Friday, January 18, 2008

On Having a Wide Stance

I came across a useful insight in reading a Mormon blog entry about the doctrine of patriarchy. To summarize, it was noted that there is a tension between the language used to describe husband-wife relations and the current doctrine of the church, and that this seems to be intentional. A man is said to preside over the home, even though the egalitarian model of equal partnership is meant. The blogger calls this "chicken patriarchy."

Chicken Patriarchy never allows itself to be pinned down to a single perspective; chameleonlike, it alters its attitude from day to day and sometimes even from sentence to sentence, too chicken to stand up for what it believes.

Why is this lack of clarity allowed to exist? Why doesn't the church either repudiate the doctrine of patriarchy or stand up for it even if it is unpopular?

If patriarchy is God’s will, why not stand up and take the flak for advocating values that have been taught from Adam to Paul, from Joseph Smith through most of his heirs, from the temple to the pulpit? If it’s not, why continue to cling to patriarchal language and women’s ritual submission to men?

The answer is unclear. It may reflect a desire on the part of the leadership to create a "big tent" where people who have differing views can coexist. In other words, the old-school father-knows-best types can go to church with (younger) we're-equal-partners types. The problem gets smoothed over.

It is an interesting article, well worth reading.

It occurred to that these days the church's pronouncements about homosexuals have the same kind of ambiguity. On the one hand, there appears to be change, as I commented earlier:

The official stance of the church has not stood still in the face of social change. The church has evolved to understand that gay people are not moral reprobates. The church now views homosexual orientation as morally neutral. It is now officially a “challenge.”


The epidemic of broken homes, suicides and misery arising from the church’s past encouragement of mixed-orientation marriage has been one of the big motivators for the church’s current recommendation that marriage not be used as homosexual change therapy.

These are two identifiable changes in policy, supportable by recent statements by LDS leadership. Yet, not everyone seems to have gotten the memo. For example, Kimball's The Miracle of Forgiveness has never been repudiated.

There's a parallel to be drawn here.

The church intentionally allows the level of ambiguity that it has on gay issues. This allows old-school homophobes to coexist in peace with (younger) more egalitarian types. It's not exactly what you would call moral courage.


Mr. Fob said...

An interesting point. The whole concept of patriarchy and "presiding" never made sense to me. I suspect that the majority of Mormons of my generation just kind of ignore the language that doesn't fit with their concepts of equality and egalitarianism--I know very few for whom the man's prescribed presiding role is anything beyond a nominal, superficial nod to the family proclamation--but I was never able to reconcile the two opposing views. So I left.

Peter said...

Thank you so much for identifying something that I've been trying to get my finger on. Yes, the church acts very much like a "pleaser" wanting to make everyone happy. It doesn't want to scare away its conservative base, but it also doesn't want to take too much flak from its liberal accusers. Thus in an effort to please everyone, it sends conflicting messages of love and hate towards its gay members.

[əɪ̯ wʌndɹ̟] said...

Thus in an effort to please everyone, it sends conflicting messages of love and hate towards its gay members.

And that's exactly why I cannot stand it anymore - because its just simply wrong.

This lack of moral courage and attempt to please everyone (which the scriptures and Christ speak strongly against) is, in the end, going to do far more harm than good. I don't understand why they don't see that.

J G-W said...

Hmm. Or maybe the contradictory statements or ambiguous positions are signs of growth. Don't you think? An institution this big (12 million members) doesn't switch its views or its mores over night. Maybe what you're describing here is just plain old evolution.