Sunday in Outer Blogness: Y Be Free edition!

The challenge to BYU’s accreditation has hit the presses!! Let’s see what happens! Theoretically it’s OK to be gay at BYU, but not everybody got the memo. In the meantime, FreeBYU has started posting profiles.

And what is the CoCJoL-dS up to these days? I mean, besides conference. Not what you might guess!

The top guys are still a bit wary of technology and the future. (Fortunately, now members are allowed to be gay on Facebook.) Doubts are the big danger to what the church offers: some big promises and lots of problematic answers:

Brandon proceeded to talk about prayer briefly and then said, “There are answers to questions that my church has…and that is a beautiful thing.” I can relate with Brother Flowers. “Answers to questions” is what I carried with me for two years in Argentina on my mission. Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going after this life? As Mormons, we have the answers to ALL of these questions and we would like to come into your home and discuss them with your family!

[…]

For those who are suffering – the wife and three kids, the missionary’s family, the child’s parents – the answers can fall short and leave us feeling empty and alone or maybe even leave us feeling guilty for our sorrow. But those who have never suffered a similar tragedy, cannot understand the depth of grief, and the “answers” are not malicious but are truly offered to make things better. To solve the problem. To fix it. We have to come up with these unintentionally insensitive answers to make sense of tragedies.

Of course Christianity in general uses the strategy of negging you to snag you…

Have you been wondering about that film “God Is Not Dead”? Well, lucky for you, Alex watched it so you don’t have to! Surprisingly, he discovered a reality-based message in it:

Through the thick growths of religious vines throttling the narrative of God’s Not Dead, a simple and somehow beautiful message lies at the center of this clumsily-conceived story: So much painful stuff happens to these characters, and almost all of it is due to poor communication. We can learn from these fictional examples that when people don’t take the time to discuss their decisions, their expectations, their beliefs and their problems, they can expect things to get worse. Open dialogue, free communication and the mature exchange of opinions can facilitate the happy endings that so few of these situations achieved.

Mithryn has been quite active this past week, with a discussion of homogeneity and bias, comparison of the CoJCoL-dS with Joseph Smith’s church, contrast of good marriage advice with the church’s marriage advice, and a plan for an animated discussion of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

In scriptures, whatever happened to that new “translation” of the Bible that Joseph Smith did? The BoM war stories are getting stranger, not to mention the things the Bible says can get you sent to hell and other tips. You can believe the Bible is good if you cherry-pick, but, unfortunately some people really do take the whole thing seriously. But the parlor tricks hardly merit the veneration they’ve generated.

In interfaith interactions, an online sex chat morphed into a theology discusion. In life journeys, Prairie Nymph is going on an awesome pilgrimage and shared bit of poetic prose:

I will be in charge of my paintbrush today. The primed canvas smiles at me, daring me to do great things. My fingers itch. The rhythm of the music around me pulsates in my fingers and I begin.

And as a personal update from last week: playing transatlantic Minecraft with my little niece has been great fun! I’d actually like to be doing it right now — maybe I’ll get back to it…

Have a great week!

An Ode to Life and Love: “Free Electricity” by Ryan Rhodes

Everything was suddenly different, but what had just happened would not fall into place in my mind. The circuitry had never been laid for this — like learning a foreign language. The verbs were reversed with the nouns and the vowels were crashing into the consonants and every adverb and adjective had turned into a jumbling semantic puzzle. Everything that happened was like finding a new word for a meaning you had already assigned to something else, and this frantic switch-around exploded the normal. Words flew off the page and refused to come back. They could not be reigned in and disobeyed my thoughts. They could not be harnessed. They flew like bats at dusk. My heart flew with them. I had entered a new plane, and nothing would ever be the same again — thank the Lord Almighty!

Free Electricity That’s Bernie/Henry, the main character, discovering what a kiss can be like. Ryan Rhodes’ novel Free Electricity gives a loving tribute to the young gay men who were tortured through BYU’s aversion therapy program. A central theme is that they are/were human individuals whose suffering should not silently become a footnote in a dusty history book, dismissed and forgotten. And while the primary romance in the story is a tragedy, the tale as a whole is a beautiful and poetic — even playful and fun — celebration of life.

The story is an exmormon life adventure, one in which Mormonism is a force that will either kill you or make you stronger, as you test your own strength against it. The protagonist’s experience is shaped by growing up gay and Mormon in a rural Mormon town in the 60’s and later attending BYU in the early 70’s, and the reader is invited to see how adversity fertilized the flowering of the gay community in the 70’s. It’s clear to the main character as a child that he doesn’t fit, and that his differences will ultimately be a ticket to some faraway experiences he could hardly imagine. Meanwhile, his childhood peers mostly end up settling down young, following their parents’ well-worn life path.

It’s amazing how dramatically the situation for young gay people has changed in just a couple of generations. It can’t be simply described — young gay twentysomethings who want to understand would do well to read a life like this one. The author describes how the main character’s social development was stunted by the fact that he didn’t have a framework or language for understanding his own feelings and by the fact that he intuited that he needed to construct psychological walls to protect himself and his mysterious secret. As horrible as it was, though, he meditates on the question of whether modern gay kids haven’t lost something precious by having it too easy.

Also note that a lot of the experiences he describes — about how being different can start you on the rocky but rewarding climb out of Mormonism — aren’t unique to the gay experience. As in any human tale, people of all different genders, orientations, and backgrounds will be able to relate.

The book is quite long, longer than it needs to be. But it’s long in much the same way that Les Misérables is long — with lots of interesting and poetic asides. If you’re not in a hurry and are looking for a book to cuddle up with this Winter, Free Electricity is an enjoyable read and a good choice.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a sociopath’s dream”

Read this deeply bizarre cover story from Psychology Today.  Entitled “Confessions of a Sociopath,” it tells the story of a female Mormon law professor with an undergraduate degree from BYU.  Here’s the most relevant part about the church:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a sociopath’s dream. Mormons believe that everyone has the potential to be godlike—I believe this includes me. Every being is capable of salvation; my actions are what matters, not my ruthless thoughts, not my nefarious motivations. Everyone is a sinner, and I never felt that I was outside this norm.

When I attended Brigham Young—where students were even more trusting than the average Mormon—there were myriad opportunities for scamming. I stole from the lost and found, saying I lost a book, but then I would take the “found” book to the bookstore and sell it. Or, I’d take an unlocked bike that sat in the same place for days. Finders, keepers.

But I am functionally a good person—I bought a house for my closest friend, I gave my brother $10,000, and I am considered a helpful professor. I love my family and friends. Yet I am not motivated or constrained by the same things that most good people are.

The essay is excerpted from a book entitled Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by someone named M.E. Thomas, a pseudonym for someone who who started this awesome website for sociopaths and went on the Dr Phil Show to promote her book.  At that point, people had some decent clues to work with in trying to figure out who she is.

Turns out she’s probably someone named Jamie Rebecca Lund. And not only is Ms. Lund Mormon, but she was set to join the faculty at BYU law school–which church leaders are now apparently trying to undo.

We’re actually late to this party–it’s been parsed on Facebook and Mormon Discussions.  There are debates about whether she’s really a sociopath or just a narcissist–I saw comments from someone who saw her segment on Dr. Phil; apparently she kept claiming she had such and such a trait, which was a hallmark of a sociopath, and Dr. Phil kept saying, “No, it’s not.”

Anyway, it’s a funky story to begin with, and the Mormon angle just makes it too salacious to resist.

 

 

 

Unrighteous Dominion and Coca-Cola

A link with the headline BYU caffeine movementfizzles has been appearing in my Facebook feed. Apparently there was a facebook page calling for caffeinated versions of sodas to be sold at BYU, but its creator shut it down because it generated “heated opinions on both sides” as well as “general animosity.”

To explain the sort of reactions the page generated, the news story linked to above included this:

“If they dont serve caffeinated drinks in the temple, then Heavenly Father obviously doesnt want us to drink them, wrote one woman in an earlier post. It may seem like a small thing but it is all about obedience to the gospel and if we are willing to follow.

Apparently even an attempt to give away free caffeinated sodas was shut down by BYU police.

In conclusion, I would just like to bear my testimony of how grateful I am that I attended universities where the students, faculty and administration were not so overcome by the spirit of contention and unrighteous dominion that anyone tried to deprive someone of their god-given right to drink a freakin’ coca-cola, and where, for good measure, you could get a decent (albeit not generally superior) cup of coffee. In fact, when I first got to Iowa, the student union had a bar. You could buy a beer at the student union and drink it on the patio by the river. Come to think of it, I also had a very nice beer at the student union at UW Madison, which I drank with friends on the patio by the lake.

“Religious Exemption” in Sexual Orientation Nondiscrimination Law

I’ve been thinking about how a couple leaders of the LDS Church have vocalized how they wouldn’t mind the 2009 nondiscrimination laws in Salt Lake City (in housing and employment, on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity) be expanded across the state of Utah. Specifically, what they’re interested in is duplicating how those laws include “religious exemptions” that let Mormon and other religiously-owned institutions be exempt from the nondiscrimination laws altogether. The leaders don’t bring attention to this, of course — rather they just voice their support for the “balance” in the laws — but you can bet your breeches that if the exemptions were removed, the Church would not support the nondiscrimination laws whatsoever.

Not all Mormons are convinced these laws are good, regardless of the exemptions. Many Mormons continue to believe that such laws are a sign of “death by a thousand cuts” to traditional family culture. This is because it’s possible to imagine the phrase “religious exemption” as a temporary placeholder for when everyone will eventually have to follow the same law, rather than the language setting in stone a divide between “civil society” and “religious institutions.” When it comes down to it, no Utahn is a member of a religious institution and not also subject to civil society. I can understand why the dialogue hasn’t moved much in the Utah State Legislature, even as a few more individual cities have followed Salt Lake City’s lead since 2009.

There’s an angle of why the Church feels its exemptions are necessary that I think is worth examining in order to move the dialogue forward. Let’s take, for example, a teacher at BYU in a same-sex relationship. Currently, if the school finds out about the relationship, the teacher will be fired on the basis of breaking the honor code: namely, the rule that students and faculty are not supposed to have sexual relations with anyone other than a married spouse (“married” as defined by the Church must be an opposite-sex spouse). If that teacher were able to sue BYU for “discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation,” then that would open up BYU’s honor code to legal scrutiny (as it is applied to everyone, gay, straight or otherwise). Is it possible to protect people from being fired on the basis of sexual orientation/gender identity at BYU, but also not affect BYUs honor code? I can’t think of how. Still, does an individual citizen’s “right” to privacy trump a religious institution’s “right” to have knowledge of private affairs and discipline accordingly for the sake of religious assembly? Perhaps this isn’t the way the legal world would frame the issue exactly, but hopefully I’ve made the contention clear.

Recently, I asked an orthodox gay Mormon (who thinks same-sex intimacy is a “sin”) who supported the SLC nondiscrimination ordinances what is more important to him: protection in housing/employment, or preventing same-sex couples from being allowed in Mormon spaces. He told me that he would rather deal with Mormon homophobia than bring “sexual orientation law” into Mormondom. He feels such law would limit the Church’s right to discriminate on the basis having sex with someone you’re not married to. He casually added that same-sex couples are allowed at church, “everyone is allowed,” which, well…I’m slightly curious about the current cultural dynamics (that is, how my local ward would respond to a same-sex couple…though my partner isn’t interested in carrying out such an experiment with me, understandably).

Anyhow, I’m not sure how to resolve this protection and/or privacy vs assembly issue other than the exemptions that are in place. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of the exemptions because I see them as wiggle room for the Church and individuals in the Church to continue to be as homophobic as they want, and not have to be subject to the same law everyone else is.

Oh how racism haunts Mormonism

You remember the whole Brandon Davies basketball debacle a few weeks ago? You know, the situation where a black BYU basketball player was suspended for having sex with his girlfriend? Yeah, so, it turns out someone did a little digging and found out that:Of the 70 athletes suspended from BYU since 1993, 54 of them (80%) were minorities; 41 (60%) were black men.

Is this because black men are more likely to violate the honor code? The authors say, “No.” They note that lots of people violate the honor code at BYU, and since almost everyone at BYU is white (.6% black, but 23% of athletes at BYU are minorities), that means most of the violations are by white students. The difference is: The many white students who do violate the honor code are more likely to get away with it.

You should really read the original article – it’s pretty stunning how clear the case is against the religion when it comes to the administration at BYU having a double standard for black athletes.

As I read it, there are two take home messages from this article:

  1. If you are a black athlete and BYU comes knocking, turn them down flat. Not only will the recruiters lie to you about BYU being like every other school out there, but you have pretty good odds of being suspended from the university for, well, being a normal young adult.
  2. The Mormon Church really has not moved beyond its racist past. Exhibit #1 – the statistics above. Exhibit #2, this picture:
the Quorum of the Twelve = 100% old white guys

This just reinforces in my mind that LDS, Inc. is a “hate church.” They hate gays and, while they may not “hate” blacks, they certainly mistreat them.

Oh, Mormonism, why can’t you seem to move into the 21st Century with the rest of the world?

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Honor Edition!

Naturally, the buzz this past week was about the big news that a BYU basketball player had sex with his girlfriend — if you can believe it! This led to lots of very amusing discussion about control and the BYU honor code, musings on parenting, and the obvious observation that this shouldn’t be more important than serious news like the Middle East. So true! So here‘s a post about the Middle East, plus some other not-so-escapist items like the economy, the environment, and don’t forget death, not to mention Fox News using footage of some entirely different demonstration because the real scene in Wisconsin wasn’t violent enough for the story Fox had decided to write on it…

On second though, let’s go back to entertainment. As you probably know, God’s favorite musical has opened, and some among us have been lucky enough to see it! (Yet, is the musical parody as funny as the original or this other silly song?) In books, Galendara has read two novels that shed some interesting light on gender, and Diane Tingen has actually read that book “Woman” that we discussed last week and posted some excerpts (sounds like judging by its cover was warranted in this case). I’ll be adding Stephen Carter’s What of the Night? to my reading list (I’m currently enjoying some books by Johnny Townsend that I’ll be writing about soon!).

Then there were several other interesting discussions floating around blogspace. First, the connection between belief and evidence, and what to do about it. And how much conspicuous consumption qualifies as obscene? There was more follow-up on Rob Bell (the Christian who doesn’t believe in hell). Then, the Republicans have decided to follow the anti-bullying trend except they’d like an exemption when the bullying is religiously-motivated (cause it turns out that the bullying is all the gays’ fault anyway, dontchaknow). Then, in an irony overload, Orson Scott Card himself has written about extending love to “uncool” kids, and — to make it more fun — bbell has decided to play Taboo by inviting people to discuss it without mentioning homosexuality!

Outside the headlines and spotlights, the lives of partially-Mormon families have their own quiet dramas. Carson and Amy are psyching themselves up to come out to their families as unbelievers. lifelongguy is a little leery of a message his daughter brought home from primary. The Bible Belt is giving iBear his dose of culture shock, and the Narrator has found that the counsel against interracial marriage in the Aaronic priesthood manual is still there in the latest edition (in case you needed more reasons not to be Mormon).

And let’s wrap up with awards. The 2010 Niblets are finally underway, and we’ve heard from the 2010 X-Mormon of the year — though she’s a little busy with the new baby, she’s still stirring up controversy! Have a great week!!

A journey into manhood with ABC Nightline, Wayne Besen, Ted Cox, William Bradshaw and Boyd Packer

 x-posted at Daily Kos, Pam’s House Blend, and Street Prophets.

And this particular journey will be (mostly) televised.

ABC Nightline …

After watching the two segments embedded below, Wayne Besen asks ABC Nightline:

Do people really need to spend $650 to suppress their desires?

I was incredibly disappointed with ABC Nightlines segment that aired last night about the bizarre group People Can Change, which hosts Journey into Manhood (JIM) weekends. JIM takes closeted men with religious hang-ups into the woods, where they hug each other to allegedly become more masculine. The goal of this male bonding is to remake these repressed homosexuals into heterosexuals.

Money buys manhood for Mormon in mixed-orientation marriage? (Part 1):

Money buys manhood for Mormon in mixed-orientation marriage? (Part 2):

Ted Cox …

Required reading: What Happened When I Went Undercover at a Christian Gay-to-Straight Conversion Camp

Ted Cox, the writer of that undercover report on his weekend Journey Into Manhood, was invited to present his findings to the Cal Poly Brights and the result was this brilliant presentation:

Ted Cox: Undercover in the “ex-gay” movement (Part 1 of 9):

+ Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Dr. William Bradshaw …

Many Mormon Stories podcast listeners will already be familiar with one aspect of Dr. Bradshaws life from Episode 191, which featured a recording of the most recent lecture he gave at BYU on the biological origins of homosexualitya lecture he has arranged and given every year for the past several years. Dr. Bradshaw first became prompted to study the research on this subject when his son Brett came out about his homosexuality. Since that time, the Bradshaws have been active members in various LDS groups for families working to support their GLBT children. They are currently serving as the presidents of LDS Family Fellowship. Brett and his partner are married and living in California, where they are raising their daughter.

Dr. William Bradshaw (Part 4 of 5) – Homosexuality and the LDS Church:

Boyd K. Packer …

Top LDS ‘Apostle’ Boyd K. Packer: Mormons will always oppose Satan’s counterfeit marriages:

Shorter Boyd:

BKP

Pssst … Hey, Boyd!

Hey, Boyd!

Mormons first!

It Gets Better – Jesse from Salt Lake City, Utah:

Linkage:

Original MoHomie: Nightline’s Journey Into Manhood

The weekend portrayed was a reunion of sorts, not an actual, regular JIM weekend. The report included some exercises, but not nearly all of them. There are more intense and personalized exercises throughout the weekend, I understand. The ones portrayed in the report reminded me of some in which I participated at an Evergreen Conference in 2006 or 2007, when Rich Wyler presented about the experiential weekend in a workshop.

Ex-Gay Watch: Journey into Manhood Investigated by ABCs Nightline

Patterned after the equally bizarre Mankind Project, Journey into Manhood is nothing new to those who keep up with pseudo-therapies which make wildly unscientific claims of success in changing people from gay to straight. JiMs founder, Richard Wyler, doesnt even try to claim a professional background that would qualify him as a therapist or a researcher. Claims made by the organization have as much factual weight as those made on behalf of male enhancement pills on late night cable anyone can claim anything.

DallasVoice.com: Nightline goes inside ex-gay therapy program near Houston and then airs a puff piece about it

In case you missed it, Nightline aired a piece last night about Journey to Manhood, a so-called ex-gay therapy program in New Caney, Texas, outside Houston. You can watch the piece by Dallas-based ABC News correspondent Ryan Owens here, or read a text version here.

Houston Press “Hair Balls” Blog: Nightline Examines Local “Gay Cure” Program; Gays Cry Foul

Last night’s Nightline featured a report on the camp in New Caney that purports to help gay men get rid of all that glorious gayness.

Journey Into Manhood — with a name that says gays aren’t men, you can guess where it’s going — gave ABC exclusive access to a session. In return, critics say, ABC delivered a puff piece.

Box Turtle Bulletin: Nightline features Journey Into Manhood tonight

Built on the premise that gay men are really just wanting to connect with their fathers, JIM is a hodge-podge of psychobabble and Cohen-style cuddling. It will be interesting to see how ABC handles this story, but the practices of Journey Into Manhood do not lend themselves to the light of exposure.

The New Civil Rights Movement: ABC News Toys With, Teases Americans Who Want To Go From Gay To Straight

ABC News Nightline, when Ted Koppel anchored, had been an intellectual, smart-persons look at the headlines and issues of the day. Now, it seems, Nightline is ABCs version of Christine ODonnells mouse with human brains, a hybrid of Nancy Grace on HLN and 60 Minutes.

TruthWinsOut.org: Nightline: Journey into Manhood Poster Boy Cruises Men With Wife; Analysis of Puff Segment (UPDATED)

The problem is, it does not work, the techniques are based on junk science and the attendees, which pay $650 to be manipulated, can be psychologically harmed. JIM is a strange brew of New Age psychobabble mixed with fundamentalism, weaved into a scam that can accurately be described as consumer fraud, in my view.

Warren Throckmorton: Journey into Manhood on ABC Nightline tonight

Well, if they do what they normally do, this should be entertaining.

I wonder if they will do the Cohen hold?

AfterElton.com: Watch: ABC’s “Journey Into Manhood” Examine Going From Gay To Straight

This week the ABC News program Nightline examines the reparative therapy organization Journey Into Manhood. Below you can watch the report which includes both men who claim they’ve benefited from the therapy and those who say they’ve been hurt by it.

Queerty: Journey Into Manhood’s Ex-Gays Still Actively Cruising Dudes

Conversion therapy outfits like Journey to Manhood, the ex-gay getaway retreat created by Richard Wyler and David Matheson, usually frown on reporters trying to infiltrate their secret dens of mischief. But Wyler and Matheson (pictured below) made an exception for Nightline, letting cameras roll as self-hating homosexuals engage in a $650 course of changing their sexuality. Well, letting cameras roll at a reunion a made-for-TV regrouping of former clients.

Good As You: To watch: ‘Journey into Manhood’ so as to not, uhm — journey into another’s manhood.

Tonight on “Nightline”: De-gaying one’s self via John Williams’ Olympics theme song: Unfortunately, “pole vault” has a whole other meaning in these “ex-gay” games.

Upcoming Events (courtesy of NorthStarLDS.org):

North Star does not currently sponsor any specific activities or events. We do, however, provide a calendar of events sponsored by other individuals or groups which we have reason to believe are in general harmony with the mission of North Star and the values and standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

November 2010

Friday-Sunday, November 12-14
Journey into Manhood
Near Houston, TX

December 2010

Friday-Sunday, December 3-5
Journey into Manhood
Near West Palm Beach, FL

LDS standards like these?

Q. How did [Journey Into Manhood] come about? Who developed and runs the program, and who are the staff?

A. My own [Ben Newman] healing journey included more than two years in reparative therapy, a year in group reparative therapy, several years in a Twelve Step recovery group, and five years thus far as a participant, trainee and co-staffer in the New Warrior organization, which trains men from all walks of life in personal growth, emotional healing and living lives of “mission,” integrity and connection to feeling. All of these resources were immeasurably helpful, each in different ways. My vision was to combine the best of these resources into an intensive weekend that would help men jumpstart their healing from unwanted homosexuality, and also would be available to men for whom weekly reparative therapy was just not accessible in their area.

I shared this vision with [Evergreen’s] David Matheson, a friend who is a psych assistant in reparative therapy, and he was immediately enthusiastic. Together, we created the weekend outline and exercises. We brought in Arthur Goldberg, co-founder of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), who helped spread the word. We also brought in two of my colleagues from my local New Warrior men’s group, who had no experience with the homosexual issue but had significant experience facilitating deep emotional work with men.

J.O.N.A.H.? This JONAH?

Gah.

Even Australia

PROVO, Utah (ABC 4 News) – A senior at BYU who is studying to be a doctor finds himself in the middle of the heated debate over same sex marriage and California’s Proposition 8.

The Daily Universe & Censorship.

Cary Crall and Morris Thurston on Proposition 8 and BYU Censorship.

At BYU, now you see it, now you dont.

BYU Law Professor explains why Prop 8 was an unfortunate example of Mormon fundamentalism

Frederick Mark Gedicks
Brigham Young University – J. Reuben Clark Law School
William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Vol. 18, pp. 901-914, 2010
God of Our Fathers, Gods for Ourselves: Fundamentalism and Postmodern Belief:

” … there is also an ethical reason for wariness. One should pause at imposing absolute truth on those to whom the validity of that truth cannot be demonstrated unless they already believe it — indeed, absolute truth whose universality or validity may sometimes be in question even among those who claim to believe it. As Learned Hand once famously declared, “The spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not too sure that it is right.” This is the best safeguard of religious freedom in a pluralist democracy, a constant and present and humble reticence at imposing one’s own truth as the truth for all.”

h/t Times & Seasons Notes from All Over
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