Scientology-Lite

Reblogged from 2011 in honor of the HBO special “Going Clear” airing this weekend.

I’ve joked several times about Mormonism being “Scientology-lite” but until recently I never had the chance or much interest to do a compare/contrast. But I suppose you can’t say that without backing it up, so here goes.

I probably have as much knowledge or interest in Scientology as the general population has regarding Mormonism.  I’m familiar with several buildings in my local area, I know some of the absurd parts of the doctrine and I’ve heard rumors.  Of course, I know about the celebrity members and I’ve also witnessed several  “Anti-Scientology” street protesters (former members I presume) holding placards declaring it to be a cult.

I was recently shocked when over dinner one night a friend and colleague came out as a former Scientologist.  She spoke well of several Scientology beliefs and practices and said she still utilizes them.  She’s a very successful business woman, but I had to scrape my jaw off the floor as she related her experience…some good, some bad…just like my experience with Mormonism.

Then, last week there was a pretty extensive New Yorker article which profiled Paul Haggis (Hollywood Director, “Crash”), an apostate of that religion. I found that his experience rang true in many respects to mine as a Mormon apostate so I’ve decided to list the similarities that I uncovered in the article.  I make no claims that this is a result of extensive research.  It’s anecdotal.

I admit that there’s not much to compare as far as doctrine goes, but it’s not doctrine that defines a restrictive religion, or a cult, or whatever you feel comfortable calling it.  It’s generally the practices, the procedures and the behaviors of the leadership, of the membership and the manner in which it sells itself to the public (to both members and non-members). So those are the things I’m listing here that are similar between the experiences of two apostates: Paul Haggis and myself.  Most of this list includes ideas or statements taken directly from the article that could apply just as much to my experience as they do to his:

In no particular order…

  • The church refuses to account for member behavior even when they are quoting or following leaders
  • There are a lot of “unwritten laws”
  • Members default to defending the church, even to lying or turning back on family members
  • It’s all subjective…so how do you “know”?
  • Coverts are often “loners looking for a club to join”
  • Testimonies are overly effusive.
  • There’s “some good” in it, so “what harm can there be?”
  • The crazy S#!$ is introduced later … there’s a long process until you are fully entrenched.
  • Fascinating, enigmatic founder
  • Church underpays its employees
  • Requires sincerity for it all to work
  • Doesn’t “look” like a cult initially
  • Proof is in the lives of its members
  • Testimonies often include, “I don’t know where I’d be without….”
  • Levels of membership.  Focus changes over time.
  • Perverse pride in membership
  • Charitable but not egalitarian
  • Lack of curiosity keeps members in – they are uninterested and afraid of information
  • Willed myopia of membership
  • Hard to get through “scriptures”
  • At upper levels of membership they are deprived of adequate food and sleep
  • Members tell themselves they are wonderful examples to the world of good living
  • Inability of membership to laugh at themselves
  • Certain processes are confusing and unsatisfying
  • Members project unambiguous, non ambivalent view of world
  • “If it changes me for the better, who cares if it’s true?”
  • Arrogance of membership with lots of superlatives used in sales pitch
  • Church avoids “overt political stands” but membership is almost entirely homogeneous politically
  • Apostasy is all the apostates’ fault.  All disconnection to family  and friends is blamed on that decision
  • Wives tend to stay and denounce husbands who leave
  • Church discipline (kicking people out) is seen as “for their own good”
  • Members consider membership “safe” and a “protection”
  • Members  maintain positive exterior, but a very reproachful interaction with former members
  • Public image of religion is MOST IMPORTANT
  • There’s a difference between public tenets and private interaction
  • Greatest fear is expulsion from religion
  • Church holds the power of eternal life
  • Members are taught to handle internal conflict within church’s own justice system
  • Big Brother type files kept of high level apostates
  • Members attack apostates’ character rather than address the issues
  • Church doesn’t live up to its own standards for its members
  • Special service is supposedly to “help people” but most of the time and energy is really just spent on  serving the purposes of the organization
  • Sells itself as “fastest growing religion”
  • Members think it “does more good”
  • Critics are vilified and suspected of “anti” sentiment
  • Members sacrifice a lot with little to show for it
  • Original books are changed and church denies the changes are significant
  • All or nothing claims, “base stories are true or else it’s ALL a lie”
  • Shame in leaving, “Everyone else could see it was a sham, why couldn’t I?”
  • Apostates who leave claim they feel “alive” and can think clearly for the first time in a long time (or ever)

I must also say that I think the “-Lite” portion applies here because there are some serious accusations of institutional violence in Scientology and of literally being held hostage that don’t apply to Mormonism in my experience.

But a comment on the Mormon Expression version of this post made the following excellent point:

“The thing that really struck me in the article is that Scientology is in its Brigham Young phase both timewise and in their organizational behavior. I think if we compared some of the organizational things that are more extreme in Scientology, the Mormon church was a lot more like that under Brigham Young.”

Posted in Belief, Mormonism, Religion | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Vote for Dad for the 2014 Brodie Awards!!!

Hey! A few of my blog posts are up for a Brodie Award and I’m going to shamelessly fish for votes in the categories below:

Vote Here 

Best Post Title

A Tranny, A Mormon, And A 6’2″ Dyke Walk Into A Bar With A Midget… 

Best Religion-and-Orientation Post

Prodigal Brother Syndrome 

Best Parody/Metaphor/Analogy

No. I’m Sorry. I Don’t Want to Tour the New Mormon Temple with You

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To Obey or Not To Obey

There’s a fascinating observation I’ve made wherein men such as John Gustav Wrathall, who very early on in their lives have least obeyed and followed LDS leaders are the ones most interested in reconciling their religion and homosexuality.

John is married to a man and I don’t believe he has never done the temple marriage and kids thing. Same with that apostle’s brother Tom Christofferson…been with a man since a young adult and so has suffered minimal collateral damage compared to someone who obeyed LDS policy and doctrine of the time by trying to ignore it or change. The obedient ones are the ones now divorced and ridiculed by family, church and friends.

It tells me that it pays to follow your internal compass as early as possible…and you’ll even end up with warmer feelings towards the church you had to disregard to get there.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Voices of Dope 2; On TV

As you may have already heard, TLC is airing a ‘My Husband’s Not Gay’ special in January.

On January 11 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, TLC will premiere a one-hour special following some Mormons who say are living have an alternative to an alternative lifestyle. They are men who are happily married and attracted to their wives, but they are also attracted to other men. They refer to it as Same Sex Attraction… not gay.

My Husband is not gay

What you may not know is that these men are all involved with North Star’s Voices of Hope project and you can get a video preview of the cast of ‘My Husband’s Not Gay’ there.

Jeff and Tanya Bennion

Jeff and Tanya Bennion

 

BROWNS

Curtis and Tera Brown

Dahlgren

Preston and Megan Dahlgren

I’d be more disgusted if they weren’t so darned cute.

If nothing else, please share with others how demoralizing and dismissive this is of those women.

Nobody with daughters wants this for their girls.

Try not to focus on how childish, idiotic and brainwashed (and adorable) the men appear, but focus on how the women are being duped and manipulated. Don’t get me wrong, nobody has forced them into the life they are leading. They have been “drugged” to believe this is their best option.

As I’ve said before

Religion is a drug. Like any drug, it will help you escape from reality. It will take away some of the perceived “sting” of existence. It will take the burdens of thought off your shoulders. It will make you feel like you can fly from the ledge, without wings… It will purport to solve life’s most serious problems. The ironic catch is that the very “sting” and the very “problems” religion can solve are merely fabricated “problems” created by the religion itself.

So, why do these men and women stay in relationships like this?

“People don’t want their lives fixed. Nobody wants their problems solved. Their dramas. Their distractions. Their stories resolved. Their messes cleaned up. Because what would they have left? Just the big scary unknown.”  Chuck Palahniuk (American freelance Journalist, Satirist and Novelist. b.1961)

As a father of 3 beautiful girls, I hope that all the little gay boys out there right now will feel enough acceptance and courage to come out before adulthood and to seek out other men rather than my daughters. THAT’s how we fix this problem. We make it safe and acceptable to be who you are.

If you are a gay Mormon married to a straight women, it’s not the gay part that’s the problem.

See Also:

North Star

Voices of Dope

Helping Latter-day Saint Families with LGBT Children

Women Who Marry Gay Men

MLK “Don’t Let Anyone Take Your Manhood”

Mormon Sand Gays

I Should Have Known I Was Gay When

You Could Have Known I Was Gay Because…

 

Posted in Coming Out, Family, Homosexuality, Marriage, Mormonism, Reality | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A White Male Teenager’s Run-in With The Police

In spite of the impression my Gravatar gives, I’m a white man. I do, however, have experience with misuse of power by the police.

An experience I had as a high school freshman gave birth to my lack of automatic respect for authority figures. Not everyone in any one group deserves my respect. I give respect when it is earned.

Unlike the media image of scary black thugs that you see on TV, at 15 I was about as non-threatening as a person could get. I had spent the day at a local Shakespeare festival performing with my high school peers. Most of them were seniors. As a freshman I was thrilled to be included in their performing group.

After a full afternoon in tights and stage makeup, three friends and I were on our way home on east highway 8 in San Diego at about 9:00 at night. One of the seniors was driving his compact 2 door car, probably a Pinto or a Civic. I was in the back seat. We were laughing and joking but the first thing I actually remember were the police lights immediately behind us.

We all thought it was hilarious that our friend was about to get a ticket! But he truly didn’t seem to be going all that fast.

My friend pulled the car over to the shoulder and we waited for the policeman to come ask for his license and registration.

Instead, a few inches from my face I heard metal tapping on glass followed by screaming. I turned and saw 2 policeman on either side of the car pointing their guns at our heads shouting, “Get the Fuck out of the car!”

Terrified doesn’t even begin to describe the sudden rush of horror. The four of us exited the vehicle amid additional commands to keep our hands up. I remember having trouble getting out from the back seat as the policemen continued yelling obscenities at me. All the time their guns were pointed straight at our heads. Turns out there were four of them.

Four motorcycle cops had been returning to their station after game day traffic duty at the stadium and run across a small car of drama homos and felt threatened.

After stepping out of the vehicle we were immediately ordered face down, hands spread wide on the ice plant to the side of the freeway. Two of the officers stood five feet away, guns cocked and pointed at two young white gay boys each. The other two officers searched the car.

What they found were tights, makeup, costumes and various other theatre props.

More cops showed up.

At one point they called to the driver to stand up and get interviewed. The rest of us remained face down with guns pointed at us.

I moved slightly and the cop assigned to have his gun aimed at my head ordered me, “Fucking move and you’ll be sorry.” Just like a movie.

By the driver’s telling of the interview, it went something like this:

Officer: “So what the hell did you think you were doing?”

Driver: “Uh, I don’t know what you mean. We were driving home.”

Officer: “Tell me what was going on in the car.”

Driver: “I was driving. My friends were talking.”

Officer: “What else? What’s with the costumes? There’s a stick in there”

Driver: “We were performing at the Shakespeare festival. Those are our costumes. I play an old man. That’s my cane.”

Officer: “WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU DOING IN THAT CAR?”

And things went on in nonsensical fashion like that for several minutes.

At some point it became clear to them that not only weren’t we dangerous but that they’d messed up this traffic stop in a grand fashion. Yet, instead of apologizing they continued to try to save face.

When we were finally allowed to all stand the only they said to us as a group was that they hoped we had learned our lesson…

Huh?

I did learn a lesson that day. I learned to distrust cops. I learned that there are assholes in every walk of life. Neither a job nor a position in life earn respect by virtue of a uniform or a diploma or a title.

I’m not someone who walks up to  a random serviceman and says, “Thank you for your service” as I’ve seen many times. For all I know the guy could have been one of the men torturing fellow human beings in name of my country.

Please don’t misconstrue my lack of immediate respect for automatic disrespect. I’m grateful for good policemen, disciplined men in the military, honest CEOs and humble religious leaders. But these stations in life automatically come with high levels of power and I believe an increased level of accountability should accompany that.

If a policeman has the power to cock a gun inches from my head, he has the responsibility to only do it when necessary, or to apologize and make amends when he has crossed the line. I see today’s problems with law enforcement and torture in the military as the result of a long history of not holding authority figures accountable.

Part of me is grateful for that terrifying experience as a young kid. It helps me empathize with victims of brutality that I see today. Given all other things equal, had I been black, I would likely have ended up in jail on a trumped up charge that day, or killed. And I would have had countless more experiences such as that throughout my lifetime.

Minor as it may seem in the telling of it here now, it was demoralizing and humiliating to go through. Later, once our parents heard the story they were furious and demanded a meeting with the officers’ supervisor. At this meeting nothing was accomplished. The Sergeant did not explain, apologize to us or discipline his subordinates in any way. There was no reason to pull us over in the first place. It was clearly a tribe member defending another tribe member against the outside.

I don’t believe police brutality is excusable and I don’t believe in torture of another human being is ever justifiable. I certainly don’t believe in violent retaliation either but I do believe that our police and our military should be held to a higher standard, not a lower one nor given more leeway.

The same goes for business and religious leaders or organizations. As I’ve said many times throughout this blog if they are to claim fantastic and otherworldly experiences or to exact a strict modicum of behavior then they need to be held to a higher standard. When they fail to meet the expectations of their own teachings then they should fail to maintain our respect.

Posted in Respect | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Giggling Attack

(Reposted from 2012)

I keep telling myself that I’m going to lighten up here.

I’m really not a somber, nit-picky person as I may come across in my blog because my posts are so serious all the time.  I’m actually someone who smiles a lot by default. I’m the type of person who tends to laugh when other people are laughing even if I didn’t hear the original joke. I love a good joke, a good laugh, a good stand-up comedy routine and a raucous, silly movie.

My favorite people have really good laughs.  My 11 year old daughter laughing is pure gold.

I can even laugh at myself. I can laugh at myself when I haven’t initiated the joke.  My kids are fond of saying “Remember when Dad ________?!” The blank refers to some incident when my poor parenting either caused one of them to cry profusely, or when I almost caused them to loose a functioning body part.  Worse yet, the blank space could refer to a time when all of us almost died at my hands. I think if you’re a parent you can appreciate how NOT funny that really is…and yet hilarious to your 11 and 13 year old.

I know in all fairness I can’t say that without providing an example so here goes…

“Remember when Dad blew up the chili?!”

I take my kids camping every year around Father’s Day. It’s a lot of work to do by yourself and yet completely fun and totally worth it. So one time we were all around the campfire and one of the kids asked for some more food.  I’d already put all the dinner stuff away and so I got a can of chili and put it on a grill over the fire to warm it up. It exploded with all of us not 4 feet from the fire pit. Everyone screamed.  Two of my girls ran screaming behind the tent.  As I ran to make sure they were OK, one of them started crying “I’m bleeding! I’m bleeding!” Turns out it was just chili but in the dark it really did look like blood.

The story just became less funny after I found this picture of a kid who did what I did with less fortunate results!!! Actually, I take that back. He considered it fortunate because it burned off all his freckles. Kids…

I was amazed that my 6 year old ran so well and so quickly in the dark, but in the daytime couldn’t walk 10 feet without falling down and getting scraped.

Nobody got hurt.  Most of the chili, and all of the chili can pieces somehow missed us.  I’d just come out of the losing end of a nasty custody battle with my ex and I was sure this incident was going to cause me to lose them completely. Turns out it’s one of their favorite memories.

It’s powerful to laugh or be laughed at

I know people who won’t dance or sing or whatever as adults because they were once  laughed at as a kid.  That’s sad. Personally I’d be a bedridden zombie if I took that approach.

I watched a TV special once that documented how humor in the former Eastern Bloc countries increased over time and actually paralleled the rise of freedom.  The unanswered question was, “Did the increase in humor impact the ability of people to fight for freedom, or was humor a consequence of having more freedom?”

I’m not sure, but I suspect humor is merely symptomatic of a groundswell in thinking. When you begin to think, you see contradictions, paradoxes and hidden truths that nobody wants to admit. It’s funny to point things out that everyone is thinking but that most people are too afraid to admit.

In the tightly controlled culture of Mormonism I think humor is increasing these days. Oh yes, Mormons are still a tightly wound bunch, but back in the 70’s you would never have had Mormon movie comedies that actually poked fun at the culture, or books like the web site Latter-day Lampoon (I’m not posting a link because I read that the creator doesn’t want ex-Mormons linking to his site, so here’s a link to the article), or the Men on a Mission calendar, or Elna Baker’s book The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance.  There’s even a Palestinian Mormon comedian you can watch out there!

Are Mormons the only religion to have an official doctrine against a certain kind of laughter? It’s weird how a Google image search for “communists laughing” yielded more usable results than “Mormons laughing.” I did laugh a lot as a Mormon. I think that the “loud laughter” thing is something most of us just ignored because when we were laughing we knew deep down it was a good thing and that God was smiling too.

Does every missionary have this picture? I have one from my MTC District too.

Some of my biggest giggling attacks have happened in religious settings

I served a mission to Brazil and later lived in Japan teaching English for a year.  The Japanese word “koko” meaning “here” when spoken sounds like the Portuguese word for “shit”. I can’t count the number of times a Brazilian friend and I sat in a Japanese chapel  stifling giggles over that one. “We’d like to thank you all for coming here” or “I know here is the right place to be”… I’ve long since forgotten any Japanese but there’s also something in the Sacrament Prayer that elicited snickers from us “gaijin” every single week.

I’ve never been able to make it through the middle chapters of Alma in the Book of Mormon without a giggling attack.  I mean come on, is there anyone who can read these verses and NOT laugh? My Mom’s favorite euphemism for “butt” or “ass” was “rear” so maybe it’s funnier to me:

Alma 56:23 For we knew in those cities they were not sufficiently strong to meet them; therefore we were desirous, if they should pass by us, to fall upon them in their rear, and thus bring them up in the rear at the same time they were met in the front. We supposed that we could overpower them; but behold, we were disappointed in this our desire.Alma 52:29 Now the Lamanites did not know that Moroni had been in their rear with his army; and all they feared was Lehi and his men.

36 And Lehi pressed upon their rear with such fury with his strong men, that the Lamanites in the rear delivered up their weapons of war; and the remainder of them, being much confused, knew not whither to go or to strike.

I’m dying!  DYING!

That’s so gay!

Any God of mine is laughing too.

Posted in Humor, Mormonism | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Gay Mecca

Re-posting. This was first posted 2 years ago… I still miss Palm Springs.

——

Every member of a minority should spend a year or two living in a place where he or she is part of the majority.

As I’m only days away from moving, I wanted to document some of my thoughts on the past 2 years living in one of the gayest places in the United States. Palm Springs has the highest per capita ratio of gay residents than any other US city, including San Francisco.

What that means is that I can go to the grocery store and flirt with the hot man in the produce department; I can have a gay doctor, a gay dentist & a gay handyman; I can eat in a gay-friendly restaurant and be served by a gay waiter; I can then walk to 4-5 gay bars on any given night; I can hold hands on a date; I could spend a day at a number of clothing option gay resorts if I wanted to. You get the idea.

It’s like living in Provo, Utah if you’re Mormon…Mormons everywhere. Mormonism colors everything and everyone there. In Palm Springs the gay rainbow serves up a pot of gold on everything and everyone. It’s also  a mecca for seniors, golfers and the occasional spring break or bachelorete party but above all it’s really gay here.

I was first invited to spend a weekend in Palm Springs back in December 2005 when I was freshly separated and barely out of the closet. My date and I were here on the first weekend of the Brokeback Mountain release and the experience before the movie started in that theater that day was almost more powerful for me than the movie. Being firmly closeted my whole life I’d often felt out of place and misunderstood in groups of men. Before the movie started I recall looking around in awe at a theater full of gay men and for the first time in my life feeling like I was the straightest man in the room!

Palm Springs is such a world unto itself that I also recall one of our Palm Spring hosts  commenting after the movie, “Well, I’m certainly glad that the world isn’t like THAT anymore!” I remember my retort that, “Outside Palm Springs it IS still very much like that for many people…people like me for the last 40 years!”

Over the next 4 years I returned to Palm Springs twice for weekend trips with other friends. I loved it each time but I never had any premonition that I’d live here. Then, 2 1/2 years ago the stars aligned as I was looking around southern California for more affordable digs. I was in town in February for business at a tradeshow when I walked out of my hotel room, looked up at the majestic sun-splashed mountain and it hit me, “I could live HERE!”

I checked; rents were indeed cheaper; it was 2 hours closer to my kids; it was gay friendly so maybe I could make gay friends; my job at the time allowed me to live anywhere in the state; it was beautiful. Done and done. A month later I was comfortably lounging on my new patio furniture in my funky mid-century modern condo gazing up at the palm trees framing the San Jacinto Peak. Heaven.

Clearly this is another world.

Soon after moving here I was certain this is where I’d be settling down for good. But life has a way of yanking the rug out from under you. A lost job and no local employment prospects in sight slowly led me to the realization that without a job holding me back I have an opportunity to move to be near my children. When their Mom won the right to move them a state away, I felt angry and trapped but I soon learned to accept our new arrangement and I imagined Palm Springs to be the best compromise. Unemployment has enabled me to change that.

But I still have mixed emotions.

I know, and my kids know, that the only reason I’m moving is to be near them on a more regular basis. Period. That alone weighs the scales enough for me. I had a conversation with my ex-wife to ensure that she’d work with me to re-arrange custody once I’m there. She willingly agreed. I’ll be parenting them twice a week (T/TH) and  every other weekend. YEA! I’ll be helping with homework, chauffeuring and enforcing bed-times (Some things they’re not used to me doing since I only had them on weekends and vacations).

I will miss so many aspects my Palm Springs life. I’ve experienced and learned so much here.

The place I’m moving to couldn’t be more polar opposite. It’s a sterile, suburban community heavily populated by Mormons. Why does the phrase, “returning like a dog to his vomit” keep coming to mind?

But gay men are still everywhere, right? I’ll certainly have to revive my gaydar or re-install Grindr because I can no longer assume a single man my age in the grocery store is gay.

Some of you may never have had the type of experience I’ve had  here. Upon reflection, here is what I’ve gained and learned over the last 2 1/2 years in Palm Springs, the gay mecca of the world…

Gay friends

It took patience and resolve but I can say that I’m walking away with a small group of lifelong gay friends. Of course, one doesn’t have to live in Palm Springs to get that, but it certainly helped ME. Without this concentrated population of gay men I found it difficult to meet other men in other places. I’ve made friends with other men my age who have completely different backgrounds and yet we’ve connected in a way I had found difficult previously. The best part has been that they accept all of me and have integrated my full life as a father into our friendship. I’ll be returning for “family” holiday get-togethers when I can and I’m sure there are joint vacations and trips in our future.

I’ve also benefited from friendships with gay men in other generations. I have some fantastic older friends who have given me some wise advice over the last couple of years.

Immersion

As much as we hate to admit it there are some stereotypical aspects of gay life that are true or at least more common. Living in Palm Springs has been my baptism by immersion in all things stereo-typically gay and it has been both fun and frustrating playing catch up with my peers who have been out of the closet since their early 20’s. I now get some of the campy gay jokes that flew over my head years ago. I’ve never felt obligated to make this aspect of the “gay lifestyle” fully my own, but on the other hand it has been rewarding and fun to experience it in such a concentrated fashion like I have.

It’s been fun attending drag shows, showtunes night at the bar, and Halloween parties that happen here like no place else.

Small town with a big city feel

I’m a city boy. I moved here from a downtown city loft. I thrive in tight, crowded environments. Palms Springs at least has a unique vibe of sophistication with a walkability that you usually don’t find in a small town. I can walk to many places from my home and it’s a 3 minute drive downtown to restaurants, clubs and shopping galore. It’s going to be really difficult re-entering the din of the suburbs where everything is a 10-30 minute drive away and every other street corner houses identical-looking big box stores.

I’ll miss recognizing the same cashiers, waiters, baristas at all my regular haunts.My favorite sandwich place starts making my usual as soon as I walk in.  I’ve just never experienced that sort of familiarity in the suburbs.

Architecture matters

I LOVE the Palm Springs mid-century modern architecture. On my daily walks I’m able to meander by some of the most interesting residential architecture. Not one home is exactly like the other. It was this eye-opening appreciation for structures that led me months ago to reflect on the impact of interesting Mormon architecture and the consequences of it’s recent demise into dull and predicable. I just think the buildings we live in and the structures we stare at all day long matter.

We’re all the same

As much as I’m making a big deal about my pleasant 2 year stay in gay intensive Palm Springs, one of my takeaways is that we’re all just human beings trying to make our way the best we know how. Most of us are figuring it our along the way with all our insecurities, self-doubts, and desires for a good life. That’s all the same no matter where you live and which demographic makes up the majority.

Sometimes I tend to approach life from the vantage point of a curious onlooker as if everyone else has it all figured out. The other day a friend and I were bantering back and forth regarding an attractive man. As he has been out about 20 years longer than I have I said to him, “Go talk to him and show me how it’s done.” He looked at me surprised and said, “Look, I don’t know what I’m doing either!” That shouldn’t have been a profound realization for me but it was.

Mountains Are the Great Equalizer

An ocean view is reserved for the rich. I have friends who pay 3 times the rent that I do for a smaller place a few blocks from Mitt Romney’s San Diego oceanfront home. They can see the ocean from their rooftop and kitchen window.  Mountains by contrast are every man’s view. As much as I love the ocean, I’ll probably never afford to live anywhere that I can see it from my bed. But here in Palm Springs I have the same amazing view of the mountains from my condo as they do in the million dollar homes 3 blocks away. At night I see the top of the Palms Springs Tram station lit up as do thousands of other residents.

Pride

So, “pride” is an overused word in the gay lexicon, but there’s a certain strength that comes from celebrating a common core. Pride, as opposed to the shame most of us nurtured in ourselves for so long, is more easily self-affirmed when there’s a welcoming community smiling and nodding their heads in agreement.  I can now fully understand why ethnic minorities congregate in the same local. It has been affirming to experience this chapter of my life among like-minded men.

Living in Palm Springs for me has facilitated gay conversations with family members and friends. This has helped tremendously with my kids. Their exposure to a gay environment has enabled them to more easily talk with me, joke with me and also shrug off prejudicial comments by others. Living in this environment has enabled my homosexuality to be less invisible, while also reducing the need to be overtly in-your-face.

Goodbye Palm Springs. You’ve been a good friend.

See also:

27 Solid Reasons Why Palm Springs is the Bomb Diggity

Posted in Fatherhood, Homosexuality | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Things That Make Me Smile #5

I know I haven’t posted much lately. It’s been a real rough Summer and Fall. I will post more soon because I feel like I’m the upswing from a bad period.

The good news is that in my brief blogging slow-down over the last several months there have been fantastic strides in the gay marriage arena. Gay couples can now marry in this largely conservative state and all over the country! Similar strides have been made in the LDS camp. The Mormon church has finally decided to fess up to to many embarrassing and/or difficult details in its history and doctrine by releasing essays on lds.org. These include details on  polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, The Book of Abraham, etc that got me branded as a liar and an anti-Mormon when I brought them up 10 years ago.

Anyhow, it will be another month or two before I return to regular posts. I’ll explain more then.

In the meantime, I’ve found that in my darker struggles it helps to recall moments that make me smile. Sometimes I need to purposely search for them.

Here’s my 5th installment of Things That Make Me Smile :

 Jim Carrey Makes Me Smile

I’ve not always been a huge fan, but then I saw this graduation speech he gave:

Carrey

 And most recently this. (If you want, jump to the 4:00 mark where he gives a bizarre but hilarious monologue. I find it particularly funny because my name is Dennis)

Secret Billionaire

One Hit Wonders Make Me Smile. Good For Them!

Lit

Lit

 

Pachelbel’s Canon in D

Mark Hamill

mark-hamill-146428l

Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird

scout.4

I smile when Singers invite random audience members onstage to sing a duet and they totally nail it.

(Shhhh! Do NOT tell me these are staged! I get so much joy out of believing in the marvelous serendipity of it that I’m sticking to the “random” story, thank you very much!)

Kristin Chenoweth invites Sarah Horn to sing “For Good”

Kristin Chenoweth

Lea Salonga & Jared Young “A Whole New World”

Lea Solanga

Josh Groban sings “To Where You Are” with Maude

Josh Groban

Carol Burnett and Dennis Amick sing “Kiss Today Goodbye”

CArol Burnett

Michael Buble’ and 15 year old Sam “Feeling Good”

Michael Buble

I smile even more when the opposite happens!

Carole King Surprises Cast of Broadway Musical “Beautiful”

Carol King

Good Looking Men, of course!

Good Looking Men

See Also:

Things That Make Me Smile #4

Things That Make Me Smile #3

Things That Make Me Smile #2

Things That Make Me Smile

Posted in Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Bishop Blog #4 – Confessions of a Liar

There’s nothing like finishing out the year on a post-repentance high! Time to confess my sins. My skill and proclivity for lying are my focus today. I’m sorry, Bishop, that I’m a lair.  The gravest of my lies were told back when I was a true believer and follower and for that I am truly sorrowful.

Lying is a tricky thing. Is it a lie if you really believe it?

Most of my actions as a believer were sincere and I grant that the same is true for most believers. I believed when I said these things. But in confessing now, I am admitting that deep, deep down some part of me knew that I wasn’t being totally upfront. Something felt off even if I couldn’t articulate it at the time. I was following a pattern and a procedure handed to me by people I trusted. It’s only in looking back now that I can see that these were indeed untruths.

Here are some of the greatest lies I’ve told:

1. Saying, “I know XXX is true”

To be able to convince myself that saying this about any faith-based topic was honest I had to buy into the concept that feelings are an indicator of the truth. It’s an odd juxtaposition because I was told in so many other ways to distrust my feelings while at the same time being cajoled into basing some very important lifelong decisions on feelings. What I ended up with is merely believing what someone else told me about my feelings. Still, the word “know” as it’s used in Mormonism is the most dishonest thing ever said.

2. Claiming, “I’ve searched and studied other religions”

Of course I didn’t. What I usually meant was, “My parents or seminary teacher told me about other religious beliefs and why they’re wrong. My friends in other religion don’t seem as righteous or as happy as I am. Therefore, I’ve stood still, looked around and determined that what everyone else has told me is correct.” That was my research and study.

3. Agreeing, “Wickedness never was happiness”

This was commonly recited to convince myself that my current bland existence would reap greater rewards at some other time. “Wickedness” is anything Mormonism forbids, but it’s an entirely insular and narrow definition. It’s not based upon a large all-encompassing moral code that can be used as guidance in any situation.

Therefore, I ended up being an extremely “righteous” Mormon who was miserable but utterly convinced that I was happier than my neighbor who may have smoked, drank coffee or, god forbid, lived with his girlfriend.

4. Blindly repeating to myself, “I’m not gay as long as I don’t DO anything gay.”

Let’s face it, I knew it. Abstinence from sexual behaviors did nothing to make me feel less gay inside.

5. Denying to my then-wife right after coming out, “No, I’ve never been attracted to one your relatives or one of your friends’ husbands.”

I was telling the truth about the relatives. But some of her friends had some pretty hot husbands.

6. Parroting, “Tithing, the Word of Wisdom and Chastity are all MY choices. We’re not obligated in the church to do any of that. I’m not just blindly following”

I guess it all depends on how one defines an “obligation.” When Mormons say this, what they really are thinking is that you can be a Mormon and not actually behave like one. That would make you a Jack Mormon or a lazy active Mormon at best. But the truth is that you ARE obligated to do all those things if you want to be a participating Mormon. For example, merely not paying 10% of your income could land you outside looking in on your own daughter’s temple wedding. If that doesn’t make it an obligation, what does?

7. Claiming “I’m not trying to convert you.”

Missionary work clouds everything one does as a Mormon. But I actually said stuff like this as a missionary too. That was a blatant lie.

8. “I love the Book of Mormon. It has changed my life.”

The truth is that most Mormons barely make it past the first few chapters. I actually read a chapter nightly for several years. I now can’t articulate one good thing that came of that. Even back then I couldn’t have articulated what was so amazing and life-changing about it.

9. “We don’t believe in polygamy anymore”

What Mormons are thinking is, “We don’t PRACTICE polygamy anymore.” But that’s not the same thing. I knew it then and they know it now. As much as they’d like to distance themselves from their polygamist past, it’s still in the scriptures and practiced everyday in Mormons temples worldwide.

10 “There’s nothing weird or bizarre about the temple. We just don’t talk about it because it’s sacred.”

 Sorry, there’s no way to spin special code names, passwords, handshakes, veiled faces, green aprons, bakers hats, death oaths (pre-1990), and  party favor underwear into something reasonable. I thought it was weird the first time I went. I just became desensitized to it. Morphing it into something marvelous and wonderful in your brain is an exercise in self-deception. I used to teach temple preparation classes and so I used this lie a lot.

Posted in Belief, Critical Thinking Skills, Guilt, Mormonism, Reality, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Just Got 4 Shades Whiter

In honor of Mormons watching General Conference this weekend… I’m not. I’m catching peeks into what may have been said via my various Facebook groups, family and friends. I don’t miss the talks in the slightest, but I do like the choirs. So I tried to see if there were some videos on YouTube yet. Then I found this.

Mormons. Bless their hearts.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir once performed a Nigerian carol called “Betelehemu” and it’s the whitest darn thing I’ve ever seen. I just watched it four times and got whiter each time. I’m now white and delightsome.

Even the drummers are all white!

Betelehemu

My favorite part is when they start swaying back and forth, arms stiffly at their sides.

You know I love the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, right? I tend to prefer hymns as choir music. They were written specifically for that type of singing. I really can’t tolerate the Mo-Tab when they sing Broadway show tunes or pop music, so I’m already disposed to reject this sort of attempt at an African melody.

The sick thing is that after watching it a few times I kind of like it now. Bless my little white heart.

Posted in Music | Tagged , , | 4 Comments