Things That Make Me Sad

It starts with Big Love, continued with Penn & Teller last week, and Dooce seals it. I’m not sad about those three things, but what those three things each have made me think and feel. I would have written about all of these seperately, but I’ve been working eleven to twelve hour days for the past week and just haven’t had time to even think about this for more than a few minutes. Let’s see if I can get through this.
I really like Big Love. I think it’s funny, engaging, and the little hints of life in Utah make me giggle. I like that the show has done a good job of showing that the compound (whatever they call themselves, I forget) are not part of the church, especially in the episode with the reporter where Roman talks about the end of polygamy and where they split from the LDS church. I love that the Mormon girl who works at the restaurant is sweet and caring, even if she is a little too prudish. That she went to pick up her friend made me happy. So, overall, I dig the show. I can’t wait to see where it goes. Why does it make me sad? It makes me sad because the Church, and a lot of members of the Church have thrown a hissy about it. It’s a TV show set in Utah. When was the last time that happened? These kinds of people actually exist in Utah, Idaho and Northern Arizona. Denying that these groups exist is dishonest. The show has made pretty clear that they’re not part of the LDS church anymore on more than one occasion. Hell, no one making a stink has probably even watched the show (because HBO is evil, ya know) to judge for themselves.
Next, I love Penn & Teller: Bullshit. I don’t agree with them a lot of the times, but they’re funny, and I respect the funny. Their last episode was about the Boy Scouts and how they exclude atheists and homosexuals. I was a scout, both of my brothers were scouts. My dad was on the cover of Boy’s Life when he was a scout. All four of us are Eagles. Jen posted earlier about it, but I’ll repeat it. At the end of the show, they did this bit about how they were starting their own club, and no Mormons could join since Mormons already had their exclusive club. It was funny, but it hit me like a punch in the face. I’m disgusted by our unwillingness as a religion and as a culture to accept those who are different. Why can’t we embrace those who’ve already been marginalized by society? We are all children of God, and should all be treated with respect. If someone wants to be a Boy Scout, and is willing to be a part of the troop, why not let him in? Why close the door on what could be a great opportunity for both the scout and the troop to learn from each other?
And Dooce… I love Dooce too. She writes the funniest blog on the planet and her stuff about living in Utah is priceless. Her latest post was about a book she saw at the checkout line called The Second Coming: How Awesome Will It Be?, written by some guy who’s obviously very Mormon. I don’t care about the book, or the stream of mocking comments (some of which were damn funny). What I care about is that Utah Mormons and their culture reflects poorly on me and my religion.
OK, more and more, my religion reflects poorly on me. The older I get, and the more people I meet, the more befuddled I get about my place in my religion. The more experiences I have and the more places I go, I look back and see a great religion being swung to the right by a culture that’s embraced everything that’s wrong in American religious thinking. They’ve joined the Christian Right, which appalls me. The Christian Right comes from the same source as Governor Bogg’s extermination order (if you don’t know, it was an order written by Governor Boggs that made it legal to kill Mormons), and from the same source that hunted Mormons across the country from New York to Nauvoo, and now we’re embracing it?
I am tired of holding my tongue whenever the topic of homosexuality, politics or life outside the church comes up. I’m tired of feeling so alone in Priesthood when the approving nods start about how morally corrupt everyone on the outside is. I’m tired of gettiing those looks when I do open my mouth and remind them that the New Testament exists and that Christ embraced the sinners and forgave them, that we don’t get to judge people, that we were once the ones who were persecuted, that the same political groups they’re now supporting are led by some of the most virulent anti-Mormons on the planet (Hellooooo, Dr. Dobson and Mr. Falwell).
I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know if I’m wrong and at some point this will all go away and I’ll feel comfortable at church again, or if I’ll go away for good and stop being Mormon. I don’t know what that would mean, for me or my family. I’ll let you know…

7 thoughts on “Things That Make Me Sad”

  1. I don’t think all Mormons have embraced what you call the evil Christian Right. And I by no means think actual Mormon church doctrine promotes hatred and bigotry. I’ve read lots of the official stuff on homosexuality and it doesn’t any anything about not loving them. Of course, there’s that thing about the boy scouts, but I’m not getting into that here. What I mean to say is, you can’t throw out the church doctrine based on how hideous the people can be. There’s a difference between doctrine and culture, and I think a lot of people get confused by that. The difference sometimes gets fuzzy, but I don’t think it’s fair to chastise the church based on the misbehavior of its members. Mormons are still people and we shouldn’t expect them to be perfect.
    That said, I’m not thrilled about any of this either. That book churns my stomach. But then again, Deseret Book has always churned my stomach. That’s why I never buy anything and generally boycott LDS bookstores.

  2. Boy are we on the same page. I just got done posting about BigLove and the mindless, knee-jerk reactions I’m seeing across the net about it. My wife is really miffed about it as well. All day long she’s been stomping around the house muttering under her breath about the small-mindedness so prominant in our culture. A couple of minutes ago she turns to me and says “why don’t you go look and see what Kevin and Jennifer have said on their blog. They’re pretty straight thinkers…” Pretty funny…

  3. Well, son, I’m a middle of the road kind-of-guy. Always have been. The Church didn’t really change my politics. It did, however, help give me kinder perspective on the way others view the world. The Golden Rule still applies, even if some people, whether in or out of the Church, forget to follow it. The places we’ve lived have given you a good understanding of cultural versus doctrinal influences, and that sometimes they get confused and intertwined in people’s thinking. Just remember that truth stands independent of the seeker of it. If he puts too much of his own perspective into “the truth”, it often ceases to be the actual “truth.” I agree that we should love the sinner, but be firm about condemning the sin. Choice is still everyone’s right in the process. God’s law doesn’t change. The law of the land is still the will of the majority in the legislative process. The wo comes when the majority choose evil in place of the good. I saw enough of the pilot to get that a guy with three times the family gets three times the stress, but it just isn’t worth all the rest that goes with it. He’s got problems I certainly wouldn’t want, and I don’t care to see where they go from here. I don’t think the Church will be harmed by it, just that many will stop asking the right questions because the issues become clouded in too much other crap (culture versus doctrine). I made an informed, rather than a knee-jerk choice, but I often wish that you and I both would just follow the brethren and avoid that which is questionable media to begin with. Love, Dad

  4. 1. Individual interpretation is what makes our religion so great, and so weird at the same time.
    2. Every religion is publicly judged by it’s craziest members. Only the sane and sensible few will judge a religion by actually bothering to research and ernestly seek for the reality of what a religion represents.
    3. Being accepting of people is one thing, but harboring or promoting homosexuality amongst our youth is a stupid idea.

  5. Steve, tolerance is not promotion, and it’s not stupid. Homophobia and exclusion is stupid. Creating a whole class of marginalized and persecuted people is stupid. Creating a stigma around it instead of embracing them is stupid. Pushing people away isn’t Christian. It’s not Charity, and it surely isn’t Christ-like.

  6. I love “thinking out loud” posts.
    I think I told you before that I grew up around a lot of mormon kids. One thing that really struck me, is that even the most moderate of my mormon friends became hardliners once they went to mormon colleges. In retrospect, I chalk it up to the perils of groupthink, of living in a cultural and spiritual vaccuum. As much as I respect the need to shut out other influences, that also means shutting out much of God’s creation.
    I haven’t seen the Penn & Teller thing about the boy scouts, but the prejudices you listed are pretty much why our boys aren’t participating. It’s a shame, I was a girl scout for six years and have really great memories of everything (well, except the selling cookies part). P & T did a horribly one-sided, simplistic skewering of the bible on one of those shows, and it was a complete turnoff. Penn can be so smug.
    Anyway, what I’m getting at here is that vehemence tends to breed equal and opposite vehemence on the other side. I could stand for someone to debunk these things with a bit more moderation and humilty. Your post does a good job of this–thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Yeah, I know what you mean. Members of any group can get a little nutty when they’re exclusive. When noone challenges your views back to center they have a tendency to run amok along a path. I don’t exactly have great fun in priesthood either, but it’s not really about being chummy. It’s about being reminded about whatever gospel topic the lesson is on that week, even if it’s just to remind you that your fellows in the quorum are a bit off, but you have to love them anyway. And after what Jim said, I’m proud to have completed 4.5 years at BYU and still come out reasonably sane…by which I mean I’m not calling my brother a heretic for his post or having a spaz attack about the polygamy show.

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