Isaac & Ishmael / Oaks & Choi

on 23 October 2009

So I know this post will be slightly dated but I figured I should hold my tongue before I spoke about Elder Oaks' talk on religious freedom. I was originally going to address how the difference between religious belief and practice are akin to John Stuart Mills' Harm Principle and Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics and if there is desire for me to connect the three I will in a later post. I decided last night that I would change tactics though and I hope you will agree with the shift in balance here.

Elder Oaks states

The greatest infringements of religious freedom occur when the exercise of religion collides with other powerful forces in society. Among the most threatening collisions in the United States today are... perceived conflicts between religious freedom and the popular appeal of newly alleged civil rights.
Now Alan has already discussed how Elder Oaks should know that these rights are not 'alleged' and I recommend that you give that post a read. I want to discuss what I believe this quote reveals about Elder Oaks' mindset.

We know that Elder Oaks wrote this with the intent of being read worldwide, and thus he does a very good job at explaining the political need to defend the freedom of religion that he (and most Mormons, myself included) believes was divinely inspired by God. Religious freedom that is of utmost importance and it is needed "for the rights and protection of all flesh."I think that Elder Oaks' has some great points in this talk but that there is something lacking. What is lacking is a nationwide(and arguably worldwide) view of our society and the variant sides of this issue.

From what is argued, it appears that Oaks, while stating the primacy of religious freedoms is noting that they and civil rights are going to be head to head & unresolved for a long time and that the church needs to be on the defensive when it shouldn't have to be. Last night I was reading an interview with Dan Choi and noticed a particularly potent phrase and so I decided to compare the two.

Oaks is asserting the need for religious freedoms above all others and Dan Choi recognizes the need for the religious and spiritual aspect of GLBT people's lives. When asked if it was difficult to be a born-again Christian and gay he responded:
There have been a lot of people were a little bit taken aback; not only, ''How is this possible?'' but almost like, ''How dare you?'' A lot of people are so injured, so hurt by the religious establishment that they just go to atheism. They find their ethics and their values in different ways, because they see the damage that some people cause [using religion] as a weapon to strip away the rights of those people. Forgive me if I use it in a military context, but just because the weapon is used against you doesn't mean the weapon is not viable for you to use — it's something that's important, it's something that we can be empowered by.

When you look at some of the things that have been used against us, it doesn't diminish the fact that we are a very spiritual people. I think the gay and lesbian community is deeply spiritual. It has a lot to do with us being oppressed, being different, and also having this innate ability, I think, to understand other people a little bit more. It's really damaging, then, that people are essentially robbed of not just spirituality but religion. For some people that title in itself is very spiritually healing and uplifting -- it is a part of the religious tradition to say you're a born-again Christian. I don't think we should be denied that, and I don't think we should deny ourselves that.

The difference of opinion is striking and I will let you draw your own conclusion about it, but I want you to watch this clip from "The West Wing" that was played just after September 11th 2001 in an effort to use the show to discuss what was really going on. If you replace everything Islamic with Homosexual I think that this is what needs to be preached and that Elder Oaks is (ever so) slowly approaching.

As Josh Lyman said, we live in a plural society and as such we need to learn to live together without fighting and without repression. So what will you do to help live together with either the Gay rights or Church community?

Equality March Fallout and a Contest

on 13 October 2009

So Sunday was the National Equality March and the Rally afterwords. Cleve Jones and Others wanted those of us there to continue the fight for "Equality Across America." I have a few ideas brewing in my head about this and want to find an image or a logo that can serve as the union of the Church and Equal Rights before I really take off. So I know several of my readers are much better skilled at art than I am. I also know that there are those of you who think your art is not so great or non-existent, you can help to.
Essentially I have created a couple of logos this afternoon that represent equality within the LDS Church. They are roughly the same except one is more of a shield while the other is more of a heart(they are rough drafts okay).
So I wanted to challenge the readers of my blog to get other images that illustrate the same thing. Those of you with art talent, create something that represents Equality within the Church. For those of you who feel like you have little art talent, you can spread this blog and this "contest" on your blog, on your facebook, on your twitter. What ever you have, you can take part in creating a logo that we, as Gay Mormons and their Allies, can rally around.
The best image may even get a prize. I am not saying that in a lame way, I would have to scrounge around for some funds for a legitimately good prize. Best of luck and I hope to see something soon!

National Coming Out Day 2009-2010

on 11 October 2009

Today is National Coming Out day and I spent it at the National Equality March. I got there thinking I would join with Affirmation and march with the rest of the gay mormons. I came up out of the metro and walked towards the crowds and thought to see a group of guys dressed in shirts and ties. When I got there all I saw was a massive crowd of gays ready to march. I got there late and couldn’t see the Mormons so I decided to talk with the religious fanatics waving signs with dead fetus’ Then the march was about to start so I jumped in behind the first group I was. As it turns out they were the head of the march and they were the Queer Youth marching for Social Justice. I helped lead the march of about 150,000-250,000 people for 2 miles. I helped lead this group in chants calling for equality. The March was amazing, but what was better was the training I learned this past weekend about Faith and Sexuality and about the Trevor Project that I shared yesterday.

This weekend gave me a good idea.

The biggest struggle for people coming out is that they feel alone, or that they feel like they are going to be abandoned. So I had an idea to establish a petition of support for fellow members of the Church to sign in support of their friends and family members. A petition that would go around BYU and be put up online for students to see and for students to sign. This would be an avadavat of support for those wanting to come out. This would be the precursor for members of the Church to come out en masse, for BYU students to come out en masse, and to feel supported by their fellow classmates.

It has been said that the power of the Youth is what will change the tide within this Nation. I witnessed that this was true today during the march. By the time I reached the rally, there were about 11 blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue filled with youth. I am working on creating said petition, perhaps in line with LDS Apology that would have an entire year with the goal to get IDK, 1138 signatures (for the 1138 unrecognized civil rights) or perhaps more like 10,000 signatures for LDS (preferably Church School System) Students who would support a friend or family member if they came out. I am writing this to bounce the idea out there and get some feed back.

The ultimate culmination of this would be a separate pledge and petition of members who would be willing to come out next October 11th. A group that would put to test the signatures and pledges of their friends, their family members and bring to light once again the issue of religious intolerance. What are your thoughts on this?

The Project

on 10 October 2009

I want you to do something for me. See that button over there? --> The One that says "Get a Color!" Click on it for me.... Did you do it or are you reading this on a feed reader? This is an interactive post, but well worth it... trust me! So clicking that button should have given you a color. Remember your Color!

Now you see this star here? Take out a sheet of paper... or if you have to use a mental picture, but paper is better. Draw a picture of a star and write your name in the center. Now in each point you are going to write something different.
1st point: Name of a Best Friend
2nd point: Name of a Trusted Family Member
3rd point: Name of a community you are part of
4th point: Your Dream Job
5th point: Your Hopes and Dreams.
It should look something like this:

Now that you have built out your star and know your color follow along with the scenario. For the purpose of this project, you are all GBLT about to come out.

As you start to feel ready to tell someone about your peculiarity, you decide to confide in your best friend. If you are a Blue, your friend responds great, they accept you and treat you exactly the same. If you are Orange or Purple, your friend takes some time to come around, but eventually things will work out, fold that point of your star back. If you are Red, your friend rejects you. They tell you that you are an abomination, that they can't be your friend if you insist on being a pervert. Tear off that point of your star.

After the first foray of coming out you decide to tell a family member. If you are Blue, your family member embraces you as their blood relative and as a part of the family. If you are Purple your family takes their time in accepting you but eventually come around, fold the point back to signify this. If you are Red or Orange your family rejects you. They might disown you, or kick you out of the house, to them you are lost. Tear off that point of your star.

Next you decide to tell those in your community organization. If you are a Blue, they are accepting and inclusive. If you are a Purple or Orange they take time to realize that you are the same person that you were before. Fold back this point of your star. If you are a Red, tear off the point of your star because this community is harmful towards you. They see you as a threat that must be removed and so they exclude you from everything.

As things progress people at work begin to suspect. If you are a Blue of Purple you find allies around the water cooler and you do well. If you are an Orange your co-workers feel alienated until they see that your work is well done and start to socialize with you more, fold back this point of your star. If you are a Red, you arrive at work one day to see your desk has a box with all your stuff in it and you are pulled into your boss' office and fired for "poor performance," This black-lists you from your dream job... tear off this point of your star.

If you are a Blue you have an immense amount of support from those around you leaving you free to pursue your hopes and dreams.
If you are Purple your work has supported you where your friends, family and community have taken longer to understand and see the real you. Your dreams are within reach!
If you are an Orange, you have struggled without a friend, or community and in a hostile work environment for a while but that has changed through perseverance, unfortunately your family never came around, but because of the eventual support around you your dreams are open to you still.
If you are a Red, you represent 35% of all Queer Youth and 50% of Trans Youth who have become abandoned by all those they hold dear. You feel alone and realize that your hopes and dreams are beyond reach, that you have little will to live. One day you decide to end your life because you feel completely alone and isolated. Rip up the rest of your star.

Unfortunately too many end up with a red star. They are left all alone by those who they need the most support from. They end up taking their life because they felt alone. Each day we have the power to either be a strong point of support, or a sheared part of someones life. Whether they are struggling with GBLT issues, simple depression, conversion to a new church, trauma, social injustice or any form of prejudice, we have the power each day to offer support to those in need. Can we really, in good conscience, turn away those who are different from us? So next time a friend comes out to you, tells you they are having issues at home, or simply needs someone to talk to, be there to listen, to offer support, and to prevent the lose of life.

iQreport heads Up

on 09 October 2009

Hey Blogger friends, So this Weekend is the National Equality March here in DC and I am helping to liveblog some events on faith and the GBLT Community. I will be using the "iQreport" label so just giving you a heads up so you aren't thinking that this blog has been taken over.

Finding Faith in Christ and in the Members

on 06 October 2009

Membership – What does this word mean to you? What do you think of when you hear it? Church membership? Membership in the Democratic Party? Membership in the NRA? Recently I have heard the terminology used and described as being a “card carrying” member. Does a recommend, a credit card, a checkbook, a Masonic ring really make you a member? It seems that more and more if you are a member of this group or that, then you are defined solely by that membership. The concept is that you are a homogeneous member of the basic guidelines of the group, that you are one solid core or thought.

Even if this isn’t the actual case, the manner in which we act would lead us to believe that this is so. How often in church do we see other members as “fitting the mold.” When you meet a Mormon from Utah County do you not think of 1 key type, a member of a particular set of homogeneous guidelines?

I ruminate upon this because a while back I discovered that the word “member” as used in the ancient Greek by Paul, means an “organ;” An essential part of the whole. Today we see membership as belonging to a “unit” like membership as a storm trooper or of a member of the Borg. (picture) We see membership and each member as one replaceable cog in the collective machine.

I feel that this is how membership in the Church on a Ward, Stake and worldwide level, how most people see “membership” in the church. How uninspiring is it to be a replaceable cog in the machine of the Church when Paul produced such beautiful imagery to describe how we are all organs int eh body of Christ, and in the body of the Church. We each have our own vital role that is no less important than any other organ’s job. We might be a tiny Nephron, filtering out waste, or a Nueron transmitting essential commands of higher thought. Regardless of our role in the body of His Church, we are vastly important to Christ.

How sad is it that in our modern world of machinery we grow up learning that to question is wrong; that those whose opinions within the Church were wavering or off from our own were succinctly bad or evil. This happens all around us, if you doubt it just bring a sunstone magazine to Sunday School or speak up in priesthood with a viewpoint that is different from the status quo.

If we looked and saw someone doing something different from us we assume that our model, our way is right, that it is the best way to do it. If a Nueron saw a Nephron filtering waste, wouldn’t it wonder and think (after living only with other Nuerons) that that Nephron was a foreign entity, that it was wrong, or evil and that it was not doing things correctly. And yet, when looked at from a distance, with an all-encompassing view, are they not both equally important and necessary for the maintaining of the body? If we are all members in the organization of the Church then should there not be the diversity of thought and opinion and of people as seen by Paul?
As a Gay Mormon I now know and feel that there is a place for me in Christ’s love and I while I know that there is a position for me in membership of his Church organization I hope that others begin to notice it and realize that even though I might be a nose hair follicle, a stem cell, or a pituitary gland it doesn’t matter. Each individual cell has a place; each organ is essential and each member essential to the Body of the Church. I know that the Lord sees me, as he made me, as an integral part of the overall body of the Gospel.

Regardless of what others say, I believe that MoHo’s have a place int eh organization of the church. Whether our place is to cleans the system of the waste of prejudice and inequality, to help the church grow out of stagnancy, or to serve as a line of defense against the outside world we have a place. I do not know what or where it is, but I have faith in the Lord, the Master that he is. He has placed us precisely in the position where I need to be and at the end of the day he will tell us “well done my good and faithful servant”

This is the Story of a Boy

on 04 October 2009

Running down Calvert St., the plip-plop of his too big shoes pounded like a heartbeat in the ears of the young man in the shirt and tie. As the beating of his heart matched his feet, the music coming from the iPod began to rhythmically entwine into harmony and the runner chuckled to himself in introspective amusement.

Only a year ago he had been wallowing in the misery of depression having just come out to himself, a friend and his father. He craved answers to unknown questions, solutions to unfinished puzzles and the peace of a calmed sea. Now he was literally running to catch a train that would hurtle him towards the same meeting, which only a year ago, agonized his mind and his soul into a frenzy that nearly cost him his life.

As he boarded the train and the endorphins of his running began to elevate his mind he recollected a similar meeting that took place 6 months prior, a meeting that he attended pleading for mere recognition of the pain and anguish that he was feeling, relief that would come from on high upon knowing that his suffering was not in vain. This meeting left him with resentment for the complete ignorance of his agony and slight resentment for the organization that held these semi-annual meetings. All he had desired was light and knowledge and a mere recognition that what he was dealing with was significant enough to warrant public discussion. His mind was jolted out of this trance by the train pulling into his station.

Whilst walking the last ¼ of a mile to the meetinghouse the young man recognized a profound change within him. He was at relative peace, his questions had been acknowledged as worthy, his puzzles and been started to be solved and the tumultuous storms of the seas had become easier to bear, even if the sea was not as smooth as glass. He realized that he didn’t have to attend this meeting, that no one was watching him, no one was holding him to his attendance and that it would hardly be recognized amongst a crowd of other young men. He realized that he wasn’t going to this meeting for answers, nor for recognition, not because it held some mystic advice. He was entering the hall of this building seeking nothing but thoughts on how to improve his life. How to love more consistently. How to better hear and follow the counsel of the Lord and his spirit. How to turn his heart not only towards, but over to Christ.

As he took his seat and prepared to hear the words from this meeting, he understood that his burden, his miseries had strengthened him. They had given him the power and the hope to start anew, to start a life path with its own unique bumps and jolts. He had added strength and a constant companion that was lacking on his previous journey. He was beginning anew from an entirely different and dare he say evolved point of view. He recognized a profound truth.

His Path was right, his course was true, he was on the road that led to home at last.

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The "Aha" Moment

on 02 October 2009

So I was vegging out today and I ran across this clip during a show I was watching. I captured it here, but it is from Bones. The episode is about an Amish musical prodigy. Now the Amish and music are pretty much like the Mormons and Homosexuality. During the episode (which I recommend BTW) the issue of music as a tool of the devil is mentioned. In fact in that same scene, the musician is reported to have said he felt "possessed." They mention choosing a gift such as his music over his religion and discuss I could palatably feel the struggle this kid on rumspringa was going through. What strikes me as different is the fact that for the Amish and music there is a realization that something that good Has to come from God. that God's hands are in all thing good. The Amish friend recognized the good fruits and had a moment of "Aha."
Sadly, too few Mormons, be they parents, friends, leaders, etc. have that "aha" moment. The point at which they realize that Hafen is wrong. Homosexuality can't be broken down into attractions and behaviors. The "Aha" moment comes when you realize that the attraction vs. behavior model is all about sex and that for a gay mormon, his (or her) sexuality is about SO much more than sex. It is about holding and caring for one another, about finding someone to grow old together with, and finding a spouse to have a family with. Oh that I were an angel and could shout from the rooftops of the world that homosexuality is not all about sex, any more than heterosexuality is.
For your final enjoyment, take a look at the prodigy's parents' reaction. Notice their hesitence at first and their acceptance after they hear the music and have their "aha" moment.