I love baseball. There is nothing better than playing ball with my kids or watching the Giants on TV with them. I love hearing my boy say that he just “crushed the ball like Buster Posey.”
Growing up I spent hours in my front driveway playing baseball with my friends. We had some cardboard set up for the strike zone and we would pitch to each other for hours. We lost tons of tennis balls in the neighbor’s yard. Dings in the next-door neighbor’s car were a given. We had our own rules: if you hit the house across the street on the fly, it was triple; if it landed on the roof, a homerun; etc.
When I was even younger, my father purchased the Value Tales books for my brother and me. They taught values through stories of great people who made a difference. My favorite by far was The Value of Courage: The Story of Jackie Robinson. It told the story of the first black man to play professional baseball (or any professional sport for that matter). I read that book all the time. In my mind Jackie was the best, fastest player in the world. I couldn’t understand why people would hate him because he was black. As a child I just couldn’t understand racism. I couldn’t understand how people could be so mean to such a good man.
Now that you know how much I love baseball, you might appreciate just how excited I was a few months ago when I found out that a movie portraying Jackie’s trials as a baseball player was going to be released. Needless to say, I watched it as soon as I had the chance. I was blown away. If you haven’t seen it, go. Now. There is something about Jackie’s story that just speaks to my soul.
While there is no way I can do the emotional force of this movie justice by explaining it in this post, I want to share a few of the many moments in the movie when great people stood out. Let’s start with Pee Wee Reese, Jackie’s all-star teammate at shortstop. The Dodgers (Jackie’s team) were heading to Cincinnati for a big series with the Reds. Because Pee Wee was from Kentucky, he was sure to have a lot of his family and friends at the game watching. Before the trip, Pee Wee got a threatening letter due to his association with Jackie on the field. He took the letter to the Dodgers’ owner, Branch Rickey. Upon seeing the letter, Branch showed Pee Wee the piles of letters that Jackie got threatening his life and that of his family to show Reese what Jackie faced everyday. Pee Wee left Branch’s office with a greater respect for Jackie.
Shift to one of the games in Cincinnati. A young boy and his father were sitting in the stands. The boy was ecstatic to see his hero Pee Wee Reese play and asked his dad how many runs he thought Pee Wee would score. Then Jackie came out of the dugout for pre-game warm ups. He was instantly met with boos and tons of racial slurs. The father of the boy began to hurl racial slurs at Jackie as well. The camera caught the boy looking very confused. Why is my dad booing? This is our team, so why is he booing? Finally the boy joined in to hurl racial slurs with his father. Heartbreaking. Amidst the booing, Pee Wee headed over to first base where Jackie was playing and started making small talk with him. Before long he had his arm around Jackie as he explained that his family and friends were in the stands. He told Jackie that he wanted his friends and family and the whole world to know with whom he stood and who he considered to be his friend. It was a powerful moment. Before he left to take his position, Pee Wee said to Jackie, “Maybe tomorrow, we’ll all wear 42, so nobody could tell us apart.” The boy that had booed was not booing anymore. He learned a better lesson. Pee Wee took a stand.
Another great moment occurred when Jackie was intentionally spiked at first base. After the doctor sewed him up, Branch Rickey stepped into the training room to see how he was doing. They made small talk and then Jackie asked, “Why are you doing this?” Branch rattled off what seemed to be the standard answer he gave to everyone about ending racism. Jackie asked again, “No, why are you doing this?” Branch then replied with a story about an extremely gifted black player that he coached years before and how he upset he was about the wrongs this player endured. It hurt him and forever haunted his mind. He said there was something “unfair at the heart of the game I loved, and I could no longer ignore it.” Branch then continued, “You made me love baseball again.”
I really fought my emotions during this movie! It was painful to see so much hate but even better to see good people overcome. Powerful moments. And powerful teaching moments:
- If you don’t stand up to error, people will think you are okay with it.
- You can only teach racism. You can only teach a person to hold himself above another. A child simply doesn’t demonstrate these things on his/her own.
- You can love something and see the good that it does but still see it needs improvement.
During the movie I was also painfully reminded of my dear religion that once participated in these racial attitudes. My religion is responsible for a lot of pain to the black community. We held them as cursed, less worthy, fence-sitters, and we backed it up with borrowed theology, scriptures, books, theories, and quotes from our dear prophets and apostles. We were slow to right the wrong, and we are even slower to produce any sort of apology.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
Are we doing the same thing today? Are we using borrowed theology, scriptures, books, theories, and quotes from our leaders to condemn a group of people? I believe we are. We have gay brothers and sisters among us that don’t feel our love and don’t feel accepted in our circle. We are slow to hear the cries of gay members that are committing suicide because they feel sinful or dirty for being who they are. We have a stunning amount of gay homeless teens in Utah – teens that have been kicked out of their homes for being who they are.
Shouldn’t we be the most loving group of people? Couldn’t we have been on the forefront of this? For example, did we have to wait for the Boy Scouts to make the decision to allow gay scouts before we stepped in to say we were okay with it? Couldn’t we have sent a clear message to the BSA encouraging them to include gay scouts? We can do better, much better.
If you have never studied homosexuality or the science behind it, I invite you to do so now (see resources below). I invite you to open your heart and your mind and really ponder this issue. Our brothers and sisters need allies. They need voices. They need Pee Wee Reese! Are you able to put your arm around our gay brothers and sisters? Are you able to show your friends, family, and the world that you stand with them? “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Those words of Martin Luther King Jr. ring true today. We have made good strides, but there is so much more we can do. There is something unfair at the heart of the church I love and I hope my Mormon community will make me love it again.
I’ll end this post with this video clip that seems to illustrate my point perfectly. Please watch until the end.
If for some reason you can’t watch it here – Here is the link for it.
NoMoreStrangers.org is a blog by and about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Mormons, and our family and allies in and around the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Homsexuality: A Straight BYU Student’s Perspective – This is an exert from the book, the whole thing is available online.
BYU Professor Bill Bradshaw on a Biological Origin of Homosexuality Dr. Bradshaw is a former mission president, former member of a stake presidency, has written about the biology of homosexuality elsewhere, and was covered by BYU’s Daily Universe here. He is also the host on a short video entitled, “Embracing our Homosexual Children.”
Family Acceptance Project is the only community research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to decrease major health and related risks for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, such as suicide, substance abuse, HIV and homelessness.
Ogden Outreach Resource Center Center for homeless gay teens
Affirmation.org – supporting LGBT Mormons, their families, and allies by encouraging spirituality, providing information resources, and working for inclusiveness and equality
That video was awesome!! I thought he was a huge d bag, especially when he started in on the whole “racial segregation” bit; I thought he was going to start arguing for that, as well. Blown away. As for the movie, I can’t wait to see it.
The video was awesome! And yeah you need to go see the movie already!!!
I love the church. I love my wife and children and I am gay. I have believed all my life that my attractions don’t define me. I have chosen to express my desires within the bounds that the Lord has set and have found great peace in doing so. I have struggled under two groups in the Church. One is the Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve group the other is the compassionate progressive group. I get the first group but have been puzzled by the second. How does any member believe it really blesses me by saying, “We love you and want you to be happy so embrace your attractions and live happily ever after”. The progressives end up being as problematic to my salvation as the homophobes. Every friend I’ve had who has embraced the gay lifestyle has not just left our church for another more tolerant accepting faith but has ended up agnostic or atheist. I believe in the prophets and the scriptures. I have had countless witnesses have confirmed to me the teaching of the Church are true. It does nothing for me to have anyone try to criticise the churches teachings even if it’s done in compassion. So if my brothers and sisters really want to love me walk with me on the path, support me, but don’t try to dummy down the commandments for my sake. Loving me to hell doesn’t do me or you any good.
Thank you for expressing your feelings here. This is a valuable perspective. And unusual in the current climate. God bless you and your family.
Thank you Kurt for your post. One of the beautiful things about our Heavenly Parents is that they made us so different. You have found a path that works for you, but unfortunately this path doesn’t work for everyone. We can note this by all the suicides that happen. Is it possible to find a middle road between those two groups you stated? Is it possible your friends have left the church or have become agnostic or atheist because there was no space for them in our group? Instead of dummying down anything, I think we can focus on inclusion, stopping suicides and prevent homeless gay kids.
What a great post. I played a complicated game off my front porch. Various steps of the porch meant different things. Great games were played. It helped me become a pretty good pitcher/outfielder at one time. It was a great way to emulate my heros…. sorry but I’m a hard core Yankee. What also relates to me was my experience in 3rd grade. Every kid who was worth his salt played a competitive game at recess. Now I wasn’t invited. I didn’t know much about baseball at that time. I sure remember the rejection. Made me mad enough… I did something about it. I was mostly self taught but soon passed up many of those snobbish kids. I became fanatic, still have my 50’s baseball card collection. My boys were not self taught. They were weened on baseball. That’s what my experience with exclusion did for me. I fought back. Sadly, how does a young LDS boy fight back when it was god that made him the man he is? Yet every message he gets is that he is somehow evil. I’d like wearing 42 on my back to be a message that there are those of us out there who have their back.
Well writ, compelling and compassionate, Paul. Thank you for this post.
The path of obedience to the commandments as taught by the Savior works for everyone. If not we follow a false God and religion. Our gay members will not all marry. So what! The lie that seems so insidious to me though is that there are only two choices for gay members, to embrace a gay lifestyle or have a lonely chaste life full of deprivation. I have friends who live beautiful, full lives full of deep intimate friendships and do so as faithful single members. They don’t actually feel single but part of loving ward families. You are right the membership must learn to be inclusive, to embrace those of us on the fringe. If we have greater needs for love and friendship, freely offer that. Bring us in to full fellowship. Just don’t create some special needs niche for us. My pain and despair has always come when I have rejected the truths of the gospel. When I live in harmony with God I live in peace. It is our obligation and duty to teach our gay youth these truths if the tide of suicide is to be stemmed. We must fight the lies that innudate this culture if we are going to save our brothers and sisters. All of us who are gay are like all mankind, we need the fullness of the gospel in order to fully experience joy. High standards with high acceptance is the key to all this.
I disagree with you when you say: ‘Our gay members will not all marry. So what! The lie that seems so insidious to me though is that there are only two choices for gay members, to embrace a gay lifestyle or have a lonely chaste life full of deprivation. I have friends who live beautiful, full lives full of deep intimate friendships and do so as faithful single members.’
Because you buy into the LDS church’s current position of celibacy for its gay and lesbian members (which is kinder than its previous position that an acknowledged homosexual was an abomination and must seek change!), you fail to consider that single heterosexual members are not expected to live singly IF and WHEN they meet someone they fall in love with, regardless of their age. But… you seem to expect a different standard from your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters — that they should remain single, even IF and WHEN THEY fall in love with someone of the same sex!
An author I admire has said (and I’m quoting at length here):
“Nowadays, the Latter-day Saint refrain isn’t ‘Stop being gay.’ Now it’s, ‘Stop ACTING gay.’ They’ve given up trying to argue that gays can change their sexual orientation: the complete failure of ‘Fix-a-Gay’ and ‘Homo No Mo!’ programs — not to mention a universe of empirical evidence — have left them little choice in that.
So they’ve changed their approach. NOW their argument is … ‘a homosexual struggling against the temptation to act homosexual is no different from anyone else struggling to resist a sinful temptation.’
Mormons love this new argument. I’ve heard it a thousand times. We all have. You whisper ‘gay’ into the ear of a sleeping Mormon, and there’s an excellent chance they’ll just start saying it in their sleep: ‘Just like any other sinful temptation. We’re all sinners. Must resist.’
And putting your brain to sleep before you say that is the very best way to say it, too. Because it could only make sense to a brain-dead person. It’s just too stupid for words.
But lemme try to find some words anyway.
Virtually all sins share a crucial, defining, common quality. Because that quality, which is present in every other imaginable sin, is utterly missing from being or acting gay, insisting on putting homosexuality into the same category as every other sin is like gluing wings on a pig, and insisting the result belongs in the category of ‘bird.’ It doesn’t. It can’t. It won’t. Ever.
Here is that Big Difference between homosexuality and other sins: There is no sin I can commit that, by virtue of committing it, renders me incapable of loving or being loved. I can commit murder. I can steal. I can rob. I can rape. I can drink myself to death. I can do any terrible thing at all — and no one would ever claim that intrinsic to the condition that gave rise to my doing that terrible thing is that I am, by NATURE, simply incapable of giving or receiving love.
No one tells the chronic drinker, or other glutton, or adulterer, or any other kind of sinner, to stop experiencing love. Yet that’s exactly what so many church leaders and members are insisting that gay people do.
When you tell a gay person to ‘resist’ being gay, what you are really telling them — what you really MEAN — is for them to be celibate. (Celibacy has, in fact, been condemned in some church writings!).
What you are truly and actually saying is that you want them to condemn themselves to a life devoid of the kind of enduring, romantic, partner-to-partner love that all people, Mormons included, understand as just about the best part of being alive.
Be alone, you’re demanding. Live alone. Don’t hold anyone’s hand. Don’t snuggle up on your couch with anyone. Don’t cuddle up with anyone at night before you fall asleep. Don’t have anyone to chat with over breakfast in the morning.
Do not bind your life to that of another. Live your whole life without knowing that joy, that sharing, that peace.
Just say ‘no’ to love.
Be alone. Live alone. Die alone.
The ‘sinful temptation’ that Latter-day Saints are forever urging LGBT people to resist is love.
Being, of course, the ONE THING Jesus was most clear about wanting his followers to extend to others.
Can we stop with this cruel idiocy already?”
Kurt, of course I understand that singleness does not necessarily equate with loneliness, but just because YOU have chosen, as a gay-identified man, to take the path of heterosexual marriage (believing that’s your boarding pass to a possible exaltation) — and are happy with that choice (I think!) — please don’t try to sell the option of “happy” singlehood to your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who (are NOT romantically attracted to) and don’t want to marry the opposite sex), or live out their lives alone!!!
Given that there is no current theology that explains the place of LGBT members in the eternities, there is absolutely no reason that loving, committed, gay and lesbian couples couldn’t presently be married civilly. (In many European countries, LDS couples are expected to do that first, before being sealed in a temple). I see no reason, therefore, except for stubborn resistance, as to why this couldn’t happen; temple marriage could be reserved for heterosexual couples (or mixed-orientation couples such as you and your wife!), while civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples could take place in a court or ward chapel — unless modern day revelation opens the door to the temple to them also!
I meant to mention that the essay (Wings on a Pig) I quote from is by John Shore, author of “Unfair. Why ‘Christian’ Views of Gays Doesn’t Work” You can find it on Amazon.com.
I took the liberty of substituting the words “Mormon” or “Latter-day Saint/Saints” for Christian. But… I’ve heard Mormons express their feelings about gays and lesbians “acting” on their romantic feelings in the very same terms that John speaks of….
Your post is very insightful and reflects what many of us in the church have felt about historical racism. It’s difficult to claim revelation and inspiration and get the most obvious moral questions of our day exactly wrong for decades.
The official statements supporting the discrimination against black men and women in the church were embarrassing as was the cheerleading for Prop 8.
We’re going to need to get the next dozen right to bring our batting average to 500.
I grew up Mormon but have since left the church, the homosexual issue being one of the straws the broke the camel’s back for me. It is encouraging to see that at least some LDS members are approaching this issue with love and acceptance instead of judgement and hate. Hopefully someday your leaders will listen to people like you.
I hope so too. Thanks for your comment Kyle.
Thank you for this. I have thought for years that we are using borrowed theology… The church gives commandments and ideas and then insists they are truth… and one day, they’ll find out, it wasn’t truth, just someone’s opinion that colored the teachings… and once enough time passes, the leaders will be quoted as saying, “We don’t know where those old bigoted ideas came from… We don’t know why they used to teach that, but we don’t teach those things anymore… we are a loving church, full of equality, and it will always be this way.”
I just hope it is sooner than later.
Paul, I loved this entire post. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Tana!