Tag Archive | Utah

Banning the Children from the Temple

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In Matthew 19:14, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Maybe the elders of the LDS Church have never read these words.  Or never taken them seriously.  Yesterday they banned the children of same gender parents from receiving blessings or the priesthood. (OK , they actually only banned the sons of GLBT folks.  Daughters of straight couples are also forbidden the priesthood.)  Even adult children of gay parents cannot be baptized in the Mormon faith until and unless they renounce their GLBT parents.

News article:

Mormon Church makes same-sex couples apostates, excludes children from blessings and baptism

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe the LDS faith is the one true faith and I think never participating in it may in fact ultimately be healthier emotionally, psychologically and, most especially, spiritually, for the individuals involved.  The church authorities could actually be doing these kids a favor in the long run.

For seven years I served as the minister of a Unitarian Universalist church in Utah.  Almost half of my congregation was ex-Mormon.  I know the pain that faith can cause.  I know the havoc it can create in people’s lives who don’t fit the stereotype of the perfect Mormon, or who just can’t help but question some of the beliefs.  People can lose their jobs, their homes, and their families when they become apostates.

And there is so much good about the faith as well, which is why it can be so hard to leave it.  This latest action will doubtless drive more people to leave the LDS church.  They will be, as before, mainly the ones who really strive to follow the teachings of Jesus and finally realize that their church hierarchy either can’t or won’t do the same.

There is much grief in Mormonland today, tears, sorrow and pain.  My heart breaks for those who are suffering.

“Let the children come.”  “Do not hinder them.”

If you are still a member of the LDS faith, it may be past time to find another church, my friends.  Unitarian Universalist congregations will welcome you in the fullness of who you are.  Other faith traditions will as well.

Please know that you are worthy of love and respect.  You are a precious child of God, blessed from the moment of your birth.  The whole sacred world is your temple.  You don’t need theirs.

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Marriage Equality again in Utah

 

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I moved from Utah back to California at the end of June, partly to live in a state where my marriage would be recognized.  The photo above is of our wedding cake.  It has been nice.  No issues come up when I introduce my spouse as my wife.  No one even blinks an eye.  Now, finally, all marriages are recognized in Utah again.  Things have been bad there since the brief window where people married last December after a federal court ruling.  The state officials continued to fight against equality in increasingly nasty ways.  They are still trying to do so, but have to realize at this point that they really are on the wrong side of history.  Blessings to all my Utah friends today.  Your steadfast work in planting the seeds for justice is finally bring the harvest end. Congratulations!  I won’t fly back for the celebrations, but my heart is with you today.

Red, Blue, and Purple

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I recently moved from one of the reddest states, Utah, to one of the bluest, California.   One of the reasons I moved was so I could live in a state where my marriage would be recognized.  After almost 40 years together, it seemed like time.  Two of our three adult children also live here, and it makes my heart glad to be near them again.  There was also loss involved with the move.  Hardest of all was to leave a ministry and a congregation full of people that I loved.

So what does it feel like to have made this change?

On the GLBT issue it feels totally great.  I have noticed that while I still pay attention to the court cases on marriage equality, it is with much less emotion.  They aren’t impacting me personally anymore.  Utah’s Governor Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes can say all the hateful and bigoted things about GLBT people they want, but MY governor and attorney general are nothing but supportive.  So are my neighbors and random people I meet in the street and the supermarket.  Life is pretty good for GLBT people when the state is a blue one.   The weather here in California is also delightful.

I also think the move is going to be good for me as a minister.  I was beginning to feel very frustrated and almost bitter about Utah’s red state politics.   It wasn’t just marriage equality, it was also their failure to expand medicaid, their love affair with guns, and their total disregard for the environment.  I won’t even go into the corruption.  Their last two Attorney Generals are being indicted for selling their influence to the highest bidder.

It does not serve a minister well to wear frustration and bitterness underneath a robe and stole.  As a minister, I believe I must always serve something much greater than myself.  I must always hold up hope for the people and the community I serve.  I must help create a clarity of vision that is untarnished by any of my own personal angst.  That was becoming less possible for me in Utah.  I had done it for seven years; I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Since June 30, I have not been serving a congregation.  How different that has felt.  Even when I was on sabbatical, my heart and spirit were still entwined with all that was going on with the church that I would continue to serve.  I was still their minister.  This break has been different.  I haven’t been anyone’s minister for almost two months.

That is about to change. I will begin with a new congregation in less than a week.  It is in Berkeley CA, no less, one of the most liberal communities in this very blue state.  I am extremely excited.  I haven’t met any of them in person yet, just a video interview and a few emails, but  they need a minister and I believe that I can serve them well.  I am ready to love them and lead them as best as I am able.  In a red state or a blue state, people need community, they need comfort when they are hurting, they need meaning in their lives, they need laughter and music, and a way to connect to what is holy in life.  Life itself is sacred, but we need help sometimes to learn to live that way.   Our liberal religion of Unitarian Universalism offers all of this.

Red and blue when mixed together make the color purple.  Purple is a color that is associated with religion.  Lighten it up just a bit and you have  lavender.  It is not a menace but a dream.   Amen to dreams.

 

 

Returning

I haven’t posted in awhile.  Transitions are funny things; it is hard to maintain a focus when surrounded by boxes and you aren’t quite sure of the time zone.  We moved from Utah to California on July 1.  The furniture came several days later, and then on the 12th, we left for a long planned vacation to Europe.  Bad timing in some ways, but the trip was paid for before I decided to leave the church in Ogden at the end of June.

The house is coming together, but I don’t have my home office really set up yet and I don’t start at my new church until August 15th.

Changes.  New things.  Then again, it is also coming home, back to the house where we lived for 25 years and raised our kids.  Some of the old neighbors are still here as are some of our favorite restaurants.   Prices are much higher than Utah, for everything. California isn’t perfect, but it is so worth it to live somewhere my marriage is recognized without question, even by random people standing in line at the deli counter.  (You can’t get Molinari Salami in Utah, and my comment about that started a whole fun conversation about why I had lived there and why I left.)

More poetry will come again I know, but for now, I just wanted to explain my rather long absence.

 

 

Kate Kelly – Not Asking For Much

The same week that Kate Kelly was excommunicated from the LDS church, my congregation named me “Minister Emerita”, one of the highest honors that can be granted to a Unitarian Universalist minister.

They did this even though I am a woman and a lesbian to boot.  My faith tradition is not only open to the gifts that women and LGBT people can bring, we actually celebrate diversity in our ministry and in our congregations.

Kate was excommunicated, but frankly, she wasn’t asking for very much.  Although her group is called Ordain Women, ordination in the LDS church is very different that what it is in most other faith traditions.  Virtually ever 12 year old Mormon boy can be ordained into their priesthood.  Catholic women who are working for ordination want women to be in a priesthood that really has a special status.  The Pope has not excommunicated any of those feminists for their activism.

No, the Pope instead said last week that the mafia was excommunicated.

I don’t know Kate personally, but from everything I have heard, she is a fairly nice person and not a criminal by any stretch of the imagination.  Has John Swallow, the disgraced and likely to be convicted ex-attorney general of Utah, been excommunicated?  Will he be?  I doubt it and I also suspect there are many Mormon men who have committed serious crimes, including rape and domestic violence, that still have their temple recommends.

Patriarchy stinks.  It just does.

I have a lot of respect for Kate Kelly and the other women (and men) in the Ordain Women movement.  But if they get tired of beating their heads against the temple walls,  I hope they know that there are other churches that would welcome them with open arms, churches that would be grateful for the gifts of the spirit they have to offer.  We won’t ordain them, unless they attend an accreditted seminary, get a Masters of Divinity,  and successfully get through the intensive fellowshipping process, but the same is true for their husbands, brothers, and sons.

It is all about the difference between the love of power and the power of love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rape Culture and the Utah Modesty Police #yesallwomen

 

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Since the horrible murders last week in Santa Barbara by the  young macho terrorist who hated women, there has been a lot of discussion about “rape culture” and how it is getting worse.  Just check the hashtag #yesallwomen for literally thousands of comments and links to a multitude of blog posts.

Then yesterday a story broke here in Utah about how a local high school photoshopped some of the pictures of young women to cover up their shoulders and necklines.  See the before and after photos and article here.

This is another aspect of rape culture.  Women’s bodies are seen as merely sexual objects.  They need to keep them covered in order not to incite men to rape them. Like men simply can’t help themselves if they see a bare shoulder.  What a lie.  What an outrage.

Women should not have to cover up their bodies because of the fear of rape.  It doesn’t work anyway.  Even wearing a burka doesn’t work.

Enforcing “modesty” like the Utah High School did only makes the problem worse.  It implies that women can somehow be safer if they wear long sleeves and high collars.  It gives the misogynist an excuse to take a gun and shoot them down simply because they won’t have sex with him.  Women are not sex objects.  We are not objects at all, but human beings and our bodies are our own, to do with as we will.

It is time to fight back.

Holly Near sang it: Here

 

 

 

Two Utah Children Two Tragedies

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There were two more tragedies this week in Northern Utah involving young children.  A three year old girl shot and killed her 2 year old brother with a rifle that their father had left in the living room.  (news article) The family living room was transformed in an instant into a dying room.  It was clearly an accident, but the parents and especially this young girl will carry this trauma inside them for the rest of their lives.

A couple of days later, another child was run over in his own driveway by a relative who did not see him behind the car.  (news article).  The boy was apparently playing with other children in his front yard.

I do not want to bring more grief to the parents of either of these two children, but “accidents” like these two happen almost every week around here.  They are preventable. If parents have guns in their homes they need to keep them under lock and key, not sometimes, but all the time.  Don’t let your kids play in the front yard until they are at least school age.  If you don’t have a fenced back yard, take them to a park or keep them in the house.

Utah parents worry about school shootings, but so many more children are killed by accidents like these in or outside their own homes.  It is frightening how often they happen here.  When I was living in California, I only recall one instance of a child being run over in their driveway and  I don’t remember any who died playing with their parent’s guns.

For a so-called “family friendly” state, Utah needs to take a lot better care of the children.

Utah’s “gold standard” families can be very dangerous for kids.  I wrote about this same issue last December (here)

No, We Are Not “Fine”

Utah’s suicide rate has been consistently higher than the U.S. rate for the last decade. See the statistics here.

The number of drug overdose deaths – a majority of which are from prescription drugs – in Utah increased by 59 percent since 1999 when the rate was 10.6 per 100,000.  Our state is #8 in the nation in drug overdose deaths.  See more statistics here and here.

 

Utah culture is currently very toxic and frankly, deadly.  It is much worse for Mormons and even worse for LGBT mormons. How LGBT people are treated in Utah is appalling.  (See an article on gay LDS youth being thrown out of their home and forced to live on the streets – here) .

I did a sermon on this issue last week. Read it  here. If the LDS faith wants to continue to exist, they really need to address these issues and soon.  They say they support “traditional” families, but their families are currently being torn apart by suicide and by drugs.  Attacking other families won’t help them, it will only hurt them as they will also lose almost all of their GLBT members and many of the friends and families of LGBT people.  They need to look at their own culture.  This really is a crisis that faith alone will not solve.

Remember Love

I read this blog post by Myke Johnson this morning.  I needed it.  It was a good reminder.

“A young lesbian woman carried another poster that said, “Your signs are mean but we love you anyway.” No matter what happens next, such love releases an inner power that is indestructible. I think that is part of what Dr. King was talking about. It was visceral and immediate. By tapping the power of love through non-violent action, he felt first hand a new way of being in the world. He fully experienced his own dignity and the dignity of his people. After that, what else could matter? He had been to the mountaintop.”

Sometimes hurt, pain, and especially anger can get in the way of love.  Yesterday was a difficult one for me.  An article was published in our local newspaper about my decision to leave my ministry here in Utah and return to California.  One of my reasons for leaving is the lack of marriage equality in Utah.  Read it (here)  The article was fair , and I have a long and very good relationship with the reporter.

The headline read:

“Activist Ogden gay rights minister fed up with Utah, moves to California,” which set up a certain tone that I do not think accurately reflects my feelings about leaving.  I would have been happier if the words “fed up” were not included.  Tired maybe, sad definitely, but there is much about Utah that I love.  My leaving is about going to a place I will be happier, not escaping a place I hate.   I am not leaving in disgust, I am going home.  I also understand that being able to move is a privilege that is not available to everyone.  Many people have family here that they do not or cannot leave.  Most of our family is in California.   We have no relatives who live in Utah.  Other people stay here because of their jobs.  Ministry however, by its very nature, is a profession where periodic geographic mobility is the norm.   I promised the church I would stay five years, and I will have been here seven by the time I leave.  While some ministers stay longer than that, seven years is by no reasonable measurement a short-term ministry.  I know that I am very lucky to have the option of moving.

There was a video of the interview that was posted by the article, but most people didn’t seem to watch it.  Or maybe they did.  Virtually all of the people who actually know me, who had met me face to face and in person, expressed simple sadness that I was leaving.  They also understood that I was not disparaging the all Mormons by criticizing the actions of its hierarchy. Many faithful LDS people have the same opinions about those actions as I do.

It was people who don’t know me who felt compelled to call me a quitter, to say they were glad I was going, or to make disparaging comments about my weight.   I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I admit that it was painful.  Many of comments were just mean and almost all were anonymous as well.  I’d like to say to them, “Your words are mean, but I love you anyway.”  I, too, have been to the mountaintop.  I know that the Divine Spirit loves us all, just the way we are.  Would that we all could understand that, and treat each other accordingly, to treat everyone with dignity and respect, especially when we disagree.  I hope that my time and work here has served to bring that day just a little bit closer.  If that is at all true, I am well satisfied.

 

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Gender Diversity in Utah – Hah!

It is kind of hard not to fall on the floor laughing when you read Utah’s latest arguments against marriage equality.  (See NY times article.) Utah is promoting gender diversity?  Since when?  Are there suddenly going to be more women in state government?  How about in the LDS priesthood?  No, that would impact on the patriarchy.  They just want gender diversity in marriage and nowhere else where it might actually make a difference.

I think diversity is in general a good thing.  At my church we try to include both men and women in positions of leadership.  We also try to include people of differing sexual orientations and ages .  It is always good to have input from singles and couples, parents and non-parents, people who are abled bodied and people living with a variety of disabilities, immigrants and the native born, the financially comfortable and the struggling.  Bouncing ideas off of people with different life experiences usually leads to better, more thoughtful decisions on an institutional level.  I wish Utah would begin doing that, but I am not holding my breath.

No, they just want to mandate “gender diversity” in the very personal institution of marriage and the family.  They also seem to think that one’s gender defines everything about them, that men always parent one way and women a completely different way.   Don’t they know any families where the woman works and the man stays home with the kids?  Hmm.  Maybe not.  They should talk to some of those folks too.

Do they also really think all same gender couples have identical parenting styles?  My wife and I both identify as female, but if you asked our now adult children if our parenting styles were exactly the same, they would laugh at you.  (Click here to read our daughter’s toast at our recent wedding.)

There have been a number of reputable studies of children raised in same gender households (Click here for a report of a recent one).  While it is not scientific, our three children are all outstanding young adults.  We are very proud of them.  They are well educated, employed, and trying to help make our world a better place.  I am more than a little tired of a state that clearly does not really value children, despite its pretensions of being family-friendly, disparaging my family and my kids.  (Read my post on Utah’s “Gold Standard”)

For the Utah Attorney General to maintain that Utah believes in gender diversity is just a lie if it isn’t a joke.  Maybe if they did, we wouldn’t be having this discussions at all.  Institutions that do have real gender diversity tend to be much more accepting of LGBT people.  (see my post on the ordination of women and GLBT acceptance.)

Utah is a state dominated by a very patriarchal church.  By gender diversity they can only mean that they want to maintain rigid sex roles where the men “bring home the bacon” and the women stay home barefoot and pregnant, obeying  their husbands in all things.  That is the ideal family to them I guess.  They should then be just as concerned about the heterosexual marriages that try and function as equal partnerships.  Maybe that will be their next step.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid if they win.

It would be funny if it weren’t so heartbreaking.