Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mormon Faith and Tainted Love

"Sometimes I feel I've got to
Run away I've got to
Get away
from the pain that you drive into the heart of me..."

"...you think love is to pray
But I'm sorry I don't pray that way."

(Lyrics from "Tainted Love" by Ed Cobb, as recorded by Soft Cell and later by The Clash and several others)

Paul and I moved to the country just outside Snowflake, AZ just weeks after millions of dollars of Mormon TV ads advocating taking away the hard won rights of gay people to marry flooded the airwaves in California and successfully swayed the election. I was furious that any religious group was given the right to inflict such pain on people I love. And I found it strange that a people that were persecuted for wanting to define family in their own way (bigamy) would fight so very hard to restrict alternative definitions of family for others. It was especially upsetting to me that most of that Mormon money came from outside the state of California. And I was shocked to discover that the concept of separation of church and state -- which gives the LDS (Mormon) church the freedom to exist in the United States -- does not currently extend to prevent such flagrant abuse of the political system by a single religious organization in return.

So imagine my surprise to find myself deep in the heart of Mormon country after our move last December.

To say I was horrified would be an understatement. For the first few days I could not walk down the street in Snowflake -- looking at signs proclaiming Jesus as the reason for the season -- without cringing. Sure, on the one hand I know that's what Christmas is supposed to be all about. But I also know that the pagan holiday of winter solstice is the reason why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th in the first place. (I spent several years of my life researching and writing a book on the topic.) And, as a person who was brought up Jewish, even though I now approach my spirituality from a much more eclectic point of view, it's hard to come to a place where there's nary a Jewish face to be found.

But this IS where Paul and I have come to live for now... and as time has gone on it's become clear that keeping such a fierce wall up between myself and any people is poisonous to me. Perhaps it's even one of the things we came here to heal.

When we first arrived Paul's mother told us that she had had more than one conversation with LDS members who expressed concern, at least privately, that church dollars were put to such a purpose in California. She also told me that Mormon people try to take care of people in the community even if they're not Mormon and that several Mormon community members had been very good to her.

Paul has been very insistent that we not become bigoted here so in the past week we have started a deliberate effort to learn more about the LDS community. I'll be sharing some of what we've experienced in the next few weeks.

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