Sunday, June 04, 2006

Response to Bishop J

A good friend of mine who goes by the name greenfrog here in cyberspace has posted a response to Bishop J's letter to me, which I posted last week.

10 comments:

Aaron said...

What a beautiful, articulate response. Glad you pointed it out.

greenfrog said...

Re-reading the post, I realize that I exhibited the same failings that I found in the bishop's letter -- reflecting and commenting directly about a person based on a writing. I regret that failing. I should have taken more time and gained a little more distance from my response.

Still, I didn't want the letter to go unremarked.

sea said...

I'm not sure if I should post my response to it here or on that thread, but I might as well do it here.

Greenfrog states: "If we ask and want experiences confirming LDS teachings, we increase significantly the likelihood that we’ll receive exactly that. If we want experiences confirming Buddhist teachings, we increase significantly the likelihood that we’ll receive exactly that. Same for Catholicism. Same for Krishna Consciousness. Same for fundamentalist Islam."

I think this is a very dangerous statement. What greenfrog is essentially saying is that God doesn't really truly answer us, we just like to delude ourselves into thinking that He does. We, in fact, just 'make answers up' to fit our mold. And if that were the case, God would cease to exist. Perhaps greenfrog is an atheist? I don't know, I've never met him/her.

H, you have often written about hearing the Spirit speak to you, especially after you came out. Do you accept greenfrog's view that you are simply just seeking confirmation of what you wanted?

H, your story saddens me. I hope that when all the drama of coming out ends, when everyone has accepted the fact that you are gay and there's nothing they can do about it, that you find the happiness you seek.

Releasing a great secret, especially one that you previously viewed as a sin, is always a relief. I hope that when that initial release fades, your subsequent life does not leave you emptier than the one you left.

I also hope that you take that bishop's expression of love seriously, I believe he is sincere when he says that he wants to remain your friend. I believe most of your friends and family still love you.

Best of luck to you.

greenfrog said...

I think this is a very dangerous statement. What greenfrog is essentially saying is that God doesn't really truly answer us, we just like to delude ourselves into thinking that He does. We, in fact, just 'make answers up' to fit our mold. And if that were the case, God would cease to exist.

This is a good critique of my point, and prompts me to try to clarify that. Do I think that we will get anything that we ask for by way of spiritual confirmation of an abstract belief? No, though you couldn't tell that from what I wrote, as I didn't say so there.

What I do think is that most humans come with a relatively standard and common set of desires and capabilities, including a sense for "rightness" with respect to our relationships with one another, and our personal integrity. I also believe (but it's a matter of faith, not knowledge) that among the factors contributing to that sense of "rightness" is our relationship to what, within LDS circles, we understand to be God. That means that I do not believe that God is simply a fabrication of our desires, or a function of our delusion. But I also don't believe that God uses only one way of interacting with mankind.

I have had what I cherish as spiritual experiences that have fit a perfectly regular LDS conception of God. I have also had and cherish spiritual experiences that bear none of the hallmarks of LDS teachings and understandings. Yet, as I must based on the experiences, I conclude that they come from the same God. I talk with my Lutheran and Hindu and Catholic and Buddhist friends, and they tell me of their spiritual experiences. So far as I can tell, they are persons of good will and honesty. So I conclude that God interacts with them using terms and experiences that they can understand within their own traditions.

With that (probably simultaneously too long and too short) backdrop, so long as a set of beliefs will lead us closer to God -- to that sense of "rightness" that most of us have -- we'll get the feeling of confirmation we seek. Might that confirmation come in the form of a vision of the Virgin Mary? I think it could. Might it come as a voice from Durga? Yes. Might it come as a burning in the bosom in a kirtan session? Yes.

So how is it not totally random? This way -- it confirms only things that are consonant with our sense of "rightness" (recognizing that some parts of that sense we will perceive consciously and be aware of, and other parts will be subconscious, and we will only be partially aware of them). (And recall that I believe that the sense of "rightness" comes from aspects that are generally common to us as humans.) So we generally reach the same conclusions about what is right.

It may be worth noting my belief that one of the ways that we perceive even the subconscious sense of "rightness" comes from relief and order we feel when we finally make the right decision (repent, confess, make restitution, etc.). Though I don't know, I infer from what I've read of Hurricane's experience that it is something like that sense of "rightness" that has led him and his wife to make the decisions that they've reached. I think he's said that what he's doing is clearly agonizing in many ways, but nonetheless "feels right" to him.

Do I believe that a feeling of "rightness" is sufficient to identify truth from error? No, I don't, as I have every reason to believe that many people perpetrate very evil and wrongful actions in the name of such feelings of "rightness." We can all, surely, identify folk we think fit that category. So are we just stuck with the conflict of different people's feelings of "rightness"? No. We are capable of and responsible for interacting in a community. We can, should, and ought to persuade one another about what is right. None of us knows everything that another person has experienced. My wife is much better at perceiving the rightness of somethings than I am. Conversely, I have a better sense of other things than she does. Am I certain that Hurricane and his wife are doing the "right" thing? No. I'm interested in their experience and their decisions. Everything I know about them tells me that I should seek to learn more about their situation, because they're experiencing something that I never will. Their experience has to inform my understanding of what is right. If I refuse to allow it to do so, I'm denying myself access to truth, in preference for whatever set of principles teach me not to listen to the truth of their experience.

Perhaps greenfrog is an atheist?

I don't think I am, but I've encountered other honest and sincere folk who believe so. When making that judgment of another, we have to decide the question for ourselves.

I don't know, I've never met him/her.

You're likely correct, but we don't really know that, either.

I'll try not to respond to more than this level of detail here, as this is a blog about Hurricane and his experience, and not about how weird or normal my views of such questions may be.

Another Anonymous Jerk post said...

Aargh.

I really don't want to offend, but I'm not sure I will succeed. I remember my mission president saying that "the Holy Ghost doesn't use weasel words." Yet when one seeks to justify the breaking of covenants, it's weasel words that are used to justify it.

No amount of honey-tongued excuses can hide the fact that, objectively, H and K have chosen to break the covenants they made. They have also chosen to rip their children away from the covenant into which they were born. Regardless of what temptation led this to happen, this is a terrible thing. And those who love H and K will continue to love them, and not a day will go by where they will not hate what it is they have done. That - not squishy, non-judgmental acceptance - is the Christlike response.

Indeed, I can think of nothing less Christlike than turning a blind eye to sin in order to make the sinner feel more comfortable. Yes, Christ ministered to sinful and wicked people with kindness and love, but they were sinful and wicked people who wanted to repent. Those who were sinful who tried to cover or justify their sins were on the receiving end of Christ's wrath. Ask the scribes and Pharisees if Christ was supportive of them finding their own way to God. Ask the moneychangers in the temple if Christ was warm and cuddly in accepting their choices.

In the end, it's not really about homosexuality. It's about pride. H and K have decided that they know better than God does as to what He would have them do. Or they have refashioned God in their own image, which, essentially, amounts to the same thing.

I don't think that means they will be on the receiving end of some lightning bolts. I just think it means that they will, in the language of the D&C, be "left unto [themselves], to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God." That's what makes this story so achingly sad.

Chris said...

anonymous jerk,

The ease with which you judge the choices K and I are making unsettles and startles me. As far as I know, you don't even know us. You know only a fraction of our story. You judge, but you offer nothing that we haven't already heard or considered or agonized over.

It must be nice to live in a world that is so starkly black and white.

Anonymous Jerk who will shut up now said...

This is probably the last time I'll post here, but Hurricane - or Chris, now that you're public - but you've gotten to the heart of the matter.

You accuse me of judging you and are "startled" that I would do so. But I have not judged you. I have cited the facts, and they judge you. You and your wife made covenants. You broke them. And you have ensured that those same covenants will be denied to your children, a decision will now affect your posterity for generations to come. These are facts. How you choose to reconcile them with your own conscience is entirely up to you.

I issue no judgments. I do not condemn you to Hell. I do not hold you up for scorn or ridicule. I point this out because all of the congratulatory celebration posted on this blog lauding your integrity and your newfound freedom obscure the simple facts that covenants were made and then broken. If I have issued any judgments at all, it's simply that I find this whole situation tremendously sad, and I have been part of this process as it is repeated time and again. I have seen the consequences of broken covenants, and so have you. Those consequences aren't the result of some judgmentally anonymous jerk on a blog.

That's all I have to say. Believe it or not, I hope you find what you're looking for. I just don't think it's Christlike for me or anyone else to reinforce the belief that you're going to find them along the path that you've chosen. This may startle you, shock you, and hurt your feelings. But there's also a slim chance that it may lead you to reconsider your decision.
You and Kerri and your beautiful children are definitely worth the shot.

Chris said...

Come out, anonymous jerk. Come out.

greenfrog said...

But I have not judged you.

...

You and your wife made covenants. You broke them.

?

And you have ensured that those same covenants will be denied to your children, a decision will now affect your posterity for generations to come.

?

I issue no judgments.

?

BB said...

what is a covenant? How is it made? Who are the parties? What are the terms? How might all these aspects of covenants change over time?