Stephanie Simon’s fan club meets here

language of GodStephanie Simon has another great story in Thursday’s Los Angeles Times. She’s the faith and values reporter who consistently hits her pieces out of the park.

This piece is on Francis Collins, a Christian physician and scientist who has mapped the human genome. He sees no conflict with his scientific work and his faith, but he has been attacked by people who deny God’s existence and by those who oppose evolution. He believes in both.

I love reading Simon’s reports because she is usually given enough room to share interesting details. She also manages to do a much better job of putting conflicting folks’ statements in a generous light. In so doing, she lets the reader see the opposing views without stacking the deck toward a given side. From a personal standpoint, this enables me to trust her much more than other reporters. In other words, if I read a news story that gets a minor fact wrong, I tend to discount the entire piece. I assume the reporter doesn’t really grasp the issues at play. When I read a reporter’s characterization of a view I hold and they not only get it right but use phrases and concepts I would, I am much more receptive to reading the opposing views in the piece without putting my guard up.

This is how I imagine most readers of Stephanie Simon must feel. She really takes the time to understand the groups she covers. And we’re all the richer for it. Collins, the man she profiled, recently wrote The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. In it, he argues that there is no need for a chasm between science and faith. Simon’s piece fleshes out Collins’ path from nonbeliever to believer and is chock full of interesting details.

In June 2000, an international team supervised by Collins finished the rough drafts of the human genetic code, a string of 3 billion letters (each representing a chemical compound) that guides the inner workings of every human being.

To Collins, the blueprint was a chance to celebrate God’s wondrous design. But he worried that Christians would use this occasion as another excuse to turn away from modern science.

“I had a great concern that this would be portrayed as though we were taking away room for spirituality, making us out to be nothing more than a mechanical instruction book — robots, machines, victims of our DNA,” Collins said.

Invited to the White House to announce the triumph, Collins tried to signal that those concerned with the soul and the spirit should not take the new science as a threat. “It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring,” he said, standing at Clinton’s side, “to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.”

That moment moved Collins — who is married and has two grown daughters — to talk more publicly about his faith and write the book. “It’s been a bit like taking a public bath,” he said.

I just like how she lets people describe things in their own words but also paraphrases their thoughts thoroughly and gently.

What next, a jihad for Christ?

nicodemusI was reading this completely engrossing CNN story on Malika el Aroud, the widow of suicide bomber Abdessater Dahmane. He was one of the two fellows who killed Ahmed Shah Massoud, head of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, by pretending to be broadcast journalists. Their camera hid an explosive. Anyway, she now lives in Switzerland with her new husband running a fan website for Osama bin Laden.

The story says she grew up as a rebellious kid in Belgium but then had a change of heart:

Her life changed dramatically after she was expelled from school for striking a teacher who el Aroud said uttered a racial taunt. She descended into a whirlwind of unsuitable men, drugs, alcohol and nightclubs until she tried to kill herself with a drug overdose.

She said she then became a born-again Muslim and embraced a fundamentalist interpretation of the religion. The strict laws gave her a sense of boundaries. It was in this circle that in 1999 she met and married the man who would kill Massoud.

Born-again Muslim? Isn’t that a curious phrase? What do you think about applying such a Christian description to another religion? I see other people, though not mainstream reporters, have used the phrase before, too. I’m wondering if Mrs. Suicide Bomber used that phrase or whether the reporter reworded what she said.

For those not in the know, here is where the phrase came from in the Gospel of John:

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

What do you think about using the “born again” language for non-Christians?

Muslim matriculation

koran lessonsI’m not one of those people who pretends I caught something on TV because I happened to be flipping through the channels.

I love TV. I love bad TV in particular. In fact, one of my girlfriends and I frequently skip going out to stay in and watch “bad TV.” This ranges from old sitcoms to public access shows to overly earnest movies from the 1980s.

But the other night I really did happen to watch something I wouldn’t normally. I was at the gym on the treadmill and the other four television sets had programming in which I wasn’t interested. So I watched one of those wife-swap shows. A wife and mother from one family goes and lives with the husband and kids of another wife. And vice versa.

The show totally exceeded my expectations and managed to avoid the typical Hollywood attacks. The super-cool mom who didn’t let her kids change her lifestyle too much swapped places with a homeschooling mom of a gazillion kids somewhere in the South. Or something. I was running and didn’t catch everything.

The bottom line is that the script for the show ended up making the Christian homeschooling family seem very together, intact and healthy. And the other mom ended up learning a bit from them. The Christian marriage was portrayed very tenderly, while the other couple had a bit to work on. I was kind of shocked because I knew how easy it would have been to show clips that reversed the perceived situation. Such is the power of media.

I thought of that show as I was reading a Michael Luo piece in The New York Times about Muslim schools for New York. There, the students memorize the Koran in two to three years instead of studying subjects like math and science. Once they’ve memorized the Koran, they earn the title of hafiz. They also believe they are guaranteed entrance to heaven, along with ten other people. Here’s how the piece covers the lack of regularly required studies (emphasis mine):

Because the task is so difficult, most of the children at the Muslim Center study only the Koran while they are enrolled in the class. Some parents try to tutor their children in other subjects on the side. But for the most part, it is after the children finish that they work to catch up in other subjects in preparation for going back to regular school.

By not offering instruction in other subjects, the school may be inadvertently running afoul of state law, according to city and state education officials. Private religious schools like the Muslim Center’s program are required to provide “substantially equivalent” instruction to that offered in public schools, they said. But tracking every school-age child who leaves the public school system can be difficult.

Several parents said they were not worried about their children falling behind because they are smart enough to make up the academic work. Some students from the class have, in fact, gone on to the city’s best high schools, parents and school officials said.

Nevertheless, next year, the school plans to introduce two hours of instruction in math, science, English and social studies, said Mohammad Tariq Sherwani, director of the Muslim Center.

I’m a graduate of a parochial school. And personally speaking, I’m completely laissez-faire about education. But I just couldn’t help but think that a story about Christians in Alabama denying elementary-aged children education in science and math would not be spun the same way by the Times. What about the fact that only boys are enrolled? We see a violation of state law explained in the nicest way possible. Is that normal for most papers?

alislahschoolThe story goes on to explain the recitation process. It says that because translation of the Koran from Arabic is frowned upon, the students mostly don’t know what they’re saying when they recite it. It then describes a few of the kids as being completely assimilated, more or less. One loves Grand Theft Auto. Another begged his parents to be in the school.

I just kept wondering if the reporter was looking for ways to decrease anxiety about a religious school, how it would have looked if he were looking to denigrate the school, and what the proper balance would be:

One of the younger boys in the school is Thaha Sherwani, a precocious, preternaturally responsible 10-year-old whose bedroom is festooned with Yankee paraphernalia. Thaha has been memorizing for two years and will probably need another year to finish memorizing. “But it is worth it,” he said.

. . . When asked what he wants to do when he grows up, Thaha said he was unsure. But then he had an idea: “I’ll be the first hafiz Muslim baseball player.”

Again, I’m sure Thaha is a very good and preternaturally responsible kid. But I wonder if the reporter weren’t trying a bit too hard to do a fuzzy human interest story. The piece doesn’t quote anybody who raises objections to this style of education.

Photo from Ferdinand Reus via Flickr.

Reconsidering Lethal Weapon 4

passionmelI read more gossip sites by 9 a.m. than most people read all day. So forgive me if I’m still stuck on the Mel Gibson story. Today’s entry comes from Alan Cooperman at The Washington Post. I don’t think the story is terribly important or hard-hitting but I do think it’s worth noting.

Let’s begin with the doozie of the headline. At my newspaper, we’re not allowed to absolve ourselves of responsibility for the headlines that go with our stories, but it’s generally held that you can’t blame a reporter for the headline. Still, someone should be blamed for this one:

Evangelical Clergy on Mel Gibson: Judging Not

The story quotes a bunch of clergy types roundly condemning what Gibson said in his drunken tirade earlier this month. I guess the headline writer’s grasp of Christian theology is so deep that he thinks that unequivocally saying someone sinned and needs to repent is “not judging.”

But Cooperman isn’t writing about judging Gibson so much as judging his film The Passion:

Gibson’s drunken remarks about “[expletive] Jews” being responsible for “all the wars in the world,” which the actor made to a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy who pulled him over on July 28, were “hurtful and unfortunate” (James C. Dobson), “reprehensible . . . shameful” (the Rev. James Merritt) and “cause for concern” (the Rev. Ted Haggard).

But has the actor-director’s intemperate speech by the side of a highway prompted any prominent evangelical leader to voice second thoughts about the portrayal of Jews in Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ”?

And the answer is no, according to Cooperman’s research. All of the folks he interviews say there is no reason to revise their view of the movie because of Gibson’s drunken, anti-Semitic outburst:

Among the points repeatedly made by evangelicals in Gibson’s defense are that he filmed his own hand nailing Jesus to the cross; he has apologized for his arrest remarks; and the virtues of a work of art should be considered separately from the sins of its creator.

I’m glad Cooperman followed up on the story. What I was left wondering, though, was why it was just assumed that Gibson’s anti-Semitic outburst would dictate that the film should be reconsidered. I’m open to looking at it again or having that public debate again, but what I didn’t find in Cooperman’s article was anyone claiming that evangelicals should look at it again.

Who are these people who think otherwise? What are their “points repeatedly made”? Cooperman is the only voice in the story raising the question.

reconsidering the passionWhether to separate the substance of the art from the creator of it is usually a question asked in the other direction. A book like Lolita provoked many questions about Vladimir Nabokov. People wondered how such a seemingly nice and happily married man could write such a dirty book about pedophilia. Side note: if you haven’t read that book, read it now. You don’t want to somehow live your life without having read it. It’s that good.

Anyway, we love our art and we idolize our artists. We want them to reveal their innermost secrets so that we might be able to better understand their art. Sometimes that’s an illuminating experience. Other times it’s Britney Spears rambling for five minutes about time travel.

I think Gibson’s demons, including alcoholism, are fascinating and I think they probably say a great deal about his childhood and relationship with his father. And, like I said, I’m open to the case that they say something about secret anti-Semitism and sexism in his films.

But it’s not okay to just say, “See! He said he hates Jews and degrades women!” and act like the case is closed. Even if we grant Gibson’s opponents here their contention that he is unquestionably anti-Semitic, that doesn’t mean, automatically, that his films are. Perhaps he is horribly anti-Semitic but able to keep it completely in check while sober. I mean, the man was pulled over for bad driving but nobody’s writing stories about whether Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior should be reconsidered in a new light because of his driving problems.

Other reporters trying to work this angle of how shocking it is that evangelicals are not condemning The Passion in light of Gibson’s drunken outburst should remember to somehow include folks making the case that it should be condemned somewhere in the article.

Photo from cinencuentro on Flickr.

Inclusivity is the new black

GrahamWe all agreed to take a look at Jon Meacham’s lengthy mash note to the sainted Billy Graham. I alternately enjoyed the Newsweek piece and felt it went a bit over the top in luscious praise. But I’m pretty sure I would have hated it if I hadn’t read Meacham’s earlier pieces on the Nativity, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

By that I mean that it took me awhile to get used to Meacham’s style, in which he denigrates biblical literalism, shares his own opinion by quoting other people, and writes in a breezy, nonjournalistic style. He’s basically the ultimate Episcopalian. He understands Christian doctrine but just wants everyone to get along already. So he pushes Christianity’s inclusivity over its exclusivity. But the man can sure write in a lively manner, which helps when you’re reading a gazillion-word piece on someone who never really interested you that much.*

Anyway, there were so many fascinating portions that I hope others highlight, namely the Watergate/anti-Semitism and Two Kingdoms areas. But I thought I would highlight this passage from the piece:

Graham spends hours now with his Bible, at once savoring and reconsidering old stories and old lessons. While he believes Scripture is the inspired, authoritative word of God, he does not read the Bible as though it were a collection of Associated Press bulletins straightforwardly reporting on events in the ancient Middle East. “I’m not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord,” Graham says. “This is a little difference in my thinking through the years.” He has, then, moved from seeing every word of Scripture as literally accurate to believing that parts of the Bible are figurative — a journey that began in 1949, when a friend challenged his belief in inerrancy during a conference in southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains. Troubled, Graham wandered into the woods one night, put his Bible on a stump and said, “Lord, I don’t understand all that is in this book, I can’t explain it all, but I accept it by faith as your divine word.”

Now, more than half a century later, he is far from questioning the fundamentals of the faith. He is not saying Jesus is just another lifestyle choice, nor is he backtracking on essentials such as the Incarnation or the Atonement. But he is arguing that the Bible is open to interpretation, and fair-minded Christians may disagree or come to different conclusions about specific points. Like Saint Paul, he believes human beings on this side of paradise can grasp only so much. “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror,” Paul wrote, “then we shall see face to face.” Then believers shall see: not now, but then.

I think this is trademark Meacham. I mean, I really (really) doubt that Graham used the AP or mainstream media to make his point about how he views the inerrancy, inspiration or authoritative nature of the Word of God. I would not be surprised if Meacham does when describing his beliefs to his friends. So he kind of gets to use Graham to make the point that he has been trying to make in all the pieces I’ve linked. It also manages to downplay exclusivity and literalism in one fell swoop. Finally, Meacham also shows his knowledge of Christianity by mentioning the St. Paul passage.

Like I say, I enjoy Meacham. When I read him, I see the dominance of his personal style and views. I actually think the pieces are better for it. But man if that doesn’t prove tmatt’s point about the need for newsroom diversity.

We tend to look at bias or impartiality when it comes to individual stories. But my experience in the newsroom is that the bias is hidden much more deeply. It’s all about choosing which stories to write and how the story is reported. Think about how a writer like Meacham — who frequently writes against literalism — responds to Graham’s statements. Think about how a reporter who doesn’t believe in God might respond to the statements. Think about how a reporter who believes the Bible is the literal, nonfigurative Word of God might respond. I think most reporters would ask different sets of follow-up questions based on their given biases, education and perspective.

This is why newsrooms today are in such danger. They are filled with people with narrow fields of experience and education. And it shows in the paucity and weakness of coverage in many fields, religion being prime among them.

Photo via ChadChadBinks on Flickr.

*I have to share that my mom “got saved” by Billy Graham when she was a teenager. Sure, she had actually been baptized as an infant at her Evangelical and Reformed church. But she went with a neighbor to a crusade and feared they wouldn’t drive her home if she didn’t walk down at the altar call. I don’t know why I love that story so much, but I do.

A modest proposal

In this discussion about The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s less-than-stellar article on female ordination, reader Larry Rasczak notes similarities between the way the media have traditionally covered the military and the way they handle religion. It leads him to make a suggestion:

That being said, I heard nothing but good things about the CENTCOM “embedded reporter” program. The media liked it, the military thought it was a great sucess. It seemed to work all around. The problem wasn’t that the media couldn’t tell a story, it was simply that ALL they had ever learned in J school was HOW to tell the story. This meant they knew far less about the military than they thought they did, and therefore often got the story just plain wrong. Once they learned how things really worked the accuracy of their stories improved greatly, and everyone was happier.

So here is a serious proposal. How could one go about “embedding” reporters in churches, so they actually know a little about the subjects they are reporting on?

My news organization has had numerous embeds, both photographers and reporters. There are many ethical questions about such close relationships to subjects of coverage, but I actually think there is something to this.

If big newspapers or media organizations could embed reporters in traditional religious communities, I’m sure their stories would have less of that “look at these crazy people we found who believe these crazy things” patina.

So, any suggestions?

Ordination by media

womenpriests2Here at GetReligion, we’re fond of highlighting danger zones where the media struggle to understand religious issues. And we try to help reporters see nuance, or find angles they may not have considered.

But sometimes a story is so poorly written and reported that one look at the headline brings forth waves of despair and exasperation. Such was the case with a puff piece by Philadelphia Inquirer writer and editor (for 23 years!) Edward Colimore. The headline? “Female Catholic priest has first Mass.”

Colimore writes about a woman who was ordained by a non-Roman Catholic group to become a priest in a non-Roman Catholic church. He quotes only supporters of the woman, including her son. Nobody who frowns on the practice or advocates for the Roman Catholic teaching on female ordination is included in the story. Nobody. He cheerleads her throughout the entire article. He implies, repeatedly, that she is Roman Catholic. Here’s how it began:

Eileen DiFranco sang the hymns, prayed and took Communion as she had done at countless other Catholic Masses.

But yesterday, for the first time, she led the service as an ordained priest — and received a warm reception from hundreds of Catholics and others.

It’s hard to pick what to pull out from the story because it is so consistently bad, congratulatory and misleading. He mentions that DiFranco was ordained by a group calling itself Roman Catholic Womenpriests and that dioceses have pronounced such ordinations invalid, but it’s cursory. He then goes right back to rah-rahing DiFranco. This was one of my favorite quotes for him to include in a contentious news piece:

DiFranco’s son, Ben, 17, who attends La Salle College High School in Wyndmoor, said his mother’s service as a priest “is going to be a catalyst for women being ordained in the church.”

“A couple of my friends say she is not a priest, that her ordination was not valid,” said Ben DiFranco, who assisted his mother at the altar during the Mass. “But I also have friends who are really for it.”

Oh, well, I guess if DiFranco’s son and his friends are for it then we don’t need to talk to anyone else. Good reporting there, Skipper! The thing is that Colimere’s readers destroyed his article in a series of questions to him that were posted in an online forum. Kudos to the Inquirer for making such responses possible. Each reader who complained about the article did so in unbelievably cordial terms. And in each case, Colimere flubbed his response, avoided responsibility for his errors and generally didn’t get it. Here are two questions, one response:

[Question:] About your story on the woman, claiming to be a Catholic priest, having her first “Mass.” I don’t want to beat you up; I assume you’re trying to be fair in this. But I’d ask you to appreciate that the validity of her ordination is akin to someone, showing up in the United States, claiming to be ambassador from Britain — only that’s not what the Foreign Office in London says. For that matter, it is akin to someone claiming to be a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter; only the Philadelphia Inquirer says otherwise. . . .

[Question:] In your answers above, you say that you make it clear that Mrs. Difranco isn’t a Roman Catholic and belongs to a community of 20 people who aren’t Roman Catholic and which rents space in a church that is not Roman Catholic. Why is it newsworthy, then, that someone who isn’t a Roman Catholic has been part of some sort of service that is not part of the Roman Catholic Church?

[Answer:] Though not Roman Catholic under Vatican authority, the Old Catholic Church of the Beatitudes in Lansdowne conducts itself largely as a Roman Catholic church — with the same sacraments, liturgy and confession. It also has drawn members/visitors from other Roman Catholic churches and Sunday’s Mass was attended by many from a Roman Catholic church in Germantown. The ordination and first Mass — though not recognized by dioceses across the country — was of interest to a segment of readers. We reported the event and left it up to people to make their own judgments about its value. As you point out, we indicated that the members of the Church of the Beatitudes rent space in a United Methodist church and held the Mass in another United Methodist church. Readers will make up their own minds about the issues involved.

The questions and answers are all very interesting — particularly because after writing an article that blatantly diminishes the fact that no Roman Catholic organization was involved in the ordination of the woman, Colimere acts as if he had made that perfectly clear. As if the readers were to blame for not picking up on the facts.

And I also love his line alleging that Roman Catholics and non-Roman Catholics use the same sacraments. I suppose the reporter means that both the Womenpriests and the Roman Catholic church administer Holy Communion and Baptism, etc. But to toss it off as the same sacraments, when Rome obviousy doesn’t consider the Womenpriests to be administering valid sacraments, is to be ignorant or to be taking sides in this story, which is not Mr. Colimere’s place. Where are the voices for the other side?

This really was a low point for coverage of this issue. I’m not familiar with Colimere, but I hope this isn’t normal. The kind way in which his readers tried to correct him makes me think he makes mistakes like these infrequently. Either way, I hope he isn’t so quick to dismiss his readers next time they offer such gentle words of wisdom.

It’s also worth noting that Inquirer reporter Susan Snyder wrote about the ordination of eight women by the organization. Her reader responses are also interesting.

Ginormous gay marriage roundup

gaycakeA few years ago I was having coffee with a friend of mine who is gay. He surprised me by telling me that he opposed gay marriage vehemently. He thought that children should have a mother and a father and that gay marriage would subvert that. He also believed gay culture was all about promiscuity and sexual liberation. Marriage might kill what he loved about being gay.

While most of my gay friends and acquaintances would not share or express his views, he’s not the only homosexual I’ve met with such feelings. Which is why I found it so fascinating to see a New York Times piece last week that delved into the views of gays who oppose the political fight for gay marriage. Anemona Hartocollis talks to Bill Dobbs and other activists who think that gay marriage forces have hijacked the gay rights agenda:

For better or for worse, to be unattached and gay is not what it used to be. Gone are the guilt-free days of free love in the clubs, of hooking up at bathhouses and reveling in promiscuity, which Mr. Dobbs prefers to call “sexual generosity.” In are elaborate weddings, shared property, pets and children.

Mr. Dobbs said that even on Fire Island, where cohabitating with 12 other men was once a time-honored tradition, a friend who is an utterly bourgeois gay homeowner complains that he gets the gimlet eye from gay and lesbian parents because he is not in a relationship. Another friend scolded Mr. Dobbs that if he had never wanted to marry, there must be something wrong with him.

Hartocollis also speaks with homosexuals who oppose the push to define homosexuality as a simple function of biology rather than involving choice.

It should not be surprising that a group has a diversity of viewpoints but it seems many reporters fall prey to the notion that this isn’t the case. It’s particularly problematic with minorities. It’s presumed, for instance, that white Americans or heterosexuals can and will have different views about political or cultural issues. But so many reporters imply that minorities will have the same view about a given political issue. How many reporters have revealed that not all homosexuals share the same political goals on gay marriage?

Hartocollis explains why some gays oppose the push for gay marriage:

They question whether monogamy is normal. They wonder why gay men and lesbians are buying into an institution that they see as rooted in oppression. They worry that adapting to conventional “family values” will destroy the cohesion that has made gay men and lesbians a force to be reckoned with, politically and culturally.

In the 70′s, many gay people saw themselves as “an army of lovers,” to borrow the title of a German documentary of the time, [Jim] Eigo said. “I still hold the candle for a gay community like that, in which every man is linked to every other by at least the potential of being his lover.”

bostonlawdrumsupbizThis article was published the same week as another excellent Times piece on gays and marriage. Jane Gross speaks to married men who come out to their wives later in their marriage. A number of men wish to stay married because they enjoy the fruits of life with a wife and kids. It’s fascinating how some of the men interviewed, most of whom asked to remain anonymous, expected little to change when they told their wives about their sexual behaviors on the side:

Dr. T.’s wife had agreed she could live with his sexual orientation provided he didn’t act on it. So he lied and said his homosexual relationship did not include sex. But she wasn’t fooled and forced him to move into an in-law apartment in the family home, a way station to a more formal separation.

This development has left him stunned, one moment sympathetic to his wife’s position and the next disbelieving that they can’t work it out. “I love her, but she wants me to be in love with her,” Dr. T. said. “She wants to be my one and only. Everything we have will be at risk if, God forbid, we divorce.”

The article is very well-written and Gross admits up front that she has limited statistics about the number of gay men who are married. She works with what few numbers she has to give a feel for how widespread an issue it is. She also tells the sad story of a 64-year-old man who divorces his wife because of his homosexuality. While he has kept up good terms with his wife and sons, he has found “he is ill-suited, or too old, for gay night life.”

gaymormonsAnother great article on gays who are married looked at a completely different phenomenon — gay Mormons who choose marriage openly. Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune‘s religion reporter, talks to gay Mormons who blog about their married life. The piece is lengthy and honest — Fletcher Stack cites statistics that indicate Mormon marriages with one gay partner are not likely to succeed. But she records the hope and candid admissions of several parties who are trying to make it work. She identifies one gay Mormon by the pseudonym Landon:

Sex is “more complicated than for most other people,” Landon said in a phone interview. “Concessions are made. That’s the nature of making an unconventional relationship work.”

He doesn’t believe he chose to be gay, so he doesn’t feel guilty about having same-sex attractions. He agrees with the LDS Church’s distinction between desire and actions and is trying everything he can to resist those desires, or even overcome them.

The key to being hopeful, Landon says, is believing that “God has an individual answer to me. God will grant me ‘miracle upon miracle.’”

Fletcher Stack was able to get the men and some of their wives to speak openly about the sexual struggles in their marriages and the methods they use for overcoming the challenges of being attracted to the same sex while married to a member of the other. Here are their blogs if you’re interested. You also may be interested in this U.S. News & World Report story on gay activists rethinking their strategy in light of recent defeats of gay marriage.

Photos via Marx Marvelous, Justin Nash and Decidedly Odd on Flickr.