31 May 2011

New Blog

No, I'm not doing a new blog. But I just ran across one that's worth your attention. There's one out there which went viral during October 2010 LDS General Conference after Boyd Packer's infamous homophobic speech about The Gay which he was subsequently required to edit for publication.

Its author, who refuses to identify himself, revels in the angst and torment of "struggling" to be a faithful Mormon while also being gay. He loves the adulation of hundreds of followers who laud his every post for his bright shining example of devotion to God, the prophet, and every word that proceedeth forth from The Church Office Building.

While constantly proclaiming his own humility and propensity to fall short of perfection, he holds himself out as a beacon of faithfulness and obedience and a savior of the lives of other strugglers. For example: "I've had the daily opportunity to touch people's lives and help them find the faith to avert suicide, fix broken marriages, and pursue lifelong dreams." Yes, that's actually a quote from his blog.

Hmmm. I seem to remember the Savior saying "when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what they right hand doeth; That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly."

Mr. Perfect Sufferer follows the same basic script for each post. It's the same model for inspiring introspective sermonettes used each Sunday morning by Lloyd Newell for the "Music & The Spoken Word" broadcast of the Tabernacle Choir. One need only read a few of his posts in succession to discern the pattern.

He also censors and filters every comment that comes in response to his posts. And he rejects any which disagree with his agenda. The result, of course, is an echo chamber into which none is admitted or allowed to speak except those who already see things exactly as he does--and who see him as a bright shining exemplar. It's no surprise that the overwhelming majority of his blog followers are straight women.

Fortunately this is not characteristic of the entire Internet. And somebody (not me, I had nothing to do with this) has now had the creativity to start a blog which answers Mr. Perfect Sufferer and actually allows the freedom to discuss and debate his Highly Processed Inspiration Packets which he himself does not permit. If there's any justice or fairness in the world, this one will catch on just as fast as his did after Packer's speech. In any event, it will certainly be a better tool for learning and discovering truth, since Mr. Perfect Sufferer seems to have forgotten the insight of the founding prophet he no doubt claims to revere: "by proving contraries is truth made manifest."

To see not only Mr. Perfect Sufferer's thoughts but also engage in actual free discussion of them, click here.

25 May 2011

We've Already Won

Over there on the left sidebar amongst my favorite quotes is one from Cesar Chavez: “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”

I’ve had a stressful few weeks and have gotten a bit down about some things. But I think I’m bouncing back. Obviously I’m well past high school, and I know it’s common to hear of more mature adults deriding teens and 20-somethings for all kinds of things, “the world’s going to hell in a handbasket if we leave it to them,” that sort of thing.

But I don’t see that. And one of the things that’s helped me do it is the story of James taking Josh to his high school prom. I don’t know where, and I’m not sure when (other than that it’s recent), but this story and this picture warmed my heart. It was unimaginable when I was in high school. It still is in some less enlightened, tolerant and accepting places. But the fact that it is possible, and even welcomed, in some places now gives me real hope for the future. The same hope that those in the early days of the civil rights movement saw for younger generations of African-Americans. And just 50 years later, look who’s in the White House. Only a hundred years after Teddy Roosevelt was so cowed by national outrage for inviting Booker T. Washington to dinner there that he never met publicly with Washington again.

Focus on the Family Chief Executive and President Jim Daly recently conceded that marriage equality opponents have “probably lost” the battle already. And he’s absolutely right. Demographics alone doom his and anyone else’s opposition to marriage equality nationwide. I’m sure pockets of resistance will remain long after it becomes law, but the tide has already shifted. Polls show that growing majorities of Americans support gay marriage. Homophobia will eventually become as odious as racism.

John Adams said “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”

In the same vein, those of past generations who suffered through aggressive police round-ups at bars and clubs, and who finally started to fight back, they studied politics and war so that those of the next generation would have liberty to study demographics and philosophy. Those of that generation have been studying demographics, politics, philosophy, and debate so that those of James and Josh’s generation can have the right to finally and freely be who and what God made them to be, without the stifling shame and fear of the past.

And that’s why this picture warmed my heart. Because it told me that the battle has already been won. Like Chavez said, once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.

22 May 2011

Evensong

I love the Anglican tradition, always have. Many of my friends know that sometimes I like to go to the local Episcopal cathedral, where I know a bunch of people and get to practice on the organ sometimes and have even sung with the choir.

Part of the Anglican tradition is a late Sunday afternoon service called Evensong. It's kind of like an abbreviated church service, there's no communion or sermon, it's just a series of prayers and scripture readings and music. A wonderful way to end a Sunday with peace and contemplation and reflection.

I like this service a lot. So I thought I'd share it with you. The music you'll hear is Faure's "Cantique de Jean Racine", whose lyrics you can find with a quick Google search if you want. They're beautiful. This is an actual live recording from today's Evensong service sung by the choir of men and boys at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego, with pictures of the cathedral and some of its people. I hope you'll see why I love this place.

video

21 May 2011

Infringement or Illusion?

Sitting in Borders Books relaxing after a frenetic week. Realizing that recent life distractions have led me to almost ignore the blog for the last little while. Can’t imagine anybody has missed it much. I haven’t gone anywhere, I’ve just been engaged with real life. Kids and stuff. Priorities. But I do have some thoughts still percolating and have been meaning to write about this particular one for a while.

Starting way back during the Prop 8 debates and continuing on since then, I’ve seen countless commentaries from conservative people and groups, the National Organization for Marriage, various religious groups, etc., all hollering about threats to religious freedom if marriage equality becomes the law of the land. Their ability to practice their religion freely will be infringed, apparently.

And as with all the committed gay relationships and marriages I see around me which are thriving, I look at such claims and say “How? Why? How does this infringe your religious liberty? Why is it bad for you?”

So far, the answers are basically “We won’t be able to teach that homosexuality is an abomination to God anymore, we’ll be forced to perform gay marriages that are theologically offensive, and our children will be force-fed an immoral social agenda in the schools.”

People a lot smarter than me have demonstrated with abundant evidence that all three of these claims are completely bogus. So I won’t rehash them here. This leaves one objection which is never clearly stated as such, because when it is, its silliness is immediately apparent. But it seems quite prevalent nonetheless.

It’s the belief that religious freedom is infringed merely by confronting the phenomenon, the issue of marriage equality. Just having to think about and deal with it seems in many peoples’ minds equivalent to impinging on their religious liberty. This theme underlies much of Dallin Oaks’ speechifying as well as that of many other marriage equality critics affiliated with the LDS and other churches. They seem to assume a constitutional right to keep things “the way they’ve always been” without even thinking about changes.

I have tried to follow the thread of this “logic” through more possible twists and turns than a cat’s cradle, and it still makes no sense to me. How does just thinking about and debating a public policy issue restrict religious freedom? That makes sense only if you define religious freedom as the right to be unquestioned and unoffended. And that’s just silly. There’s no constitutional right to never be offended, or to never have to think about things you disagree with.

I like and respect solid logic and a well-reasoned argument. But this idea of religious freedom being infringed by having to debate this issue at all is just dumb. It’s bogus on its face. It rests on a false assumption that has no legal basis whatsoever. And in doing so, it inflicts a great disservice on its own adherents, by leading them to believe something that’s just not true.

Anybody that reads this and disagrees, please jump in. Tell me why I’m wrong. I’m all ears.