Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Were their parents another sinner

There are a myriad of easy ways to be a bad Mormon: drinking coffee or tea, smoking the pot or cigarettes, drinking alcohol, masturbating, premarital sex, not giving 10% of your money to the organization, and disagreeing with leadership. Point of fact, most Mormons would tell you there are no good Mormons - everyone endureth to the end and screws up constantly along the way.

There are different levels of sin of course. Some offend God worse than your average sinner. Felons and the gays are not in the same boat as, say, someone who refuses to pay tithing because the church paid to build an upscale mall (Jesus Christ Superstore, or City Creek Center to the layperson). Knowing certain sins are more egregious, it makes sense that some are excommunicated and others just told not to take the blood and body of Christ the next time they're in sacrament.  

Since coming out as gay, I've been compared to all other excommunicable sinners: felons, pedophiles, rapists, adulterers, murderers, and heretics. These are obviously false comparisons since those sins involve taking agency from and directly harming another being. Except the heretics; I'm comfortable with that comparison because I do consider myself a heretic. I believe leaders' demands of total acceptance with consequences for otherwise makes them authoritarian. This isn't to say Mormon leaders are cruel or tyrannical; to my knowledge there aren't Mormon Killing Fields. Rather than any corporal punishment, Mormon authoritarianism uses the one legally available - expulsion. 

In all cases, from smoker to criminal, each person is held accountable for their own actions. God wouldn't judge someone for something for which they weren't responsible. If my dad were a murderer (he isn't, unless you count livestock), my siblings and I wouldn't be condemned for being related to him. As you've all probably heard by now from the unproductive Facebook reply wars, the Mormon church does not always operate by the same principle. Some people are punished (or rejected) for Adam's (or their parents') transgressions, despite it being against the church's second tenant.

The policy to deny children of gay parents membership in the church is commonly justified with: "What's the big deal? This isn't new; we already ban polygamist kids." Ironic that Mormons feel so justified in banishing this group of people, including their children, when Mormons were banished from several states or executed for practicing polygamy. The church predetermines the polygamist child's eligibility for acceptance into "God's fold" because of something they've not done wrong. If polygamy were a sin (perhaps they'll one day excommunicate the dead, starting with Joseph Smith), the children have not carried out that action and yet suffer the consequences. Should we not allow them to make that mistake before they pay for it?

This leads to the second, and more cruel, justification: "What's the big deal? They can get baptized when they're 18. If they die before then they'll just have to wait in Spirit Prison to be baptized. And it's not like Spirit Prison is hell." Perhaps that's true and it's like being stuck at the airport, uncomfortable and sad but not legitimate torture. Assuming that is actually the case, the parents (gay or polygamist) still would like their children not to wait in that place. They'd like to know their child has what they believe are the necessary ordinances to prevent that shitty time in the airport. By the way, those who are baptized into the church and try to be good people wait for judgement in Spirit Paradise, which I imagine is a lot like a country club in Switzerland. These children don't get Switzerland because their parents deserve LaGuardia.

I've also heard "What's the big deal? A lot of straight parents don't let their kids be baptized." This is very true but doesn't apply. In the case of gays and polygamists, the church tells the parents that even if parents support it, the child is not eligible for baptism. If a child from a Jewish family wants to get baptized Mormon and their parents consent, the church isn't the one saying no. Likewise if a parent who's been excommunicated for adultery agrees to their child's baptism, I've never heard of the church being the one to deny them. The church is now the party responsible for forcing the ultimatum between faith and family.

Finally we come to the crux of the situation - what is it about polygamists and gays in particular that justifies the banning of their children, guilty of nothing? Someone said to me the other day: "Jewish families consenting to baptism is different because those parents don't actually believe the church. They think their kid and the church are nuts for believing. Polygamists and gays still believe in the church but want to change it. They're like a cancer destroying from the inside." I ended the conversation before it went further. I've already been compared to a pedophile, I didn't want to continue with a life-threatening disease analogy. The troubling part is that I agreed with their point.

Children of gay and polygamist families are a threat to the authoritarian nature of church leadership. The church says these families will put ideas into the child's head that are in direct conflict with the church's teachings. If enough children become members and stay in the church until adulthood, there will be more pressure for church to change policies, more pressure on members to question leadership. "The church is protecting the kids from being confused." The church is not protecting children by denying them entrance into its gospel. It's protecting itself from those children growing up and standing in defense of their families.

So this policy isn't acceptable because it also happens to polygamists, or because kids aren't banned forever, or because waiting in Spirit Prison isn't that bad, or certainly because parents can also choose to deny the child. This policy is wrong because the church determines a child's worth in the church based on another person's life and decisions. If only their parents were another sinner, their parents could consent to their baptism. If only their parents were another sinner, the church would likely grant them access to the gospel. As it is though, their parents are sinners who will raise their children to question. The ultimate justification for this is preventing a generation of believers who force leaders to see that their families, too, have a place in God's eternal family.

I don't need or want the church to accept my lifestyle; I am happier and feel God's love without membership. This is about kids who haven't done anything wrong and the leadership's reprehensible decision. I'm also not saying the church is entirely false. That "all right or all wrong" dychodmony is part of the problem. Any human, no matter the faith or priesthood level, is capable of error. Jesus wouldn't turn these kids away, but leadership has decided to do just that. Mormon members trying to condone the church for doing so doesn't make them noble, it makes them spiritually lazy. In its attempt to stymie the questioning spirit, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has sacrificed part of its soul. Such is the opinion of this lowly heretical homo.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The shared garage

It's election season already. We don't actually elect someone for another year, and it's so much on my mind, it makes me want to gag. There's so much to weigh in on, so many problems we have to solve. Our world is changing, and I feel like if our founding fathers were alive today, they would be aggressively seeking change to adapt with it.

This isn't about who I'm voting for (Bernie Sanders - he is probably the closest to my political opinions, we'll fight about it later) or all the issues. This is about one issue that keeps me up at night. Working for renewable energy has been my livelihood lately as an adult, but I've been concerned about it since I was a kid.

"Mom, they keep building new houses! Why won't people start buying the older houses?" Donna, mother of 10, lovingly rolled her eyes at the son also worried he'd contracted rabies while collecting Mormon Fast Offerings and AIDS from a public toilet seat. Those childish, irrational fears aside, it scares me how fast we grow and how gross things have gotten. Growth and change are good, and all life is valuable. We need to think about the best way for that to continue for all of us. None of us matters if all of us doesn't make it.

I live in Utah now, and it is my beautiful mountain home. The winter here makes everyone full on barf, unless you ski in the mountains. This is of course still beautiful. In the valley, we see exactly what we cloud the air with everyday. In the summer the air is warm enough to carry our crap into the greater world, instead of directly on top of us. In winter, we're sometimes advised not to go outside, so we stay inside or go up in the mountains. The way we're growing, it won't take long until the mountains are also covered in our crap.

Maybe the planet does warm up on regular cycles, but don't treat me like an idiot. You cannot look me in the eye and tell me it's good to run our planet on fossil fuels. The last time I checked, running my car in an unventilated garage would kill me. We've been running our planet, and our lives, on the same crap for 100 years non-stop, and we keep growing.

We can argue about our tax system, immigration, gun rights, police brutality, discrimination of all types, and foreign policy. Those things matter, and I can see why there are such divergent opinions. But we all live in the same garage. Our atmosphere, water, and resources are shared. Maybe we could mine water from an ice planet that happens to also have fish. Someone go make that movie. The point is, we are all running the engine with the windows closed. What is it going to take for us to shut it off?

God help me, I rely on that industrial food complex. Cheeseburgers are my kryptonite. I grew up watching these animals killed, often. Because these animals had a real life (we killed our neighbors farm-raised animals for their families to eat), I felt ok eating them. Even saying that now makes me feel weird because that's not at all true of the meat I eat now. Deep down, I feel like it would be responsible of me to stop partaking in the abuse of these animals, just so I can have my double cheeseburger (after church no less - I'm such a dick).

I can stop driving to places that can easily be walked. Public transportation in Germany was awesome. Riding the train made me happy. Most people didn't have a car, and I didn't miss having one. Salt Lake City is picking up it's public transportation game, and I need to show that I support that.

All of us have things we feel like we could change to make us a better person and the world a better place. Focusing on renewable energy, and the pollution of our planet, is something we have to agree on now. It's the same garage, and if we keep running the engine, all of us will kill each other because of our greed and unwillingness to change.

Our stance on the gays, guns, and whatevers matters, but if we don't fix this one thing, no one's stance is will matter. Growth requires change. Solar isn't the only the answer. Wind isn't either. We have to change how we power our cars as well as our homes. We have to change where we work, how we get there, what we eat, how we get it. Everything has to change, because we have everything to lose unless we do so.

"People need a place to live, Jeremiah." "But what will we do when we've built everywhere?" Not only do people need a place to live, they need a place that grows their food and provides them with clean water. Whatever you're doing by denying climate change just to continue justifying the availability and profit of fossil fuels, knock it off. It's not about what you want anymore; it's about what all of us need to survive. I hope any candidate for president would have a platform focused on clearing out our garage, for all our sakes.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

He gave up social media and alcohol for Lent. What he did next blew my mind.

No, it actually won't blow your mind. And if you're the type of person who read this solely for the ridiculous cliffhanger title, I hate you on principle. I did give up social media and alcohol for 40 days, but I doubt my insights will blow anyone's mind. I'm also not going to list said insights for you (i.e. The 7 Things I Learned from Letting Go of Facebook). Quit being an asshole and expecting people to tell you how many paragraphs you have to read. Ok, not giving any frame of reference considering the global 10-second attention span is rude. This should take you about five minutes to read. Happy?

I love Lent. Seriously. I give something up every year. Lent is an awesome exercise in self evaluation and control. What do I not need in my life, that I feel like I need? Diet coke, meat, scary movies, smoking, cheese, fried food, fast food, and even running have been on the chopping block. This past year I came to terms with my identity as a social media whore and wine-o. Are some people bigger social media whores than me? Do I drink about as much as an average person drinks? Probably, but it's these justifying questions that made me choose them for Lent.

Alcohol is super gross. It must be masked with so many juices to be a pleasurable experience for me. Even wine I drink purely for the feelings, and I choose that because it tastes slightly less like hairspray. Same with whiskey. I also like wheat beer, but that's more an emotional connection to Germany.

Also, being drunk is awesome, but hangovers are very much not. When I first started drinking, hangovers did not exist. I drank whatever I wanted and was fine. Then gin happened. To drink so much acrid tasting fluid to feel awesome for a brief time and then horrible for an entire weekend, is idiocy on my part. I kept asking people if I should go to the emergency room, convinced I felt the death struggle upon me.

Alcohol was much easier to give up than social media. For the above mentioned reasons, after a couple days without it, I wondered why I'd been drinking so much. I have more energy, feel like I'm doing better at work, and I'm saving money. There are people I like to go out and drink with, but there are many who don't drink that I have fun with. I don't want to be a person that needs a drink to enjoy myself.

Social media is super awesome. It helps me stay in touch with people all over the world that I really care about. Sure I could take the time to write a letter, or even better, visit. But it's nice keeping them in my day-to-day life too. I get to keep up with my friend Ben in England, and chat with him about vacationing in Europe. It's awesome seeing my friends in Vermont, enjoying the snow with their kids or significant others. I love hard and hate when someone goes beyond out of sight, to out of mind.

Social media is also quite annoying. Cliffhanger titles: "You won't believe what happened next." Bitch, yes I will. They made a fucking snowman out of sock. THAT'S the shocking twist? Lists: "The 27 Things Only Return Missionaries with Lisps will Understand." Just go to hell already with the lists. Everyday selfies: If you're making a progression video for your funeral montage, keep the everyday details to yourself. Let us see the finished product all at once.

Everyone has their annoyances on Facebook or Instagram, I won't keep going on about mine.

Wait, one more. People saying idiotic things. This gem about the Five Dissenting Votes in LDS General Conference prompted a slew of crap. A few friends posted similar sentiments to: "I think people have a right to oppose things, I just think there is a time and place to do it-and the time and place to do it is not in general assembly." Why do they even ask if there are any opposed, if no one should say anything?! You can't actually be that stupid. "It was very sad to me to see that evil is coming in and people are doubting, losing their faith." Just because they doubt the leadership, does not mean they doubt their faith. The two are not mutually exclusive, dickhead. And it doesn't make someone evil to question their church. That's how and why Joseph Smith founded Mormonism.

Rant over. Three deep breathes. Despite all that annoying stuff, social media was probably the hardest thing I've given up, and I want to know what that means. It's good to want to stay in touch, a little scary feeling out of touch without it. How do I find the balance between connected and social media whore?

Consumption is my choice. If I'm getting tired with all the tripe people post, I can read more of my book or news. I'm the conscious consumer, I'm not being forced to consume as much as I did. True of other "social media fast" posts I've read, I text and called more people. I can stop being a dickhead, and check it without living by it.

I'm one of the producers; I feed the feed. Why do I post - is it to remember things or is it so I feel like I matter? I do love screening my timeline occasionally to remember parts of life, but I also like the likes. And the comments, and the shares. I post to social media so much because its part of how I convince myself I matter.

So what I learned about giving up social media is no different from all the previous Lent epiphanies. Alcohol isn't bad in and of itself. Having too much and being a douche bag are bad. Social media isn't bad in and of itself. Placing too much stock in it is bad. Life is still fun without alcohol, and life still exists outside social media. Maybe it took too many paragraphs to get here or the notion doesn't blow your mind, but reminding myself every Lent helps me be a little less of an asshole.