Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Weighing in

There has been a fair amount of discussion lately in the Mormon blogosphere about Peter and Mary Danzig. The gist of the story is that they were kicked out of the temple square orchestra and ultimately left the church because of their support for gay marriage. Northern Lights has a comprehensive list of links where this issue is being discussed, including a press release by the LDS church. So, I thought I would weigh in and offer up my $0.02 on the subject.

To be brutally honest, I'm leaning more towards the church on this issue. Now, defending the church might seem odd coming from a person who, himself, recently declared his support for gay marriage. But, the way I see it, this really isn't about gay marriage - it's about publicly denouncing church leadership.

There is a big difference between having a personal opinion which is at odds with the church, and publicly denouncing the church because they don't agree with you. To denounce the leaders of an organization and to encourage other members of that organization to do likewise is, by definition, apostasy.

As members of the temple square orchestra, the Danzig's were ambassadors for the church, which is also a factor. When you are representing an organization then there is a certain standard of behavior which is expected. If I were meeting with a customer as a representative of my employer and I denounced my employer in that meeting then they would have every right to terminate my employment.

If Peter Danzig had written to the newspaper as a private citizen expressing his support for gay marriage without pulling the church into it then I doubt very much this would have escalated as it did. This is evidenced by comments in the various articles about other people who had written letters to the newspaper expressing their support for gay marriage without any action being taken against them. So, while I'm sympathetic with his views towards gay marriage, I am not sympathetic with his approach in voicing those views.

Just my $0.02 on the subject.

17 comments:

Foxx said...

I'm curious, then: what course of action would you have recommended he take, if he could go back?

Abelard Enigma said...

If he could turn back the clock and write a letter to the newspaper, as a citizen of Utah, expressing his support for gay marriage - without denouncing church leadership for having an opposing view - then I would be 100% behind him.

Frankly, I'm having a hard time understanding how he can sit in a temple recommend interview and say "yes", he supports church leadership - and then turn around and denounce them. You can't have it both ways - you can't support them when it's convenient (e.g. to get a temple recommend) and then not support them when it's inconvenient (e.g. because you have strong feelings on a particular issue).

I would have a tremendous amount of respect for him if he had come forward and said that he no longer holds a temple recommend because he can't support church leadership on this issue - especially if such an action led to him having to resign from the temple square orchestra (which, presumably, requires its members to hold current temple recommends).

Anybody can whine about certain actions having consequences - it takes integrity to accept the consequences for your actions. And, in my opinion, standing up for what you believe, and accepting the consequences for having those beliefs, sends a much stronger message.

[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

I don't know that he was (or that he believed he was) actually denouncing the church leaders. What he did was voice his concern over what he thought to be a thoroughly unfair and unjust action. He didn't contradict doctrine either. He didn't say he supported gay marriage, rather that he (along with many, many others, including Senator Reid) thought the church shouldn't be involving itself in politics to this degree.

I fail to see, in all of this, a clear example of the Danzigs acting in a way that could be fairly construed as actively opposing the church, or trying to get other members to do so, and the church has insinuated in their recent press release.

Abelard Enigma said...

I fail to see, in all of this, a clear example of the Danzigs acting in a way that could be fairly construed as actively opposing the church, or trying to get other members to do so.

"I am appalled at the intellectual tyranny that our leadership has exercised."

"I hope that rank-and-file members of the church as well as members of the lay clergy who also find this troubling will have the courage to step forward and let themselves be known."

realneal said...

"I fail to see, in all of this, a clear example of the Danzigs acting in a way that could be fairly construed as actively opposing the church, or trying to get other members to do so, and the church has insinuated in their recent press release."

As in all cases like this, we have absolutely no idea what transpired in the private sessions with Danzig and his Church leaders or what was said in public settings to other Church members, other than the general comments that were made to the press by both sides. So its impossible to know the extent of his words or actions in opposition to the Church by reading a few newpaper accounts. I've been involved in several instances like this when I was on the High Council, and I've always seen the utmost love, respect and patience extended to those involved. I'm sure there are instances where this was not the case, but I think they are rather the exception than the norm. I would put much more credence in the Church's statements on this incident than Danzigs for this reason. He did, after all, request name removal. No disciplinary council was held.

Neal

Beck said...

The issue here in my mind is the public way of denouncement, and referencing one's status as a "representative" of the Church. Obviously, those don't go together. That seems pretty clean cut.

But, the bigger question is the gray line of "open opposition" verses "private disagreement". This is pretty vague and with not-so-loving leadership, can be twisted into something that it never was intended to be.

You say you support gay marriage publicly (though anonymously)in this blog and yet you have a current temple recommend and, thus, "support the brethren". So where does your support of gay marriage cross over from "private disagreement" to "open opposition"?

I'm in the same position. It's a thought-provoking supposition. When does one cross-over that gray line? When does private become public? When does disagreement become opposition? When does one have the right to think what he may and still be in good standing with the brethren when such thoughts differ from theirs? Is there any right to question, other than within one's own mind?

Sometimes we can become vocal when we feel there has been an injustice. Should we not speak up, even if it is against our leaders? And what if the leaders in question aren't so benevolent (granted my personal experience has been very similar to that of Neal's)?

Lot's of questions to ponder. This case gives me pause... It's not as clear cut as you make it out to be, taken on the whole.

Vanson said...

Well put, Abelard.

I don't know where I stand on the issue, but I believe people are free to choose.

I agree that they crossed the line after denouncing leaders.

Abelard Enigma said...

When does disagreement become opposition?

In the Salt Lake Tribune article it states:

"While others wrote letters in support of Nielson without facing discipline, Danzig endured months of grueling attacks on his motives and membership."

That suggests to me that it is possible to express public disagreement without invoking the ire of church leadership.

It's not as clear cut as you make it out to be.

Perhaps; but, there is a difference between stating what you believe and attacking some group or individual because their opinion differs from yours. And, accusing the church of 'intellectual tyranny' can be construed as an attack.

Personally, I don't think the local and church leadership handled this situation very well. But, I also don't think Danzig is an innocent victim. As I stated in the beginning of my blog post, I'm leaning towards the church, I didn't say I was totally in their court.

Chris said...

Is publicly disagreeing and/or criticizing the same thing as "denouncing"?

The reaction against the Danzigs seems a little over the top to me. I understand that many disagree with how they criticized the church, but what they did hardly seems a denunciation.

Foxx said...

Perhaps it could be said that Danzig was challenging the Brethren's motivation for the way they handled Nielsen, but I don't think that's the same as denouncing the leadership, or encouraging others to do the same.

I don't think that he put himself up as an authority against the Brethren, or encouraged members to leave. He identified himself and then said that this wasn't fair, and I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way.

Does that exempt one from holding a temple recommend? I think you can support the leadership and question them, even publicly, at the same time. I doubt he would have been able to be as effective at getting answers by privately voicing his concerns to his local authorities.

Chris said...

I doubt he would have been able to be as effective at getting answers by privately voicing his concerns to his local authorities.

I think that's exactly right, Foxx.

There is very little accountability within the ranks of church leadership, and members have little to no recourse when they find themselves unsatisfied with the direction or counsel they are receiving from leaders.

MoHoHawaii said...

The church seems to confuse the doctrinal and moral (how we as individuals may choose to live our lives) with the political (who should get tax deductions and health insurance).

Many reasonable people consider political issues-- and what constitutes civil marriage is certainly one of these-- to be outside of the charter of a charitable organization like a church.

This, to me, is the crux of the problem.

Danzig didn't criticize any doctrine. He criticism was procedural-- that when it comes to political ideas, members of the church should be free to speak their minds, even when they come to different conclusions than church leaders.

From where I sit, the church is out of line on this one. Insisting on doctrinal purity (for example, the nature of the God) is fine. Insisting that there can be no public debate on political issues is not.

It's the church's loss. Sincere, passionate, open-minded people like Danzig are sorely needed inside the ranks. They temper the harsher elements and make the church a more welcoming and human place.

Foxx said...

That suggests to me that it is possible to express public disagreement without invoking the ire of church leadership.

Perhaps, but are your more or less willing to do so, knowing how things turned out for Danzig and Nielsen, especially if you occupy a visible Church position?

Sean said...

I guess I'm oblivious to this whole thing because I haven't heard anything about it. Such is the life of a college student...

Abelard Enigma said...

are you more or less willing to do so, knowing how things turned out for Danzig and Nielsen, especially if you occupy a visible Church position?

I have actually been thinking a lot about that. At a minimum, I want to bring it up in my next temple recommend interview - but that's not for another 18 months.

I don't want to ask about it explicitly because it could be construed that if I have to ask then I'm having doubts about being right. That's not the case - I'm more curious than anything. But, how do you explain that? Saying "I'm asking you this because I want to prove to my gay friends that you're not going to overreact and threaten me with church discipline" probably isn't the best approach.

Abelard Enigma said...

I guess I'm oblivious to this whole thing because I haven't heard anything about it.

I only know about it because it's been brought up in some blogs that I follow. But, it certainly hasn't made it into our Texas newspapers.

Now, if Peter Danzig's wife had a 3rd cousin once removed who lives in Texas then I'm sure our local newspapers would be all over it :)

Our big gay controversy is about a local Baptist church agonizing on whether to allow gay couples to have their picture listed in the church directory.

-L- said...

My wife has mentioned her support of gay marriage in multiple temple recommend interviews (in the context of the required questions) and she has always walked away with a recommend and the advice not to criticize the brethren publicly.