Sunday, January 8, 2017

Warning: Controversy and Religion Ahead - Drive Carefully

I have come to the conclusion that there is no one religion that has all the knowledge, or more knowledge than other religions. Instead I believe that various religions have pieces of knowledge that others might not have. Or course there are some religions (cults) that don't have any knowledge at all and are merely the brain child of a megalomaniac who wasn't good at business. But even some of those, God will use and give knowledge to if they're willing to listen.

Most religions are striving to do the right thing. Their followers hear the small still voice. They serve with open hearts and hands. They follow God in whatever way they see Him/Her.

It would make sense to me, that if you are God, and you don't want to hand your people everything, but instead want them to strive for it, and you want them to learn faith and humility, and to work with others, that you don't give the entire puzzle to one group, who can then look down on others and use it against them in some way.

Instead it would be wiser to give out the puzzle pieces and hope that people will realize the importance of sharing and working together. It eliminates the "I'm better than, know more than, am chosen by God," mentality that would happen to one group holding all the pieces.

Sure, instead there are many religions who have that mentality. "You have to be wrong because I'm right and I speak for God". But it would perhaps be better to have several believe this and be wrong, than to have one believe it and be right, for then there would be no need for humility, for helping, or for sharing information.

I come from a church that has the mentality that they speak for God and that no other church has that ability. It is taught that when the leaders speak there is no reason to question. Personal revelation is fine unless it goes against what the leaders say. Those who leave are on the road to a sad fate.

But inspiration is all around. God speaks to all who will listen.And sometimes He/She gives different directives to different people because He/She has different plans for them. It doesn't mean that anyone is wrong.

We need to learn to work together and fit our pieces together, not fight about who's right and who's wrong and come to the conclusions that if someone claims they've received guidance from God that it has to be wrong because it's not what we would do.

Our souls rely on our personal relationship with God not on what others tell us to do. We don't need intermediaries between individuals and God.

Now that's not saying that everyone can do what they want. There are basic human rules that must be followed to live in a free and safe society. But as long as those rules are not broken, then we are each free to have a personal relationship (or not) with the one we call God, and we should not give that away by handing over our free agency to a church that tells us what to think and what to do.

Because if we eliminate God from our worship, and replace that God with men (or women) who dictate to us, then we have lost the whole point of humility and faith.

Many are leaving church now often because they no longer believe the one size fits all draconian rules of their religion allows them growth, relationship with God, or fills their needs.

And frankly it's sad to see churches close. The church has historically been the center of community and still is for many people. Churches can do great good. They feed the poor, offer social activities and opportunities, provide a place of worship, have programs that fill in holes in the community, offer a place of sanctuary, and connect people.

But the "we're right and everyone else is wrong and if you don't agree you're going to hell" rhetoric doesn't work anymore with a generation that recognizes free agency, the intelligence to think and has copious examples of  dishonest controlling leadership in every type of community and business, which makes them suspicious of everyone.

So instead of arguing over who has the most correct information, or shutting out those who have different beliefs, or having lists of criteria that a person must meet to be accepted into your group, why not just share the pieces we do have.

We may discover something wonderful.

Because not one of us knows the truth about the universe. We're all just stumbling along and trying to figure it out.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Feminism and the Change Room

I identify as a feminist. Which means that I can state an opinion even if other feminists don't agree.

I will probably be doing that now. So be aware. The following may cause steam to come out of your ears. Don't say I didn't warn you.

There's a lot of controversy about bathrooms right now. Basically who can go into what bathroom. This also includes change rooms.

Most of the feminists I have come across are in full support of men who identify as women having full access to women's bathrooms and change rooms.

Frankly, I am shaking my head over this.

Here in Alberta, the schools are passing through a ruling that would allow any boy who identifies as a girl, full access to the girls change rooms and bathrooms. As long as he/she says he's/she's a girl, he/she can go in, change where ever he/she pleases, and if a girl doesn't want to change in front of this boy, she has to leave.

That's right. If she doesn't want to change in front of the person with a penis, and there isn't a private change room for her, she has to leave. Even though that could cause her to miss her next class or be late for it, which she will have to pay the consequences for.

As for the bathrooms, we're not talking about private little rooms with full doors. No one has issue with that. We're talking about stalls, with openings top and bottom, gaps between door and stall, and often locks that are broken or don't work properly.

Now I'm not saying that all transgender people are perverts intent on hurting women. But I don't believe in the other extreme either - that they are all angels who would never hurt anyone ever. As far as hurting others, if transgender people really believe in equality, then they will have to admit that they are just as capable of wrong doing as anyone else.

I read a blurb from a transgender person explaining the fear they have using the men's bathroom. I've read about transgendered people being beaten up by men when using the men's bathroom. This is wrong. No doubt about it. Let me make this clear. No person should be beaten up for being transgendered. Not at all!

But why is it okay to ignore the real problem - like men beating up people. Instead the answer is to force women to share their accommodations with someone who carries a weapon.

That's right. If you have a penis, you have a weapon against women. And let's be clear. Not every man rapes women. In fact I would bet the vast majority of men in North America do not rape women. Yet we have still created separate bathrooms and change rooms for men and women. Why is that? Well, maybe because women don't want to change in front of penis bearers. Otherwise, why bother with any privacy at all? Why not just have open rooms of toilets and showers and just make everyone do their business in front of everyone?

I've seen the argument that men who think they're women are not attracted to women. But rape is not about attraction. It's about power. And transgendered people haven't had much power in the past. Now they have power over women, because they demanded entrance to women's accommodations, and they got it. Surely a woman who complains about this needs to be put in her place.

And interestingly, or actually typically, NO ONE HAS ASKED WOMEN. Really. Anyone been asked? Got a chance to place a vote? Nope, it's been a bunch of people with penises who have made this decision.

So what's feminist about that?

And I'm tired of the memes that tell women that there's nothing to fear. It's condescending. What right does anyone have to tell someone else what to fear? Rape is real. Voyeurism is real. Attacks on women are real. And even if most rapes are done by a man that the woman knows, that doesn't mean that there's no such thing as stranger rape.

So why are we taking down walls of protection as flimsy as they may be? Sure any man can follow a woman into a restroom or change room, but he's less likely to do it if he's afraid of getting caught. Now all he has to do is say that he's a female and the blame is then transferred to the complaining woman.  She's a hateful bigot. How dare she question him. So what if she's sitting on the toilet and she sees the guy through the gap eyeing her. He has every right to be there, because he says he does. So what if he looks over the top to watch her shower naked. It's her problem for not being open and saying "here I am."

As for the claim that there are no incidences of men taking advantage of the situation, all you have to do is a google search and there will be several examples.

There's also the controversy around a boy who claims he's a girl and started using the girls change rooms at his/her high school. The girls were not comfortable with the situation, and staged a boycott. Which is their right to do so, since NO ONE ASKED THEM IF THEY WERE WILLING TO CHANGE IN FRONT OF HIM. Some of the comments I read around this from people were basically telling these girls to shut up and calling them bigots.

We are back to telling women to shut up and just accept it.

So let's be clear. If you don't want to change in front of a penis bearer, or have one walk in on you while you're changing, and if you dare to speak up about it, then you are a bigoted homophobic who hates everyone.

And let's be clear about this. Although the statistics are something like 1 in 3 women will suffer sexual abuse in her lifetime, and although women have a right not to be sexually abused, standing up for yourself and saying "I'm not comfortable having men in the same locker room" is not okay. You have the right not to be abused, you just don't have the right to protect yourself or other women.

Let's also be clear about something else. And I admit that I don't have statistics to back this up. But if "only" 5% of rapes are stranger rapes, and "only" 33% of the population of women are raped, and women make up "only" 50% of the population, I think that's still more women who are raped by a stranger than the amount of transgendered people.

There's a lot of women in this world. Women who were born women and aren't identifying as anything else and don't want to and can't even hide the fact that they're women even if they tried.  And yet, the tiny minority is dictating to a majority and demanding that all these women cater to the needs of a few.

And lets be clear too, this teen was offered other accommodations. In fact private accommodations which any girl would happily have - and he/she TURNED IT DOWN. Lila wanted to share the change room with the girls.

Which shows he/she's not thinking like a girl.  And although he/she's demanding compassion from the girls who are standing up to him/her, he/she shows a complete lack of empathy for the situation he/she's insisting on putting them in and instead is playing the victim.

Let's be clear again. NO ONE IS ASKING WOMEN.

Even a lot of the memes directed towards those hateful bigoted women who don't want to get naked in front of penis bearers, are either transgender, or men.

That's right. Men are weighing in on this issue and basically telling women to shut up and suck it up.

See, that way they don't have to have transgendered people in their bathrooms.

Lets face it, if men are beating up the men who dress as women, they're going to beat up the women who dress up as men. So no one will be using the men's rooms because men beat people up.

Women don't. Women are known for being caring. We want everyone to be comfortable. We want everyone to have a place to pee and a place to change. And as it turns out, there's a group of women who have no problem giving up their private places to ensure that. Because we're trained to bend over backwards for everyone's comfort. Which is noble, and lovely and praiseworthy. But it is often to our detriment.

So because men beat up people, everyone else is in the women's bathrooms and change rooms, either minding their own business, or ogling, or running around naked and not caring one little bit if this is hard for women. Let's not focus in on those men who are beating people up. Let's instead focus in on women and shame them for their feelings.

But as long as transgendered people feel safe, that's all that matters. Women's feelings on the matter and especially rape victims, are silly and misguided and they should just get over themselves.



Saturday, March 26, 2016

What the World Needs Now...

From an old sixties song:

"What the world needs now, is love, sweet love,
It's the only thing that there's just too little of..."

It is the Eve of Easter Sunday. Over two thousand years ago, people wept over the loss of the Lord Of All. His body wrapped in the tomb, His messages of love and hope, quieted. The promise of the King that would rescue them gone.

He could have rescued Himself as they arrested Him, tormented Him, humiliated Him, tortured Him, and yet, He didn't bring forth the powers that allowed him to raise Lazarus from the dead, give sight to the blind men, heal the sick, and bring hope to a downtrodden people weary of the poverty and the violent world they lived in.

He was born to a young girl unmarried and a virgin at the time of conception but betrothed to a loving man who willingly took Him as his own.

We know little of His childhood, but we can assume that Mary taught Him love, scolded Him when He needed it, and showered Him with hugs and kisses often. She would have showed Him compassion as she helped her neighbors and those with less, and took care of her other children. He learned at her knee, while doing the household chores, while taking care of younger brothers and sisters, while listening to her words and watching her actions. She could not have done this if she thought of Him as her God, for she needed to raise a man. Raising a God would be too overwhelming.

Joseph too, would have taught Him love for he was a loving man. He would have taught Jesus acceptance and gentleness, and He would have taught Him the hard work of being a carpenter. The painstaking and artistic beauty of carving something from the materials that God had given. The need of creating something serviceable and beautiful. The fairness of trade. The value of money. The spirit of generosity.

His spiritual leaders would have taught Him how to read and write, the words of God, the rituals of the Jewish faith, and the needs of the people.

His friends and neighbors would have shown Him the lives of shepherds and fisherman, rabbis and teachers.  He would have seen the examples of the poor and of kings, all names that he adopted as His own.

And His Father in Heaven would have taught him the rest.

He took all that He was taught and showered it upon the people, giving them three great commandments:

Love God.
Love your neighbor.
Love yourself.

Those three commandments take care of everything.

But there were those who saw Him as a threat and before long He was nailed to a cross leaving His followers wondering why He didn't rescue Himself. If He could perform miracles, which they had all witnessed, why didn't He perform a miracle for Himself? They needed Him. He was their rescuer, their superhero. Why didn't He break the nails and climb down from the cross?

Even worse, He cried out to His Father asking why He had been abandoned.

But there was no rescue for Jesus. He did not step down from the cross. No angels came to save him. And now He lay alone in the tomb.

It wasn't until the next day, Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, that the answer came. Not only had He risen from the tomb, He had risen fully intact except for the marks of the nails and spear to prove who He was. It was another Mary who saw Him first and ran to tell the others who didn't believe her.

We still grapple with the implications of this. The gift He gave us which we do not fully understand. The ability to finally cheat death. That death has no meaning but is just a doorway to eternal life. The grace of forgiveness. We do not understand it. We have theories. We have those who can't grasp it and therefore reject it. We overlook the pain he suffered in Gesthemane, paying for our sins because it doesn't make sense. We focus on the suffering on the cross even in some religious communities reenacting it in efforts to understand what He went through. But we can never understand what He went through. He did it so we wouldn't have to.

He stepped down from the cross, intact, whole, greater than He was before, reclaiming His rightful place, changing the crown of thorns for a crown of eternal glory, one that He shares with us all, if we choose to accept it.  We don't even have to understand it. We are just asked to embrace it.

And yet, we still ignore His three great commandments. We live in a world where we blow people up, and blow people out. We call each other degrading names, and forget to love people as ourselves. We follow leaders who preach hate and revenge. We stomp people down to raise ourselves up forgetting that it is by raising others up that we raise ourselves. We put money ahead of people claiming that it is all ours. We say "I did it all by myself" without recognizing the people who helped us along the way and hold us up. We complain about the poor even though Jesus loved the poor. We are suspicious of the "other" even though Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan - the other. We look down on those who rely on the help of people even though Jesus relied on the help of people for food and lodging. We look at people who serve as menial servants while Jesus taught the nobility of washing His followers feet. He taught us Love.

We have been given the key of happiness, and instead of using it we throw it away, looking for a different key and trying the same ones over and over again, never finding success and blaming God for our failures when we have been told and shown what to do.

And although we can each do our part in embracing His commandments we can't do it all alone. We need each other. We can't do it "all by ourselves".

What the world needs now is love...

Book Review: The Penny Whistle - B.J. Hoff

Okay, I admit it.

This stupid little book made me cry.

It didn't just make me cry a nice little tear gently sliding down my face. It made me sob.

I'm blaming menopause.

Because this little story (and it is a very small book, readable in a sitting), about a teacher and one of his young students in the depressing little coal mining town of Skingle Creek can't possibly be that touching.

Young Jonathon Stuart is loved by all his students but the combination of someone stealing his much loved flute and his ongoing heart problems has taken away his music and his desire to go on. He can feel death right around the corner. Music and his gift for playing it, especially his flute had brought joy to him and allowed him to share it with others. It gave him strength when he was tired. Now it was gone.

Young Maggie is smart and perceptive and frightened by what she is seeing. So she gathers the other students around to devise a plan to give Mister Stuart his music back. But more pressing needs arise and the plan goes awry.

Interspersed with this is the gnawing poverty that this town suffers from. Before the time of safety standards and social assistance, the men descend into the coal mines before dawn and come up after sunset, never seeing the light, being paid meagerly, and having no place to shop but the coal owners store. It's back breaking, spirit stealing, health depriving, dangerous, poverty living and there is little room for anything else.

But the spirit of Maggie and her best friend Summer, manage to overcome this and are able to find meaning in such a mean existence, even when tragedy strikes, stealing from Maggie much of her joy. Yet in spite of her grief, she is still able to find a way to give to Mister Stuart something he had lost, and he in turn was again able to inspire his students.

This is really a lovely inspirational book. Some might call it sappy and sentimental, but if it is, it's done well.

B.J. Hoff is a well known Christian writer and has many books to her credit.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Review: Patchwork Mysteries #1: Family Patterns - Kristen Eckhardt

In this first book of the series Patchwork Mysteries, we meet Sarah Hart, a widow who makes her living taking in borders and restoring antique quilts. And she likes to solve mysteries too.

The first mystery revolves around her grandmother Molly, who disappeared in 1920, when she was a young married woman, leaving behind a husband and six year old boy.

Molly was never found and her husband lived with the towns suspicion for the rest of his life, many convinced that he had murdered her.

When Sarah's twelve year old twin granddaughters discover a hidden passage in the family home, it leads them to the quilt that belonged to the six year old boy - her father.

While Sarah restores the quilt for her father who now resides in a nursing home and is suffering with bouts of Alzheimers she discovers clues to the mystery of Molly.

This mystery honestly had me stumped. I can often solve them before the protagonist, but this one I couldn't. However I would add that the author cheated a little. Sarah had information that wasn't given to the reader. Still even with that, there were clues that could have left the reader to jump.

My other complaint and I have this complaint with any author that does this, is characters who have names that begin with the same letter. In this case there's two sets and they will all be part of the regular series. Sarah's twin granddaughters are Amy and Audrey - yes I know people often name twins like this, or they give them rhyming names, but not all the time. It would have been better to give them completely different names. I had to keep checking to see which one was which.

The other problematic set is her best friend and neighbor Martha, and her daughter-in-law Maggie. Both names are similar and have been around for a long time and don't give clues to age.

So authors, if you are reading this, please watch what you name your characters.

This is also a book put out by Guideposts, a Christian publication, so there is references to Christianity, however I did not find it heavy handed. Sarah utters a few prayers, there's one unlikely coincidence that can be chalked up to the hand of God, and a few mentions of a church, but it was all well done and not over done. Still this might be a problem for some people. In which case they shouldn't read inspirational fiction. 

Fortunately I like inspirational fiction and although the mystery is tied up, the problems of the characters aren't, which makes it real. 

Sarah herself is a likable character. And I also enjoyed the attention given to the restoration. I never knew before how it was done and it was very interesting and meticulous. I would never want to restore an old quilt - I prefer creating a new one - but I can appreciate the artistry that's involved. It can be very painstaking. It's not too often that I learn something new from a cozy, and I found this fascinating.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Book Review: Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy - Barbara Johnson

Think Erma Bombeck from a Christian Ministerial position.

If you are an atheist you'll hate this book. It's simply not for you. Just letting you know up front.

Barbara is unabashedly Christian and she preaches from that stand point. Her gospel is about spreading joy and finding humor in adversity (something I find personally a great way to get through things). She knows heartache and she shares it in this book.

Her husband suffered a car accident so severe that he was never going to be much more than a vegetable. He fully recovered. But it was a trying time as she had to figure out how to raise their four sons alone with a severely disabled husband.

Her eldest son was killed in action during the Vietnam War.

Son number two was killed a few years later in a car accident.

Strangely even these events didn't do her in. Her biggest challenge was son number three who announced to her at Disneyland in the mid 70's that he is gay.

Okay, this is a pretty funny chapter as she explains her reaction and how she started viewing everything and everyone. Suddenly everything was shouting at her "homosexual" as the Disney parade went by.

It sent her into a tailspin where she went into a severe depression and thought of it as worse than the deaths of her two oldest who were "deposits in heaven." Her son also disowned them and stayed away for eleven years cutting all ties which was another trial. It caused her to set up "Spatula" a help community for parents of gay children.

Now to be fair, although her experience and viewpoints will upset many people, at the time it was the 70's  and into the 80's after the aids scare. At the time the "gay lifestyle" which she was so afraid of was pretty real. Unprotected sex in bars. Promiscuity. It's not a lifestyle that parents of straight kids want their children to be involved in when they've raised them to find a good spouse and settle down.

Her heartache is real even if it isn't politically correct in these times.

But through it all she never rejected her son and prayed for him to come home.

She also shares her "joy room" a place where she collects the bits and pieces that people send her to express joy. It's a neat idea if you have the space.

The book is also filled with quotes that inspire her.

Barbara passed away a few years ago from brain cancer. She thought it would be her diabetes that would get her.

If you can set aside your own prejudices and remember when it was written (1990), then this is an enjoyable book. Not as funny as Bombeck, but definitely a woman who found joy.

Book Review: The Little Books of Why: Why a Star? - Bodie and Brock Theone

Lessons learned while lying with her mother under the stars, a story of when Brock and Bodie were ten (they really were childhood sweethearts), and astronomy all tie in with the star in the sky at Jesus' birth.

Bodie is an expert in tying real life experience to bible stories and their meanings. In this small book (80 pages), she doesn't ignore science, but instead integrates it into faith and belief, looking at science and religion as two sides of the same coin.

She even attempts, using science, to explain how it was possible for this special star to appear in the sky at that time.

In the end, it really is about seeing signs and interpreting them as proof that God exists. Of course there are those who don't see it that way, but for those, no sign will ever be proof.

Book Review: The Little Books of Why: Why a Shepherd? - Bodie and Brock Theone

Out of the three Why books I read (there are four), this one is my favorite.

Bodie tells us of her experience as a kid being a shepherd as her camp vacation. In it she goes through the different challenges and responsibilities a shepherd has to the sheep. There's a lot more to it than just lying around.

When you understand what the responsibilities are it becomes clearer what Christ's responsibility is as the shepherd and the meaning of Psalm 23 (The Lord is my shepherd) as well as the parable of the lost sheep.

She does it beautifully going step by step through her responsibilities of taking care of the sheep in the pasture which to most of us is a foreign experience, to the responsibilities not only of Christ's people, but of all people. When the parables were told by Christ, ordinary everyday things and experiences were used so the people could understand. Now it takes a little more effort to understand the deeper meanings that a surface understanding doesn't quite explain. Most of us will never have the experience of being actual shepherds.

I found the book thoughtful and gave me a few ah ha moments.

Book Review: The Little Books of Why: Why a Crown? - Bodie and Brock Theone

Bodie and Brock Theone (pronounced Tay-nee), are a prolific wife and husband team of inspirational historical fiction. You can't go into a religious bookstore without seeing their books.

This series of little books (80 pages) are intended as one sitting inspired writings to help understand God and His ways better.

In this one. Bodie is really the writer of these books as she uses her real life experiences and ties them into biblical stories and her understanding.

In this book she uses the story of the Garden of Eden extensively, as well as Jesus' last day wearing the Crown of Thorns. Of course the theme of the crown comes up repeatedly for the crown has had great symbolism throughout history.

My only complaint about this book (bearing in mind that I don't necessarily come to the same conclusions that the Theones do), is that at some points they quote chapters from their upcoming (at the time) books. It sometimes felt like a book used to sell their other books. Which is an interesting marketing ploy. Write a little book to sell a bigger book.

But other than that I found it interesting - especially for those like me who are learning different ways to look at religious beliefs and symbols.

Book Review: The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch

An accomplished professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction and Design at Carnegie Mellon University, and happily married father of three young children, Randy received the devastating news that he had terminal pancreatic cancer when he was in his early forties.

It is tradition for retiring professors to give their "last lecture" and this is Randy's.

Instead of focusing on his death sentence, he instead focused on his life lessons.

This is a truly inspiring yet non-religious book. He states up front that he won't talk about religion.

But he shares the rules he's lived by and how he achieved his various goals, which included being in zero gravity and working in the animation department at Disney.

One of my favorite stories in this book is a trip to Disneyland when he was a boy. He and his sister decided to spend ten bucks (this is 1969 so that was a lot of money for a kid), on a salt and pepper shaker set in one of the stores. At one point they dropped and broke it. Devastated, they went back to the store and told the clerks what happened. The Disney people gave them a replacement. When they told their Dad the story, he from then on, made sure he visited Disneyland often and rewarded his employees with trips to the park. His father ended up giving Disneyland more business than the ten dollars they gave up.

The point of the story was to be generous. Not because you expect something, but generosity does multiply.

The book is filled with inspiring stories of how he got to where he is and helping those along the way.

Sadly, Randy wasn't able to achieve his goal of surviving cancer and died not long after his lecture even though he appeared to be in perfect health. However he talked about how he lived his short but accomplished life.

The biggest heartache for him was leaving his children without a living father. Which shows that in spite of all we accomplish out there in the world, what really matters is family, whatever that is for us.

This is a really nice gift book especially for someone who is about to embark on a new page in their life.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Where Do I Belong?

Not sure where I fit in anymore. Obviously not with the church. And frankly I can't drum up the hate to fit in with many ex-Mormons either. I get why there's anger, I just don't feel it that intensely. Not that there isn't things that get me riled up. It's just that I don't see evil or bad intentions every time a Mormon friend says hi or drops off a gift or states an opinion I don't agree with. Nor do I feel the need to mock everything about Mormonism. I still like a lot of LDS artists and writers. I have no desire to throw out all my LDS fiction, nor my Greg Olsen print of Jesus. I still find humor in Mormon people poking fun at themselves (which they're pretty good at). In fact I cringe at the nit picking that I find ex-Members indulge in. 

I don't fit in with atheists. I can't deny spiritual experiences and I find them condescending towards believers. I don't fit in with born agains. I find them condescending too and demanding that everyone believe what they believe. I'm not completely against abortion in the right situations but I'm not completely for it and find it grating lately that there seems to be a celebration of it. I still cringe at profanity although I don't want to censor anyone but it seems like a teenage rebellion thing when I read some ex-members posts and they throw around swear words simply because they can and not because it really adds to what they are saying. Now I realize that's a cultural thing for me, but I guess that's part of my culture.

I have no desire to become drunk or even experiment with alcohol. The devastation it caused my childhood was more than enough for me although I do like my coffee.

And part of me is torn. On one hand I want to continue writing about LDS subjects because it was over thirty years of my life, and there is the hope that what I have to say might help someone, somewhere. But there's the other part of me that says "really, now they're claiming that hatred towards children of gay parents is a direct revelation of God? I don't care anymore because it's just so stupid. They can do what they want. I can't change anything about them. I'm outa here."

But "I'm outa here" leaves me completely alone.

Book Review: Mainely Murder Mystery Series #1: Homicide at Blue Heron Lake - Susan Page Davis & Megan Elaine Davis

Homicide at Blue Heron Lake (Mainely Murder Mystery Series #1) 

When newspaper reporter Emily Grant returns to the family cottage on Blue Heron Lake to make it ready for possible sale, she doesn't expect to fall for Nate Holman, her high school crush, all over again. She really doesn't expect to discover not one, but two dead bodies on the peaceful island lake.

This is an inspirational murder mystery romance. So nothing hot and steamy, but there is a lot of grappling with Emily's past regarding her now dead step-father, as well as run-ins with former high school aquaintences.

Plus there's the threat of a conservation group that wants to buy up enough land to be able to rid everyone of their cottages (which I don't quite understand how that can happen).

The writer does an excellent job depicting life on a summer lake. It makes me wish that I had had that experience on a regular basis (I once was invited for a week to someone's summer cottage - and I loved it). It's a different world. Can you get nostalgic for something you've never had?

I did find the main character judgmental of another characters faith journey. But I guess that's to be expected in inspirational books where it's the main characters beliefs that are right and everyone else is wrong. Except for that annoying quirk, Emily is likable and capable.  

Nate Holman is a romantic character. He and his mother own the marina general store where they rent boats and deliver the mail. He's strong but not controlling. And he's in love with Emily, as he's always been.

The murder mystery was fine although I felt it wasn't quite finished. I would have liked to hear from the murderer. 

But really I was sighing more over having a cottage on a lake than about anything else.

Other books in the series

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Book Review: The Red Gloves Series 1: Maggie's Miracle - Karen Kingsbury

Maggie's Miracle (The Red Gloves Collection #2)
Eight year old Jordan has a simple request for his busy lawyer mother - address and mail a letter from him to God.

When Megan opens the letter she discovers the request is for a new Daddy, a request that Megan feels is impossible to give. After her cold marriage to a man many years older which ended in his death from a heart attack, she feels no need to try again. However she does discover a program for Healing Hearts, a way to provide Jordan with a male mentor.

Meanwhile, Casey is still in grief from the death of his wife and baby two years earlier. He deals with it by jogging, but one day he sees an ad for Healing Hearts, a program that puts adults together with grieving children. Maybe it's just what he needs.

Karen Kingsbury is a well known inspirational writer. This is a quick Christmas book - it can be done in an evening. As with many inspirational books there's no such thing as coincidence. All the seemingly coincidental occurrences are because God is in charge so you can get away with a lot more than a secular audience would accept. And we pretty much know what's going to happen in the end, because that's what romantic books are about.

Still it is heartwarming. I find the writer tells too much. Perhaps because she wanted to get all the information in a short book. But there's lots of background stuff that could have been handled differently. It's all stuff we needed to know, but it could have been done better. Flashbacks for instance, or mentions in conversation, instead of "this is what happened".

She does a good job telling the story from three different viewpoints in third person. Especially Jordan's viewpoint which really does sound like a young boy.

Still, I think this story would have been more powerful, if it had taken it's time and showed us instead of told us.

Other Red Glove Books

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Sky You Were Born Under

Last year I started a book called:
A Writers Book of Days: A Spiritual Companion and Lively Muse for the Writer’s Life – Judy Reeves
It's set up with a writing prompt for each day. I made it through the first month and then quit, because I'm a flake or something. 

Anyway, I thought I would start if up again in February, and in the meantime occasionally give you a taste of what it prompted me to write before I got lazy. Besides, I'm drawing a blank on what to write about today. So here's a bit of poetry. I would say enjoy but that would be arrogant.   

The Sky You Were Born Under (after Joy Harjo)

by Anna Maria Junus

The sky you were born under,
Left you open to abuse,
And to being undervalued,
Because you are a girl.
The sky you were born under,
Told you who you had to be,
And who you had to listen to,
In order to be loved. (But not truly loved.)
The sky you were born under,
Made you wear certain clothes,
And speak a certain way,
So as not to entice men, (but still wanted you to attract them).
The sky you were born under,
Turned you into a sex object,
Yet demanded virginity,
And still expected motherhood.
The sky you were born under,
Cut off your wings,
And restricted your brain,
But, if you can ignore,
All that you were taught to hurt you,
You can grow back your wings,
And unleash your brain.
The sky that you were born under,
Is the sky that you can soar into.

Monday, December 28, 2015

I Wasn't Invited

Christmas time is a time of colored lights, scrumptious food, diet breaking baking, foot-sore shopping, and mostly family.

For many people who have left the LDS church, it's also a time where they feel left out. Often family members and friends no longer invite "apostates" to gatherings, and those people then go on social media and vent about how horrible their families are to them and how all members are these terrible judgmental ogres who should slowly die in boiling pots of Christmas punch. (Okay, I made the last part up).

And so I thought I would write a check list about why someone might not be welcome to a party in an LDS home. Now, bear in mind, this is not victim blaming. There are truly people out there who are not welcome in their family simply because they left the church. Frankly, there's no excuse for that. Family is family whether you believe the same things or not and it is no reason to ostracize someone who believes differently.

But I also know that in every family, there's the person who for whatever reason, makes themselves unwanted at a party. We can't change other people, but we can change ourselves. So let's take a look at several possible reasons. Now be honest with yourself.

1. Perhaps religion has nothing to do with it. Have you been unkind to people? Do you comment on their weight, their finances, their politics or tell them they have horrible kids or in any other way cause them to feel bad about themselves? Do you tell dirty jokes, fail to shower, or insist on kissing people on the lips? Do you bring your dog/hamster/cat/snake along even though there are people who have allergies or phobias? Do you try to convince people to join your MLM? Do you try to sell them insurance. Do you hit people up for a loan? Have you committed a crime against anyone?  Are you a possible danger? Is there something that you're doing or have done in the past that would make someone uncomfortable with you, or even hate you? There are many reasons why a family member is not welcome at family events, and religion is probably one of the far lesser reasons.

2. When you go to an LDS home do you mock the beliefs of people there? Do you roll your eyes when the children perform the Nativity? Do you make snide comments about God, Jesus, or the church?

3. Do you expect your LDS family members to change who they are for you? If they have always said a prayer before eating through all the eons of time that you've known them, do you think they should stop because you are there? Do you complain about the "silly" traditions or laugh at the artwork on the wall, or sniff at the reading material on the coffee table? Do you demand that people stop talking about Jesus?
Even if you don't outright say anything, does your demeanor or actions give you away? LDS people are not blind and can sense when you are disdainful of them.

4. In conversation do you refer to God as "your imaginary friend" or the "flying spaghetti monster". Do you call people who believe in such things as weak or stupid? Frankly if you're going around calling people weak or stupid for not believing as you do, then why would anyone invite you to the party or want to spend time with you?

5. Are you a party villain? Do you call people out and start fights? Do you byob to a Mormon home and get drunk? Do you make fun of games or activities that are planned? Do you hand out copies of your self-published book "Why Mormons are Stupid and Other Well-Known Facts". Do you tell all the kids that Santa doesn't exist and neither does God?

6. Is it possible your partner is someone who does any of these things?  Maybe it's not you. Maybe it's the person you're with who is making people uncomfortable, unloved, stressed out, or unwelcome. After all you can't invite someone and tell them to leave the partner at home.

7. After the party/gathering do you go on social media and vent about how awful all these people are and the horrible things you had to endure - like the nativity that the children acted out and the prayers at the table, and the angel on the tree, and the sing-along of religious songs at the piano? Do you say how stupid your relatives are and how you have superior knowledge and how the world would be a better place if everyone were like you? Sure, they may never find out that you said these things, but frankly, you're probably not that great of an actor and they figured out that you felt that way while you were at the party. Especially when you replaced the phrase "round yon virgin" with "big fat promiscuous teenage girl" which frankly doesn't even fit in the meter of the song.

So if you've gone through this list and can honestly say that you don't do any of these things, and you're still not invited to the party, I am truly sorry. Please ask your family why you're not invited. There might be a reason that's not listed here. Or it just may be that they are jerks and leaving you out because you are an apostate and they're terrified that just having you in their presence would make it catching. 

If that's the case, then I can only suggest to let it go. You could create your own celebrations. Invite who you want. Throw your own parties and have new traditions. Call it "Festivus" or "The Great Flying Spaghetti Monster Fling". Serve what you want and act out what you want and just have a great time with or without family members. You can claim Christmas back.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

No Room at the Inn

Quote from my 18 year old son - The way I see it, if we save 25,000 refugees and 200 people die because 10 of those refugees are terrorists, then we still saved 24,790 people. - Carter Wight

The last couple of weeks, at the beginning of this Christmas season, there has been much upheaval in the world. The bombing of several cities and the deaths of many, the requests for asylum for refugees, the suspicion and and hatred of Muslims, and in the LDS church the leaked information that the children of gay parents will not be officially welcomed into the fold.

Everywhere, people are saying "there's no room at the inn."

My sister D posts links claiming that Canada can't even take care of its own and so in this vast country that is wealthier than most, we have no room. The refugees will take from the poor. The refugees will take from the middle class. The refugees will take from me.

Is it really that we can't take care of the poor, or is it that we don't? Is there not enough room and to spare in this enormous land of ours?

I see it among my American friends too. There is fear. What if we let in those who would harm us? Better to turn them all away. Say there's no room. Lock the doors. Let them take care of their own out there in the cold.

When Joseph showed up knocking at the door of the inn, he could have been a danger. He could have been hiding a weapon under his cloak. Mary may have only been posing as a pregnant woman. They too might have been the terror that grips in the night instead of a young couple looking for a place to stay. Thank goodness that one inn keeper, even though his inn was full, still found a place for them.

On a much smaller, quieter scale, it was discovered that the LDS church created a policy, intended only for the eyes of bishops and stake presidents, that would ban the children of gay members from receiving baby blessings, baptisms, ordination to the priesthood, and opportunities for missions. The leaked information which again, was never intended for the world to know, caused leadership to scramble and make amendments to the original policy which affected families who had listened to counsel in the first place when the church told gay men to marry straight women as an effort to cure them which resulted in failed marriages. And so the church clarified the policy by stating that it was only for those children who lived with their gay parent and it was all intended for their own good because apparently, gay people and their children, are not as capable of making decisions as their straight brothers and sisters.

The clarification assured the membership that the church loves ALL children, even though they are creating a separate class of kids who can only watch baptisms and not recieve the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Boys who can only watch on the sidelines as their friends, some who had been drinking the night before, one who is a drug dealer, and another who is having a sexual relationship with his girlfriend, pass the sacrament. Young men who will have difficulty getting dates with the Young Women in their stake who are counseled to only date boys with the priesthood. Eager young men and women who would like to serve missions but can't because they live with a gay parent.

It is obviously a way to get rid of the gay problem. What gay parent who loves his/her child is going to stay and watch as the place they once loved turns their child into "other". Even if it means that they have to leave their community, their church, their friends, and their family.

It is a way for the church to say "we have no room at the inn for you or your children."

I watched in dismay as decent people supported this, claiming that these men spoke for God. It's easy to not have to justify your own prejudices and bigotry when you can blame God for it. When you can say that God says so. You don't have to be accountable for your hatred. If you can hand over the responsibility to a group of men you don't have to listen to your brain or your heart and the courage of your convictions comes in the form of this group of men. You won't hear the still small voice because you don't have to. You can squelch your conscience. You can claim superiority because you are following those who claim to follow God.

As adults we should take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions. We should not be pointing at men and saying "they say it's from God" as a way of justifying our uncaring responses.

These same people fight to make sure their own children are not labeled as "other". They post memes about acceptance for autism, deafness, race, downs syndrome and other instances where a child might be an outcast or difficult to accept. Yet for the children of gay people they claim that if the leadership says to exclude them, it must be so and that they will be valiant and do what is right by supporting the exclusion and saying "there's no room at the inn."

One person who's Facebook post was circulated criticized those who left the church over it by claiming that you don't just quit when things get tough.

But quitting is a viable option. We quit abusive relationships and marriages for our own well being. We quit jobs when something better comes along. We move away from cities, give up hobbies that no longer feed us, change directions when we discover we're going the wrong way, or quit one college major when we discover that we are better suited to a different career path. We quit things when they no longer work. Quitting is an important part of life and knowing when to quit is part of that eternal progression to higher paths. Quitting one thing opens the way for greater things. Joseph knocked on many doors, quitting each one when he was rejected, so that he could find a place for Mary.

"But it's for their own good," the argument whispers and sometimes shouts. We've seen this before. We saw it in slavery - "it is for their own good. We've taken them from their backward land." We saw it in denying women the vote. "It is for their own good. Women don't need to bother about politics. That is a headache for men." We saw it with the Jews in Germany whose very existence was a threat to good Christian people. It was for their own good that their businesses be taken away and that they be rounded up and cared for. We saw it in the Japanese internment in Canada, when they too had their homes and businesses taken away and they were put in camps for their own protection.

Even more scary we have seen what people have done and continue to do, in the name of God. Witch hunts, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, holy war after holy war, 9/11, the Taliban, Isis, and Paris. It's more scary because it's hard to reason with someone who believes that they speak and act for God even if it means that they wipe out entire villages as in the Old Testament, turn in their Jewish neighbor, or tell a child that they are not good enough for baptism, or even decide that a baby does not deserve a name and a blessing in the church of her family.

We've seen this all before. Again and again and again. "It's for your own good." "We do this in the name of God." "There is no room at the inn."

There's no room at the inn.

There's no room at the inn.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Family

 Hi Anna, Like you I'm a progressive Mormon thirsting for something better. I enjoy your blog. I was asked to speak in church this Sunday about "The family a proclamation to the world". If you could speak about it what would you say? Have you written about it? What would Jesus say about families? For someone who is going through a faith transition is very difficult for me to speak in church. I would appreciate your input. Thanks. Regards, Shelly.

I received that message just days ago and unfortunately didn't have time to respond before her talk. But I am flattered that someone asked my thoughts. Usually when I give advice I get "Oh Mom!" or "Yeah, I know that, Mahmm", or the dreaded "Motherrrr" (accompanied by excessive eye rolling). Thank you Shelly for asking. By the way, I don't even know Shelly. I'm being asked by a complete stranger! Which is kind of cool. On the other hand, maybe that's why I'm being asked. She doesn't know who I really am.

So even though my response is a little late I thought it would make a good blog post. Here it goes.

First off, I would remember who my audience is. Members don't come to church to have their faith ripped apart. They come to hear words of encouragement, fellowship, and to worship. This is not the time to be saying that the proclamation is all wrong and that everyone who believes in it is crazy. Nope, not a good beginning at all.

In fact, I would just ignore the proclamation and focus on the family part.

I would likely start with the pre-existance. I would talk about the War in Heaven and the Plan. How Heavenly Father and Mother wanted each of us to have free agency and make our own choices. How Jesus was willing to offer himself as the way back home and how Lucifer wanted to take away our choices and force us all to come back. I would say that it was likely that Lucifer fought very hard to have it his way and that it caused such upheaval and chaos that he was given the choice, to come down to earth to receive a body, or to leave altogether, not get a body, but be the leader of his own realm. He chose to leave and since that time has tried to entice and trick others to follow him. Of course our Heavenly Parents knew he would do that and decided to allow it, because of free agency.

I would then go into how the family is our first community, our first government, our first social experience, our first love and that the family is the core for all of society. It is within family that we should be able to grow, learn, love, and feel safety. I would also add, that families are imperfect and it's these imperfections that allow us to learn. I would say that families come in different ways and sizes. That we are born into, married into, adopted into, or even just welcomed into family and that no one should define what our family is or isn't.

I would say that our Heavenly Parents love us as we are. That they don't set out tiny boxes to fit their glorious children into. That our spirits are bigger than those small boxes that the cultures of our world have created. That we are to expand on our own personal gifts, whatever they may be, and not be held back by gender roles, racial identity, or other man made traditions. That we are all to strive to be like Jesus, strong, kind, loving, and that Jesus did not establish that women had to be one way and men another but that we should all be like Him.

I would suggest that we do not rush into marriages and that we choose carefully and when we establish marriages that we remember the commandment to "honor our father and mother" and not leave them out of the wedding ceremony no matter what beliefs they hold that may be different from ours. That we start our marriages with inclusion. That important family members not be left out. That marriage is the godly union between two people at its core, but it is also the joining of two families. That if need be we hold our marriage ceremony in a place where all can attend and hold a sealing ceremony privately at another time. God attends ALL marriages and doesn't limit Him/Herself to grand and expensive buildings that leave people out.

I would tell couples that it doesn't matter who stays home and takes care of the children, as long as the children are being taken care of. Sometimes, if the woman is making more money in a satisfying career, it makes more sense for her to continue to do so. I would also add that having children is a choice that each couple makes and no one should tell them what to do.

I would tell women that education and a career is important. That we never know what might happen. Yes, being home with children is also important and no one should feel less than for choosing to do that, however anything can happen. Death, divorce, illness or unemployment may require a stay-at-home mom to leave the home and find employment and no one hires someone who doesn't have employable skills and a recent work history. She needs to have a trade or a degree and have some of her time devoted to being in the work force.

I would also tell fathers to come home. Even if it means they have to abandon their church callings, because their first calling is to their family. I would tell families to prioritize their lives. Really put family first. Jobs and careers are important because they are needed to take care of family, but everything else is flexible. Spend time with family. Come home at night and don't leave it to your wives to raise the children alone. Forgo the unpaid second job at church and instead concentrate on really giving. Giving to your wife, to your children and to your community. Involve your children in your service projects and charity work. Take time to have fun. Don't turn everything into a "lesson". Lessons are learned naturally, not out of manuals. Let your children see more than a suit going out the door or sitting on the stand. Have them help you do chores. Go golfing, go camping, go swimming, go to the theatre, the ballet or the game. Let them see you read, cook, sew, and even cry. Let them see and know you, not the suit.

I would also tell families to take back the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a gift from God for rejuvenation and relaxation. It isn't about replacing one work day for another. If we're emotionally and/or physically drained from Sunday, if we dread Sundays, if Sunday is a battleground, if Sunday is another work day (just different work) then we are doing the Sabbath wrong. We can still go to church and keep God in our sabbath, but we can also enjoy the gifts that our Heavenly Parents have given us. Take back the Sabbath and spend time with family, or spend time alone, or spend time with friends or do all of it. I would say that we don't need to have others define for us how we should relax and rejuvenate, but that we exercise our free agency and do what is right for the individuals in our family.

I would tell parents to love all their children, even the ones who are different, the ones who are rebellious and the ones who have their own paths to travel and I would remind them that God loves all His/Her children and continues to bless even those we think are not doing the right things.

I would tell parents that being gay is no reason to turn your children away. That many gay youth have committed suicide because they have been rejected or feel hopeless. That if we love our children we will love them, not just when they are what we want them to be.

I would tell parents that if their adult children leave the church, it does not mean their children are leaving them. I would tell them that those who leave still deeply love and respect those who are in the church and it hurts to leave. That we shouldn't jump to conclusions that our children have lost the spirit, want to sin, have been offended, want things easy, or are just rebellious.  It means that their children have different paths to follow. I would suggest that instead of trying to "fix them" by telling them things they've heard all their lives, that they take the chance and ask to hear what their children believe. I would remind them that we can not agree with everyone's choice, but we can support their choices. That the war in heaven was fought so that we would all have free agency and that with holding love, and berating our loved ones for not doing/thinking/believing the same way as we do, is not the way of Heavenly Father and Mother. I would say that we were all sent to different lands, different cultures, and different religions. That we were trusted to learn and make good decisions and I would also point out that not every decision is right or wrong. Sometimes the paths in front of us are all right, they just have different challenges and experiences, but they all lead home to God. I would tell parents to embrace all their children and let them know they are welcome home, no matter what they believe or how they choose to live their lives. I would also remind them that if they make their children feel unwelcome, then they will lose much for their children will leave them and take with them their own children.

I would also warn parents against labeling children as failures simply because they leave the church or are inactive. I would instead ask them to focus on the accomplishments of their children. Are they kind? Do they help other people? Do you enjoy their company? Are they taking care of their loved ones? If so then you have done your job. You have created responsible caring members of society. The rest is up to them.

I would also warn against unrighteous control and abuse. That those two things have no place in family relationships. That we don't allow others to abuse us and that we don't abuse others. That we can lose our families with those behaviors. I would remind couples that they are equal partners commissioned with the responsibility to take care and teach Heavenly Father and Mother's children and I would remind children that they are to respect their parents, even in their old age when they may or may not be able to make their own decisions.

I would remind everyone of Jesus' commandment. Love thy neighbor as thyself. For in that commandment there is no room for abuse or unloving controlling behavior. 

And I would end with "Love. Just love."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Brigham's Destroying Angel: The Life, Confessions, and Disclosures of Bill Hickman - William Adams Hickman

Told by the destroying angel himself, Bill Hickman exposes what really happened during the reign of the Mormon churches bloodiest prophet.

Hickman is not a writer. Initially he comes across as an ego maniac, bragging about his conquests as he relates how he killed a mountain lion or a wild boar when he was a kid, all by himself.

It sets us up for what is to come. The brutal murders under the direction of Brigham Young. Yes folks, according to Hickman, although Young never actually killed a man, he was the godfather of the wild Mormon west.

It turns out that Young did direct Hickman and others to do some killing for him. "Use him up" was the phrase even if there was no kissing involved.

Hickman also paints a picture of a man who expected everyone to give money to him but was reluctant to pay for services rendered.

Actually the more interesting parts of the book are the clearer explanations given by the editor. As J.H. Beadle points out that "Mormonism is sanctified selfishness" citing the belief that men with many wives (which leaves some men with no wife), will inherit the earth and lord it over everyone else.

Beadle is also careful to footnote some events and provide background information that supports what Hickman states.

Hickman tries to make us feel sorry for him when he's left without his ten wives, tries to take children away from one of his wives (because they're his and she's married someone else) and ends up in poverty, out of the church and friendless.

Not feeling sorry for him. 

This is a fairly quick read, and it does no favors to Brigham Young.

Book Review: Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet - John G. Turner

This is a thouroughly researched, heavily footnoted, and balanced look at Brigham Young, second prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

It's also a little dull.

But I managed to slog through it. It suffers from what many history books suffer from. Interesting history told in a factual but dry way.

BY was no angel. He was a misogynist, bigot, control freak, hypocrite and had a mouth on him like a sailor. Hardly the image that current Mormons like to present.

He married woman after woman without thought for their well being. Made himself not just prophet but also political leader of Utah, and although Turner doesn't out right say it, there is some question about whether he was behind many murders that were committed, including surprisingly Joseph Smiths.

One of the more interesting stories is the one with wife number 19, Ann Eliza Young, who was brave enough to divorce him, sue him for alimony (which he refused to give) and then went on tour telling the truth about polygamy. She eventually wrote a book about her experiences none of which made Young happy. Hey, if you're going to be cruel to your wife, force her into poverty then can you blame her if she makes money going on tour to tell the truth to an audience who is eager to hear the inside story of polygamy?  Especially when she lives in a time where there aren't that many options for women.

Young also came up with the United Order. He encouraged members to give everything to the church and in return they would receive back according to their need. However, he wasn't willing to do the same. It would have meant giving up mansions and businesses which made him wealthy.

I always suspected this about BY even when I was a devout member. He would make his daughters make everything they used but he would send to the other side of the country for goods he wanted.

The Mountain Meadows Massacre happened on his watch. His rhetoric of blood atonement caused a stir and his laws created suspicion of all who were not members led to one of the worst blood baths in the history of the U.S. It is unknown if he gave the go-ahead to the perpetrators, among them his adopted son John D. Lee (the only one to be executed over it), but according to Lee he approved of the action after the fact and years later when the law was seeking justice he did what he could to cover it up.

Turner did not set out to assassinate the character of a good man. Instead he set out to present an honest portrayal of one of the most influential men of American history. The fact that Young does not end up looking good, is not the fault of Turner.

Book Review: Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape - Jenna Miscavige Hill & Lisa Pulitzer

Jenna Miscavige Hill the niece of current leader David Miscavige grew up in Scientology. Her parents, members of the Sea Org, the organization within the church, willingly handed her over to the church while they served wherever the church sent them.

Jenna explains the billion year contract that she signed as a child to belong to the Sea Org, the years of child slave labor and little education, and the complete control the church held over her family including when they could visit each other, for how long, where everyone in the family lived (it's normal to have a husband and wife in different places and the children somewhere else), communication (all communications are read), what they wear and what they own (which isn't much since they're not paid, the church provides room and board).

It appears that there are three different groups within Scientology. The regular members who live life out in the world and have little to do with the workings of the church ; the Celebrity group who receive all the benefits and perks while promoting the church; and the worker bees who are told they are the leaders, The Sea Org, an almost military part of the church where even children are members for a lifetime, and another lifetime, and so on and so on.

What is astonishing is that the church can get away with child slaves, for the work is grueling as they force young children to dig ditches and build buildings while neglecting their education. All education is geared towards working within the church where when they grow up they will put in long hours and receive almost no pay.

The other stunner is the celebrities that support this while they live their lives of luxury. John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Kirsty Alley, to name the most prominent.

This is a heart breaking story and as more and more information comes to the surface from former leaders who have left, unequivocally true. It's also a really good read and hard to put down.

Perhaps in an effort to end the child labor problem the church has cracked down on Sea Org members and is preventing new marriages and forbidding babies. It's expected when a young woman gets pregnant that she get an abortion. It was the final straw for Jenna who managed to get away.

This is not just a weird church. This is a dangerous organization.

Interestingly, one of the things they believe is believed by many other churches including the LDS one. They are the only ones with the truth and it's their job to spread it until everyone has the truth.

Yeah, that sounds so familiar.

Kudos to Jenna for her bravery in telling the truth.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Pirates of the Deseret or Mutiny on the Bountiful

An LDS conference or two ago, one of the apostles talked about the church being a boat that everyone needs to stop rocking because otherwise you’ll end up swimming with the sharks. Okay, that’s not exactly what he said, but whatever it was it reminds me of the song from Guys and Dolls “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat.” That song and the Hughes Corporation “Rock the Boat" which I can't get out of my head right now. So I'm giving it to you.

Just recently self-proclaimed LDS expert Krista Cook took the concept and turned us all into pirates. I have no idea how Krista Cook became an LDS expert and what her credentials are, or where you go to school to get that doctorate, but there it is on her blog so it must be so. Interestingly, in one of her blog posts she criticized LDS “pundits” for proclaiming that they’re experts. Hmm, sounds like she’s a little sore that she has to share the title.

Let me make something perfectly clear. I am not an expert in anything. Even if “anything” was something identifiable, I would not be an expert. I don’t claim to speak for God, nor for the LDS people, nor for anyone but myself. I just have ego enough to write a blog and the imagination to believe that anyone is reading it.

So because I have brought up her name and this blog post references her blog post about mutinous pirates, I will link you to her. It’s only fair. You can choose to read her or not. Just come back to me. Don’t abandon my ship just yet.

Okay, so now that you’ve read her, it’s my turn to jump aboard the pirate ship or jump off it or jump somewhere. 

Ms. Cook accuses those who have become disillusioned with being mutinous. Well, you know what? Sometimes there’s a reason for mutiny.
  1.  When the captain is crazy
  2. When the captain is disobeying orders from his superiors
  3. When the captain is going the wrong way
  4. When the captain has the wrong maps
  5. When the captain is abusing his sailors
  6. When the captain has lied about the agreements made and withheld important information
  7. When the captain is about to smash against treacherous rocks or go over a waterfall or glide into an iceberg
  8. When the captain is on a power trip and won’t take any advice from anyone, even the experts who are meant to advise him
  9. When the ship is falling apart due to the foundational materials not being solid
  10. When the captain becomes a despot
  11. When the captain creates rules that harm the sailors and other passengers
  12. When the boat is sinking and the captain insists that everyone sit down and quit rocking the boat.
So you see, lots and lots of reasons to mutiny or abandon ship.

One of the biggest is when you get on board believing that the ship is being guided by reliable compasses and maps created by the greatest map maker in the world, only to find out that the directional materials were actually created by an ego driven con man who made stuff up out of a hat. He created maps that made no sense, had longitude and latitude in the wrong places, built land masses where there were none and moved others to weird locations. He was indeed talking out of his hat. 

Further Ms. Cook mentions a contract that all sailors signed. What she fails to mention is that for some sailors, they signed the contract at eight years old, hardly mature enough to be signing contracts. Others signed contracts only later to find out that important information which should have been in the contract was purposely left out, information that may have stopped them from signing the contract. Now that hardly seems fair, does it? But then I guess we're talking pirates and they don't need to play by the rules.

Many things were not discovered until later, long after contracts were signed and the ship set sail, such as the crazy map maker, the ugly uniform that you don’t know about when you board ship but later have to wear even if it's uncomfortable and unbearably hot in the summer; the hours of time and money that’s demanded; the leaky vessel built with substandard materials; the unequal ways that people are treated based on gender, race, gender, economic position, gender, nationality, gender, sexual preference, gender, family and friend relations, gender, residential location, and gender; the censorship demanded even in private life; secret handshakes and passwords required to be in the ships special club; the punishments inflicted on those who have different ideas or opinions; the outrageous spending at the captain’s table and his quarters while some sailors go hungry; and the captain and his officers who don’t have a clue but will do anything they can to retain power including demanding that no one ever question them and throwing those overboard who do.

There’s also the lie that  the Great Ship Bountiful is the only boat on the sea. That there are no other boats to be found anywhere and the only other option is the shark infested waters.

Actually, there are lots and lots of boats in the sea. Great huge cruise ships far larger than the Bountiful, little tugboats, sailing ships, motor boats, war ships, boats that are just for partying and boats that go out to rescue other boats. Sure, some boats are bad nasty pirate ships that promise adventure and leisurely living but are instead commandeered by an octopus face bent for hell. And some boats are well meaning but extremely strict and don't let the sailors have any fun. Some boats treat the women sailors as slaves and regularly beat and torture them. And some boats are completely lost and going in circles.

And then there are other boats where people are nice and help each other and have good maps and a decent captain at the helm, and they won’t kick you off if you don’t agree with them all the time. They drink coffee and tea and play cards and have wine with dinner instead of Kool-Aid and the women can go swimming in bathing suits that show their shoulders and knees. Some of these boats
even have female captains and no one thinks that’s wrong or weird because they know that the Great Cartographer loves and trusts women.  Those boats actually like to travel in packs and help each other and the people visit back and forth all the time.

Plus, the water, although it does have sharks in it, is not shark infested. There’s also lovely porpoises, and friendly dolphins who like to keep a lookout for those who are barely swimming and need some help.

The reason so many on the great ship Bountiful are not aware of all these other boats, is the fog machine that the captain and crew have working day and night. Every now and then the fog gets a little weak and someone has a glimpse out into the water and sees light, and they tell everyone, but no one believes them and calls them names and accuses them of causing trouble.

Ms. Cook also states regarding the mutinous sailors, “Sometimes they persist in walking the plank or scaling a mast, just for kicks.”

Well, hardly. Those scaling masts are not playing around. They’re looking for the lights of the other boats. They’re trying to see above the fog the machine is creating. Those who are on the plank are looking for people in the water who need help. Or they know about the boats and are thinking of jumping out to go to them, but they’re afraid that if they abandon ship they will never see their family again. And what Ms. Cook sees as taunting or creating trouble, is actually the people who have seen the leaky ship for what it is, warning others about the bogus maps, the rotting timber, the weak steel, and the lights out there beyond the man created fog.

Ms. Cook is all for the other sailors shoving people off the boat. Which is hardly sporting. After all if someone feels the call to leave, wouldn’t it be better to gently help them to another boat without recriminations and assure them that they are still loved? But instead, she wants them all thrown overboard, which is nasty considering she thinks the water is infested with sharks. She gleefully envisions them being swallowed up by the sea instead of taken aboard a friendlier boat. 

By the way, the sharks that are around, are there because the captain and the crew keep throwing them meat.

As for me, I managed to find a life raft and I’m scooting around looking for a friendly ship to take me aboard where I will feel like I belong and have something to offer. I like coffee and tea and playing
cards and I think a nice boat where women are equal and people help each other, even on the other boats, and no one is threatening to throw you overboard would be lovely. Especially, if they have the correct maps and are going the right way and they are strong and sturdy and made from the best materials.

Because the Great Ship Bountiful just isn’t it.