If you're not familiar with The Trevor Project, it's worth checking out. It's an attempt to foster hope and curtail suicide among gay teens. There have been a lot of celebrities who have produced videos for the project. And then there are many, many more from "normal" folk who have lived it and want to assure young people struggling that it does get better.
Apparently an "It Gets Better" video has been produced by students at BYU and is making the rounds on Facebook. I finally broke down and watched it today. I have mixed feelings. I refused to watch it at first because the first time I saw it on Facebook it had "same-gender attraction" in the title.
<rant>I find that phrase extremely offensive. For starters, it perpetuates the myth the Mormon church is trying to establish as doctrine that sex and gender are equivalent, which is complete and utter bullshit. Anyone with a brain will tell you that sex is about your anatomical bits and gender is about the social roles assigned to you because of your bits. Gender roles are at the heart of homophobia.
It also completely denies the reality of what being gay is. This phrase allows the church to define homosexuality as a condition, a disease, a handicap. God created us all straight, gave males all the power and women all the child-rearing and cleanup duties. This is the very foundation of the Mormon church's opposition to homosexual rights. If you think it's just an innocuous phrase, you're totally missing the boat.</rant>
So anyway, I finally got past my visceral reaction to the Phrase Which Shall Not Be Named and watched the video. To say that I can relate to the struggles these students talk about would be an understatement. I briefly considered re-posting it to give my family some idea what it was like for me 20 years ago when a gay-straight alliance at BYU was absolutely unthinkable. In the end I decided not to. I imagine they'll find it on their own eventually.
On the one hand, I'm glad these students can actually express themselves and talk about their sexuality. That has got to make life much easier. On the other hand, I wonder how long it will be before their status as second class citizen wears on them. Admitting you're gay is one thing. Being allowed to live and love as comes naturally to you is something else entirely. How long can they live with the dissonance created by a gay-straight alliance at BYU and the Mormon church's continued efforts to fight LGBT equality?
Like those students—I keep wanting to call them kids. Probably has something to do with the fact that my own children are that age. <sigh>—I too had experiences where I felt like God was telling me I was okay, two of them actually. The first was when I was still married. I was having a particularly bad day struggling to keep it together. I don't even remember what I was thinking. I just remember a thought that intruded on the miasma that was my emotional state that day. Clear as a bell it said, "You're not broken."
The second time was right after my first boyfriend broke up with me to go back to the church, "confess his sins and put his life in order." It occasioned some soul searching on my part. One evening I sat on the floor wrestling with my thoughts. I tried to imagine myself going back to the church, getting remarried and doing my best to "endure to the end." That thought made me physically ill. I imagined going back to the church, staying single and trying to find someway to give my life in the church meaning. That just felt depressing. The third option I considered was to stay on the path that I was on and find someone else to love. Once again, a thought, clear as a bell that didn't feel like it was my own: "Yes. Do that."
I wonder how long it will take these young men and women to work out that God/Wisdom/Grace/Whateveryouwantotcallit exists independent of the Church™; that an experience that tells you you are not broken, that God doesn't care that you are gay is not the same as an endorsement of the Mormon church. What I fear is that increased tolerance in the Church will end up making it more difficult to make the break, to make the decision that they do not need to be punished because the Mormon Collective can't wrap their head around a God who doesn't have a stick up His Ass.
My cousin lost her husband to an untimely death last week. As I sat in the LDS chapel singing hymns for the funeral service I couldn't help but compare my current experience singing hymns with my past experience.
The opening hymn was "How Great Thou Art," one of my past favorites. I realized as I sang along I didn't feel nearly as connected to that song as I used to. I also realized the reason I don't is because I don't feel dependent on the mercy of a Savior to rescue my soul from oblivion. I'm not sure I can adequately describe what that song meant to me back then. In a nutshell, I believed the only reason my consumption of oxygen in this life was tolerated was because there was a Savior who loved me, understood me and would intervene on my behalf to shield me from the vengeance of a Just God.
In my mind, Jesus was the only person who understood what it was like to live inside my skin. He was the only person who loved me without reservation, because surely my family would, at best, pity me if the things in my mind ever found voice. Pierced ears: sin. Fashion conscious: sin. Rock and roll: sin. Kissing anyone, never mind boys: sin. Sin. SIN.
As I sat there and listened to one speaker drone on and on (OMG, that guy loved the sound of his own voice) about the hope that is offered in The Gospel of Jesus Christ™, I couldn't help but think, "Yes, but in order for the kind of hope you are talking about to have any power or even meaning, there has to be some part of you that feels hopeless." I'm sorry, I just can't believe in or worship a god who sets up creation such that—even on the tiniest level—his creations must live in terror of his wrath.
Do I feel hopeless now? No. Have I moved beyond that frame of mind where fear holds sway? Also, no. There is still a part of me that fears the Wrath of God, that is metaphorically looking over his shoulder for the Avenging Angel. As I went through school and got my MSW, it was rather disturbing to realize that a lot of my inner processes and emotional responses mirror those who have been subject to abuse. Disturbing mostly because I have no memory of any kind of abuse that I feel would qualify. And yet as I write, the parallels between my past relationship to God and the relationship of an abuse victim to their abuser seem somewhat less than subtle. Is that where it comes from? Some kind of fucked up PTSD because I lived so long in fear putting one toe out of line and being subject to Divine Retribution?
I didn't know my cousin's husband very well. I had only met "Bob" on a few occasions. My cousin and I had the best of intentions to reconnect and spend more time together, but life has a way of getting in the way, especially when everyone is struggling just to make ends meet. Bob's death was an accident, and not even an I-was-doing-something-crazy-that-I-loved accident. It didn't have to happen. And yet, based on the glimpse I had into his family and his life (from his long-time friend who delivered a touching eulogy that was actually about Bob), it makes me wonder what fears Bob wrestled with and wonder also if maybe we might have had more in common than either of us knew.
Rest in peace, Bob.
I'm currently involved with a project that is building on top of the WordPress platform. I've been doing a lot of tinkering and testing, and rather than try and come up with copy for test posts, I just head over to Duck Island and grab some of that gibberish text (called greeking text). One of the fun things about Duck Island is it has more than just Latin as an option. In addition to Latin, there is Marketing, Matrix, Metropolitan, Pseudogerman, and my favorite, Hillbilly.
So today I was tinkering with a plugin to add Google ads to the side bar of the blog. Here's what I got.
And no, I didn't Photoshop it.
Heard this sound bite on the radio today and then found it over at Think Progress (quite easily I might add).
Not asking for Pharaoh to give everything to everybody and to take care of folks because at the end of the day, it’s slavery. We become slaves to government.
OMG. Really? What kind of mental contortionist act does it take to see ancient Egypt as a welfare state? That's Texas governor Rick Perry, now another clown in the circus that is the Republican nomination process. Well, soon to be anyway. You can see the video clip over at Think Progress.
How do you even address such phenomenal, unrepentant stupidity? And you know people will vote for him just because he's a "good Christian." That is if being a good Christian is bankrupting your state in the name of God. "Take what you can. Give nothing back," was certainly one of Christ's best lines. Wait maybe I'm getting him confused with someone else. No wait, being a good Christian means invoking God to defend your behavior at least three times a day. Or was it an hour? I mean, really. "By their fruits ye shall know them" is so passé.
You know, when I was a kid "taking the name of the Lord in vain" pretty much meant swearing. It's been some time now that I don't think God gives a rats ass if his name is a swear word. I mean, really? He's that insecure? If I were God, I'd be a lot more upset by whackadoodles like Perry who use my name to con people by telling them he's in my good graces, when really I think he's a first class asshat. But that's just me, I guess. I obviously lack insight into the mind of God on the matter.
Interesting isn't it, when science can't explain the origin of the universe or the true nature of matter, it's a sign of the Hand of God. Proof that the Creator exists and has knowledge and designs that are beyond the feeble comprehension of man. But when science can't explain the origins of homosexuality, there's no Hand of God. There are no designs beyond the comprehension of men. It's just sin.
Ask any outsider who has spent any time around my family about my family and one of the first things they will tell you about is our propensity for quoting movies. It's pathological. We can't help it. For some reason, random quotes from movies will stick in our brain like nothing else. Kudos if you can tell me what movie that quote is from.
So the other day I was reading this post over at MoHo Hawaii about the oppressive qualities of patriarchies. I left my $.02 in the comments and closed with this: "It's this kind of stuff that makes me sick I was ever a part of it."
That sentence left me wondering how much of my anger is covering up shame I feel about my time as member of the LDS Church. I spent most of my time in church leadership and was spared the bishopric bullet only because my wife worked on Sundays which left me responsible for the children. I like to believe I was more open minded than most, but I think it had more to do with an unwillingness to be casting stones. I know that I was judgmental—particularly where sexual indiscretion was concerned. Yes, yes. I understand the psychology of all that mess, but that doesn't mean that I don't feel like a first class ass if I think about it too much.
I don't know if it's shame around feeling duped and suckered, shame about having participated in an organization whose teachings I find abhorrent now, shame that my response to the cognitive dissonance that started while I was on my mission was to redouble my efforts to ignore such "unworthy" thoughts and find the "right" path. Probably all of the above.
I wonder, too, if this doesn't have something to do with my ambivalence about sending my resignation letter. Maybe that ambivalence is an unwillingness to admit to myself that all that time and effort—in the end—only made things worse. Maybe it's because I haven't found any meaning to fill the gaping hole that would be left by a complete repudiation of the first 30+ years of my life.
<sigh> Maybe one of these days I'll finally sort all of this out.
I've had a lot of deep thoughts lately. Someday, I might get around to getting them written down, but in the mean time, a bit of light humor from Cognitive Dissenter:
“Mommy, what will I be when I grow up?”
“Oh my dear, you can be anything you want, even the President of the United States. If you're a Republican, that is.”
“What's 'the President of the United States'?”
The rest of One If By Land, Two If By Sea. Blah blah blah.
I like the idea of The Rapture. I believe it’s the best idea God has ever had. I was personally disappointed on May 21 when it became apparent that someone had made a slight calculation error. Ah fetch! I thought to myself when all of the Utah legislators (state and federal) were still here.
What I’m saying is can I vote for The Rapture to happen? Is there an online petition I can sign in support of the Chosen Saints being taken up to Heaven?
Every now and then my musings on my relationship to the LDS church coincide with a song that ends up resonating with me in a way that leaves a lasting impression. The first time this happened I was pondering the suicide of a friend's roommate and some quotes I had heard from a new book that seemed to perpetuate the "better off dead" myth solidified by S.W. Kimball and The Miracle of Forgiveness. A myth that terrified me back in the day. A myth I find abhorrent now. At some point in this musing, Faith Hill's "Cry" came on the radio:
Could you cry a little
Lie just a little
Pretend that your feeling
A little more pain
I gave now I'm wanting
Something in return
So cry just a little for me.
Give it up, baby.
I hear you're doing fine.
Nothing's gonna save me
I can see it your eyes
Some kind of heart ache
Give it try
I don't want pity
I just want what is mine
Seemed like a great song for a montage of photos and videos of gay, LDS men and women who decided they were, in fact, better off dead.
Most recently it has been "Jar of Hearts" by Christina Perri. There are so many lines that speak to me: "I learned to live half alive," "It took so long just to feel alright," and of course "Who do you think you are? Running 'round leaving scars, collecting your jar of hearts, and tearing love apart." Not "I wish I had missed the first time that we kissed," though, because <shudder> ew.
"Don't come back for me. Don't come back at all."
Caught bits and pieces of this piece on Paul Haggis' exit from Scientology driving too and from lunch today. It's an interview with Laurence Wright who wrote The Apostate: Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology for the New Yorker. Here are a couple of highlights:
If it were simply a matter of reason then one could put this document down in front of you and and say, 'Here is conclusive proof that the founder of Scientology lied…about the very fundamental principles out of which he created the Church of Scientology. But that may not matter to people who are involved in it, who may feel they are gaining something from their experience either because they feel like the truths of Scientology enhance their lives or because the community of Scientologists that they live among is something like their family, so they intentionally shield themselves against knowing these kinds of things.
... But that was not satisfactory to Haggis, and he began an investigation of Scientology, something that he had not done in his nearly 35 years as being a scientologist. He had never really looked at what people said about Scientology. And, in fact, the church discourages that kind of independent inquiry.
I was privy to a lot of those changes just by asking [Haggis] questions he had never really asked himself: about things that the church had engaged in in the past, some of the controversies that have haunted the church for decades; he never really looked at. In the process of interviewing him he would sometimes stop and say, "You know, I think of myself as a being a very skeptical and independent person. I don't know why I didn't ask myself these very questions at the time. It was between a lack of interest and a fear of finding out the truth.
Obviously the parallels to the Mormon church are what jumped out at me. Mormons have a slightly better rep than Scientologists theses days. They may still be considered cultists, but at least they're not derided as complete whack-a-doodles. Still, upon reflection I think the same applies to any religious belief. There are precious few religions that encourage independent study of works critical to the belief system, institution, established dogma, etc., and there are plenty of otherwise intelligent, rational people who suspend disbelief for the sake of some comfort, hope and/or safety offered by their religion of choice.