. Marriage is a commitment between two people. I know people want to say it should be between two people and God, but we let atheists get married in this country, so legally, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

But legal arguments aside – though I know how vitally important they are going to be in the next few days – what the issue comes down to for me is love. I love my brother. I recognize him as a child of God, and I respect him and the choices he makes for his life. He loves Todd. It’s evident that Todd loves him. They take care of each other and support each other and love each other. They are married. It’s just mean to say, “Nope, your love is worth less than the love of heterosexual couples.”

God loves Jon and Todd. I love them too. Let’s make their life and their marriage a little bit easier. Let’s make their marriage equal.

Tired

I am tired down to my bones. Tired of trying to explain why I am tired. Tired of fighting all the little things that add up to a mountain and a constant uphill trudge.

This Steubenville rape case is just the last straw. If you haven’t heard the words “rape culture” by now, you must have been ignoring the whole thing, which I probably should have done, but I just couldn’t.

I’m going to soapbox here for a minute.

Rape culture is a society giving women a list of do’s and don’t’s that boil down to “make sure he rapes the other girl.”

Rape culture is a society where women are scared to go out by themselves at night.

Can we think about that for a minute? We’ve created a society where women are scared to be by themselves. Isn’t that horrifying? The ability to be alone, to be yourself, to choose to do whatever you want is limited because of fear.

I’m scared to go camping by myself. Not because of the wild animals, but because of the wild humans who are more terrifying than any bear or cougar. They will just maul you to death and then eat your corpse. It will hurt for a bit, but it will be over quickly, especially if the cougar manages to get the right bite on the back of your skull to sever the spinal column.

No, it’s the humans that do the real damage. It’s the humans that leave scars that last a lifetime. It’s the humans who play with your body and kill your soul. It’s the humans who think they have a right to your body because you chose to walk by yourself home from the library after studying for three hours for that physiology final you have tomorrow. Or because you wore your hair in a ponytail so obviously you want someone to grab you by it and throw you to the ground. Or because you walked by a construction site. Or a dorm. Or down the street in your neighborhood.

It’s the humans who say, “hey, she was drunk.” Who blame a girl, not even a woman, for “bad judgment” because getting intoxicated obviously causes boys to forcibly penetrate you repeatedly, take pictures of it, send them to their friends, laughing about what you did. It’s the humans who excuse this behavior because boys will be boys, and skill at sports washes away any “mistakes.” And then sentences you to less time in prison than you would get for pirating a DVD or possessing cocaine. What does that tell the victim? You are less important to society than a bootleg of Gigli. 

Rape is not a mistake. You don’t just fall over and end up with your penis in someone’s vagina or anus. You don’t accidentally rape someone. Rape takes intent. It’s an act of power over someone who you consider less than, non-human, the other. It’s not about sex and boys are horny and it just happens. It’s about perpetrators not thinking their victim is a person.

Stop teaching “boys are boys.” I have a son. He’s a total boy. But he’s not an asshole. Boys don’t have to be assholes. You have to teach them to be assholes. And really, when advertisements feature women selling everything, it creates a culture where the women are just objects that are for sale. The female body is something to be consumed, that is designed to be looked at, that exists to be looked at.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of a culture that thinks it is okay for you to come talk to me on the subway, and when I am not interested, I’m automatically a bitch or a lesbian. You know what? You don’t have a right to my time or attention any more than you have a right to my body. I do not exist for your ends. I am an end in and of myself and you do not own me. So if I choose to spend time with you, consider yourself lucky, and if I don’t want to spend time with you, that’s not my problem, because I do not have responsibilities to you other than to respect you as a person. And I’ll do that.

And if you bitch to your friends about how the girls never like the nice guy, because they are really selfish shallow status-obsessed bitches who always friendzone you, then you’re not really a nice guy, you’re a misogynist in nice guy clothing.* And if you think for one instant that anything a woman does entitles you to have sex with her other than her explicit consent, you are wrong. Because if you do, then I am going to walk up to you and hit you with a baseball bat. Because you didn’t say no, so that means you are consenting to it.

Unconscious means no.

Wearing a mini skirt means no.

Walking by herself means no.

Hair in a ponytail. NO.

Hair not in a ponytail. NO.

She’s had sex with you before. NO.

She’s had sex with your friends. NO.

She’s never had sex. NO.

She flirted with you. NO.

She drank alcohol. NO.

She did drugs. NO.

I mean, really. You learned no when you were a two year old. How difficult is it to get this through your mind, society? The default of “can I have sex with this woman or man” is no. NO NO NO. Just stop it.

And yes, I know people will say, that focusing on changing the behavior of the rapist is unrealistic. You know what? I don’t care. According to RAINN, almost 2/3rds and 38% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. You know what that means? You aren’t safe with your friends. We’ve created a culture that means most people are not safe ever. And nothing about the way I dress is going to change that. So stop telling me that I should spend my life expecting to be raped, because that is wrong. You create that culture by saying it. And then excusing it by blaming the victim. And then creating a culture that is so misogynistic about the treatment of victims that only 3% of rapists actually spend any time in prison.

Women are people. Men are people. Stop raping people.

And, because I’m going to assume that the people reading this are the ones who wouldn’t rape someone, though statistically, who knows, I have some advice for you too.

Stop rape culture. Stop laughing at jokes that objectify and sexualize women. Stop consuming media that sexualizes women. Stop making excuses for men being assholes. Name and shame, people. Name the behavior when you see it. Point out how this perpetuates a culture that promotes a society that makes people into victims, and victims into the cause instead of the effect. I’ve read enough social construction IR theory to know that this works if people are committed to making a change. So put it into action.

Stop rape. Stop rape culture.

 

*I read this argument somewhere and can’t find it now, so I’m just going to say that it is not mine and if I can find it later, I’ll come back and link it.

On being a feminist woman in the Mormon church.

Be a Christian. I think at some point, you have to deal with the fact that while the Church was founded by Christ, it is run by men and by man. That means that what the church does sometimes is based on the understanding of man. And because of the patriarchal structure, it’s largely based on the understanding of men. And for the most part, they are good men, but still, they are men, and they have male experiences, and they are raised in a church culture that emphasizes the inherent, immutable, eternal differences between men and women.

So men and women are different. I’m okay with saying that. But I don’t understand how that difference plays out in the church. Why can’t women be a ward finance clerk? I don’t understand how a church that emphasizes the difference between women and men can then logically say that men can make all the decisions with a minimal amount of input from women. Ward Councils are overwhelmingly male, and the women who are on those councils are quite frequently the only woman on the council, and have been socialized to be subservient to the opinions of men.

So, how do you do it? You be a Christian. You take the doctrines of the Church – above all, love – and the ordinances – baptism, sacrament, temple ordinances – and you do the best you can. And you pray for patience. And maybe you get a tattoo of Sisyphus to remind you that others have fought this fight. And you read the history of the church – not the History of the Church – but the books put together by academics who document the role that women played in this church before cultural conservatism got grafted onto the root stock of the gospel.

And you pray. And you realize that God made you to be you, and the general counsel given may not apply to your life at this moment or ever. And you pray some more, and learn to listen to the Spirit and for the Spirit and you learn to trust in the path God has set for you. Because if you know that you are living in accordance to the will of God, then it is easier to get over the hurtful comments. And there will be hurtful comments. And you go to the temple and you pray for inspiration to make sure you are really doing this to be in line with God’s will for your life and not out of pride. And you pray some more. And you make girlfriends who feel the same way you do, so you can have someone to sit with in Relief Society and roll your eyes with, or to pat you on the back when you speak up and everyone else is rolling their eyes. And if you are dating, you make sure he knows what he is dealing with and that he is supportive of you. And if you’re married, you just keep talking to him with love, because eventually, if he loves you, and not just the idea of you, he will understand how much hurt is being caused to you by this church that you love, and he will learn why sometimes you have to get up and walk out of sacrament meeting before you call the speaker an idiot. And he will listen to you rant sometimes when you just have to get it out of your system. And he will eventually, if he loves you, start pushing for the changes that will make church a safer place for the woman he loves.

Not every man married to a feminist woman starts out a feminist, but usually they end up one. And it can take years, but know that other women have done this, and are doing this, and your effort will make it a little bit easier for women down the line.

There’s a theory in political science called the spiral of silence. The idea is that people in the minority fail to speak their opinion because they are worried about being discriminated against. That lack of representation makes others less likely to speak out because they think they are alone. It takes someone to speak up first to give others the courage to speak out. So be that person. Know that you are not alone. Even if you are alone in your ward, you are not alone in the gospel. And the countless unnamed women in the scriptures stand with you too.

It is hard to be a feminist or feminist-leaning woman in this church. I don’t mean doctrinally, but actual on-the-ground living the life in Mormon culture. It is an exercise in patience and perseverance. And it’s an opportunity to develop a sense of humor, because you have to laugh or you’ll cry. And sometimes you’ll cry. And that’s okay, too.

Above all, deal with all others from a place of love. Love is never wrong.

On the Supreme Court’s decision to hear arguments regarding Prop 8 and DOMA

Dear Mormon Friends,

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s announcement that they will be hearing arguments over Prop 8 and DOMA, I would like to say a few things preemptively.

If the Supreme Court legalizes the right of gays and lesbians to be married, that does not mean that the church will be forced to marry them in the temple. Straight people can’t force the Mormon church to marry them in the temple. Gays won’t be able to either. The legalization of gay marriage means they have a right to be married by the state. It doesn’t mean anything for their right to force a religious organization to have to marry them.

Many people worry because of a case that was fought back on the East Coast where a gay couple sued a church about excluding them from being able to use a hall that the church owned for their wedding. There are some key differences here. First, the hall they were seeking access to was one that the church rented to people not affiliated with the church. At that point, the question is can you refuse to rent a space to people because they are gay that you do rent to straight people- basically a business contract question. Secondly, they were not asking the church/reverend/pastor/bishop/priest to marry them, just for access to a space they allowed other members of the public to access for a fee. The LDS church doesn’t even allow all members of the religion access to the temple, much less members of the community.I’m not telling you that you have to/should be in favor of gay marriage, but if you are going to have this discussion, please do not use faulty argumentation to support your case.

Also, if you are wondering where in the Constitution it even talks about gay marriage and why the Supreme Court should be hearing this at all, look at the 14th amendment, equal protection, and then the full faith and credit clause in Article V. Because my brother and his husband have different federal rights depending on what state they live in currently, the Supreme Court has to decide if Article V applies to marriage licenses. Also, they have to decide if DOMA was Congressional overreach and see where in Article 1 section 8 they are basing the right to define marriage.

Love,
Sister Arnell

P.S. My brother Jon just got word that the surgery his husband has undergone today went well and that he should be able to see him in about an hour. Todd’s been in surgery for around five to six hours, and will be undergoing another similar surgery on his spine on Tuesday. Even though Jon and Todd were married during the brief months when it was legal in California, they have to have medical power of attorney agreements in place so they are able to make decisions for each other and have the right to see each other. They have been together over a decade. Please, let us remember when discussing gay rights and marriage that “the gays” are a diverse group of people, and that they are people with histories and loves and dreams of their own. Please, let’s not treat them as a bogeyman out to get you and your and my religion. Jesus said love everyone. EVERYONE.

On Bacon – Part One of who knows

One of the things that I wanted to do in my dissertation was take the Most Affected Principle and apply it to animals. My adviser wisely told me I needed to narrow the scope of my discussion or I would never finish. In the back of my mind, and in classes I have both taken and taught, human relations to animals are something I have always wanted to explore in a more in depth manner.

And so, I’m going to start discussing that here. And I want your help thinking through some things.

The first question I want to address is whether or not animals have rights or if there is any philosophical basis for human to have limits on their acceptable interaction with animals. I’m entitling this series of posts “On Bacon” because I want to limit the discussion to those animals with which we have definite relationships of interaction. For that purpose, bacon, because bacon is delicious, and asking people to potentially stop eating bacon is a good way to bring home the impact of what we are exploring. So, for now, let’s limit our conversation to animals that we have domesticated, either for food or for companionship.

Do animals have rights?

Rights have two basic foundations in most political thought. First, is that rights are inherent in humans, typically given by some sort of deity or through Natural Law/Reason. The second is that rights are not inherent, but are politically necessary to keep us from treating each other like animals (hahahhaaaaa, i pun, i pun.) Both of these are problematic when it comes to animals. It is difficult to find a non-metaphysical foundation for inherent rights for humans that anyone can agree on, much less humans. Modern discourse when it comes to human rights in the international arena asserts inherent rights based on dignity of persons as holders of ontological value, though you aren’t going to hear Ban Ki-Moon use that language, but the justifications they give for the necessity of respecting those rights are instrumental.

This is where it gets problematic for animal rights. If human rights are only recognized on an instrumental basis, and just see what we as a society consider acceptable treatment for people we don’t care about, then how do we make an instrumental case for animal rights? Is society better when we consider animals as having some sort of rights to a certain level of treatment? I don’t see much evidence for the instrumental argument on a short-term accounting basis for the instrumental argument. Our food (and bacon!) gets cheaper and more plentiful the worse we treat animals. Humans have a right to 99 cent bacon double cheeseburgers, right?

Backing into an agreement on animal treatment

Most people in industrialized society have a certain emotional reaction to animal abuse. I’m not going to link to any videos, but when you see the denizens of the internet band together to identify animal abusers in anonymously posted videos, you know there is something at the core of that joint project tied to some sort of agreement that treating animals poorly is not socially acceptable. Why is it that we seem to abhor abuse of animals if they don’t have a right to some basic standard of treatment?

Obviously, this applies more to pets than to feed animals. It probably is because we have more immediate contact with pets, and that gives us the ability to sympathize with similar animals in negative situations because watching someone else’s cat triggers memories of your own cat. Is this emotional reaction based on a recognition of something in animals that we usually are able to ignore because of lack of familiarity, or is there something unique to the domestication process that grants special privilege to pets?

Pets are very much dependent on their human companions for survival. Does that grant them the right to certain standard of treatment? If so, what about food animals? Cows and chickens are highly domesticated. Industrially raised chickens are pretty much a genetic extreme with no capability to survive outside their carefully controlled environment. If we created them, do we have a responsibility to take care of them?

I’m interested in your input at this point. Please let me know what you think. Your bacon may be on the line.

I have solved ALL the problems

I was going to write a thoughtful post about the history of secessionist movements and the social contract and Locke and stuff, but then I came up with a better idea!

Hunger Games: Secession Style!

Twelve states will be allowed to secede. All people wanting to secede will have their names placed in a lottery for the secessionists in that state. A fashionably dressed celebrity will be tasked with drawing a name for each state.

Lock them all in a giant arena, or at least that Greek-columned thing Obama used for his speech in 2008, and it’s a game of last person standing gets to have their state secede.

This will be repeated on a yearly basis for 12 years, or until people stop wanting to secede, which ever comes first.

Broadcast rights, commercial air time, and official sponsor licensing proceeds will be used to pay off the Federal deficit.

Genius, people!!

 

 

A sermon for the day after

Election night is over. Nate Silver is probably a witch, but political scientists know better. Statistical modeling for the win!

However, the day after the election, I feel a need to sermonize a little bit.

I am disappointed by the amount of demonization that I am seeing on my Facebook page. Yes, we all have preferred candidates, and yes, we should be actively engaged in the political sphere, but there is a way that we, as LDS members, are supposed to behave, and I see very little of that actually happening.

Let my provide you with some examples of appropriate political behavior:

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/statement-on-election-result

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/04/instruments-of-the-lords-peace?lang=

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/the-mormon-ethic-of-civility

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/we-follow-jesus-christ?lang=eng

Don’t make me get all up in your business and start teaching St. Augustine at you, because you know I’ll do it.

There is a wonderful quote from John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist faith:

I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them:
1, to vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy;
2, to speak no evil of the person they voted against;
and 3, to take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.
– October 6, 1774.

Let us remember that Christ is our true example, and he said in Matthew Chapter Five:

 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curseyou, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

I like to refer to this as the “Even Voldemort has friends” scripture. Let us be better than Voldemort. Let us remember who is really in charge. To ascribe to any political person the ability to bring about the end of days is to display a complete lack of faith.

What I thought of the conventions

I was asked to talk about the conventions.

I didn’t watch the conventions. Conventions used to serve a purpose. They actually picked the candidate. They were important. But we’ve known for several months or years, depending on which party you are talking about, who the candidate was going to be. It’s like a giant commercial for three days that involves lots of glitter, balloons, cheesy soundtracks, lying about your own record and that of your opponent, and a carefully choreographed slew of speeches that stay on theme.

I am kind of sad I missed the post-modern farce of Clint Eastwood rambling at an empty chair. Watching that on YouTube though, I have to say it hurt my opinion of the RNC. I mean, at least the DNC had the good sense to keep their Hollywood celebrities on script and Joe Biden sober.

Personally, I hate the two party system. It doesn’t work with the Constitution. It fosters divisiveness. And I’m holding it responsible for 17% of Ohio Republicans thinking Mitt Romney is responsible for Osama bin Laden’s death. I mean, really people?