Not Again… Love Thy Neighbor

Here we go again. My Church has come out again and said two different things, and it’s driving me crazy. On the one hand, the church released a statement saying that the church is neutral in political elections but encourages members to participate in the process. On the other, they come out in favor of bigoted legislation that narrowly defines marriage in order to exclude other people from the legal rights we enjoy.

Why? What’s the point? Just like in 2006 when the constitutional amendment was in front of the US Senate, this is an election year ploy meant to drive evangelicals to the polls to hate on some gay people. That’s all. There’s nothing moral or ethical about it. It’s hateful election year tricks meant to build up people by tearing others down.

I can’t stand it. We didn’t go to church for almost two years after the last time a letter like that was read from the pulpit, and now people are being threatened with excommunication for being against Prop 8. Why does this have to come back up now just when we’re going back to Church and although I adamantly don’t agree with the Church’s position, we’re attending again.

So, if this gets me excommunicated for thinking for myself, fine. I’m all for gay marriage. It has not effect on my marriage. I don’t think homosexuality is a choice. I don’t think we, as Christians, should be persecuting anyone for things they can not change about themselves or judge them. I know enough gay and lesbian couples to know that they love each other in the truest sense of the word and denying that love, pretending it doesn’t exist because it doesn’t fit into our small definition of it is wrong and un-Christlike.

It was only a hundred years ago that Mormons were persecuted for our unpopular ideas about marriage. For us, even after all these years, to persecute others (and make no mistake, that’s exactly what’s going on) is hypocrisy plain and simple. It’s hate, bigotry and the worst part of ourselves, and I’ll have no part of it.\
bq. Thus did Alma teach his people, that every man should love his neighbor as himself, that there should be no contention among them. — Mosiah 23:15\
Marginalizing people is not love. It’s contention for political ends, a cheap trick to rile people up and get them to the polls – nothing more.

Update: I’ve been thinking about this pretty much all last night and this morning, and a single phrase keeps coming back to me from The Declaration of Independence (emphasis mine):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Throughout our history, we’ve not done a very good job of living up to the ideals laid down in our founding document (the one that kicked off our struggle for independence). Whether it was slavery, segregation, women’s rights, internment or meddling in other countries’ affairs, we’ve obviously still got some work to do to fulfill those ideals. I can’t stomach the idea that we’d take a step backwards by denying our fellow citizens’ “pursuit of happiness” and liberty just because we don’t agree with it. The divorce rate is over 50% and has been for years. It seems we have some work to do on our own marriages (one might say we have a “beam in our eye”) before we go meddling with others’. I don’t know why people think this will “save” marriage. If we spent as much time worrying about our own marriages as we did about denying the rights of others to marry, we’d probably all be a lot happier.

And that’s what this is about for me – happiness. I can’t judge someone else and deny them their pursuit of happiness. Gay couples being allowed to marry doesn’t infringe on my rights or anyone else’s. It doesn’t somehow degrade my marriage – only I can do that. It doesn’t make me any less married or any less in love with my wife. It brings happiness to the world and to the people who are finally able to enter into that covenant with the person they love, and I’m all for it. Mazel tov.

Raising Cain

I’ve been telling everyone I know about The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard. It’s a modern-day Walden and full of dense, lyrical, beautiful prose about living in Southern Virginia and contemplating nature. It’s as much about how we observe life and participate in it, and there’s one paragraph that makes my heart sing every time I read it (emphasis mine):

Thomas Merton wrote, “There is always a temptation to diddle around in the comtemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.” There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.

With one paragraph, she eviscerates complacency and sloth. Whenever I read it, I want to go looking for windmills to tilt at and giants to slay.

Ghost in the Machine: Spirituality Online

Today is panel number one for me at SxSW. I just got back from lunch with the panelists, and I have to say, this panel is going to be a lot of fun. I feel a little out of place, but I’m honored that James asked me to join in the fun. The panel is hopefully going to be led somewhat by the audience, but we’re probably going to talk about how being online and talking about religion has impacted our lives and our faith, and how online community both helps and hurts. It should be an interesting discussion, and one that hasn’t really taken place as SxSW before.\
I hope to be able to contribute something. James and I are both “generalists” on our blogs. We talk about whatever strikes our fancy. The other folks on our panel: Rachel, Hussein, and Gordon are all pretty specific in their subject matter. I think there’s an interesting discussion in how we use our blogs to discuss religion, and how our blogs have changed how our friends and families interact with us, and how we interact with your faiths. We’ll see what happens.\
Whatever happens, lunch was a special experience. We had six people (Gordon’s wife joined us) around a table sharing a meal, and discussing their faiths without judgement, with interest is what each other had to say and how each other related to their faiths and the “real” world. It was a lot of fun. If that same spirit carries on in the panel, we’re in for a treat. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.\
Today at 5 in 9C (or 9-something… I don’t remember).

Church-y stuff.

I stopped going to church because I am lazy (didn’t want to take the kids by myself when Kev was out of town or laid up with broken ankle). I kept not going because of a decision made by the leadership which I don’t agree with. So much about the church is good, yet this one part is so very, very bad it may outweigh the good.\
I have been thinking about just pushing my concerns aside and going back (New Year and all that), but every time I really think about the issue, it just bothers me so much and I can’t stomach the thought.\
I am not sure what Kevin and I are going to do, especially with regards to the kids. So, nobody should make any nonrefundable travel plans to be here for Max’s 8th birthday in hopes of seeing something special. We will be having a birthday celebration, regardless, so no worries on that front.

Categorized as religion

Why I Don’t Go

I read this great editorial about Christianity going off the rails and then the Missionaries came over tonight. That, on top of the fact that I’m on a panel at SxSW next year about spirituality and have been thinking about my relationship with the church for a while, has led me to finally write this post. I haven’t been going to church for a while. Neither have Jen or the boys. Partly, it was a habit we broke with a new baby, and then with a messed up ankle, travel and other convenient excuses, like having to go back to a congregation we were never that comfortable in the first time we attended (short version: when we first moved to Sterling we lived in an apartment and were in the Sterling Park Ward – when we bought our house, we were in the Ashburn Ward – they re-organized the Stake and we were thrown back in Sterling Park). Jen and I talked about it several times, and we made several attempts to go back, but those attempts never stuck. Now it’s been several months, and we haven’t been back, and that’s what leads me to this.\
I don’t like going to church. I don’t like what’s become of it. Just like the editorial states (which made me say “Amen, brother!” out loud even thought I was alone), I feel like the church has slowly slid to the Right. The members of the church have aligned themselves with the same fundamentalist evangelicals who a generation before wrote horrible anti-Mormon literature, told unspeakable lies about our beliefs and were pretty much downright ugly. Now, they’re right there with Falwell, Dobson, Robertson and the rest of the pious idiots on the Right trying to take rights away from people and preaching hate instead of love and empathy. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how members of a church that was persecuted by religious zealots in Congress in the late 1800’s, and forced to leave the United States to find peace, could support the same kind of bigotry today when it comes to things like gay marriage. The straw for me was when a letter was read from the pulpit before the Senate voted on the gay marriage amendment asking members to call their senator and “ask them to do what you think is best.” The vote was doomed from the start and even the senators who supported it knew it. It was a purely political play in an election year aimed squarely at shoring up support from the Religious Right. That the leaders of the Church either didn’t realize that, or worse, embraced it, was too much for me.\
There are other reasons that I’m not ready to talk about yet. When I am, they’ll show up on the blog too.\
I thought it would be harder to slip away. I thought it would be harder to give up a habit I’ve had my entire life of going to church every Sunday. It really hasn’t been. In fact, I don’t really miss it at all. I don’t know how Jen feels. We haven’t talked about it in a little while, and, as always, I’m only speaking for myself here.\
I don’t know what I believe any more, and that’s the only thing that’s currently troubling me. If I don’t go to church, I’m a “bad” Mormon. If I’m already a bad member of the church, what comes next? How far does the line slide? What do I believe?\
I’m not in a huge hurry to figure it out, but when I do, I’ll let you know.

Categorized as religion

The Culture Warriors’ Inner Battle

This whole thing with Mark Foley is insane. Not only was he the head of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus, but he sponsored more than one bill on child abuse. A 50 year old man was propositioning a page… it looks like more than one. Was it an intern? No. Was it someone of legal age? No. The worst part? The GOP leadership in the House knew about it for ten months and did basically nothing. The didn’t dig deep enough to find out what was going on so they could turn a blind eye and pretend that nothing happened.\
This seems to fit a pattern. Culture warrior rails against some big evil in the world, advocating draconian punishment for any criminal dastardly enough to perpetrate such a crime, only to be a secret practioner. There are plenty of examples:

  • Bill Bennett rails against gambling and all other forms of moral weakness only to turn out to be a huge gambler himself.
  • Rush Limbaugh advocates insane jail time for non-violent drug offenders only to turn out to be a huge illegal oxycontin user.
  • Henry Hyde, who helped lead the impeachment of President Clinton over what boils down to marital infidelity, turned out to have committed the same sin himself… no one threatened to impeach him.
  • Rick Santorum goes on a crusade for tort reform, yet his wife takes a huge settlement in a civil trial.\
    The rules only seem to apply to everyone else in the culture wars. They fight against what they themselves are most guilty about. Well, you know what? Not only is it hypocritical in the extreme, it’s just psychotic. Get counseling, talk to your clergy, pray, but keep your fetishes out of my laws, and your broken government out of my bedroom, e-mail and phone calls. Get your own life in order before you go preaching to me, you Pharisees.


My mom asked if I was just blowing off steam when I blogged last week about the church. While that was part of it (writing is cathartic), I am also serious about this. I understand the church’s position on preaching out against gay marriage, but to enact a law? That is just wrong. Not only does it go against the idea of ‘Separation of Church and State,’ it also goes against the church’s 11th Article of Faith: We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.\
After every change within the church, members have fallen away, unable to accept the change. This may be true of me now.

Categorized as religion


NY Supreme Court rules against same-sex marriage. This decision just boggles me. While not affecting me personally, gay rights are very important to me. Lately my church has taken a more active role against gay rights, urging its members to write their politicians in favor of the Gay Marriage Ban. I can’t support that at all. I am even thinking about leaving the church over it.