Thursday, July 25, 2013

Attack on the Family

A couple months ago, I was part of a discussion about the "attack on the family". The original post came from a judgment a friend of mine (let's call him "Kevin") had that many people in the church view the attack on the family to be the same as legalization of gay marriage. Now, I've expressed my stance on gay marriage (I stand with the church in not supporting it) but by no means would I go as far as to say that the "attack on the family" is the same as gay marriage.

I'm a family studies major and even though I'm very very early on in the program, I feel like I have learned enough to say this: The family is under attack, but gay marriage is probably the least of our worries on that front. If I was to pick anything and call it the Goliath of the battle we are fighting to save the family, I'd say it is no-fault divorces. Couples making a mockery of marriage by getting married and then a month, six months, a year, etc. down the road deciding that they "just aren't compatible". Or you’ve got the celebrity marriages that last less than a month.

I’m not saying there isn’t cause for divorce. Abuse and infidelity are valid causes for divorce. However, I’ve also known marriages where one spouse has been unfaithful and yet the marriage survived because both partners were committed to the marriage. I honestly don’t believe there is such a thing as no-fault divorce. Marriage is work and both partners need to work at the relationship. That’s why married couples have been counseled to continue to go on dates after they get married, even when children come into the mix. However, if one spouse gives up on the marriage… does it really matter how much effort one spouse puts in if the other spouse is apathetic? I mean, it’s admirable… but if the effort is not reciprocated, the marriage isn’t going to be as strong as it needs to be.

That being said, I’d like to back up to infidelity and abuse. If abuse exists in a home (a husband abusing his wife OR a wife abusing her husband, because both scenarios exist) the highest priority in my opinion is to get the abused spouse to safety. As important as the sanctity of marriage is, the safety of an individual is more important. Staying in an abusive relationship because a husband/wife loves his/her spouse and believes they can change sounds to me like codependency (if you don’t know what that means, here’s the Wikipedia page). The same thing would be true of infidelity, if a husband/wife stays with his/her spouse even when infidelity is known to be happening, because he/she thinks they can fix the situation… again, it sounds like codependency to me.

Another thing I want to bring up is the innocent victims of divorce, whether it be no-fault divorce or divorce at the hands of abuse and/or infidelity: children. Richard Cohen, the author of “Coming Out Straight”, said that children have a God-like view of their parents. Their parents are the example they look to in everything. Especially as little kids, they don’t see that their parents can do anything wrong. As a result, when divorce happens, there are children who believe (and are wounded by the belief) that their parents separating must be their fault.

Granted, all of this comes from a single, BYU family studies major, who is only starting his second semester in the program this fall, but I just wanted to put my thoughts out there and challenge the idea that I think exists in the church that gay marriage is the same as the attack on the family. What are your thoughts on the “attack on the family”? Let me know in the comments. Just remember to be respectful and nice.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"What do you need to tell me, Spencer?" (by Garrett)

Earlier that night... (in Niagara Falls, Ontario)

That’s what I said, and how he came out to me, a year ago today.

In one day I realized that social issues aren’t simply articles read or watched online; they are the stories and struggles of people you know and care about.

A year of knowing is a year of affirming Christ’s universal Atonement and universal blessings.

A year of knowing is a year of seeing how vague, general statements almost never fit with individual people, especially when those people cross two very contradictory stereotypes. What a tragedy to make a multi-dimensional person into a 2-D object.

A year of knowing is a year of being thanked and admired by strangers from Spencer's support groups. On one hand I appreciated all the thanks, but on the other, it sobered me. Their tone of voice indicated again and again that this was the first time they had seen someone simply be a straight friend.

A friend is the most powerful ordinary thing. 

In that year I made new friends, and kept old ones, and performed the balancing act that young, inexperienced, college guys perform. I worked 8 hours a day when I wasn’t in school, went on dates, read books, looked up funny cat pictures on the Internet, and had fun with my best friend who has same-sex attraction.

I attended firesides and made other friends in similar situations to Spencer's. I heard their stories and read how they lived faithfully to the covenants they made in the Church. And I learned lessons from those firesides good enough to put in my journal, such as the following:

When we let our bias do the talking, we end up “classifying” others, and in effect we put a gag on their voice before they even can speak up for themselves. We should instead let them own themselves, and let them liberate themselves from the chains of skewed thinking.

Out of all the roles we will play, a friend is one of the most crucial we can be. And now more than ever I can see why. There are too many people struggling with this, and too few "straight friends" that are stepping up. In that year I saw more than ever how we need those powerful, ordinary things--understanding, empathy, and friendship.

So here marks a year of accepting 100% of a person, 100% of a friend. Here’s to a year of being powerful, ordinary people.