Guest Post: Radical Love Manifesto
By Bryn Brody
I don’t want to give it any more airtime, this not-radical, very-much-orthodox manifesto. I don’t want us to read it, or think about it, or spend (more) time arguing with the writers and signers. Because what they say in the manifesto and in their explanations is what those who profit from the system always say: be patient, endure quietly, don’t agitate. You don’t need to read it to know how the writers exclude those of us harmed by the system, how the use pseudoacademic language to keep us out of the conversation, to make us feel small and outgunned. They want to remind us that we don’t fit in, that we will never fit in, because they don’t want to dismantle or change the system to allow us to participate.
They want to control the system.
It feels like a betrayal, though. I first connected with nuanced Mormonism through one of the signatories on the manifesto. It was a moment of epiphany for me, of rejoicing, to hear someone say that maybe we think of sin the wrong way, that maybe we should remove shame and look at it rather as a learning opportunity. “This,” I thought, “is a God I can trust.” This was a God who treated experiences as sacred, and saw us not as pegs to fit into a preconceived slot, but people with unique abilities and needs and knowledge and divinity.
This God, I thought, was one who shook things up, who cared about those who don’t hold positions of power. More than that, this God, I thought, expects us to create change so that our society mirrors Big Tent Heaven, where everyone is invited to the feast.
This God is not the god I see in the rehashing-of-stale-dogma manifesto.
The God in that manifesto is one who doesn’t care if you’re Black or queer or asexual, not because we’re all equal to each other but because that God only wants to hear people who already get heard more than their share of the time. The god they tried to sell us in their white-centric, cisgender-supremacist, heterosexual-heavy, mostly-male manifesto is a god who creates second-class citizens, whose caste system benefits the people who already benefit.*
I reject that God.
So will you write a new manifesto with me, a Radical Love Manifesto? We can tweak the name. I think ‘love’ is sometimes mistaken for a feeling, and I don’t care much for feelings if they don’t lead to helpful actions. But we can worry about the name later.
Because each of us sits with some privilege, and most of us also sit in areas where we are out-powered, I think we’ll create a better manifesto if we listen to each other and reason as equals. After all, God gave us each other, and I don’t believe in rejecting the people God gave me.
I’ve made a start. It isn’t finished, but then, maybe a manifesto should always be open to alteration, as we learn, and as we hear each other’s stories.
First: God is a God of all-encompassing, restorative, perfect, unconditional love. God is a radically loving God.
Second: God creates perfectly. When the Gods finished the making of things, the Creation Committee gathered together and said, “It is good.” This means there is no celestial conversion therapy, or race-eraser. There’s no forced-marriage or separated-by-dogma, sad-heaven families. The way you are, and I am, and other people are, that’s exactly how God wanted us to be. It means my body, whether it’s trans or asexual or Black or Indigenous or disabled or big or small is a mine, and only God and I are entitled to make decisions about my body*. My heart is a perfect heart, whether my heart loves all genders or no genders or a mix. God looks at me and says, “You are created in my image.” And so is every other living being. We all reflect God’s perfection.
Third: God is perfect but organized religion is not. This means that all organized religions should constantly be pushing for change. And this change should be toward inclusion, not away from it.
Fourth: When people in power see a threat to their power, they get uncomfortable. When people get uncomfortable, they tend to push out the agitators, or silence their voices. Sometimes, they deny us temple blessings and tell us we’re destroying God’s kingdom. Sometimes, they use big words like “progressivism” and “modern intellectual discourse” to try to force us into our place. The Pharisees did the same thing to Christ. They accused him of blasphemy and kicked him out of their synagogues. That didn’t work out well for them, and I think (I hopepraybelieve) that, in the end, the Radical God who creates perfectly and loves completely, will win.
Fifth: Being humble means sitting with our own discomfort when we’re told we hurt other people. Discomfort is how our soul challenges us to think about something we haven’t thought about before, or to think about it in a new way. God is comfortable with discomfort. So, if we really do recognize our own limitations, and are willing to question our presumptions, we have to listen to each other. Part of that learning is prioritizing the needs of those traditionally harmed by the status quo; to give a preferential option to those who have been kept out of the power structure. After all, those of us outside of the room where decisions happen know very well how the men who sit in leadership think: we’ve had to navigate the spaces they create our whole lives, watching out for hidden landmines and side-stepping bombs. We can tell you how they respond, what they think, and what they want us to be. So if the only voices we’re hearing come from people who all look the same, then maybe we’re ignoring the voices that cause us discomfort. We need to challenge that.
Sixth: Those who benefit from the power structure don’t have the right to tell the rest of us how to interact with the power structure. Don’t tell us to be patient, to sit with our arms folded and heads bowed, waiting for change to come from on high. If we are dissatisfied with the crumbs, and our dissatisfaction takes us in directions the power structure doesn’t like, then that is a holy path, and should be honored. If we want to hold signs at Conference, or write letters to the Q15, or wear our rainbow pins when we speak in sacrament, that’s our right. And if we want to step away from church because those who harm us keep sitting in power, then that, too, is a sacred journey. However God leads us to act, and whatever we feel led to do to keep ourselves and others safe, that is Revelation and should be honored for the Christlike manifestation of faith that it is.
This manifesto we’ve begun isn’t very orthodox. And yet, I feel it’s more orthodox than any rigid checklist of vague and ill-formed virtues could be. It leaves God open to being God, without restricting Divinity to any religious strictures or human definitions. And it leaves us open, too–to hearing new stories, incorporating new voices, growing into ourselves in authentic and Godlike ways. And it encourages us to make sure that every child of God, every single one, has a place at the Feast at the End of Days. That’s a vision of heaven I would fight for, and one, I believe, we can make a reality. Together.
*changes made after friends suggested I hadn’t heard some voices I needed to hear. Thank you, friends, and please continue to make this manifesto more inclusive.
Bryn is working toward a Masters degree in Social Justice while moderating for Mormons Building Bridges and homeschooling during the pandemic.