Low’s Alan Sparhawk: Mainstream Tolerance of Mormonism Lags Behind Gay Marriage, Marijuana

Even progressives can turn into “ugly bigots” when talk turns to Mormonism, he says.

Yesterday I had a chance to catch up with Alan Sparhawk, frontman of Low, which just put out a new record, The Invisible Way, and plays the Croc on April 6. Sparhawk, along with his wife/drummer Mimi Parker, are Mormons. With the Supreme Court taking up the issue of gay marriage this week, I asked Sparhawk a few questions about his faith, and how the public perception of the Morman religion has evolved. Although he acknowledged that the LDS Church advocated for Proposition 8 – which struck down same-sex marriage in California, and is the case being heard by the court this week—Sparhawk paints an image of the Morman church that is far more tolerant.

People are more open-minded about gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana as they were just a few years ago. Could the same be said of Mormonism?

Sparhawk: This last election cycle, to me, was really a surprise. All the places, especially on the internet, where I would go to get a perspective on politics, (where) people were generally pretty liberal, socially conscious … those same people, when it came to Mormons, they kind of turn on this little light, and everybody turned into really ugly bigots. I was really surprised. As soon as the Mormon factor (came in), oh, well, it’s fair game to go up and put up, essentially lies, and … let’s make fun of their underwear … These are the same people who are kind of looked to for guidance, and it just seemed like a quick knee-jerk reaction: Oh, those fucking weirdos!

RE: Gay Marriage

Sparhawk: Mimi and I are, personally, we are fine with gay marriage. Having said that, I understand the complications of it, and why churches … are nervous about it. Everyone should have that right. It really is, obviously, a civil rights (issue), a social issue that’s being unfair to homosexual people that are just, as far as I’m concerned, legitimate, human in God’s eyes as anything else.

Same thing with drug laws. I am definitely pro-legalization, which definitely the church was against. That comes from doctrine that comes from pure living and staying away from addiction. The religion doesn’t say it should be illegal, it says you should watch out for this stuff.

I told Sparhawk I thought his views were out of step with mainstream Mormons. He disagreed, saying there were people in his congregation who shared his views.

Sparhawk: We live in Minnesota. It’s more practical. We have to live in the real world here.

The Church isn’t oppressive. There’s gonna be some idiots out there who are going to decide to be assholes, and use the church as their backup. It’s a very constant, loving message coming from the leaders. It’s a very tolerant religion.

Mitt Romney for instance… Every Mormon in the country was going “wow, that’s one of those guys.” It’s a culture that has its spectrum. One end of the spectrum is really rich, white, really stiff dudes. You gotta understand it’s a culture. It’s a very wide culture. It engulfs all.

You’re going to get really ignorant people who start yelling about homosexuals. The church isn’t telling them to (do that). The Church is about trying to make us not like that.

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