Ghost in the Machine Podcast is Available!

I got e-mail from Hugh Forrest today letting me know what the the podcast for Ghost in the Machine – Spirituality Online is available!\
Mr. McNally did a great job putting the panel together, and it was a great experience all around. I was proud and honored to be a part of it. Go check it out and let me know what you think!

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.

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.

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.

Church

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.

WTF?

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.

His pants are totally on fire!

Tom Cruise, in his interview with Diane Sawyer, said, “…you can be Catholic and be a Scientologist. You can be Jewish and be a Scientologist. But we’re just Scientologists.”\
This totally makes me cry because it goes against the teachings of Scientology. I can’t help but think of all of the harm that false statement may do.

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…

BS

Penn&Teller broke Kevin’s heart a little bit last night when they said he couldn’t join their club. Awwww. 🙁 Their latest show was on The Boy Scouts of America and how they discriminate against homosexuals and atheists, yet still receive government money, ever since the Mormon church got involved. Shame on the BSA! Pick a side and stick with it! Either you are a public group that allows anyone to be a member (and receives government money) or you are a private group that can make membership selective (and does not receive government money).\
Speaking of homosexuals, I was lurking at TWoP and saw a funny post. A woman saw a commercial for Big Love, an HBO show about polygamy set in Utah, where one of the wives got into a screaming match about praying for souls with two guys on bikes. The poster thought the two guys were gay. Hee. Someone else from TWoP explained that they weren’t gay, just missionaries.