Monday, July 16, 2007

Inspiration or Ickspiration?

I was thinking about some of the comments on my recent post about masturbation. One thing that bothers me is the apparent lack of any sort of consistency in how this sensitive topic is addressed throughout the church. Although I myself have never had any negative experiences in this regard, some people have been treated horribly by their Bishops - plain and simple.

And, this got me to thinking. Yes, Bishop's are given certain keys, including keys of discernment. But, does that mean that every word they utter comes from spiritual inspiration?

For many who have not dealt with the issue of homosexuality, any thought of homosexual relationships (even non sexual ones) can be seen as revolting, disgusting, and just generally icky. Some may even rationalize that if something is revolting then it must obviously be wrong. However the logic in that train of thought is flawed. There are foods that are eaten in other cultures that I consider revolting and disgusting. But, that doesn't mean that I believe it is wrong to eat them - just that I choose not to partake.

So, this is a question that those who work with people who are attracted to their same gender need to ask themselves: Am I acting out of true inspiration from God? Or am I speaking from ickspiration because of my own personal distaste? And, those of us who are on the receiving end - we need to pray and receive our own spiritual witness if the advice and counsel we were given was said out of inspiration, or ickspiration.

I remember a few years ago, a family moved into our ward. The head of this household was a first class jerk (in my own humble opinion). Then one day the stake presidency came to reorganize our bishopric - and called this brother to be our Bishop. I still recall the feelings of melancholy I had as I left church that day. How could God do this? The guy's a jerk, surely God knows that. But, I resolved that I would support him as Bishop even though I disliked him as a man. One day, in a tithing settlement, this Bishop said some very hurtful and hateful things to me. If ever I was going to leave the church because I had been offended - that would have been it. That experience shook my faith to its very core. To this day I feel he was wrong in saying the things he did.

That was two bishop's ago. Subsequent boundry changes have put us in different wards; so, I don't see this man very often these days. However, in a recent bishopric meeting, our current bishop was cleaning out some papers from his desk and came across some things from this other bishop. He made a passing comment on how he felt this previous bishop man was overly harsh in some of his judgments - and that, to this day, he still occasionally has people in his office complaining about things they were told by this other bishop. And, you know what, I actually found myself defending him. I told my bishop that I felt this previous bishop had mellowed quite a bit in his tenure as bishop - and it's true. While I still think he is a jerk, he is not nearly as big of a jerk as he once was. In fact, this last Christmas, it happened that we were both singing tenor in a stake choir. And, he always made a point of sitting next to me so that we could share music because he said he could follow me better than he could other tenors - and I didn't mind. We laughed, and we joked (and, yes, I still think he is a jerk).

I'm not sure where I'm going with this other than to say that I believe most of the men called to positions of leadership make a sincere effort. But, there are a few who are overzealous in their quest to perfect the saints.


Kengo Biddles said...

Sounds kind of like the treatment I had with the bishop in DC-Area.

J G-W said...

I have come to appreciate that the Lord can work through individuals in quite miraculous ways. The Spirit can literally help individuals exceed themselves, become better than they would be without the Spirit. I have frequently been surprised by the wisdom coming from our mortal, flawed, very human leaders, and to me it is a testimony of the Spirit at work in the Church.

But we also have to keep in mind that being called to a position of responsibility does not alleviate a person of their free agency. This is true from the prophet down to the lowliest usher. That means, our bishops can and will make mistakes in office. In fact, I believe the principle of agency requires us to believe that they can commit some pretty damning mistakes, including behaving in ways that result in members of their wards having their testimonies damaged, losing their faith, or being emotionally or psychologically harmed. Alas, we even know of instances in which bishops have physically or sexually abused parishioners.

The principle of agency also means that ultimately we choose how to respond to irresponsible behavior in a leader. Hopefully we all eventually learn to cultivate our faith and become mature enough that the misbehavior of those in authority over us does not result in losing our faith.

I believe some of the bishops I had as a youth and young adult did behave in ways that contributed to my alienation from the Church. But as I have come back, I have also had to come to terms with and take responsibility for my own role in my loss of faith -- and my responsibility to rebuild that faith.

iwonder said...

In my experience, several of my bishops have been simply unwilling to discuss the topic at all. It is as if they are afraid of the topic. On two separate occasions with two different bishops, I've had them flat out refuse to talk about it, even when I really wanted/needed to.

Oh well.

Abelard Enigma said...

If you have a topic you want to discuss with your Bishop and he refuses - then it's time to go talk to your Stake President.

Sean said...

i love this post. although i hope for inspiration from my leaders i very much suspect that ickspiration is sometimes the more probable "seer stone".

GeckoMan said...

I have had the blessing of being supported and encouraged by every Bishop or Stake Pres. I have ever chosen to confide in, and since we've moved around a bit, that would be at least ten different men over the last 25 years. I've never even felt a sense of condemnation or judgement, but rather empathy and openness to help. I never was denied a temple recommend or even got chastised for poor behavior, but then again I never crossed the line to acting out. Always was the admonition to hang in there, utilize Christ's atonement, love your wife, go to the temple, do your best.

However, some obviously are not so fortunate as I have been. Just yesterday, a brother in the Disciples 2 forum posted this sad commentary:

"Well I guess it is a good thing I skipped church on sunday and decided to sleep off work the night before. Apparently, my bishop's mood has changed yet again. We had been working towards attending the temple before the end of the year, but we got a phone call from the bishop indicating that it probably isn't going to happen any time soon."

"My wife, who is a convert, is having a hard time sustaining this man as her bishop. She sees so many men who have done far worse than me get nothing more than a slap on the wrist, yet after almost five years of marriage, we are no closer to attending the temple than before I was rebaptized."

"His main point this time around is that he, the bishop, feels that if I still have any SSA feelings at all--which I still have an
occasional unchristlike thought--then this means I have never repented. We have dropped off Evergreen info with him, but he says since it it didn't come from the "Brethren" that he isn't going to waste his time reading it."

"The weird thing is, is that he only became "excited" about helping us return to the temple, when my wife complained to a neighboring Stake Pres about him."

"I know that the church has a chain of command in dealing with people, and that they have even spoken in General Conference about not hassleing the brethren with issues that should be resolved on a local level. But when the bishop and stake pres don't appear to want to help who can I turn too?"

My immediate reaction was "move." But should a person literally have to change their geography in order to make some progress? Obviously the answer is "no," and I don't know the whole story, but I guess I would move on if I had been trying to return to the temple for five years. My heart goes out to this brother.

iwonder said...

hey! Is there a reason why one cannot comment on your most recent post?

I for one, would be disappointed if you suddenly decided to stop blogging. I would understand, but I wouldn't be happy about it!

I do a pretty good job at pretending that I have it together, most of the time. But, the truth is: I'm really screwed up!

Um, join the club! I know I've said the same thing several times, but it's really ok. My personal opinion is that those who never admit that they are really screwed up are just lying to themselves. I think everyone's really screwed up in one way or another (or three).

I've made some good friends here in the queerosphere - people whom I look forward to meeting in person one day. But, the thought of doing so terrifies me. What if I'm not what you expect? What if you only like the blogging me, not the real flesh and blood me?

Unless you are a total jerk face in real life, and this is some sort of schizophrenic personality which you exhibit only online, then I am sure we would all like you. And if you really are schizophrenic, I will feel absolutely horrible.

I guess what I am trying to say is: Don't worry, we love you, we think you're awesome!

Have a nice day with your stupid air conditioning!

(Stupid Europe with it's no air conditioning!!!)

Anonymous said...

Hang in there brother Enigma. You can't completely drown unless you stop swimming. And anyone who has the energy you have put into this blog site (not to mention your generosity of spirit) undoubtedly has the energy deep inside (even if it doesn't always feel like you do) to dust yourself off and keep going -- no matter how slow the pace or how disappointing the setback. Easier to encourage someone else, I admit, than to fight the fight myself. But I am still here, and YOU are still here. And that is a GOOD thing. Never doubt it. Best wishes - Adam