Culture Is Gravity

It’s not easy for me to determine what causes me to do and say things.

However, I don’t think I would be off base if I included culture as a dominant causative force. Culture is powerful. I liken it to gravity.

You understand that the universe is held in place by gravity, right? You and I are held in place, no matter what we do or where we go, by the force of gravity. But we take gravity for granted most of the time, because gravity is not tangible. We can’t touch it, see it, feel it ( most of the time). It’s a force without seeming to be a force.

Culture is that way too. It holds people and societies in place. You can see people and buildings all over the place, but you can’t see culture. You can smell food, but there is no aroma to culture. Yet, culture’s force on us is inescapable.

One of the institutions most associated with culture is religion. When I look back on how I behaved because of the power of my religion, sometimes I’m shocked. Maybe a better word is embarrassed. Maybe, even ashamed – that’s a good word, ashamed.

For me, It started in the 1970’s. Negation of rights for males of African ancestry to the Mormon church’s priesthood caught my attention.I spoke out clearly against the policy. I even voiced my concern to a Mormon apostle (Marion Romney) who was interviewing me to become a full time seminary teacher in the church’s education system. I can only remember him saying in return for my critical comments: “if anyone thinks that the brethren are racists, that’s just a bunch of poopoo (poop). ”

As I look back on that moment, I am surprised he signed my application.

After that, however, I was trapped wasn’t I? The church came under intense scrutiny and criticism after I started my teaching career in 1968. At that point I could do little more than grumble, after all, I received my paycheck from the church, I had my first mortgage, I had a wife and four children by 1978. Unless I wanted to abandon my livelihood, I was stuck to my decision, and all the fall out that came with it. That’s culture. Even if you disagree with something, you get stuck to it. Just like you get stuck to earth by gravity.

I breathed a sigh of relief when the President of the Church revoked the ban in 1978. I thought to myself, “all my concerns have been taken care of. It’s smooth sailing from here.”

But no, more bad news was to follow. The church started seriously politicking against passage of the Equal Rights Amendment giving women equal assess to what men received in the work place. I saw absolutely nothing wrong with the amendment, but the church did.

I was stuck again. By this time I had five children, financial obligations in completing my education, and community obligations tied to church activities. The pull of culture was even stronger than before. Plus, by this time, I felt a need to be loyal to the church, even when I disagreed with its position.

Nevertheless, by this time, I knew I was being pressed down by my religious culture.

Then I caught a break. Like the astronaut who is shot out into space and escapes earth’s gravity, in 1983 I left the full time employ of the church. I felt free to take my own positions on political and social issues.

Little did I know that a bombshell was about to drop. In 1995 the church put out a document that gave a hardy endorsement to the idea that marriage was restricted to a male and female. I instinctively knew this was an anti-gay marriage teaching and policy.

After that, the church began to issue articles, talks, videos explicitly targeting gay marriage. My reaction was, “oh, no, here we go again. ” The difference this time was I no longer was held down by the church’s cultural gravity.

When the 2008 Proposition 8 came up as an amendment to California’s constitution, restricting marriage to a man and a woman, and was supported heavily by the church, I stood firmly against the proposition.

I had been pinned down on the black and ERA issues, but I wasn’t going to let it happen on the gay marriage issue.

Then in 2015, the church came out with a policy that directed priesthood leaders to seek out gay married couples and bring them before a church court for excommunication, and to not allow their children to become members of the church.

It was insane to do such a thing, and then expect me to fully support the mission of the church in such areas.

The church’s cultural gravity no longer held me down on social issues. Like the astronaut, I was free of the field of gravity holding me in place. There was no way I could, as a matter of personal conscience, support the neglect of those whose personal pain and sadness made their lives unbearable.

My thinking and behavior, as directed by my internal moral compass, were freed up to travel a line toward the inherent equality of minorities of all types, who were denied access to blessings available to me, but not to them.

When cultural gravity is escaped, you are able to say equal is equal, and mean it.