The mistakes of ‘the gay mind’

Recently I wrote about “the secular mind” in The Salt Lake Tribune. With this blog post I write about “the gay mind.”

By way of preface, four items:

First, I want to make clear that I’m speaking generally about the thinking within homosexual culture and not the thinking of any one person struggling with or sympathetic to someone who’s struggling with homosexuality. If I write “the gay mind is delusional,” I mean that the conventional wisdom – the mind-set – within homosexual culture is delusional, not that any one person is delusional. If I mean the latter, I’ll explicitly state the latter meaning.

Second, this state is suffering a deep cultural divide between Mormon and non-Mormon – as manifest today as at any other point in Utah history, and notwithstanding the many diverse parties, none more so than the LDS Church, trying to heal these rifts. Anyone who believes otherwise hasn’t looked around, hasn’t read a Salt Lake Tribune lately and compared it with the Deseret News, hasn’t visited both the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, hasn’t gone from a house party in Sugar House to a ward party in St. George, nor sat through a drum circle at Liberty Park and then a family home evening in Bluffdale. In other words, any such person hasn’t been exposed to the deeply divided, real-life, real-time culture differences between faithful Mormons and faithful secularists, especially secular converts of the angry former-Mormon variety.

Third, this cultural divide isn’t simply about disagreement on social policy or liquor laws, nor is it driven by “self-righteous” Mormons who are accused of thumbing their noses at diversity. This cultural divide in Utah is driven by the counterculture, the unapologetic secularists who despise religion – and the LDS Church specifically – and everything it stands for. Being Mormon in Utah is largely a culture of lifestyle; being a secularist in Utah is exclusively a culture of attitudes (mostly anger) – and any voices denying this vast divide are whistling past the graveyard. It’s real and perhaps irreparable evidenced by its protraction.

Fourth, why should I care? I run a think tank. What does all of this have to do with public policy? I care because this great contention influences Utah’s political culture and eventually its politics and policy.

With that as my preface, let me comment on a piece by Salt Lake Tribune columnist Peg McEntee, who recently took LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks to task over his remarks at the October 2012 General Conference titled “Protect the Children.” Specifically, McEntee objected to these comments, emphasized below and placed in context within Elder Oaks’ lengthier remarks,

Children are also victimized by marriages that do not occur. Few measures of the welfare of our rising generation are more disturbing than the recent report that 41 percent of all births in the United States were to women who were not married. Unmarried mothers have massive challenges, and the evidence is clear that their children are at a significant disadvantage when compared with children raised by married parents.

Most of the children born to unmarried mothers – 58 percent – were born to couples that were cohabitating. Whatever we may say about these couples’ forgoing marriage, studies show that their children suffer significant comparative disadvantages. For children, the relative stability of marriage matters.

We should assume the same disadvantages for children raised by couples of the same gender. The social science literature is controversial and politically charged on the long-term effect of this on children, principally because, as a New York Times writer observed, “same-sex marriage is a social experiment, and like most experiments it will take time to understand its consequences.” [emphasis added]

To which McEntee responds,

It’s an insult born of ignorance and blatant bias against gay couples and parents – people who have the same ideals, intelligence, purpose and, yes, human right to love one another and join in marriage.

She asks rhetorically, “Has Oaks ever met a same-sex couple with kids? Has he taken time to talk to them, to understand them?”

And then, quoting a friend of hers in a homosexual relationship and commenting, writes,

“My family has no legal protections or civil rights that accompany our marriage. We are treated unfairly and excluded simply because of who we love.” This is what Oaks, a former law professor and Utah Supreme Court justice, and his brethren in the LDS hierarchy do not understand.

Lastly, she laments,

That’s a tragedy, when so many Latter-day Saints have opened their hearts to the LGBT community, understanding that no one should suffer denigration and condemnation because of their sexual nature. Oaks and his colleagues are fighting a losing battle. Gone are the days when gays and lesbians lived in fearful isolation. The world is open to them now. It cannot be closed.

In a day and age of “fact-checking,” let’s fact-check McEntee. Actually, we’ll “logic-check” McEntee because she offers only opinions. (And please bear with me as I try to unscramble her conflated ideas.)

To repeat, McEntee begins by writing,

It’s an insult born of ignorance and blatant bias against gay couples and parents…

The “it” she cites is her interpretation of what Elder Oaks said in his remarks about perils to children. Early in his address, Elder Oaks states, “Worldwide, we are shocked at the millions of children victimized by evil adult crimes and selfishness.” Those “adult crimes” he mentions include child prostitution, child pornography, abortion and child abuse. Examples of the “selfishness” of adults he mentions include premature deaths, avoidable accidents and stunted growth due to neglect, psychological abuses, physical and sexual abuses, demeaning behaviors and bullying designed to humiliate, divorce, cohabitation and same-sex relationships.

In my world of public policy, those items he lists are hardly “insults born of ignorance.” Their destructive effects are real. The negative influences are quantifiable and overwhelming. I cannot speak to the claim of “blatant bias” on the part of Elder Oaks except to say that the man I know has no bias against any human being, only against choices and behaviors that harm human beings (meaning, as he states, “the children of God”).

McEntee then claims these homosexual couples and homosexual parents are,

…people who have the same ideals, intelligence, purpose and, yes, human right to love one another and join in marriage.

It’s highly unlikely that the homosexuals she speaks of have the same ideals, purpose and meaning of “love” that Elder Oaks is referring to. Even if McEntee is referring to human happiness for others as her “ideal,” I doubt the comparison. Happiness in homosexuality is far from the happiness expounded by Elder Oaks. Likewise, even if she is referring to a “purpose” as a parent or guardian of children within a homosexual relationship, Elder Oaks clearly takes exception. He stated, “We should assume the same disadvantages for children raised by couples of the same gender.”

And concerning “love,” there is no comparison as well. The “love” in homosexuality is not the love Elder Oaks would speak favorably of – unless McEntee really is speaking of Christian love and not sodomy as a representation or expression of love. For it is not the psychological “love” of a sodomy relationship that an apostle of Jesus Christ would favorably address. Homosexuality is the selfish love, perhaps even narcissism, among people struggling with a peculiar sin (as Elder Oaks has identified elsewhere).

Let me explain the differences between this selfish love (eros) and Christian love (agape) in a manner that precludes misunderstanding.

I love my father. I have an emotional attraction to him. I seek to care for him and his temporal comfort. I hug him and kiss him on the cheek. I seek his welfare. In fact, I’d put his welfare above mine. I love him. Yet we are both men.

All rational human beings have the capacity for (and expectation to achieve) this kind of Christian love.

What is it about homosexuality that differs from the love I just expressed? What one thing distinguishes the sanguine love between a father and son or the friendship between any two men and homosexual “love”? Of course that one thing is that my father and I don’t have sexual relations, nor do friends have to have sexual relations to be close friends. But two men do have to have sexual relations (literally, not just psychologically) to express homosexuality.

Obviously, two homosexual men can be friends without having sexual relations. Likewise, any adult can love a child. But a homosexual adult is, by definition, a “single adult” (no matter how many friends encircle him) and, as such, is not immune from the same human conditions of parental disadvantage that plague any single adult in the same situation – if you are a parent or guardian not in a male/female, legally married household, any child in that household is at a measureable disadvantage in terms of socioeconomic risks.

I believe that explanation is what Elder Oaks cited. The disadvantages to children in mountains of research back up the point that two-parent, legally married, male/female households place children at much less risk and much more advantage than any other variety of household. Just as one example, check out the research of the Institute for American Values, an organization run by a gentleman, David Blankenhorn, who favors same-sex marriage.

In terms of advantage in parenting, two men (or two women) do not equal the natural complementarity of a man and a woman in legal marriage. Are there exceptional single parents? Yes! Are there exceptional homosexual parents? Yes! But both nature and indisputable research show that nothing beats the complementarity of a man and a woman, bound by legal marriage, in giving advantages to children. And – here’s the bigger point – public policy exists in this case to advantage children, not disadvantage them.

Do two loving men (or two women) provide better advantage to a child than foster care? Perhaps. But that’s not the optimal policy question. The better question is what parental household advantages children most? In other words, children are better served by public policies encouraging adoption exclusively among traditional households than by settling for the idea that foster care is so horrible that any inferior household structure is better than foster care.

Because McEntee repeats her point about homosexual “love” later in the article through one of her friends, let me punctuate the truth. When McEntee’s friend states, “We are treated unfairly and excluded simply because of who we love,” she speaks of two adults in a homosexual relationship. She equates homosexuality with love and it’s no wonder she and others in that situation feel as if they are treated unfairly – homosexuality is not love; it is an intrinsically selfish sexual expression – hardly equal to Christ-like expressions of love.

I’ll say it again: any two people can express Christ-like love – any two people – but expressions of homosexuality are not expressions of Christ-like love. There is no substantive equality in those expressions. Any person, indeed society, is allowed to discern the differences and base relationships (and laws) on those substantive distinctions. Elder Oaks knows these differences even if McEntee does not.

In a fit of obligatory optimism McEntee equates changes in LDS Church policies (e.g., blacks and the priesthood), ecumenical outreach and its support for Salt Lake City’s nondiscrimination ordinances to the “inevitability” that it too will change doctrine on the sin of homosexuality and the definition of marriage. Interestingly, McEntee didn’t mention polygamy – the best comparison with homosexuality.

I suppose anything is possible when we’re dealing with the frailties of human beings. But we should be clear, even if McEntee and other scoffers of the LDS Church see it differently, that the change for blacks and the priesthood, ecumenical outreach and the isolated nondiscrimination ordinances were not doctrinal changes. Removing the sin of homosexuality (especially even some soft recognition of “born that way”) and changing the definition of marriage would be changes in doctrine – meaning highly unlikely to occur.

Lastly, McEntee continues to perpetuate the myth that “gays and lesbians” suffer serial “denigration and condemnation because of their sexual nature.” It is a myth. My guess (and it’s only a guess, just as McEntee’s opinion is only a hunch) is that any serious denigration or condemnation of people struggling with homosexuality comes from ignorant people – perhaps many of those reading the Tribune, as there’s more animus expressed in the comment sections of The Salt Lake Tribune than anything anyone would ever see anywhere else in Utah.

Most Latter-day Saints prayed for the day when blacks would receive the priesthood. Most Saints appreciate the ecumenical outreach of the LDS Church. And, even with no small disagreements, most Saints understood why the LDS Church would magnanimously extend a ceremonial olive branch to a vocal, angry and struggling political community in its own backyard – “ceremonial” because actual and substantively harmful discrimination just doesn’t occur in Salt Lake City.

McEntee may be correct that faithful Latter-day Saints are “fighting a losing battle” over homosexuality. But we are “Latter-day” Saints; we know that culture will decline over time. Keeping the faith and maintaining the “fight” is also inevitable for the faithful. Regardless, McEntee and her colleagues might own the history of cultural decline, but they don’t own the facts (or truth), and homosexuality always will be what it always has been: a choice by any human being to have same-sex sexual relations.