[A little disclaimer: this is angstier and Mormoner than this blog's usual fair, so be advised.]
"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."
-The 11th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Dear Church People,
I started writing this letter right after the Charleston Massacre. I couldn't understand how y'all felt so comfortable taking a political stance against the "threat" gay marriage posed to some nebulous idea of American religious freedom, but remained all but silent on the racially motivated shooting deaths of 9 fellow followers of Christ. Back then (two whole weeks ago), I had wanted to chisel out a neat little moral-of-the-story for you -- something sweet and clear and tweet-able, like 'never fear love, only hate (#loveislove (#charleston (#blessed (#follow4follow))))'. But I was too sad and angry and confused to even finish writing the thing, much less distill it into 140 characters of clarion insight.
I'm still sad and angry and confused, but my continued silence on the issue has become personally intolerable. I'm a white Mormon girl from Colorado -- I recognize I do not speak from a position of authority or particular insight. But it's gotten to the point where I cannot not speak. Or rather, the point where I need to ask an honest question. Because I know what the church is doing to defend itself against Adam and Steve's Crate and Barrel registry, but for the life of me I can't figure this out: what are we doing about the terror being wrecked on Black-American Christians across the South?
Here's where this is all breaking down for me: If I remember my Sunday School lessons correctly, murder is a whole lot worse than [what old white men in Utah might view as] weird sex stuff -- at least in God's book. I'd like to think that persecution, violence, and arson are all pretty high on the divine list of no-nos, as well. But right now you guys seem too fixated on promoting the civil exclusion of same-sex couples to realize that Christ's #1 and #2 commandments are in hard-core jeopardy -- because you know what doesn't seem very loving to God or our neighbors? Shooting a bunch of people during bible study and then setting their churches on fire.
So speak. Please, speak. I beg of you, speak. Not on the "the sanctity of marriage". Not on whether or not you will allow me to post a rainbow picture to Facebook. By all means, send my bishop a letter to read over the pulpit about the importance of religious freedom, but God so help me if you finger* people like James Obergefell as the threat instead of people like Dylan Roof. If religious freedom is indeed a sanctified cause, then honor it by officially decrying the violence now threatening every AME church in America. Do not condemn gay people in love, condemn white people who hate. Condemn the weaponization of places of worship. Condemn the guns and gasoline which are prying away safety, security, worship, community, and equality from innocent believers. Because to me, that seems a heckuva lot worse than the due process of law being used to pry away. . . what exactly? from whom?
Please don't forget that we've been the ones terrorized and mobbed and burned out of communities. Don't forget that you've been the person sitting in church for Wednesday night bible study. I don't want to feel safe or protected or like I don't need to do something just because bigots still think of Mormons as white, tow-headed creatures like them. Rather, I want to care about Susie Jackson and Clementa Pinckney and Tywanza Sanders like they were my sisters and brothers, because they are my sisters and brothers. I want you to mourn their deaths with me. I want you to mourn the hatred that killed them. I want you to make like Mosiah and "command that there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men."
I love our gospel. I love our leaders. But their misplaced silence has been ringing in my ears for awhile now, and I'm not sure how much longer I can stand the headache. I've been praying for patience. I've been praying for understanding. But I don't think I deserve to pray for peace until I try to bring it about myself. This is the start of my attempt.
More or less respectfully,
*speaking of weird sex stuff. . .