Friday, January 31, 2014

Love the Sinner

The principle of "love the sinner, hate the sin" is a very good one.  The problem is that since we are all sinners, this should apply to all our interactions.  We should love everyone regardless of any misbehavior.  When we limit it to only one kind of behavior or one group of people, it changes meanings.  It becomes a way to hate the sinner through the sin without acknowledging that we have that hate.

However, it's also easy to overreact.  The fact that people misuse this phrase to excuse hate does not mean that the original principle is a bad one.  We should all show more love for the sinners (that's everyone), but also reject irresponsibility and misbehavior.  That's the principle, and it's still true, even if it's often called upon in a sorry attempt to excuse hate.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mixed Orientation Dating

Why do people seem to think it is wrong for a gay guy to date girls?  Are we really so utterly ashamed of homosexual orientations that we have to socially keep these lepers away from everyone else but their own kind?  Why do so many people feel that a gay guy dating a straight girl is some kind of dishonest travesty?  Why should we socially pressure gay guys to date other guys?  Why do those who are publicly in mixed orientation marriages get anonymous hate mail?

When it comes to dating, I think the Church has some very good advice.  Youth are encouraged to group date starting at 16 or older.  I don't see how this really should be different for gay oriented youth.  Enjoy your peers' company and learn and grow socially.  I don't think it would be wrong to ask a girl out (on a group date) as a friend.  Just enjoy other's company.  The church also discourages teenagers from steady dating.  Just make friends and have a fun time.  That's what dating should be about for teenagers, and it's the same advice regardless of orientation.  There's a growing body of evidence that earlier serious dating leads to more social problems.  Teens shouldn't be pairing off and exclusively dating only one individual.  It's much healthier to date a variety of people in groups.

When I look back at my teen years, I participated in group dates where it was just a bunch of kids of both genders with nobody pairing up.  These activities were some of the most fun and memorable activities of my life to that point.  When I started college I dated a large number of different girls, and had a lot of fun.  When I returned from my mission, I planned to do the same, but I met this girl, and plans changed.  She was unlike anyone else, male or female, that I'd ever met.

I don't think that dating girls had anything to do with finding my spouse.  We didn't meet by dating.  We met in other ways.  But I love being social, and dating was a very acceptable venue to be social with those of the opposite gender.  So I dated for this purpose.  If a girl was after a romantic relationship, I would be scared.  I was only attracted to guys.  But I don't think dating girls was a betrayal of who I was.  Rather, it was social exercise and development.  All young people need some kind of social exercise and development.

So if you are a teenage boy with a gay orientation, that does not mean that you have to avoid dating girls.  There's nothing wrong with dating girls.  It's good to exercise those social skills.  But if you don't feel comfortable dating girls, that's fine too.  You don't have to.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Narrative for Gay Members?

Christ taught His gospel through narrative.  He took the principles he wished to convey and put them into parables, stories in which the concepts could be better understood and applied.  He taught by example for the very same reason.  Today, the Church leaders teach in much the same way.  Just go over the last general conference and see how many stories were told to illustrate principles of the gospel.

Others teach by narratives, too.  A very popular narrative, for example, is that when you are attracted to someone, you should have a sexual relationship with them.  Watch almost any movie made for teens or adults in the last several decades, and that narrative plays out.  It claims that there are no consequences (or at least very few) to a casual sexual relationship.  Such things come and go with little effect on the participants.  The leaders of the Church counter with an opposing narrative.  They explain that our feelings of attraction for the opposite gender are healthy and essential, but need to be channeled into an eternal relationship in order for us to reach our full potential as children of our Heavenly Father.  Sexual relationships outside of this context serve only to hamper our eternal progress and have dire consequences.  It is a powerful narrative that resonates with most members of the Church.

What we are lacking, though, is a narrative for gay members.  There are plenty of stories dealing with sexual morality, for example, from a heterosexual point of view.  They are there in the scriptures, in conference talks, in stake conferences, in our wards and families.  We are instructed to forgive people, and learn how to repent if we fall victim to inappropriate behaviors.  However, where are the narratives for the homosexual members of the church?  Where are the examples?  Where are the gospel teachings that truly edify and light the way?  Why do they seem to be missing?

I realize that the American cultural definition of sexual orientation has been changing dramatically.  So the way we communicate about these things needs to change with our definitions.  We need examples.  We need leaders.  We need the stories of more faithful members who have gay orientations.  And they need to be broadcast to the whole church, not just some niche that a few gay members will locate.  I don't mean to diminish or Voices of Hope.  They are great resources.  But they operate on the fringe of the Church where many who need them will never find them.  Those who need these stories are not just the gay members.  They are all members.  How can we expect leaders and members to know how to interact with their homosexual brothers and sisters if the Church has not provided any context, any narrative to help them understand?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Truly Honest

Americans have a very skewed sense of honesty.  For example, there is this idea that it is better to be brutally honest than to hide behind lies.  But I think that brutal honesty is usually an excuse to tell two lies along with a partial truth.  Usually there is some kind of true statement somewhere in a brutally honest statement.  However, the English language carries so much more information than the literal words.  Connotations of our words flavor everything.  So-called brutal honesty usually includes connotations that imply the subject is not as valuable as others.  This is, of course, a lie.  Also, brutally honest people infer that their viewpoint is superior to any others.  This is a second lie, but one that the brutally honest people tend to want to believe, and want others to believe.

In the public discussion on homosexuality, "being true to yourself" also is often told as a partial truth with two lies.  It says that we need to honestly acknowledge our characteristics, which is indeed true, but it also implies two untruths.  First is the idea that an individual's characteristics determine their character.  I love the way Joanne Rowling puts it when Dumbledore declares to Harry, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."  Our traits do not determine our selves.  Second, is the idea that humans are static, that our "self" never changes.  Growth and change are an absolutely essential part of reality.  "Change is nature, Dad," explained Remy the rat in Ratatouille.  "And it starts when we decide."  All of us can be much more than we currently are.  Any kind of acceptance of self that denies this is a lie.

We don't have to just accept who we are, we can decide who we are.  While we don't get to choose most of our traits or characteristics, it is our own decisions that we make that determine our identities.  Rather than being true to ourselves, perhaps we should honestly strive to be better than we currently are, while accepting that we aren't there yet.

Friday, January 3, 2014

What's it all for, anyway?

Happy 2014!

Looking ahead, I'm going to have a very busy couple of months at work, so I might cut back on blogging for a while.  I'll probably just post on Fridays.  That said, I'm giving thought about what this blog is for.  Does it do any good?

I know I'm not really socially adept, especially when I wax philosophical and such.  I tend to be a bit clinical and detached, showing little to no emotion.  As an anonymous blog, my friends don't read the blog.  (Actually, I did have one friend from my non-online life comment on my blog without knowing it was me.)

I have so few readers that I wonder if it's worth it.  But it's nice to get some ideas written down, even if they aren't really thought through as well as I'd have liked.  I have no ambition to be famous, but I would like to reach out to those who would appreciate it.

I wonder how many people there are out there like me who are committed to the gospel yet whose orientations are gay?  There are a few online individuals, but most of us don't feel the need to connect, it seems.  And I totally understand.  What is there to be gained by coming out?  Alienating members who don't understand while at the same time inviting hate mail from anti-Mormon commenters seems to be a high price to pay for putting yourself out there.

That's one reason I still remain anonymous.  It would be nice if we could be more open, but the world is not yet there.

Still, I enjoy posting, so I'll just slow down a little.  Have a wonderful new year!