Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dinner with a Mormon lesbian

Tonight Hugo and I drove to another city to have dinner with a colleague and her partner. The partner comes from a Mormon background—three or four generations in the Church, prominent in their region, etc. It seems, from what I gathered of her chronology from the conversation, that she's been out of the closet for close to a decade. Yet it was also evident that even after so much time has passed, she still feels deeply betrayed and angry and outraged at an elemental level—and is hungry to talk about it.

There's nothing unusual about this response. It's a common response—and entirely understandable from psychological and sociological perspectives—for people who break with the kinds of demanding, charismatic movements that the public often dub "cults" and that scholars more politely call "new religious movements" (NRMs). It is strange to me, though, that the LDS Church, which has mainstreamed itself in so many significant ways, is still so much like an NRM in other ways that disaffection becomes such an emotionally raw experience for people. It's a sign of something unhealthy about the institution.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Iran again

I would that you should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations. (1 Ne. 22:10)
All right then. Here's how I'm going to pray:

Make bare your arm, Lord.
Make bare your arm to bless the people of Iran.

May your Spirit give courage but also wisdom
to protesters on the streets,
to opposition leaders,
to bloggers and others who are trying to communicate what is happening to the world.

May your Spirit give comfort
to those who are in prison,
to those who are mourning the deaths of loved ones.

May your Spirit strike the conscience
of the hardliner authorities,
of the populace who support them,
of the police and the Revolutionary Guards.
May they repent if repentance is to be found.

May your Spirit give wisdom and a zeal for justice
to international leaders,
especially those with economic leverage in Iran,
and to more moderate leaders in the Islamic world.

Come down with justice.
In Christ's name, amen.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


As far as the market is concerned, Christmas is over—the post-Christmas sales are in full force—but liturgically, Christmas is in its third day, with nine more to go. On Christmas Eve, we attended an early evening church service at the Advocate, then came home to eat tamales, which we'd ordered from someone here in the apartment complex who makes them as her home business.

The next morning we opened the couple of Christmas presents we'd received (we're sparing about giving presents, so we don't receive many). Talked with my parents by phone. In the afternoon, I attended a small Christmas Day service at the Advocate's little home-office, which is also where I lead monthly Taize services. Then went home to have dinner with Hugo and a neighbor—the young man who organized the protests against management here in our apartment complex two summers ago.

Last night (Dec. 26), Hugo and I attended a Boxing Day party at the home of a British friend. Everyone was supposed to bring some kind of short performance piece (poem, etc.). Hugo and I did a reading of David Ives's short play "Sure Thing," which we last performed a few years ago at a similar kind of party in Salt Lake.

I don't know where I'm going with all this, except to say that I've enjoyed the low-key celebration.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent 4

Spent the weekend at a cabin owned by friends alongside a reservoir near the Virginia border. It snowed five or six inches while we were there—more snow than I've seen since we moved from Utah. I'm taking it as a Christmas gift from nature, although digging and pushing our car out when it was time to go home was exhausting. I was especially happy for the dog: I've always suspected she would enjoy romping in deep snow, and I'm glad she got the chance to do it. Assuming the dog's a North Carolina native, this was more snow than she's ever seen in her life.


Earlier in the week, I played the guitar at a Posadas celebration that was organized in our apartment complex by a little local human rights organization formed by an activist-minded UNC sociology professor who wanted to build productively on the energy generated by the protests against the management in our complex a couple of years ago. The Posadas celebration was planned by some of the professor's students working with residents of the complex, as an event to bring residents together. It was a nice turnout—I'm not good at estimating crowds, but 100 seems safe—mostly Latino but also white and African American. Great tamales afterwards. There are Burmese refugees in the complex too, and there's talk of working with them to organize a celebration of the Burmese New Year in April.


The health care bill is so depressing, I can't dwell on it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe

What's this about?

María, Madre de las Américas—

En tu día doy gracias por el camino de vuelto a la República Dominicana que se abrió por mí hace doce años.
Doy gracias por la hospitalidad de la congregación hispana de San Marcos, que guardó y nutrió mi fe durante un tiempo en que yo no sabía a dónde iba.
Doy gracias que en el ministerio hispano mi pareja ahora tenga cómo utilizar sus dones en servicio de los demás.

Rezo por los dominicanos que conocí durante mis dos misiones, quienes permitieron que yo entrara en sus vidas.
Rezo por los mexicanos y otros latinoamericanos trasladados a este pais a quienes he conocido, especialmente los a quienes conocí en San Marcos, en el PCMC, y ahora aquí en North Carolina.

Pido por la justicia social y el desarrollo económico en los países latinoamericanos.
Pido por una reforma imigratoria en los EEUU.

Por tu Hijo Jesús, amén.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Some thanksgivings

I learned yesterday about the LDS Church's plan to add "caring for the poor and the needy" to what was formerly the threefold mission of the church. This strikes me as an important, positive, inspired step on the part of church leaders.

I should also take this moment to commend the Church for its support of Utah's new gay antidiscrimination bill. Again, an important, positive step. Little by little, the Church is opening up to the further light and knowledge that Father promised to send Adam and Eve's posterity. It's hard for me not to be catty about this, since I think they're opening up to the light belatedly and much too slowly. But thanks be to God.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill

"Uganda's Draconian Anti-Gay Bill: Inspired by the U.S." (Time)
"Harper Lobbies Uganda on Anti-Gay Bill" (The Globe and Mail)
"Christians Against Antigay Ugandan Bill" (Advocate)

This is horrifying. I'm reminded of words from D&C 123:

...the most damning hand of murder, tyranny, and oppression,
supported and urged on and upheld by the influence of that spirit
which hath so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies,
upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion...
I'm sitting here, staring at the computer screen, resisting mightily the urge to launch into a fiery, apocalyptic prayer to the God of judgment.

A healthier prayer would be simply, "Dear God, don't let this bill become law." Praying those words doesn't have the slightest effect on the outcome. There's nothing God can do to prevent the bill from becoming law if that's what Uganda's lawmakers want to do: that's the whole point of agency. But I feel utterly helpless to do anything in response to this impending horror except pray those words.

All right, how about this?

Spirit of truth—
Be with the international politicians, religious leaders, and human rights activists who are in a position to make their voices heard to the Ugandan government.
Give power to their words.
Bear witness of the truth of their appeals to the hearts of Uganda's lawmakers.
In Christ's name, amen.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Copenhagen climate summit

Tomorrow (December 7) is the beginning of the climate summit in Copenhagen. This is a subject where I confess I don't understand the issues well, but I know that drastic change—which is to say, drastic repentance—on the part of the nations is necessary to reduce the destruction we are inflicting on the earth and the living beings it sustains. Industrialized nations, including my own, bear the greatest burden of guilt.

I'm planning to fast tomorrow to mark the opening of the summit. I'll be praying for a spirit of wisdom to guide the summit. I want to pray, also, for a spirit of repentance to be poured out on the peoples of the earth, and especially the people of my nation. But then I think: if you want the Spirit to move people to repentance, then you need to be out there bearing testimony.


In the spirit of learning "of things both in heaven and in the earth, . . . things which must shortly come to pass . . . ; the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land" (D&C 88:79), and in the spirit of being anxiously engaged in good causes with like-minded people, here are some resources on climate change:
It pleases God to have given all these things to human beings, for to this end were they made—to be used with judgment, not to excess nor by extortion. (D&C 58:20)

Advent 2

Appeal unto my Spirit. (D&C 11:18)
Holy Spirit—

You give light to everyone who comes into the world, and you lead to God all who listen to your voice.
You are the promised Comforter, sent to teach us all things and to show us everything we should do.
You are the Presence that abides with us forever, even when we do not recognize that you are there.

You have taught me to see in Jesus Christ the image of God.
Line upon line, you have enlightened my mind and made me taste joy.
Blowing where you will, you have led me places I did not expect to go.
When I am careful to listen, you lead me to do good—to do justly, to walk humbly, and to judge charitably.
You prod me to be a better steward of my time and my substance, and you reprove me for my selfishness.

I pray that you will be with me—or rather, since you are always with me, because you are everywhere, I consicously open myself to be more aware of you.
Make me more sensitive to the needs of those with whom I interact.
Teach me to act in ways that communicate charity, the love of Christ.
Inspire me as I use my intellectual gifts, so that I may be an instrument of good.
Lead me to where I can do the most good—or show me how to do the most good where I am.
If it is possible, open my eyes to see how to achieve the desire of my heart.