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Speaking the truth in obnoxious, insufferable love


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By now, within certain segments of the population, it is almost entirely assumed that anyone who opposes same-sex relationships does so out of hatred or fear. I asked some people whether they thought there could be any non-homophobic (that is, non-fear-based or hate-based) sexual ethics that opposed same-sex relationships, and one of the responses I received back was very interesting: this respondent commented that arguments against same-sex marriage were almost always based in fear…fear of negative consequences to society…fear of negative consequences to the participants or their children…and so on.

This was very intriguing to me. I normally don’t associate evaluation of consequences (positive vs negative, pros vs cons) as a fear-based sort of activity…however, from looking at this perspective, I could see how, if one thought that, then pretty much any evaluation in terms of avoiding negative consequences could be deemed fear-based.

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Undertale is…Mormon?


Naming[1]

Fallen human? How did I not see it before?

Over at Peculiar People is a review of the indie game Undertale (one I love sooooo much, and I have arranged and recorded several covers of songs from the game’s OST) from a Mormon perspective. Just the first paragraph:

In the game Undertale, your adventure begins when you fall into the underworld—a sort of hell that turns out to be quite Mormon. [1] That is to say: it is not the typical Christian hell of punishment and torment, fire and brimstone. The underground’s inhabitants, monsters banished and trapped there by humans defeated them in an ancient war, are instead afflicted by stagnation, regret, and alienation.

 

Thoughts from the middle of vacation travels


For this Independence Day, my boyfriend convinced me to go on a trip. We flew in to Montreal, Quebec just in time for Canada Day, and then we met up with his aunt and drove down to Vermont.

Both Old Montreal and Vermont are quite different from one another, and each has been very different from Texas. Old Montreal was all historic streets and buildings, people walking and biking, and steep hills and cathedrals and things like that.

I know I probably shouldn’t judge all of Montreal by Old Montreal, but as we traveled through, I couldn’t help but think that it would be rather treacherous to try to drive through that city on my own. Even though Houston can feel somewhat unlivable if you don’t have a car, I’ve come to appreciate that if you do have a car, it’s very easy to get from A to B. In contrast, for Old Montreal, you might as well park far away and take advantage of the metro or with walking, because you’ll certainly be able to get around better that way.

Maybe that’s the point? It definitely is healthier than driving.

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Hope, False Hope, and Belief


Vjack of the Atheist Revolution blog and twitter just reposted an article from 2015 about hope and false hope. In this article, he discusses that the practicality of things that may be false — such as the practicality of the hope that religiosity can bring to someone who believes that hope to be false. As a snippet:

…is false hope necessarily bad because it is false?

For those of us who want to believe true things and not false ones, the answer may seem obvious. At the same time, I think that one could argue that the sort of comfort, sense of peace, reassurance, or whatever else you want to label it that hope provides might be more important to some people in some circumstances than whether the hope is based in reality. Could false hope provide one with the sort of benefits that might make it worthwhile?

…consider the example of a young Christian father with a critically ill child who is able to sustain the effort required to get out of bed each day and take his child to the many necessary medical appointments based, at least in part, on his faith. On one hand, this is the very definition of false hope. This man has misplaced his faith in something that doesn’t exist. On the other hand, is it so difficult to imagine how this sort of false hope might make a crucial difference for him? I realize it probably wouldn’t cut it for you or I, but can we reasonably insist that it couldn’t be worthwhile for him? Perhaps his false hope motivates his positive actions, persistence, effort like our college student’s legitimate hope. Perhaps his false hope also provides comfort and reassurance in the hard times in much the same way her real hope did.

I am a fan of pragmatism, so my inclination is to say that the practical effects of hope are more important than whether that hope is based in something real or not. The subjective experience and motivation of hope is what is crucial, in other words.

But, one thing that vjack didn’t discuss that I wish he had was the following question: what if someone cannot force themselves to believe in that hope?

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Adam Miller’s Paraphrases – renewing old scriptures


Adam Miller

Adam Miller is filling up my book list. I have already read his “Grace is Not God’s Backup Plan: An Urgent Paraphrase of Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” but since then, he’s come out with several other works, such as The Gospel According to David Foster WallaceNothing New Under the Sun: A Blunt Paraphrase of Ecclesiastes, and Future Mormon: Essays in Mormon Theology.

There is a common theme I’ve noticed in Adam’s works (at least, from the reviews and what little I’ve read directly of him) — and I suspect that reading Future Mormon will confirm my thoughts.

Adam takes scriptures, concepts, theologies that we normally view as well established and set in stone…and then he retranslates them for a modern audience, often in unexpected ways. I have been reading posts on Making Sense of Christianity about viewing Christianity as an antifragile heuristic rather than as a fragile set of theories, and I wanted to write a post about whether Mormonism has “antifragile” elements (especially since the growing number of online communities dedicated to faith crises suggest that there’s definitely fragile elements to the religion.) That post has been on hold because I wanted to have some concrete “heuristics” for an anti-fragile Mormonism. (It would be easy to conclude that Mormonism just is fragile, but I didn’t want to go for the easy route.)

I’ll have to read to confirm, but I suspect that Adam’s growing body of work is honing on on one possible heuristic: translation.

Mormonism’s history with translation

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Telling the truth but telling it slant


Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
~Emily Dickinson

If you talk to many Mormons undergoing faith crisis or transition (are those terms synonymous?), you will usually find a preoccupation with truth, honesty, and authenticity. Most discussions of a “middle way” will grapple with a tension between maintaining appearances to avoid alienation on the one hand, and being straightforward and honest about their doubts and disbeliefs. I typically see very strong claims that honesty must be open and forthright — it is not only telling falsehoods but omitting relevant truths, or presenting truths in ways you know could be misinterpreted, that is deceptive. (See more discussion about truth and lies at Wheat & Tares.)

Are parables deceptive?

With that as context, I want to transition to another issue I’ve been thinking about since I wrote my last article here. Agellius commented on my post on grace with the Parable of the Sower, and although I was already familiar with this parable, I opened up Matthew and read further. Right after that parable, the disciples pull Jesus aside and ask him a question that I still think is quite relevant: what is the deal with parables, anyway?

More importantly, from the perspective that truth-telling requires forthrightness, are parables deceptive?

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Talent vs. practice; grace vs. work

Man playing guitar in nature: is he talented or just a hard worker?

Man playing guitar in nature: is he talented or just a hard worker?

In my drafts, I have an essay that has been collecting dust. This essay is my way of trying to wrap my mind around the concept of grace from a Christian spiritual perspective — but more importantly, I’m trying to understand the interplay of grace and works, especially since it seems like that is one area where Mormons feel they’ve gotten a major improvement over Christianity (and yet non-LDS Christians feel that Mormons have gone horribly astray).

The catch: I have tried to talk about it from a secular perspective. Maybe that very effort is doomed from the beginning, but I can’t really say I grok a lot of the God-talk, and so there we have it.

Still, as I mentioned, the essay has been collecting dust. Part of that is because I don’t think I’ve quite gotten it figured out. Maybe that’s fundamental.

However, recently I was listening to a podcast by some YouTube musicians (specializing in covers of video game music, as is my niche). This episode was on the myth of talent. While the entire episode is only 18 minutes (blessedly shorter than some other podcasts I could point to), I think some of the major relevant comments start 14 minutes in on the discussion about “child prodigies” vs. hard work.

For those who don’t want to listen, I’ll summarize the basic contention here:

Many artists/musicians/creative folks of various stripes really dislike being praised for their talent or being recognized as prodigies, because these compliments minimize the hard work that they have invested.

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Christians as the light of the world

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One of the interesting things about Klout is how it takes one’s posts across various social media and assigns a person expertise in different subject areas. For example, I am an expert at the 99.9% percentile of however-Klout-figures-things-out in Accounting — which is probably just a realization of my gaining an appreciable amount of likes on Facebook for posting funny comments and puns about accounting (get it…realizing gains on appreciation? …OK, that wasn’t good). For whatever it’s worth, I’m also an expert at the 99.9% percentile on Mormonism, which probably leads me to suspect that, I dunno, people who actually have a lot to say on Mormonism are too busy to be using social media?

And interestingly, I am at the 99.9% percentile of “religion” but only at the 99.1% percentile of “atheism”…which either means I’m slightly better at being religious than at being an atheist, or that there are a handful of atheists who are better at talking that up on social media than I am.

klouttopics

My Klout “Expert Topics”

But one of  the coolest things about Klout is that it allows you to explore blog posts and articles relating to your topics of expertise. I admit that I’m pretty good at keeping track of the best Mormon blogs, but I have to say that Klout has done a pretty good job of exposing me to interesting comment that I didn’t have any idea about. One thing I discovered somehow was a Plough interview between Peter Mommsen and Stanley Hauerwas. I could probably write a post on any number of the topics in this interview, but I wanted to address one subject, because it’s something I’ve seen discussed a bit before.

How appealing should a Christian life be?

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Status Report – Where Andrew S is these days


Howdy folks!

For those of you who have been following this blog, you likely have noticed that I haven’t been writing that much, either here or at Wheat & Tares. I wanted to be able to say that that’s because my Mormon engagement has transitioned more to Facebook (especially Facebook groups like Mormon Hub, A Thoughtful Faith, and so on), but that’s also not accurate — while I still read a few threads each day in some of those Facebook groups, I post and comment much less frequently.

This is not to say that my interest in religious discussion in general or Mormonism in specific has died out. Maybe that’s partially the case, but I still appreciate reading certain articles from Times and Seasons, By Common Consent, Wheat & Tares, that come my way through my RSS list. And I still pay attention to new podcast releases, just to see if I should save any episodes for long drives.

And I also have been reading some pretty cool blogs outside of the Mormon religious space. Agellius at Petty Armchair Popery keeps me up to speed on Catholicism (although I guess I shouldn’t claim to be kept “up to speed” on any topic, much less an entire religious tradition just from reading one blog, haha). Anthony at Making Sense of Christianity has a rigorously practical, fresh approach that I have not seen before (although maybe that’s because, as mentioned before, my reading is heavily slanted towards blogs).

If I look at the numbers, it’s probably true that I haven’t been doing as much religious blogging, and maybe I’ll try to do something more regularly. But that doesn’t mean I’ve been doing nothing. Here’s where I’ve been recently, and where you can find me, if you’re interested:

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Choosing sex over God


Nick Galieti, a guest-poster at Millennial Star, wrote a post responding to the recent post at The Atlantic entitled “Choosing Love or the Mormon Church.” In his response, he reframed this choice more starkly: really, LGBT (or SSA) Mormons are choosing between sex and God.

This post is mostly a summary or encapsulation of a lot of LDS thoughts regarding the SSA experience from the past few weeks (e.g., one should challenge dominant narratives as to LGBT being a core identity vs. one’s agency and choice being core, and one should challenge dominant narratives of a permissive and unbounded love vs. a narrower definition of love), so I won’t go into detail there…although I will say, if you can manage, that the comments also had a few additional points and arguments.

I wrote the following comment (edited lightly so that it makes sense off the site), as an ambassador from the other side, Team Sex:

A part of me really appreciates what the LDS church is trying to do here. I mean, even as this post lays it out pretty starkly, I understand. Mormonism is intensely heteronormative — realistically, with the accumulation of theology being as it’s been, there’s not really a way to get around the idea, as Meg has pointed out, that Mormonism is a religion celebrating a procreative heaven, and so far, God has not deigned to be creative enough to define procreation in any terms outside of our earthly biological concepts. (Not that I can speak — how dare a mere mortal claim to be above God?!) Mormonism as a religion has set very strict standards, and it wouldn’t dare to compromise on those standards even if it could elevate some more folks lives by demanding a rigorous monogamy (against their supposed nature) instead of an absolute celibacy (against their supposed nature).

It seems to me though, even as someone raised in the church, that I didn’t and don’t have a lot riding on the identity of being a “child of God”. It didn’t mean much positive to me, and instead was implicated in a lot of anxiety, depression, and negative affect — and that was when it triggered any response at all. I understand that for other people, things are different. Other people hear the word “God” and to them, that’s an actual being with which they can (or even do) have a relationship. But for me, the word God was how I exemplified the LDS concept of the “stupor of thought”.

To people [at Millennial Star], I chose sex over God. I perceived there would be more benefits to me and more room for growth to me to go with something tangible like that than something intangible like God. I accept my fate, whatever it may be.

But I agree that for me, for my personality type, it would probably be easier to be celibate. I often think that if this relationship doesn’t work out, then I might do just that. And here’s a few reasons why:

If I were celibate and not in a relationship, as the Law of Chastity demands, then I wouldn’t have to worry about dealing with a person whose personality is so different from mine…whose desires are very different from mine, and whose way of thinking about things is so very different from mine.

If I were celibate and not in a relationship, as the Law of Chastity demands, then I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to serve someone who seems to frustrate even my best attempts because my instinctual response to serve are in ways that *I* would appreciate, not ways that *he* would appreciate.

If I were celibate and not in a relationship, as the Law of Chastity demands, then I wouldn’t have to be humbled by the fact that although he experiences this same mismatch, he certainly works much harder at trying to figure me out and meet me on my level than I do at trying to figure him out and meet him on his level.

If I were celibate and not in a relationship, as the Law of Chastity demands, then I wouldn’t have such a personal and tangible evidence of a non-family member (because familiarity can often breed contempt…or at least make you take things for granted) loving me first and loving me even when I didn’t consider myself all that lovable. If I were celibate and not in a relationship, as the Law of Chastity demands, then I wouldn’t be struck with the poignant message that this love is a gift, but even as a gift it demands a response, and that response is one that I must freely choose to give, and one that I actually have to work at.

I understand that for many, companionship is so highly desired, and solitude is anathema. For me, solitude is cherished. It would easier for me to be alone, and maybe that’s the gift God gave me to deal with my “challenge” of SSA.

But I can’t help but feel that for me to take that easy way out would also be missing something important that I am being given the opportunity to learn while in a relationship that I would never have to the same extent, degree, or magnitude elsewhere.