Monday, September 27, 2010

A Man of God

I taught the priesthood lesson yesterday at church.  I was given a talk by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf titled Continue in Patience as the basis for my lesson.  It's an easy topic to address - nothing controversial or uncomfortable for a struggling with ssa - gay - homo-queer - mormon dude like me. 

I tried to offer a different spin on the topic.  I related the story of Steven Slater (the JetBlue flight attendant who go angry with a difficult passenger and ended up exiting the plane via the emergency escape chute) as an example of someone whose anger was understandable - even justified - but who, perhaps, could have exercised a bit more patience.  I talked about how we've all encountered people like the woman passenger in question - people who think the rules are for everyone else - people whose time is more important than ours so they cut us off in lines and/or traffic.  I then used that as a jumping point to discuss how we can learn to exercise more patience when dealing with difficult people.

I felt the lesson went well.  A visitor to the quorum even came up to me after and thanked me for the lesson.  During the closing prayer, the person praying expressed gratitude for the lesson given by a 'man of god' - he referred to me as a man of god.  Although I felt good about the lesson - I felt uncomfortable being referred to as a man of god.

Now, to be sure, when I give a lesson and/or talk in church, I choose my words very carefully.  I don't say anything I'm not comfortable saying - I only say things I sincerely believe.  But, I don't think of myself as a man of god.  Heck, I'm struggling with what do I really believe anymore - do I even believe in God? I'm not as certain as I once was.  So, I feel a little guilty for maintaining a facade that some, evidently, interpret as being godly.  If they only knew of the internal struggle waging inside of me.  Shouldn't a man of god be absolutely certain in his faith?

It just makes me wonder if I've become so adept at maintaining a TBM (True Believing Mormon) facade at church that I do it without even thinking.  A rather disturbing thought as I don't want to wear a facade - I just want people to see me as I am, the real me.

* * *

On a completely different topic, I'm really liking Mondo Guerra in this season's Project Runway; and, I think he could win this season.  I like Christopher Collins too (not just because he's the cutest of the bunch), he could be the dark horse contestant.  Mondo seems a bit odd (he definitely marches to his own drum); but, he's so nice and likable - you just want to give him a big hug.  It's always fun to see what outfit he's going to wear next.

I was glad to see Ivy Higa go last week; and, I'm hoping Gretchen Jones gets ax'd soon - but I think Gretchen will make it into the final 3.  Gretchen is just so manipulating and conniving and unlikeable.

My wife and I are also enjoying the new show Top Chef Just Desserts - it's kinda like a cross between Top Chef and Project Runway - a gay Top Chef.  Although, I did feel a tad be uncomfortable when Seth Caro had his meltdown and started crying for his mommy.  I mean seriously, I know there is a lot of stress - but you're 34 years old, get a grip on yourself.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Maintaining convictions

An anonymous person commented on my blog post Love the sinner - hate the sin with the following question:
I'd like some input. I firmly believe the opposite, that homosexuality is wrong by God's standards. But I also believe that we should not judge, exactly as you have posted. That saying "love the sinner hate the sin" has always seem wrong. I agree we should all respect each other and let God judge. It's not our place. I'm willing to do that. But I still believe that homosexuality is wrong. How do I allow treat a homosexual person with the respect they want, but at the same time pass on my convictions to my children? This question may come across badly. I want to allow everyone the freedome to live their lives the way they want, but I want my convictions, that I feel deeply about to be passed to my children. How would you suggest I do this?
I believe this is a very good question - and one that deserves some thought and discussion.  In fact, I invite other bloggers to post their thoughts on this topic as well.

The issue, as I see it, is how can someone maintain their conviction that homosexuality (more specifically, homosexual intimacy) is wrong - yet love and accept their homosexual family, friends, and associates?  A corollary question might be:  How far should that acceptance extend?  For example, should you extend your love and acceptance to the homosexual partner?

I suppose an even more basic question is:  Is it even possible to love and accept a homosexual while maintaining a conviction that homosexual intimacy is wrong?

I believe the answer is "yes" - it is possible - and, in fact, required by Christian teachings - to love and accept those whose lives are contrary to that which we believe to be correct.  The simple fact of the matter is that we all know people who do things that we believe are wrong, dumb, or stupid.  And, it goes both ways.  For example, there are those who believe it is wrong for me to accept myself as a homosexual while being married to a woman; there are others who believe it is wrong for me to remain married to a woman now that I accept myself as a homosexual.  And, it certainly isn't limited to sexual behavior.  We may believe people are wrong because they drink alcohol, smoke, or live beyond their means.  We may think people are wrong to believe in God - or not to believe in God.

Just because someone has some aspect in their lives we believe to be wrong doesn't me we can't love and accept them - even consider them a close friend.  It would be a very lonely life if we only associated with those whose beliefs and actions were 100% in line with our own.

But, is there a line between what we can and cannot accept?  For example, if a parent accepts their gay son who lives at home - does that mean they should allow him to bring home a different boy every night to have sex with?

A few thoughts:

First, there is a difference between accepting and condoning. Just because you accept a family member and/or friend as gay doesn't mean you must also condone their behavior.

Second, there is a difference between how a parent should treat a 16 year old son still in high school and a 20 year old son in college.  When our children are under 18 we have a legal responsibility for them.  Once they turn 18 they are legally adults - and need to be treated as such.  As a parent of adult children, I've learned that while I may not agree with all of the decisions my children make - I do need to respect their decisions.

Third, we have a right to dictate what happens in our own home.  For example, I know people who smoke and/or drink - but I don't allow it in my home.  I do allow smokers to step outside the house to smoke on my property - I just don't want it inside the house because of the smell.  But, I don't allow alcohol on my premises - either inside or out.  Likewise, I think it perfectly acceptable for parents to not allow activities in their home which they believe to be wrong (e.g. sex between unmarried couples).  For example, if a heterosexual son brings home a girlfriend to visit, I think it acceptable for parents to insist they sleep separate rooms - the same could be said for a gay son who brings home a boyfriend.

Fourth, we need to take into consideration the level of commitment that a gay child or friend has with their partner. For example, if a gay child/friend has a boyfriend with whom they are not living with - I think it fair to treat them the same as if they had a girlfriend to whom they were not married; that is, you could insist they not sleep in the same room in your home (even if you know they are sexually active).  However, if they are in a committed monogamous relationship having gone through a ceremony of sorts to declare their commitment to one another - and would be married if it were a legal option available to them - then I think it fair and right to treat them as a married couple - even if you are morally against such unions.  In the not too distant past, some considered interracial marriage as immoral - yet they still had the same rights and privileges as other married couples.

Anyway, these are my thoughts - I invite others to blog about their thoughts and ideas.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I didn't mean to go so long without blogging.  I just haven't felt like I had anything worthwhile to say.  I have several unfinished blog posts in draft status which I may or may not publish.

Anyway, here is what's been on my mind of late

My life of poverty
It's been 18 months since I was laid off.  Now, to be fair, I'm not just sitting at home doing nothing.  I have found a data entry type job which both my wife and I can do from home.  It doesn't pay that much; but, between the two of us we are able keep our heads above water, just barely.  But, our CORBA health insurance has run out - so, we've joined the ranks of the uninsured.  I expect we're also part of that poverty statistic that's been in the news recently.  Life is difficult, but we're probably doing better than many others in a similar position.  I mean, we still have our home and we still have food in the pantry.  Without health insurance, we're really focusing on eating healthy.  For example, we've decided we're not going to buy any baked goods - if we want something (like bread, or a cupcake, or something) then we have to make it ourselves.  And, I always scour (what I call) the used meat bin (meat that is near it's 'sell by' date) for good deals I can put in the freezer.  My biggest problem is that I'm pretty much a food snob - I enjoy fine foods.  It's difficult for me to buy Great Value products at Walmart.
My life of solitude
The other day I made Chili Rellenos for dinner - which were tasty, but frying tends to smell of the kitchen.  Later that evening, when I walked into the kitchen, I quipped to my wife "good thing we don't have any friends who might drop in on us - because our house stinks right now."

My attempts at humor stings with reality - we really don't have any friends.  Well, more to the point, I don't have any friends.  My wife has her quilting and sewing friends whom she visits with weekly.  Instead of friends - I have the husbands of my wife's friends.  And, when she's visiting with them during the day, while said husbands are at work, then there is no reason for said husbands to interact with me in any way.

In a typical week - my only interaction with people, other than family, is 3 hours on Sunday while sitting at church.  And that's not really much interaction either since it mainly consists of sitting on my butt listening to some talk or lesson. 

Most days I don't even leave the house. I do have my brief interactions during the week with the checker at the grocery store as I pay. But that conversation usually goes something like
them:  "did you find everything OK?"
me: [mumbling] "yes" (which I answer - even if it's not true)
them: "have a nice day"
How did this happen?  How did my life devolve into such a meaningless existence?

I try to convince myself that I'm OK with the life of a hermit - a hermit that lives a life of solitude in plain sight.  But, it's not true.  I want friends!  I want people I can hang out with.  I want people who call me once in a  while just to talk - and whom I'm comfortable calling, just to talk.  Am I really that much of a pariah to be avoided?

I tried joining a photography club this year.  I go to the meetings, but I just sit there and listen to whatever program was planned for the evening - I don't know anyone, I don't even know the names of the people conducting the meeting.  I don't talk to anyone.  I go, I sit, I leave.  Gee, that kinda sounds like what I do at church.  It's just so difficult for me to strike up a conversation with people I don't know.

Intellectually, I know that to have friends I have to be a friend - and I just really suck at being a friend. So, I guess I just have to learn to accept that I'll live out my life friendless and, apparently, penny-less.
Stake Conference
As I was sitting in stake conference recently, I looked around at some of the missionaries serving in the wards in my stake and, I don't know why, but I started to wonder if they might be gay.  With 13 wards in our stake and, on average, one set of missionaries per ward - it's likely that, at least, one or two of them are family.  If only there were some way to reach them and let them know that they're not alone.  But, alas, it seems that coming to terms with our sexuality is something we all have to go through alone before we are able to find and reach out to find others.
On an unrelated topic, there was one statement by our new Stake President that has really been bugging me.  He was addressing those who suffer from depression.  He didn't call it depression per se, he was using words like "those who are feeling hopeless".  But, then he said something to the effect of "I'm not suggesting anyone go off their medications - but I firmly believe that we can be in complete control of our thoughts." [worded as best as I can remember]  As one who suffers from clinical depression, perhaps I'm just being overly sensitive - but it just doesn't come across as being compassionate - 'mourning with those that mourn and comforting those that stand in need of comfort', if you will.  Perhaps that's not what he meant - but if that's how I interpreted it - chances are I was not alone.  It really doesn't matter what he said exactly or even what he meant - what matters is how it was perceived by others.  And, I didn't perceive it very favorably - I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable talking to him about my depression issues.  
A recent lesson in priesthood meeting
When we were studying lesson #15 "The Lord's Covenant People", one of the older members of my priesthood quorum made a comment that was really out in left field (having nothing to do with the lesson content nor what the instructor was saying).  He blurted out "what about all of those TV shows with 'homosexuals'" - the last word being spit out in a tone of utter disgust. Fortunately, the instructor was able to quickly get the lesson back on track; but, not before I saw nods and heard sounds of agreement from other quorum members.  It served as a bitter reminder of what some of my quorum members really think of the me - the real me that they don't know
It is weird for a middle aged man to be so excited for the return of Glee this week?  Is it odd for a middle aged man to own the Glee music CD's?  Is it creepy for a middle aged man to be tooling around in his blue Nissan Cube rocking to the music of Glee?

To be fair, my life isn't all grim. I had a photograph win honorable mention at this months Fort Worth Camera Club competition. Well, OK, maybe I'm mildly bummed it didn't score higher because, seriously, I felt my photo was better than the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. But, at least it's something. I've attached the image - although it doesn't do it justice. I think the 16x20 print looks just stunning - simple, yet elegant.

Anyway, this pretty much sums my thoughts and feelings about the Mormon Queerosphere

Guess this means you're sorry
You're standing at my door
Guess this means you take back
All you said before
Like how much you wanted
Anyone but me
Said you'd never come back
But here you are again

'Cause we belong together now, yeah
Forever united here somehow, yeah
You got a piece of me
And honestly,
My life (my life) would suck (would suck) without you

Baby I was stupid for telling you goodbye
Maybe I was wrong for tryin' to pick a fight
I know that I've got issues
But you're pretty messed up too
Either way, I found out I'm nothing without you


Being with you
Is so dysfunctional
I really shouldn't miss you
But I can't let you go