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Monday, November 12, 2007

Coming out of the closet, after a fashion...

I've occasionally referred to my childhood and teenage years belonging to an evangelical Christian sect, but I've always dodged or avoided mentioning which sect. This has not been out of any shame or fear. In fact, I have many very fond memories of my childhood in that church, though not so many fond memories from my teenage years. In all fairness, though, I don't have all that many fond memories of any sort from my teenage years until I hit, oh, about 25 or so, at which point I had already gone the better part of a decade years without attending any church. It was my faith, or in the absence of that faith, what I had learned as a child that later had a great influence on my journey from conservatism to libertarianism, and by extension, from there to my current views. No, the reason I have been eerily quiet about the church I attended as a child is because I was so deeply conflicted about it, about life, about sorting out what exactly it is I believe and who I am. Also, I didn't want to have myself associated with a faith's name unless I actually had some belief in the existence of God, and I figured "why give an answer if I wasn't sure?". As of now, I still don't have the answer to that question, but I've reached a point in my life where I have to confront my past before I can move forward. Perhaps it's sad that it took me so many years to get to that point, but however it turns out, this is what I've needed to do to go forward with my life. To be honest, it's long overdue, and perhaps one of the reasons it's taken me so long is that I'm a procrastinator. As of today, I will still be in the closet in my public life about the doubts I have about the existence of any deity, but I will no longer hide my religious and philosophical underpinnings online.

Now that I've given my caveats and apology, I'll finally spit it out: From a cultural perspective at least, I'm a Mormon. It was the concept of "free agency", or free will, or however you wish to term it, that led to my more libertarian thoughts. It was the fact that, growing up, political discussions were and remain taboo inside the church that influenced my belief in the separation of church and state. I could go on and on, but you get the point. Oh, and I prefer my green gelatin dessert (term used to avoid advocating a specific brand name) with pineapple (mmm, tasty), if it needs any fruit at all. I've heard legends about Mormon funeral potatoes, and I understand they're truly memorable. On the more serious charges of misogyny and racism, well, I guess I must have missed that in my attendance of several hundred, if not north of 1,000, sacrament meetings and Sunday school lessons when the teachers and speakers spoke about loving one another and other common Christian themes, or when I knew, even from a very young age, people from various ethnic backgrounds and just saw them as who they are instead of how much melanin they have in their skin. I won't say that I learned tolerance there, because I was never taught intolerance; rather, I was taught that intolerance was and is evil and that respect for other people is good both at church and at home, which I suppose amounts to the same thing. Over the last 20+ years (including the rather lengthy gap when I attended no church at all), one of the most consistent threads of discussion has been the importance of the family and strengthening those relationships. For those who are interested, the official position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was against the Iraq war, which was a very unusual step for the highest levels of the church leadership, and they were fairly early in the game when they said so. As for emergency preparedness, (I don't know how many actually adhere to this in my area, but not me), the suggestion is a 3 month supply of food and water. As I've ranted about ad nauseam, I live in a hurricane zone, and when I was a toddler, Hurricane Frederic hit, knocking out power and water in some areas for a month or more. How useful do you think three months of food and water would be then? In another instance, I've known people who were able to survive on their emergency supplies and needed to do so because of financial hardships. This isn't "apocalyptic thought"; it's simple prudence. An old saying goes, "In every life, some rain must fall." In that context, food storage is an umbrella. This is the church I grew up with and know, and while I may only be a Mormon from a cultural perspective, I'm not ashamed. For those who charge Mormonism with "End Times" thinking, well, all the ones I've met over the years certainly don't want to actively bring it about, and that is, or should be, the greatest concern about that aspect of this, or any other, evangelical Christian faith among those who are concerned with this type of thought.

Oh, and I can and frequently do curse better than some and as good as most; I have an itchy middle finger; I have and will probably continue to watch R-rated movies; I have developed a degree of misanthropy over the years; and I stopped consuming caffeine for health reasons, not religious reasons. In short, I'm not a pod person.

As for the music, although the tenor is different from most of the other stuff I post, that's only because I recently found this YouTube video. My tastes in music are much like my tastes in food: Many, extremely varied, and a lot of it. This features one of my favorite instruments, the glass armonica. Oh, and I think the guy's outfit is odd too. Enjoy.


Candace said...

Here's a nice golf clap for coming out, as it were. :)

It would be great if more people would seriously examine what they were taught to believe and also THINK about what they actually believe.

I'm touched by your defensiveness over the Mormon faith. I guess I haven't heard as much bad things about it as perhaps you have. No one should have to apologize for their faith, or for the faith they were brought up in.

Actually, the last closet in America is the atheist one. We are the most reviled and distrusted lot of all. Polls have shown that even the most homophobic Fundie would rather see a homosexual as POTUS than an atheist. I'm going to do a post about all this "someday." As for now, though, I'm proud of myself for coming out on my blog and to my husband and a few friends in real life. However, just this weekend, we had an elderly couple over for dinner, and I hid all of my American Atheist magazines because I knew it would break their hearts if they thought I had "lost my faith." So, how sad is that.

Anyway, congrats!

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

I've half-joked in the privacy of my mind that if I were to leave for another faith, I'd have to go with Judaism because only there would I be in a faith as hated by much of the rest of Christianity as the church to which I currently belong. I heard the "multiple wives" jokes when I was younger and, well, thought Willard Scott and the Police Academy movies but was otherwise lacking even the rudiments of a sense of humor. Although, come to think of it, I wonder how anyone can handle multiple partners. If it's done with full respect to the rights and needs of everyone, it's truly a miracle of organization, I'd wager.

What's the old Biblical quote? "By their fruits shall you know them?" It's that which I find more important, how a person lives their lives, if they're good people and behave ethically and with some sense of morals, even if those morals don't entirely mesh with my own. I'm not concerned about "atheists" or "agnostics" or any type of "other", as long as the individuals in question are good, as measured by their words and actions. I don't know how much in tune with the rest of any group I am, but I know what I believe.

Snave said...

One thing I have seen during all my experience with Mormonism is that while there seems to be a church-community-first attitude, there is also an accepting attitude to everyone whether they are Mormon or not. I can see how you might have this attitude, as you are very accepting of people in general, despite your lovable crankiness. This was a very good post on your part! I won't view you any less for your beliefs, background, etc.

On the other hand, I won't vote for Romney due to some biases I have and due to my skepticism about him being able to separate his religion from a possible job as president, even thought the LDS church itself, quite honorably, does not preach politics in church. I would like to believe that if he won the nomination and became president, he would be a good leader. It will take a lot more convincing for me to be more accepting of him as a candidate and potential president, but I do have to say I believe he would be approaching things with an actual idea of the common good in mind, even if I disagreed with a good deal of his politics. I would be far more comfortable with him running the country than I would with McCain or Giuliani, anyway. As much as I tend to have some prejudices against Mormons, I also have a healthy respect for them. Some of that may come from wishing I could be more like they are re. the "beehive". Anyway...

Thus, I have a lot more respect for Mitt than I do for McCain or Rudy. Maybe because I have a better understanding of where he might be coming from personally than from where they come... maybe not. But again, your post is very good, and more power to you! When I have considered whether or not to vote for Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith in the past, I honestly have very rarely if ever thought about his being a Mormon. I tend to think of him as a pretty decent guy whose views are to the right of mine, but who has done a reasonably good job for Oregon and the northwest.

I agree with Candace... those of us who profess little or no faith, or who profess no religious affiliation, are the ones who tend to get really, really reviled in our political society. The idea of fundamentalist Christians claiming they're being persecuted is mostly crazy, at least as I see things.

So do I think Mormonism is crazy? Some parts of it, yes, like some of the ritual behaviors such as the underwear, for instance... but other parts, like the overall sense of community and working together? Not at all... that kind of thing is to be envied.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Thanks. I just had that building up for a while and hadn't known how to address it, so as usual, I waited until I was irritated enough or tired enough to not filter what I said.

The interesting thing about Romney possibly being influenced by his faith in his decision-making is that both his current public stance and Senator Reid's consistent stance on a gay marriage amendment, as fundamentally opposed as they are, are consistent with the position of the Mormon church. Frankly, I would be more surprised if he weren't deeply influenced by his 60 years in any church or organization. To me, then, the question becomes one of how he would govern and what his position on the issues are, and on that score, as much as I respect him and think he's probably a good guy if his kids' silence is any indication, I have to go with Ron Paul.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Speaking of Dr. Ron Paul, I find it very fitting that he set the single-day campaign fund-raising record on Guy Fawkes Day. I'm sure he'll "remember remember the fifth of November..."

Lizzy said...

Thank you for sharing that, MC. I feel like I know you a little better now.

Personally, it doesn't matter to me what religion, or lack of religion, anyone is. All I care about is if you have a good heart, and you obviously do.

But, I am curious...does that mean no alcohol either?

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Never had a sip, and even if I weren't a Mormon, I'd still have my reasons. Oh, and no tobacco; again, I'd still have my reasons even without my faith. About the only caffeine I consume is when I'm taking a Goody's powder (similar ingredients and composition to Excedrin or B.C., but I choose the orange flavor) for pain relief, and I don't take those too often because I've experienced my share of rebound headaches.

Snave said...

Wow! That's another area where I envy most Mormons... being drug-free both now and in the past. I haven't used illegal drugs for a long time now, but I used to do my share. I now tend to drink about 4-5 cups of coffee worth of caffeine per day. I have about 5 beers per week, but now very rarely more than one at a time... alcohol used to be a problem for me (like a 6-pack every night after work when I was about 23-24) but I was able to avoid becoming a chronic alcoholic. There was a time when I was often stoned or drunk or generally messed up, say in the late 70s and early 80s. Thankfully that's all about 25 years in my rear-view!

So that's all to say, I think if you have never had any alcohol or tobacco and rarely come in contact with caffeine, you are much healthier than I am, possibly in a number of ways.

My Cub Scout den was run by the local LDS church, as were nearly all the Cub Scout dens. Those tended to be mostly fun times. When I graduated to Boy Scouts, I joined a troop independent of any churches, and wound up in the rowdiest troop in town... learning about cigarettes, alcohol, how to swear like a sailor, rolling rocks down steep hillsides, hazing the Tenderfoot scouts unmercifully, etc. I don't think they were doing those kinds of things in the LDS- and Baptist-run troops in La Grande... !

I have known my share of what we around here used to call "jack Mormons", that is, those people (mostly young men) who were Mormons in name only and who liked to smoke dope, get drunk, etc. However, as those several friends got older, they matured and migrated back toward the ways of the church.

Some of the Mormon kids I used to hang out with were the craziest, most fun kids in the high school. They were just as inclined to get in trouble for toilet-papering houses or for coating cars with shaving cream as anyone else.

I never seriously hung around with the local Mormon girls, though. They tended to find boyfriends who weren't LDS, and then entice them into the church, i.e. going to church with the gal = first base, going to classes = second base, becoming a member = third base, and then the relationship would end. I was too much a nerd in high school to know what to do with girls anyway, but just the same, I could see what was happening to a few acquaintances of mine... heh! One LDS gal who I did enjoy hanging out with wanted desperately for me to join the church, sent elders to my house to visit me, etc. It was sheer misery, because I wasn't physically attracted to her at all and didn't want to become a member of the church, I just wanted to be her friend.

I have a lot of friends here in LG, mostly from work, and quite a few happen to be LDS. Ya know, they never, ever talk about it or proselytize. To me, that suggests a strong feeling of security about their faith. I view the evangelical Christian fanatic types as insecure, maybe wondering if what they believe in is really true, to the point that they have to go out and recruit the rest of the world by making them feel bad and telling them they're all wrong. The Mormons? They seem to take the "be fruitful and multiply" idea literally, and if they would rather increase their numbers by producing lots of kids instead of by alienating people, more power to 'em. And it seems like they interpret the "don't hide your light under a bushel" to mean something more like "lead by example" than "go out and tell everyone what you believe or you'll go to hell".

So, whereas you and I might not end up having a beer or a caffeinated soft drink together sometime, I'd still be honored to have a lemonade or a 7Up with you! Consider it an invitation, should circumstances ever allow us.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Nah, my drug of choice is food. It's my comforter, my passion, my love, and no, my idea of porn is NOT watching one of Rachael Ray's cooking shows, though that Nigella Lawson... My mother recently said that I discuss chocolate the way some people talk about wine. Enough said.

I was also a geek, and well, I was one of those who walked that razor's edge between genius and insanity. My feet ended up very bloody, and I spent the next few years getting my head back on straight. No therapy, just some intense soul searching and selective avoidance of other issues.

As for how we interpret "don't hide your light under a bushel," well, you hit the nail on the head. That's pretty much what I've observed in church and how it's taught there, and I've noticed that also in the best people I've met in most any faith.

As for caffeine, I gave it up several months ago near the beginning of the extremely long summers down here, because especially at the level I consumed it (2-3 liters of Pepsi/day and other sources), it was messing up my stomach and increasing at least my perception of heat, and since I'm sensitive to heat (wrong fucking climate for that, I know), I gave it up. I chose that time since I was already knocked on my ass with a bug.

Thanks, Snave. :)

Candace said...

MC, about Ron Paul - David Duke endorses him. I realizes Paul can't control who does/doesn't endorse him, but I really think Paul should condemn Duke and his ilk and denounce this endorsement.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

So far, after checking Google News, I found only hints and rumors about this endorsement. While I think he really needs to say something about this, I think his stance on racism says quite a bit, and his arguments are compelling.. However, if I have additional cause for concern, I may end up voting for the Libertarian candidate, or maybe even writing in Robin Williams or Whoopi Goldberg, with Billy Crystal as the veep, sorta like what happened with Live Aid.

Candace said...

I saw it on David Duke's website - he endorses Paul because he sees Paul as anti-Israel.

'Way back in the 70s, my sister-in-law couldn't bring herself to vote for anyone on the ballot, so she wrote in her father, as did a few of her friends, so there's probably an FBI dossier on her dad somewher. (At least, that's her story...) :) Anyway, there have been times when I've thought of writing him in, too, even though he's no longer living. Not this time, though - I don't want to throw my vote away and hand the election to the neocons.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Well, since I'm far more interested in Anyone But Clinton than most of the neocons, I can't say that I'd be too bothered if I ended up writing in Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal. I've voted for people I detest far too many times to ever want to do it again, so if it's not someone I can respect from one of the Big Two in November, it's either going to be the Libertarian candidate, or I'll write in comedians. Either way, I won't feel dirty and used the next morning.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Oh, and Ron Paul is a right bastard alright. Look at what he said in a press release to the JTA. I'm sorry, but the tired "Ron Paul is a racist anti-Semite" dog won't hunt.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Also, I must admit that, if he is such a raving anti-Semite, I'm rather curious that Dr. Paul actually spoke out in defense of Israel's 1981 bombing of Iraq's Osirak nuclear plant and his equally harsh words for the pro-Saudi lobby in Washington. Here's another interesting pro-Paul website. Furthermore, his stance on the environment

My support stands, despite the various fringe dwellers from all corners of the political spectrum that have flocked to his campaign.

Candace said...

Yeah, Paul can't help who endorses him. I'm just saying that I'd feel better about him if he had denounced this endorsement.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

He doesn't do denouncements; he lets his record speak, and from what I've seen, it speaks volumes.

1138 said...

Israels 1981 attack was a bad move, but there were a lot of bad moves being made in 1981 and we are feeling the massive aftershocks of them now.

McCain's attack on Ron Paul last night as isolationist was a real lowball, offensive wrongheaded attack.

I had a Capt. in the Air Force that was Mormon, a great guy, but I'm not comfortable with Romney's chameleon games. Something my Captain did as well. It might be a Mormon leadership skill.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

I hate being a one-issue voter, but I will if it's something damned important. I consider "enhanced interrogation" such an issue. If he doesn't retract, and fast, then fuck it. I'm sure he's a good father, and I'm sure he was a good leader for his congregation. I'm sure he's a good husband and a decent man, but simply CANNOT vote for a man who would support torture in any form.

1138 said...

Torture not only damages our national "soul" it injures our soldiers directly on the battlefield.
An enemy that does not fear how he will be treated after he is treated after he is captured is more likely to surrender without approval from commanders - SAVING AMERICAN LIVES.

This crop of Republican cowards are anything but conservative.