Monday, April 07, 2008

Changing... changing... changing... same.

For old times sake I did a little "rounding" on the moho blogs this evening. It turns out everything's changed, and yet everything's just the same. There were a bunch of commenters I'd never heard of and never talked to. Bloggers too. But, the topics were the same, more or less. The occasional ironies: vitriol from some sides, the over-reactions, the banding together in defensive victimhood while disparaging those "other guys" in a manner that is completely intolerant.

Sometimes I just feel like people choose a role and move through the motions without even realizing they're doing it. The young gay who feels liberated as he questions authority. The married gay who considers walking away from the life he's built to search for an upgrade. The depressed blogger who manages to create something beautiful and artful and poetic in articulating the struggle of life.

It makes me wonder what role I'm in right now? The sanctimonious, overly self-assured churchy guy? [Yes, I know that's how I'm frequently seen, but it's part of the piety to be in denial, I suppose.] Am I in the calm before the storm--the guy whose life is perfect right before falling apart? Am I to the point where everything is boring because I've pretty much solidified my biases and don't have enough time for online friends?

I dunno. I'm still on a journey. Not sure I can fully appreciate the birds' eye view. But, I'm still truckin'. And trying to refrain from tapping on the restroom floor of the truck stop. :-)


Mr. Fob said...

Eew. I hope it's not too difficult to refrain. Cause that's just gross.

-L- said...

Yeah. Hee. Not too hard. Trying to be funny, but not always so successfully.

Kengo Biddles said...

-L-, I laughed out loud at that last bit. Glad you're still around.

Sully said...

I truly do not attempt to add to the vitriol that can so easily be flung over the internet. And yet I feel that, having been an allusion in this post, I have a right to clarify my own situation. Thank you for lending me that privilege.

I am upset that your reading of the Moho blogs left you with the conclusion that people are choosing roles and moving through motions without even realizing it. While I cannot speak for others, this is extremely offensive to me and my situation. I guess I am nothing more to you than a role--"the young gay who feels liberated as he questions authority." Let me explain to you the implications of this phrase, and others, of yours.

To say that I have merely adopted a role is absurd and rude; it grossly understates the deliberate action that I have taken to be the person that I am. Perhaps you don't realize that the "role" of being the authority-questioning gay guy brought with it a reconstruction of my entire life, as Mormonism was central to it in all my previous years. Perhaps you don't realize the challenges inherent in telling your loved ones that you no longer ascribe to their same dogma. Perhaps you don't realize the frustration in finding a transfer university and re-starting your scholastic and social life. Perhaps you don't realize the ubiquitous nature of Mormonism--how it not only defines your beliefs but also your relationships, your politics, your activities, your entire world. This is quite a "role" I have adopted for myself. I wonder what you think my motives for doing so are.

Secondly, I would like to briefly justify to you why I have adopted "the role" of defying authority. You may choose to see me as the rebellious teenager who, under the influence of Green Day, NPR, and marijuana, has decided to desire the destruction of all authority. Perhaps (and I hope) your view isn't as extreme as that. Be it what it is, I will tell you that my questioning of this particular authority--namely Mormonism, its tenets, its prophets, and its god--has been extremely deliberate and thoughtful. It began when I finally listened to the doubts in the stifled back of my mind (and heart), the nagging things about the gospel that never made sense to me. It all came together when I finally listened to myself, and I realized that in the traditional sense of the phrase, "the Church wasn't true." A subsequent year of research has taught me much more and solidified the truth I learned in my heart awhile ago.

Why would I listen to an authority (Mormon god) who changes people's skin color when they sin and allows the children to be born with the same "mark of sin"? Why would I listen to this same authority as he makes an external indicator frequently used by bigots his sole criterion for being able to bless children and baptize them (withholding the priesthood from the blacks until '78)? Why would I listen to an authority (Joseph Smith) who spent his youth as a scryer, wrote multiple (and quite disparate) versions of the "First Vision," mistranslated Egyptian papyri, and instituted spiritual wifery (polygamy)? Why would I listen to an authority (the Book of Mormon) that contradicts what it claims to be? Why would I listen to a "divine" book apparently translated by Joseph Smith that oddly enough contains New Testament phrases, that settles the religious questions of the 19th Century, that contains elements of the life of Joseph Smith and his father (the Tree of Life dream, for one)? Why would I listen to an authority (the prophets) that changes its mind constantly and represents not revelation from god but rather understanding from men (especially regarding psychological issues, including homosexuality)? Why would I listen to an authority (Gordon Hinckley) who purchased forged documents that shed negative light on the Church's founding (Mark Hoffman forgeries)? Why would I listen to an authority (Thomas Monson) who wiggles his ears instead of receiving revelation from heaven regarding Darfur, Burma, USA affluenza, etc.? All of these authorities have, in some way, been nothing near what they claim to be. I have been pleasantly disillusioned of the goodness of this authority, and the power it once held over me is shattered.

I am no longer questioning. The matter is settled. I do not listen to the Mormon authority. I hope you can see why, and if not, I hope you are decent enough to ask me for a clarification instead of assuming I simply enjoy this defiant role or am so desperate for homosexual love that I will craft any scenario to justify it.

-L- said...

I'm sorry you are in such a defensive place to feel like you have to say all that, Sully. As you know, I wish you the best, in or out of the church.

Really, though, you've painted yourself much more stereotypically than I ever could have. You've recited a list of objections I could have written for you. You've said what I've heard seemingly a million times before. You've read, as it were, from a script.

Nowhere in my post did I say such writings and beliefs were insincere. Nowhere did I say they had anything to do with you. Nowhere was there offense intended.

I can only hope that you move past the angry place that prompted this post, and move on to other predictable places, like becoming "post-Mormon" rather than "anti-Mormon", like many people do. Perhaps you'll even realize that many of the things you've said here are not only hurtful (as you knew they would be) but largely miss the mark in accuracy as well (erring in bias, if not fact).

Sully said...

You are right about me coming from a defensive position, and I am sorry about that. I know it's not mature, but I've allowed myself to be defensive based on my predicament--I'm surrounded by Mormons, both in my university and my family. Defensive feels like the only place left for me to be. I'm sorry, though, and I acknowledge that I'm being immature.

-L-, instead of telling me that I'm being stereotypical, why can't you help me resolve these doubts? I ask this in all sincerity. I guess I feel frustrated. You've told me that I'm reading off of a script, yet no one has the antidote for that. It's like telling a patient they have cancer, just like everyone else who has cancer, and then closing your door. Where is the chemotherapy? Where is the consolation? You've only told me that I will move to another predictable place, which feels akin to telling me that next I will be dead, like all dead people. Won't you intervene instead of continuing to passively observe?

I'm sorry my words were harmful--once again, I was being immature. But I mean all of them. No one talks about these things, -L-. I fully intend to bring them to light, independent of what that does to faith. Certainly faith is stronger than facts if it is true faith, right? Then why can't we have an open discussion? Why can't I present a biased, one-sided view that is never presented? I'm trying to bring another voice to the floor of discussion. It is biased, but it needs its place.

Please accept my apologies. But please try to help me, as well, instead of simply observing my state and categorizing it with the others that also fit my stereotype.

[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

After reading this a few days ago, I thought that to say that we're just adopting "roles" without realising what we're doing is a little extreme, though I don't think you meant to be offensive. I didn't comment because I didn't think it would do any good.

Just because those who decide to leave the church go through similar feelings, have similar thoughts and experiences, doesn't mean that it is any less valid or real or personal. While you may not have meant to imply that, it sure seems like you did.

I don't understand how you can think its not offensive to say that what someone said was so commonplace that you could have written it for them. What each of us goes through is intensely personal and significant, and you seem bent on trivialising our experiences, just because they don't match yours.

The reason we're defensive, and yes angry, is because we've found out (whether you believe it or not, is not the issue), that so much of what we were taught starting from childhood, is absolute drivel, and actually quite harmful and destructive. We're also constantly being assaulted by friends and family who treat us as evil sinners who just want to get laid, instead of thoughtful, considerate people who cannot countenance living what is a lie to us any longer.

While I don't agree with all of Sully's statements, I know (at least I think I do) what he is feeling, and why he says what he does.

Do you see how extremely presumptuous is it of you to so blithely say that we're just unknowingly, unthinkingly following some "role", and that we're not trying our hardest to live our lives the best way we can, to find real happiness and truth? Or that you say you somehow have the "bird's eye view" - to any degree?

It makes us angry and defensive because what you're saying is attacking our characters and you're basically calling us mindless drones, not knowing why we're doing what we're doing.

Let me assure you that we're quite aware, and I suspect, like me, Sully does nothing without thinking it over in detail. That you also assume we'll move on from the "anger" phase to some "predictable phase" is also just insulting.

There are many commonalities in all of our experiences, and it makes sense that two people in a similar situation will have similar feelings and say similar things. However, that does not remove the intensely personal part of that journey that no one else can really understand.

Again, I don't believe you were actively trying to be insulting or offensive, but you ended up being so anyways. Believe me, we get enough of this kind of talk from others, we don't need it from you too.

-L- said...

This post doesn't assert much, but rather is me thinking through things: how they change, how the stay the same, how unique each individual's circumstances are to themselves, how similar they are to others perhaps without evening knowing it.

I see the roles that others unknowingly fill and it makes me wonder what role I'm unknowingly filling. That doesn't mean I think I'm insincere any more than I think the others are insincere who are at a different place.

One of the roles I see folks fill is being hypersensitive about anything, ANYTHING that could reflect poorly on their judgment or justification for their current course of actions. That, I'm sure, is why this completely benign exercise in thought (not a firm statement of how I see the world or a declaration of others' motivations or sincerity) is taken as offensive by some who are in a particularly insecure place. I'm not using that term to be inflammatory, just literally.

Sully, I don't recall ever declining to engage in a discussion of "doubts" or withholding my support from someone as they struggle with their view of the church. I would be happy to dialog about these things. There are plenty of others too, perhaps with more time than I have at the present. I suspect you may be able to tell me more about some of the issues that you've referenced than vice versa, and I'd be interested to know more about what you've already learned from your priesthood leaders on the topic and your CES classes. My mentioning that I see patterns in people's situations and behavior is not condemnation, but rather a statement of my feeling of impotence at doing anything about anyone else's struggle or pain. I believe there are plenty of outcomes to your situation, and ultimately your particular outcome will depend on you and your desires rather than my comments or the raw information provided by me or others. That powerlessness fuels the fatalistic tone of this post, not writing you or anyone else off. Perhaps I'll post more on this when I get the chance.

Craig (no clue how to do your fancy characters!), it appears you didn't notice that I put myself down as one who is probably adopting a pattern or role without realizing it. That is a clue that I mean nothing pejorative by saying so, and that you read so much into my motivations and judgments is really a reflection on you rather than me. Again, that's understandable considering the sensitive place you're in, but no less frustrating for me, the target of your latest indignation. Both you and Sully have rephrased my post in ways I never intended (or would agree with) and then slammed me for my insensitivity. Can you see the irony of whining about how you're treated by members of the church (questioning your motives and your intentions) and then turning around and treating me in a similar manner? That you frequently say things that are offensive to me and other believing members of the church only underscores that you ought to be slightly more hesitant before passing such harsh judgment on me for posting something as innocuous as this!

And, now, considering all these comments, I feel like I need an amen to the perpetual misunderstanding and over-reactiveness that I mentioned in the post having seen in the moho blogs! It's just endemic, nothing reflecting poorly on anyone in particular. I wish everyone the best, regardless of who they are, what they've decided in regard to the church, and whether you think I'm a horrible mean person. :-)

Sully said...

-L-, thanks for that. It really helps to hear you clarify your meaning and your position. I think you are right about me reading into this post. It does reflect an "insecurity"--not of purpose, which I have been solidifying for awhile, but more of footing. This is all ground that I've never traveled before and that, for better or worse, I have largely traveled alone.

Maybe in the future I should just warn you (with a little sensitivity flag! :) ) about things that will likely make me react strongly. Being where I am, I guess I just wasn't ready to be commented upon or observed in any light, and I thus found your particular comments to be offensive, even though they weren't intended as such. I just felt like having someone tell me I'm filling a stereotypical role and simply doing the motions was the last thing I needed to hear. After feeling like I'm fighting a war for such a long time, the last thing I wanted to hear was someone doubt my intentions.

Even though I induced an altercation, I really want to thank Craig, as well. He described my feelings beautifully. It has been painful to find out that what I was taught to believe might not actually be true (and in fact might be destructive). It is hard to be called a sinner for making decisions that I believe have led and will lead me to greater light and joy. I really appreciate Craig for standing up for me. It helps heal some wounds.

Love and blessings to all.


Chris W. said...

Wow! I didn’t expect this blog entry to be so controversial!

As mentioned in the most recent entry on my blog, people are complicated. However, for the purpose of conversation and discussion, we often use summarizations and labels to describe individuals and groups. Unless malice is intended, I think people only hurt themselves by being overly sensitive to labels.

Back to the comment I was going to make originally…I think it is natural to assume different roles as we encounter various situations in life. When the storms of life rain down upon us, we seek shelter. When things are going well, we often “lengthen our stride”, provide additional comfort to those people struggling, look for additional ways to improve our personal life, etc.

I am happy for you that your life is going well! Here’s a scripture I enjoy reading during times of great blessings: Alma 1:30

"And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need."

Thanks for your example, -L-.

[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

I don't think you're a horrible, mean person, L. After I posted that, I did see that you had also applied your little metaphor to yourself as well. Like I said originally, I didn't think you were trying to be offensive, but I did overreact a little.

I also felt this way, as Sully described, I just felt like having someone tell me I'm filling a stereotypical role and simply doing the motions was the last thing I needed to hear. After feeling like I'm fighting a war for such a long time, the last thing I wanted to hear was someone doubt my intentions.

I'm so used to having to explain and justify myself to absolutely everyone that I just assumed I had to to you as well. Yes, I did get defensive, but its only because I'm so used to having to be that way. Its unfortunately become habit for me to assume that anyone who's questioning me (or someone else in the same situation) is also attacking me.

The real point I was trying to say was also what Sully said, It has been painful to find out that what I was taught to believe might not actually be true (and in fact might be destructive). It is hard to be called a sinner for making decisions that I believe have led and will lead me to greater light and joy.

That was the real intent of what I was saying. I've been going through a lot of the same stuff in my own life as Sully, and I guess I unfairly lashed out at you.

Anyway, sorry about that.

-L- said...

I really appreciate the kind words in the last few comments. I think feeling misunderstood and judged is inseparable from the experience of being gay, because I feel that way too. I feel it as a member of the church too, from some of the ways people talk about the church. It's hard for me not to get defensive and over-reactionary in that situation as well.

As for learning that something you've always accepted as true might be false and might be hurting you: I'm not being glib in saying that's the hard facts of life. You do the best you can at any given point with the information you've been told and the experiences and feelings you've got for yourself. And I don't think it's productive to be angry at yourself or loved ones for the harm that comes from being human. I don't hold my parents responsible for their silly and sometimes harmful views on life (in any number of topics) and certainly hope my kids will extend the same generosity to me. I guess we all should just remember that there are usually good reasons for what people do, rooted in a combination of personal need and unselfishness.

Molly Sue said...

If you think the way you always thought, you'll always get, what you always got.

Don't be the churchy guy, they give me the creeps.

-L- said...

How do you feel about judgmental strangers? I'm not terribly fond.