Sunday in Outer Blogness: The Dead and the Living Edition!

The buzz this week was all about how President Obama’s dead mom has been let out of spirit prison (or something like that). I ought to be dutifully rounding up every single post on the subject, but — no offense — everybody said exactly the same things they say every time this subject comes up. I’ll give you the short version: A: “But you don’t understand how deeply offensive and disrespectful it is to the deceased’s beliefs!” B: “What? One religion offended and disrespected another? No. Way. Glad the news crews are on it. </sarcasm>” C: Joke proxy excommunication is offered. If you’re dying for a round-up, Andrew collected some of the interesting ones. Also, JulieAnn’s send up is amusing. Or read this short-story about the proxy baptism of Marilyn Monroe.

Now, on to what’s up with the living:

G is coming out to family about her unbelief and deciding how to self-identify. Andee’s friend had a bit of a negative visit from the Mormons; by contrast Mr. FOB had a lovely time camping out with the Elders’ Quorum. Oliver has come up with his own ideas about the nature of God. Becky is excited to be going back to college. And Jana is thrilled to be active in her favorite new sport — a joyous recovery!

And now for the funnies. Sabayon shares her favorite Chinglish (though the Canadianism is actually even funnier), and Living With Mormons shares a “Let’s talk about Jesus” cartoon. Oh, and some are shocked by what you can get fired for these days. Not a joke, but The Cerebral Owl offers some amusing pics of the annual Procession of Species. Philly Chief thinks that countering the “National Day of Prayer” with a “National Day of Reason” is a bit of a Pollyanna thing to do — let’s cut to the chase and have a National Day of Masturbation instead. Hmm, I guess there’s a certain logic to it. Oh, and Jesus’ General applied for a job as a sniper in a private militia, and the guy seriously considered his application! Poe’s Law strikes again!!!

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21 Comments

  1. 1
    Sabayon says:

    I believe you’ll find that there is already a whole masturbation month (I think it is November), at least according to the good people at Good Vibrations. I am not sure there is any official recognition of this from the white house though.

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  2. 2
    chanson says:

    Well, one can never set aside enough time for masturbation. ;)

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  3. 3

    FWIW regarding the proxy baptism, I totally get those who feel that it’s disrespectful. If I ever get the chance to resign, I would pay good money to put a permanent injunction against the church rebaptizing me (if only that were possible). I opted out. Don’t insult me by opting me back in when I can no longer defend myself, just in case I change my mind. It’s like saying the deepest principles of my life were “just a phase”. How condescending!

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  4. 4
    Andrew S says:

    I personally would not pay a dime for a permanent injunction against the church for rebaptizing me.

    Because 1) they aren’t rebaptizing me. They are performing a ceremony where someone else is baptized while they read my name on a sheet of paper. 2) It means nothing if the Mormons are wrong (and I do not believe they are right). 3) Even if the church is right, I can easily stand in the spirit world and reject the ordinance.

    2 is the biggest one in my mind. We really shouldn’t be giving the church this much power, if we don’t believe in it.

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  5. 5
    chanson says:

    Jonathan — Of course it’s disrespectful for them to treat you like you’re just going through a childish phase, etc., but that’s what faithful Mormons really think (for the most part). When you’ve accepted one belief system, that implies that people who hold a conflicting belief system are wrong. BftD is merely a symbolic gesture confirming what you already know about what they think.

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  6. 6

    Granted that I shouldn’t care what the church does… in the same way women shouldn’t care when a boorish man whistles at her and comments on parts of her anatomy, or an African American man shouldn’t care if a white person refers to them as “boy”, or worse.

    We would all be better off if we didn’t allow words and symbolic gestures to have such power over us. So why do words and symbolic actions have power? That’s an interesting question that I haven’t really thought through. I think it may be bound up in what it means to be a symbol manipulating species.

    In any case, disrespectful words and behavior are worth fighting against even if they have no physical consequences because they are motivated by something real like hatred. We fight the symbols to fight what lies behind them.

    (What makes it worse is that it’s not the “Church” doing this; it would be my family. The thought that those who knew me would think so little of what I believe!)

    I know you dismissed this example on your blog, Andrew, but BftD really feels like grave desecration. I disagree that what upsets us most about grave desecration is the physical effects of the vandalism. At least for me, it is the symbolic desecration of the person whose monument is defiled. If, for example, someone were to cast aspersions on my dead grandmother within earshot of me, nothing “physical” has happened. It still feels like grave desecration, and I still want to punch him in the nose.

    I realize that Mormons do BftD with good intentions of giving someone another chance to accept Mormonism and get into the CK. This is a step up theologically from some other Christian ideas. Yet it’s still offensive to people who feel their relative’s memory defiled by the presumption of a strange cult that the person had nothing to do with in like yet who thinks they’re doing them a favor (a favor they didn’t ask for).

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  7. 7
    Andrew S says:

    I think the comparison is flawed. The reason people might care when they are catcalled or called something derogatory or whatever is because it represents a poor attitude that this person has toward us. As you say, “they are motivated by something real like hatred.”

    In this case, you can’t even claim such a thing of a Mormon who sincerely believes that the best way to show you love is by offering you the chance to accept baptism in the afterlife. At best, you can think them to be SILLY and think them to be WASTING THEIR TIME, but it’s a different motivation.

    Personally, I don’t think fighting the symbols fights what lies behind them, and I should probably make a post about that. People get so caught up about WORDS that they fail to realize that it’s the emotions behind them that *really* matter. Fighting words gets us a very great politically correct society, but it doesn’t eliminate the emotions and attitudes.

    Now, if you claim that the gesture is a showing of ill will (because people should care about your beliefs enough to know that you don’t appreciate this gesture), this I will concede on this point, because I can identify with it. (E.g., even though some evangelicals GENUINELY BELIEVE that saying people will go to hell is a way of “showing love,” I think they should consider my beliefs first and leave me alone, so I consider their continued attempts a gesture of ill will. This would be consistent with BftD, I admit.)

    But even in the case, then we should not focus on the BftD. We should focus on the ill will. The intention. The worldview. Grave desecration is not comparable because grace desecration has a definite physical wrong to it, regardless of ill will. Someone casting aspersions on your dead grandmother within earshot of you has definite ill will.

    But someone saying, OUT OF EARSHOT, “wow, I hope Jonathan Blake’s grandmother gets the best of (insert afterlife/god that Jonathan Blake or JB’s grandmother doesn’t believe in)” then really…I have to wonder if you’re attributing to malice what could actually be attributed to ignorance.

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  8. 8

    It doesn’t matter if the condescension and holier-than-thou beliefs are mixed with good intentions. Good intentions don’t erase the disrespect.

    As as suggestion, focus on what grave desecration feels like, not whether it fits the situation in a legalistic way.

    “I hope JB’s grandmother makes it to the Celestial Kingdom so I’m going to give her a chance to be Mormon (because I know she had it all wrong and is just waiting in spirit prison with all of the other sinners to renounce the religion she devotely followed and most of the principle she held most dear and fought for in life because she must not have been good enough on her own to make it into the CK).”

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  9. 9

    As as suggestion, focus on what grave desecration feels like, not whether it fits the situation in a legalistic way.

    What I’m trying to say is that I’m talking about emotions, and you seem to be making a case. If we keep that up, we’re bound to miscommunicate.

    The thought of my family rebaptizing me after I’m dead makes me feel deeply disrespected. I can fully understand why the descendants of Jews killed in the Holocaust would feel that the Mormons are desecrating the memory of the deceased by giving them the chance to become Mormon. Mormons can do this kind of thing if they want, but they should try to understand why people get so upset.

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  10. 10
    Andrew S says:

    Re 8 and 9

    But my entire point is that there is little reason why one should feel the emotion of what a grave desecration feels like with BftD. Because the two are qualitatively different.

    in the end, I guess I can see why people get upset, but it just seems not to make sense.

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  11. 11
    aerin says:

    Andrew – I may be able to see your point – if someone decides to burn the American flag, a symbolic gesture, for example, they are communicating strong emotions. Yet it is also just a multi-colored piece of cloth.

    All facetiousness aside, if someone decides to catcall, burn a flag or descrate a grave (or draw with lipstick on the gate of an LDS temple!!)- in the end what can one do? Not much. We can make laws against it, we can prosecute those who do it. Is it free speech? Is it offensive?

    Whatever it may be, if we/I respond, it’s much more of a reaction on our part (on my part) than a positive action.

    I don’t know that there are any positive actions that can be taken, save for introspection on my part – why someone would choose to cross a boundary (burn a symbol, descrate a grave, draw on a sacred LDS temple).

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  12. 12

    You and I must think very differently about grave desecration.

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  13. 13
    aerin says:

    Jonathan – do you mean you and I think differently about grave descration? Or you and Andrew?

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  14. 14
    chanson says:

    Here’s my take on BftD:

    1. It’s a symbolic act, therefore Mormons are (and should be) legally allowed to do it.

    2. There are things that should be legal yet shouldn’t be encouraged. It’s better to avoid gratuitously insulting people, even if you have the right to do it.

    3. Through the symbolic act of BftD, the Mormons are basically saying that they think your life choices and worldview were wrong. So what else is new? I already know they think that, and I can’t change their opinion on this, so I’m not going to worry about it.

    4. I don’t care very much about the Mormons insulting people via BftD. I actually don’t care much about grave desecration either. The person is dead. They’re not worrying about who is and isn’t insulting them — they’re done with all that.

    5. I’d rather use my “constructive criticism” capital with the Mormons on stuff that has a real effect on live people (eg. Proposition 8). If I criticize the Mormons about every little thing, they’re likely to write me off as a knee-jerk “anti” when it comes to the important stuff.

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  15. 15

    aerin, I meant Andrew and I must think differently. :)

    chanson, I agree with 1 and 2 and that BftD doesn’t concern the dead person in the least. As you say, they’re dead. Yhe problem with BftD is mostly about offending the sensibilities of the living. The possibility of BftD in my future concerns me now because I’m alive and capable of imagining the future insult after I’m dead.

    I’m not going to fight the issue either, though I feel like fighting my personal case. I’ll worry about it when I write my will. :)

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  16. 16
    Andrew S says:

    I guess in the end I haven’t really made my point clear -_-.

    When someone does anything, the critical part may either be the action itself or the emotion it was done in. Flagburning…are we really so concerned about the flag or do we really care more about the emotion and will behind the burning? OTOH, with grave desecration, we really do not care about the emotion or will…we care about the physical wrong of a grave being desecrated because of the physical ramifications. So even if someone *accidentally* desecrated a grave, we’d be just as upset. We don’t care because of ill will to the dead; we care because of a physical violation.

    …now…in some instances, we can be angry at both the action and its will.

    So, it just seems clear to me that there are these differences and I can’t quite communicate that. Looking at BftD in the same light as grave desecration makes no sense to me because the two actions are fundamentally different, but I guess others just don’t see it that way.

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  17. 17
    chanson says:

    Andrew — So you’re saying that grave desecration is a problem due to the physical harm done to the remains of the deceased…?

    And if the remains were to be desecrated by, say, being eaten by worms and bacteria, and becoming unspeakably foul through the physical action of rotting — is that also a problem?

    I’d rather go with organ donation + creamation of the rest. I don’t want the rembrance I leave my friends and family to be a hunk of rotting meat that they have to keep an eye on…

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  18. 18
    Andrew S says:

    To the grave itself or to the remains.

    This is why when people care about graves, they go about methods that will preserve the body, that will preserve the actual grave, etc., Because we *are* also fighting against worms, bacteria, etc.,

    If we’re going with organ donation and cremation, then basically, I think there should be no problem at all with grave desecration to begin with — because we aren’t conflating anything to sacredness in the first place. I think that’s the way to go too.

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  19. 19

    “OTOH, with grave desecration, we really do not care about the emotion or will…we care about the physical wrong of a grave being desecrated because of the physical ramifications. So even if someone *accidentally* desecrated a grave, we’d be just as upset. We don’t care because of ill will to the dead; we care because of a physical violation.”

    That’s not how I see it. If a cemetery worker accidentally broke my grandmother’s headstone with a lawn mower, I would be upset, but I wouldn’t feel like the grave has been desecrated. Accidents happen.

    If someone scrawled graffiti across the headstone, then I would be upset for an entirely different reason. And I would be much more disturbed. The intent of the person violating the grave counts for a lot more in my book than the physical damage done.

    For me, BftD is nearly perfectly analogous to stenciling a big angel Moroni on all the headstones in a cemetery “just in case they change their mind” and would like to be Mormon.

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  20. 20

    [...] error theory for one of these days) and more in terms of prudence/imprudence. For example, we had a go around about baptism for the dead. And one of the things this got me seeing is the difference…for [...]

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  21. 21

    [...] in the comments to this post, Jonathan compared baptism for the dead to flag desecration, which I agree with. I think his [...]

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