I don’t see what all

I don’t see what all the fuss is about. If it’s a news program and it’s impartial and objective then what’s the problem? If our kids understand that not everyone believes the same thing, and that not everyone in the world has the same family life, how is that bad? If Nick gives the information, and parents provide context and their own spin, I think it’s a great opportunity to warp your kid’s life however you want. If you let them watch it and then say all those people are going to hell for being weird and unholy, go right ahead. Or, how about you let them watch it, and let them decide for themselves? Or, if you’re so weak you can’t handle exposing yourself to anything outside your small sphere of belief, then don’t watch it at all. Go watch Reverend Jerry or Pat tell you all the bad things that happen in the world were caused by those dirty non-believers. Don’t let your children learn. Keep them bottled up and frustrated. Make them xenophobic.

It’s like the whole creationist argument. If you run around you whole life with your fingers in your ears screaming that Genesis 1 is the way it is, end of story, then I don’t think you’re giving God enough credit. You’re reading a chapter that’s been rewritten, translated, edited, and futzed with for thousands of years. If you’re reading the New International House of Pancakes Student Edition with Genderless Pronouns and With Liberal Use of the Word ‘Dude’ edition of the Bible anyway, how can you trust what you’re reading anyway? How can you be absolutely positive it didn’t start, “And the first day, God sat down at a drafting table with a box of freshly sharpened pencils, a big pad of paper, a cup of cocoa and started doodling. And God saw that his doodles were good. And that the was the beginning and end of the first day except when God went to get the paper. On the second day, God did rewrites. On the third day, God showed them to Jesus and Jesus nodded, smiled and then giggled when he got to the platypus. God was pleased at the giggle and nod and said, ‘Go forth and build me this place so man might be.'”

The world is small; God is big and wise; the universe is apparently infinite in all directions; our belief systems should be able to compensate for knowledge. I accept that evolution might very well be true. It makes sense to me. I also believe that even if evolution happened exactly like Charlie laid it out, that I also believe that God designed it that way. I am not so proud to think that my ancestors ran around naked swinging from trees and were hunted by large beasties with gigantic teeth. I’m ok with that, and it makes the story much more interesting than the mother of humanity being made from a rib. I believe that people are different for a reason. Everyone has the right to think what they want, do what they please, make the choices they make. It’s called free will, and it’s our greatest gift. Now, if you think you should kill people and then go do it, society has the right to throw you in a little room or fry you in a chair with a pat of butter. But, you’re welcome to think it. And I’m welcome to think you’re a freak. You also have every right to think that homosexuality or any number of other things is wrong, but don’t you think your kids should at least be aware of it? If you don’t teach your kids about the world, they won’t learn how to make decisions. If they have all the facts, and understand the consequences of their choices, then you’ve done what you can. It’s up to them to use their free will and decide for themselves. Just arm them with all the information you can get your hands on and let ’em go.

So, there you go… I’ve rambled enough. I should get back to work.

That’s not fair!

If you haven’t heard it yet, the Snatch soundtrack is amazing. An odd mix that flows nicely.

But, music is not the topic of the day. Fairness and its ultimate misinterpretation by little girls is the topic du jour. You may ask yourself how a geek like me would have any knowledge of this topic. You would be wise to question. How do I know? Well, I’m a church-going fellow (don’t ask me why, don’t know myself sometimes). Since I’m a Mormon, that means I get called by God to do certain things. My current calling is to teach Primary. For the un-Mormonified, Primary is little kids’ Sunday School. I’m a teacher. Who do I teach? I teach the 7 year-olds who will turn 8 during this calendar year. I have six little girls in my class and they drive me nuts. I don’t understand little girls. They’re so fragile emotionally. They have these weird ideas about “fair” and right and wrong that just drive me nuts.

I normally wouldn’t even talk about here, but I made one of them cry yesterday. I tried and tried not to have to, but there was nothing I could do. In Primary, we have Opening Exercises where, each week, a different class is assigned to give the prayer, read the scripture for the month and give two little talks on a certain topic. The little Primary leaders give me four slips of paper, and I go to my class and ask for volunteers. Usually, it’s like pulling teeth to get people to volunteer. This week, four little hands went up when I asked who wanted to give the talks. How am I supposed to handle this? Should I ask for divine inspiration?

We had a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament to decide. Two brackets and then a final to determine talk giver , then take volunteers for talk and repeat the process. Since this was the first time we’ve had to assign talks with this class, I figured, hey, this is fair. Right? It’s a game of chance, the girls actually do the deciding by their luck and skill at Rock, Paper, Scissors (no wild tanks or airstrikes – was I the only one who played that way?).

When the smoke cleared, four little girls had something to do next week, and one didn’t. There were four things to be assigned, and 5 little girls who wanted to be involved. Someone was going to be left out. The left out little girl started sobbing that she didn’t have anything to do, and that she sat out LAST time. I tried to explain that I wasn’t the teacher last time, and that the other girls said she wasn’t left out last time. There was no convincing her of the method of my madness. So, I gave up, and went on with my lesson about Noah and his amazing stinky, pitchy, three story, livestock laden ark. I didn’t get very far before she started wailing again about the unfairness of it all. I lost it. Now, to be clear, she was already crying. I turned to her and said, “Look, you need to go look up ‘fair’ in the dictionary. This is completely fair and impartial. I’m not picking on you. You had the same chance to be able to give a talk as everyone else. I had no empirical data about what happened last year, because I wasn’t your teacher. I am writing down who did what this time, and next time, those who didn’t give a talk this time and want to next time will be given first dibs. If that’s not good enough for you, I’m sorry. Life just isn’t fair. The sooner you realize that fact, the easier life will be.”

Did I do the wrong thing? Am I a bad person for pointing out the obvious?

Categorized as religion Tagged ,

What I Believe I’ve been

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and waiting for the write time to sit down and get it all out. Jen and Max are napping, and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is muted in the background. Now seems like as good a time as any.

I’ve been trying to come up with a simple, boiled down to its root, statement of belief. Robert Fulghum talks about doing this himself in his first book, and well, it’s always seemed like a good idea. Now that I’m a father, I figured I’ll have to eventually communicate to my son what I believe in succinctly and clearly and I should be ready to have that conversation. So, here it goes: I believe in contradictions.

The Bible says that there is opposition in all things. For there to be good, there has to also be evil, etc, etc. While I believe that to be true, I think it goes deeper than that, in that there are very few cut and dried issues in this life. Every day, we make decisions that lie in the grey, in-between place between perfectly right and absolutely wrong. The challenge is to balance life’s contradictions into making the grey as light as possible.

Here are some of the contradictions I’ve found that have led me to my statement of belief:

  1. Our political system is fundamentally flawed but perfectly designed. Representative Democracy is the greatest form of government ever conceived. The governed have the right to change the leadership fairly frequently, and almost all decisions made by the representative branches should be open to public scrutiny. It’s perfectly conceived and balanced to provide representation of the people without bringing everything to a standstill so every citizen can vote on every decision (which would be a pure democracy). The system is fundamentally flawed because we have a lazy electorate. In order for there to be true representation, the represented must have a clear understanding of each candidate’s views and political affiliations. They must also keep their representatives accountable and vote them out if they fail to represent their constituents correctly. That’s not happening, unfortunately. Less than half of the citizens eligible to vote in this country bother. Leaving it up to about 40% of the population to choose our leaders, and I would guess that a good majority of them vote along party lines because either they’re lazy or out of some crazed sense of tradition. It makes for career politicians who pander to lobbyists and corporations instead of their constituents.

  2. I believe in both God and Evolution. Yeah, you heard it right. I believe in God and Evolution. I think that dinosaurs existed and that species evolved into other species to give us the flora and fauna we have on this earth. I’m not sure I believe that man evolved from ape-like creatures, but I don’t think it’s impossible. I believe that God created the heavens and the earth and everything on it, and for us to strictly translate Genesis and say, “Well, God just said let it be, and there it was” is not giving Him enough credit. Saying that man evolved is not a denial of divine origin. It is an acknowledgement that, given the evidence we have, He may have taken the scenic route in the act of creation and started a process He knew would result in humanity. It just makes sense to me that way. Saying the universe and the resulting “us” is an accident doesn’t make sense. Neither does saying that Genesis is the literal process of creation make any sense to me either. I think it’s somewhere in the middle, in the grey.

There are more, and I’m going to try to write them down as I think of them and can put them into words.

As a slightly-related aside, I started seriously thinking about writing this down after watching the HBO Special Monica in Black and White. It was a documentary showing the timeline of the whole nasty affair, and a Q&A session that Monica Lewinsky held, all filimed in lovely soft focus black and white. The part that really got me thinking was a statement from an audience member. He stood up and said basically that he was offended that she was being dishonest and presenting a spinned and self-serving version of the story. He found it disturbing that she was presenting her story about her story and her pain and not the “truth”. No, really? She gave a view, however it was spun, of her view of what happened. If it was Bill Clinton on that stage crying his eyes out, it would be his view of what happened. The same if it had been Linda Tripp had been up there. She would have been presented as a national hero who did what any of us would have done, and Monica would have been the doltish slut who seduced the president instead of the naive girl seduced by the most powerful man in the world that Monica presented. There are very few completely honest accounts of anything in history. The winners write history, and unfortunately, the only way to piece together these self-serving accounts and try to come up with a comprehensive picture of what happened. I had no problem with what was presented on the show. In fact, I think it’s about time she be able to tell her story (I didn’t read her book, so it’s the first time I’ve even heard her speak, I think). Everyone else involved got to tell their’s first, which makes her’s seem less honest when we cloud story with “fact” as presented by the other parties.

I think that’s enough opining for a Sunday afternoon… see y’all tomorrow.

Categorized as religion

Apparent Gayness

I have no idea why I thought of this guy today, but I did. In my one year at BYU, I met some pretty interesting (well, as interesting as Mormons get) people. There was a guy who lived across the hall named John. He was slight, had a slight lisp, was into drama and opera, and wasn’t into sports at all. I asked him one day, being the 18 year-old idiot that I was, if he got asked if he was gay a lot.

Gay is a dirty word in Utah. I think it’s officially been added to the words you can’t say on TV. When I asked him, he practically broke down. He told me the story of his trip to Paris and guys hitting on him constantly. He told me about the looks he got in church back home, and now the looks he was getting at school. I felt really bad for him. Here was a guy who was just who he was. He didn’t try too hard to change to make himself look or act more macho. He didn’t even try that hard to dispell the rumors.

I don’t know what he’s doing now, and I don’t think I’ve thought of him more than twice in the 8 years since that conversation. I hope he’s happy, and being accepted for who he is and not what bucket people think he fits in.

Categorized as religion

Free Will

I was asked a question yesterday that I’ve heard echoed around the web by columnists, bloggers, heads of states, normal people interviewed on TV, people on TV, etc. Why did God let this happen? or, Why do bad things happen to good people?. It’s not an easy question to answer, but I think I finally articulated the answer to my liking yesterday. Someone asked, to no one in particular, why God had allowed those people to crash planes into buildings full of people, killing thousands. She really wanted/needed the answer. In my attempt to explain it, I think I’ve got it.

A little background before we begin, just so it’s a little clearer where I’m coming from. I’m Mormon, which means my perspective on this whole thing may be different from, well, anyone else. I’m not a terribly strict member of the church (I swear on occasion, and break several commandments on a regular basis, but so do you, I’m sure), but I’ve got the basics down. I believe in God. I believe we were somewhere before we got here, and we’ll go somewhere after we die. I believe that this life is a chance to prove our mettle, and prepare for something bigger and grander on the other side of death. Basically, I’ve come to terms with the concept of death as an entrance to somewhere else (sorry, Mr. Shakespeare, you said it best). It doesn’t mean I’m ready for me or anyone close to me to die, but I’ve got a handle on what’s going to happen afterwards.

There, now you at least have the basics. Back to the question we go. In my religion, we have a concept called “free agency”. It’s free will, the natural man, etc. We all make choices in our lives, and then have to live with the consequences of those choices. Also, we will be judged for our actions. We can’t be judged for things we do not do (although our thoughts are a little murky… we have to control them, but to what degree, I’m not sure). In those two concepts lies my answer. The people who decided to plan and carry out these crimes will suffer the consequences, whatever they are. But, they had to be allowed to carry them out in order to be judged for them. By those acts, they will be judged. Not by us, but by God. I’m not sure what the judgement will be, and it’s not for me to say, but that’s who will be doing the judging.

As an addendum to that answer, my second thought is that God doesn’t interfere in the day-to-day actions of the world as much as we’d like to think. The scriptures say that He is all-knowing and nothing happens that He doesn’t see and take note of. That doesn’t mean He’s playing puppetmaster with our lives. He’s watching and keeping an eye on us. Through the Holy Ghost, he may nudge us in a direction, but we have to choose to follow it. So, if someone cuts you off, God didn’t do it. God’s just watching, waiting to see your reaction.

Speaking of reactions… I think we’ll also be judged by our reactions to the actions of others. I’m not sure how or how harshly, but it seems that a lot of scripture is about how we react to what happens, not necessarily in our actions. Just a thought… Ok, no more God-talk for a while. I just wanted to share my thinkings on the subject.

Categorized as religion

Accidental Tourism

Hey kiddies and welcome to Monday here at LawverLand. Today, in an effort to combat boredom and the residual anger of layoffs, I’m wearing an amazing Hawaiian shirt. It’s leaves and tropical flowers in four or five outrageous shades of blue. I can’t take myself seriously in it, and I hope no one else does.

If we’re not actually going to do any work, why not pretend we’re on vacation? If my sister weren’t borrowing the camera, I’d post a picture, honest I would.

On a serious note, there was a fantastic article in the Washington Post Magazine this weekend. It’s funny that ~25 miles from where I live, there exists a world that’s completely foreign to me. I’ve been to downtown DC before, but it was many years ago, and it scared the crap out of me. I hear it’s better, and that good things are happening, but hey, I just don’t have a reason to go. The story is about Redemption Ministries, a non-denominational church in Southeast that is doing great things for people who have no other hope.

I envy the call that Reverend Motley has. He’s felt something, and continues to draw on a passion to help people. It must be so rewarding to see his people grow and make more of themselves than they would have. Great story…

Categorized as religion

It takes all kinds… This

It takes all kinds… This halfwit in the North Carolina legislature forwarded an e-mail to all the members of that hallowed body stating, “Two things made this country great: White men & Christianity.” Ok, nice thoughts there, my man. Way to bring people together. And, the lunacy continues: “Who came to this country first – the white man, didn’t he? That’s who made this country great.'”

It makes me wonder how far we’ve really come. We like to think we’re enlightened and progressive. We think maybe we’ve got this race-relations thing handled and everyone’s happy. Still, every day, we see people like that moron slapping us in the face with the fact that change moves slowly.

It’s taken over 150 years for evolution to become mainstream, and for it to be grasped as a viable scientific theory. It took several hundred years for people to come to terms with the earth not being the center of the universe, and then a couple more to grasp the shape of it. It’s been 35+ years since the beginning of the civil rights movement, and 134 years since the 14th amendment was ratified.

How can we expect everyone to come to the realization that we’re all equal, and probably all related a lot closer than we ever thought? How can we, when people like the “honorable” Mr. Davis refuse to open their eyes?

It’s frustrating, and it gets worse the more I think about it. Real change takes generations, not laws. It takes slowly tweaking society and ideas over decades and sometimes centuries. I honestly think we’ll get to a place where color does/doesn’t matter and people are treated equally at least in the eyes of the law. I’m just not holding my breath.

Categorized as religion