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I've been to a couple of rallies protesting the passage of Prop 8 lately, and I have realized that I HATE signs that read something like "I'm straight but I don't hate" or Straight but not Narrow." Can't you just carry a sign arguing for gay and queer rights? Or even a sign like this? Do you have to somehow announce your A) straightness and B) broadmindedness in a way that suggests you're actually really afraid someone might think you're (gasp!) gay?

Second, I always feel vaguely disreputable and uncomfortable when people argue for the validity of gay rights on the grounds that sexual orientation is not a choice. This doesn't mean I reject the compelling scientific and personal evidence supporting the claim that sexual orientation is not a choice. I believe it's not a choice. I just think it should be respected as a choice, because even if orientation isn't a choice, deciding to pursue a relationship with someone of the same sex IS a choice--a completely legitimate choice, as far as I'm concerned.

I don't see why someone shouldn't be able to CHOOSE a same-sex partner, for any reason whatsoever. I think doing so should be about the same as becoming a poet or a vegan or a tuba player: OK, not choices most people make, but entirely respectable nonetheless.

The God Off

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You have GOT to watch "the god-off" on The Colbert Report from Tuesday, October 21. It starts at about 9 minutes. "the Word" section before it ("Fantasyland" is the word) is pretty damn great, but given that I've written about God getting his ass kicked, it's the "god-off" that really caught my attention.

The Other Saint Joe

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I grew up in the St. Joseph Stake, the 25th stake of Zion. When it was organized in 1883, its eastern limit was El Paso; its western limits were St. David, on the road to Tucson (which didn’t have enough Mormons to need any sort of church leadership), and Miami, AZ, on the road to Phoenix (which was taken care of by Mesa). Its headquarters were in Thatcher, the little farming town whose first white inhabitants were my great-great-great grandfather and his family. Still located on Church Street is the Stake Presidency Building, thank god--so many other important buildings in Thatcher’s history burned down in the 1980s due to faulty wiring installed by some douche nozzle, including the wonderful old church where I was baptized, and the administration building of the old Gila Academy, one of the first junior colleges built west of the Mississippi.

Because I grew up in the St. Joseph Stake, I knew exactly who St. Joseph was: Joseph Smith, the first latter-day saint, the guy who made it possible for me to grow up a saint. When I would encounter things like St. Joseph’s baby aspirin, I would think how nice and how strange it was that a bunch of heathen recognized Joseph Smith’s importance by naming their pills after him.

If Only This Would Work For Mormons

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I'm not a huge Sarah Silverman fan, but I loved this. And I loved the Great Schlep website. Its talking points on how to convince one's grandparents to vote for Obama are concise and intelligent.

I wish the plan would work for Mormons Republicans, but I don't think it will. One reason, of course, is something I mentioned back in a discussion of Mormon opposition to gay marriage: the message is now preached from Mormon pulpits that logic and rational thought are tools of Satan. So we'll just have to applaud our Jewish friends, and add one more reason to the list of why so many liberal Mormons suffer badly from Jewish envy.

Becoming a Christlike A***ole

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The other day someone explained the parable of the Good Samaritan in a way that made me see both the tale and Jesus Christ in a new way. This person asked me if I knew what that story really meant, and I said, "Of course," ever so mildly miffed that he'd think I didn't. And by the end of his telling, I realized that I'd always missed a good portion of what that story was all about.

Here's how he told it (with a little extra color from me):

A general authority sees an injured man lying naked, bloody and half dead by the side of the road, and moves his car into the far lane, getting as much distance as possible between himself and the unconscious, immobile wretch. Then a temple worker sees the same injured man, and likewise leaves the poor guy there to die. They don't even get out their cell phones and call an ambulance.

Then along comes someone that the general authority and temple worker would consider the dregs of society--an anarchist lesbian who works in a vegan restaurant, maybe--who sees the poor filthy, bloody man, stops, gets out the first aid kit she carries in her car, and does her best to clean and staunch his wounds. She doesn't have a cell phone, so she can't call 911; instead, she puts they guy in the back of her Subaru station wagon and drives him to an emergency room, where she agrees to pay all his expenses even if it turns out he doesn't have insurance, and she also promises to come back and visit the guy.

One More Reason to Love Buffy

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According to a study discussed in a story published last week in The Telegraph, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is inspiring women to leave conventional organized religion "because they feel the church is not relevant to their lives."

Wow.

Go figure.

Buffy didn't start this phenomenon--according to the author of the study, Dr Kristin Aune, a sociologist at the University of Derby, it began two decades ago, before Buffy was on the air. One million women, or 50,000 a year, have left their churches over the past 20 years. But Buffy helped show women an attractive alternative to religions that afford them little sense of the egalitarianism they value: wicca. Buffy celebrated female power, connection to the larger world of nature and spirit, and a disdain of hierarchies--all things inimical to traditional western religion. So they're bailing on it.

God Fought the Law, and the Law Won

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I’ve been thinking, ever since I wrote a response to that dreadfully illogical, dishonest, hypocritical document published by the church to explain its opposition to gay marriage, about struggles framed as a battle between the forces of god and the forces of who or whatever.

The thing is, god so often loses.

Several apt examples drawn from Mormon history:

Karen Armstrong on TED

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Thanks to Saviour Onassis, who sent me a link to this wonderful talk by Karen Armstrong:

It's her speech after winning the 2008 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Prize, which is

designed to leverage the TED Community's exceptional array of talent and resources. It is awarded annually to three exceptional individuals who each receive $100,000 and, much more important, the granting of "One Wish to Change the World." After several months of preparation, they unveil their wish at an award ceremony held during the TED Conference. These wishes have led to collaborative initiatives with far-reaching impact.

Armstrong's wish is for a "charter for compassion."

She rocks.

Pagan Moon Stuff

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Happy Easter, I guess. Not that I much care about the resurrection of Jesus these days, and I can't say I ever much believed in it, really. Easter just seemed such a second-rate holiday. It's supposed to be the holiest day in the Christian calendar, but it never felt convincing: Thanksgiving and Christmas were obviously so much more important, even though Thanksgiving was supposed to be secular and national rather than religious.

There were two things I always liked about Easter: getting a pretty new spring dress, and the way it moved around. Ever wonder how Easter is reckoned? Well, I learned long ago in a class on medieval literature. Easter follows the lunar rather than the date calendar, because people went on pilgrimage at Easter time, and they needed light to travel by, and the sun and the full moon were really the only things that provided much light long about the sixth century. So Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox--the vernal equinox bit being important because Easter supplanted all sorts of pagan spring festivals--hence the bunnies and eggs and such.

Easter this year is about as early as it can be. The equinox was Thursday; the full moon was Friday. The earliest it could possibly be is the equinox itself, if that were also a full moon falling on a Sunday.

On my mission I went to church one Sunday morning in March and wished the elders "Happy Easter," because it was Easter. They told me it wasn't Easter, couldn't be Easter, because Easter was always the first Sunday in April. I explained about the equinox-full moon thing, adding, "Go home and ask your families when Easter is this year. They'll tell you I'm right," but the elders informed me--foolish, misinformed girl that I was--that there was no way determining the date of a holiday could be so silly or arbitrary. They were ADAMANT, and of course I had no evidence to support my claim, because there wasn't a single mention of Easter in any of the lessons or talks that day. The country as a whole didn't pay attention to Easter (and why should a non-Christian country bother with it?) and no one but me cared about observing the progress of the calendar, so no one but me knew it was Easter--even though, as I say, it was supposed to be our holiest day, the day on which the miracle that justified our entire religion occurred, some two thousand years before.

Yeah. If I ever forget why I found my mission frustrating or why I gave up on Christianity, thinking about that always helps me remember.

Anyway, if you celebrate and enjoy the holiday, I hope it rocks for you.

The Best Time to Call a Do-Over

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I’ve been trying to figure out why I was so very upset by JGW's story about his friend’s threatened suicide--not that I think I had the wrong response; quite the contrary. I was just a bit surprised by the intensity of my reaction. It’s true that I’m often a big cry baby and that religious despair in particular upsets me, but I’m not always so tender-hearted that I can’t stop weeping over the suffering of some unnamed stranger. (Though I admit it has happened before. And something else that made me cry today is this, on MohoHawaii.) I know part of it is that I’m deeply worried about my friend R and her husband (as I mentioned yesterday, a tree fell on him while he was working in the woods around their house), who has been sedated into oblivion since Saturday (and will be for weeks to come), and who had spinal surgery yesterday so doctors could determine the extent of and hopefully repair his injuries. But I’ve also just been feeling more theologically and apocalyptically vulnerable lately, because I recently witnessed one of the signs of the end of days: my father acknowledged the reality of global warming.

When I was home for Thanksgiving we were talking about how ridiculously hot it was in Mesa this past year, where one of my sisters lives--it was 90 F on Halloween, and 80 as the end of November neared. “Well, it’s just gonna get hotter,” Dad said. “What with global warming, plus all those air conditioners running night and day, even in winter, and all that asphalt and concrete to soak up the heat and keep it hot all night.”

I stared at him. He’s right, of course, but it’s precisely the kind of statement he dismissed when I made it seven or eight years ago.

I have always hated the story of Noah and the Ark--really, really hated it. I was very young--three or four or so--when I first heard it via flannel board in junior Sunday school, and the pictures of all these normal looking people lying around dead everywhere while Noah rode off in his ark absolutely horrified me. God had KILLED them? Killed ALL of them? Because they’d done something BAD? What on earth could they have done that was so awful that god, who supposedly loved everyone, would kill everyone? Did they bonk their baby sister on the head with a wiffle ball bat? Wet their best frilly panties just before Church? Spill a whole bowl of Count Chocula on the living room rug?

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