Friday, March 20, 2009

My Final Thoughts on Prop 8 aka Gay Marriage

Friends are beginning to want to debate Prop 8 with me more and more these days as they discover my blog. People sense I’m angry, but wonder where I really stand on the issue. Rather than send long emails that say similar things to everyone, I thought I’d lay it out here and address the bullet points most often brought to me. Hopefully, this will be my final word on the matter and I’m not really interested in debating it any further, not because I’m narrow minded but because it’s exhausting and I’m not going to change and neither are you so let’s just move on. I completely admit everything I state here is my opinion. I’m not an expert on anything.

My guess is the Church will cling to this issue until they’re the last ones standing. By then, most people/states/governments will have grown to accept gay marriage leaving us as the last to come around. This is what I mean by a “black eye”, a principle that we cling to beyond a logical breaking point, only to regret later. Now, you may say we don’t regret polygamy or not giving blacks the priesthood until 1978, but I would argue we would all rather not have those still so glaringly in our history. Earlier adoption and conformity of those issues would have saved us many many headaches from a PR perspective. You can’t deny today’s church has tried desperately to distance themselves from those “black eyes”.

To answer my friend Jason’s questions directly: Yes, I wish the Church had not spoken out so aggressively (let’s be honest, they led the charge) on the issue. For whatever reason abortion, marijuana, cloning, you name it has not provoked the Church to action like this in the past, but gay marriage has and I believe the motives were financially based. I believe the Church is claiming spiritual reasoning, when really they are afraid of being sued and losing their license as a charitable organization if they aren’t in step once it’s passed. That, to me, is like using God and Godliness as reasons to start a war and we’re living with the repercussions from that twisted logic now (W, anyone?). It’s playing to one’s spiritual sensitivity to progress your own secular agenda. Just be honest and say “our reasons are politically motivated and we could use your help if your interested” instead of promoting it as a moral obligation. It isn’t like one day in ‘78 it was bad to be black and the next day it was ok. Those decisions (I can’t really call it a revelation because it clearly wasn’t) are motivated by other forces. My feeling is the church was finally ready for blacks, not that blacks were finally ready for the church. I think we’ll eventually make similar moves with gays.

And, I get that we aren’t the only Christian church fighting this fight, so it will make for a sea change in culture for everyone. However, we are putting ourselves out there as the leaders of the pack and, therefore, opening ourselves up to the most criticism.

I don’t see why the church can’t allow marriage to happen legally, but not allow it in our churches. We do it with baptism. Another church’s baptism is not recognized as being “legal” to us. We also discriminate when it comes to the temple. You have to obey a strict set of rules for entrance and most members can’t even do it. We perform civil marriages for members all the time that aren’t worthy or ready for the temple, so what’s the difference? You might say it’s because this couple is gay, well wouldn’t it also stand to reason that the couple who isn’t gay and wasn’t worthy for the temple has some stuff in their closet too? Is homo immorality worse than hetero immorality? It shouldn’t be.

I think eventually, and I’m talking a long time from now, we may reach this level of acceptance. While I personally wouldn’t care if gay couples could attain full fellowship and get sealed in the temple, I get that they probably never will or not for a while, much like women getting the priesthood. It just isn’t how it’s done ‘round these parts. What I don’t get is any one of us would say that if gay members or non members wanted to attend church and fellowship with us on Sunday that we would welcome them with open arms. So, why is it different if it’s a married couple? Don’t we welcome anyone and everyone and then maintain the temple recommend and worthiness interviews as the great equalizers? Remember the sign in front of the building – “Visitors Welcome”.

Of course, all of this is assuming gays actually WANT to become Mormon and be married in our church, which isn’t likely to happen. If you were gay, would you want to be Mormon and feel like an outcast all the time and have no one to identify with? Anyone seeing a ton of blacks in our churches these days? There aren’t many and it’s because of our very late adoption of them as equals. We pose very little attraction for blacks (this breaks my heart, btw) and we wouldn’t with gays either. You can say “but the truth is attraction enough”, but my response is, when you make the truth as unappetizing as we do/did for blacks, they’ll find their own truth somewhere else.

So, if anyone has an example of a gay Mormon married couple wanting to actually attend church, please let it be heard because my guess is they don’t exist. So the arguments that “if it’s approved we will have to perform gay marriages at church” falls flat because there isn’t even a demand for that as long as gays are not deemed worthy or treated as equals. And if the demand increased, then who cares if we do marry them when we say we would welcome them otherwise? Marriage is different than baptism.

Another one I get is, “if it’s passed then gay marriage will have to by law be taught during Sex Ed class in schools and I don’t want my kids subjected to that”. Tell me how that is different than learning about any other culture out there or even Evolution? If you think that learning about gay marriage is going to turn your kid gay, then you’re just a complete fool. Besides, the class isn’t going to be on “Gay Marriage”. The class (or chapter even, no child takes an entire semester of “Sex Ed” or “Marriage”, it’s more of a section) is going to be on marriage and should address all kinds of marriages. At most, they might learn about the history of gay’s fight for equality, but that shouldn’t be different than the civil rights era. It’s a part of our nation’s history now.

The one issue I won’t get into is “but the bible/prophet said so and that’s the same as God’s word”. If that’s true, God and I will have to agree to disagree on this one. The God I believe in doesn’t feel this way. His “followers” who perpetuate this attitude are just gravely confused.

The final argument I get is “if we don’t stop it now, it will eventually be an issue in all states, including yours” to which I respond “bring it on!” Believe me, I would like nothing more than to represent the Church how I see fit by marching with these people, donating my time and resources, protesting, calling people out, whatever it takes to give everyone their basic human rights. This is going to pass eventually. Understand that now and let it sink in. Pretty soon, probably in the next 10 years, gay marriages will be performed nationwide. You may think you want to be the last regime fighting against it, but, as a fellow member of your church, I don’t want to be at church with you if you are because I’m already tired of apologizing for our other “black eyes” and I don’t need another. It’s probably already too late, unfortunately. The damage has been done and our history of apologizing isn’t strong.

And finally, understand that gays aren’t sinful aliens that need to be exterminated. They’re human beings looking for the same thing as everyone else, to love and to be loved, they’re just geared differently. Some people have fetishes for opposite races, foreigners, tall, short, fat, athletic, blondes, whatever and it feels natural to all of us. This is no different. We don’t like being discriminated against for being Mormon, let’s not do the same thing to others.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lost Gem of the 80s #15: Level 42 - "World Machine" (1985)

This one holds a special place in my heart. When my family first moved to England in the summer of '91, this was the only cassette we could all agree on. So, it stayed in the player on repeat for that whole summer.

Level 42 has always been much much much bigger in the UK than the US. Like, sell out Wembley Stadium big. Here, they're one of those 2 hit wonders, but most people only remember one. That hit was "Something About You" which has the added misfortune of not being recognizable by name. So, no one remembers the band name, their albums, or the song until you sing a few bars (Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over" has the same problem. You have to say the "Hey now, hey now" part before the light goes on.). The good part is, once the light does go on, it's usually followed with a "yeeahh, I remember that song" and a smile slowly creeps across their lips.

The band is made up of the two-man core of Mark King (bass/vocals) and Mike Lindup (keyboards/backing vocals). Their sound has always been this amalgam of African rhythms and percussion mixed with jazz and expert pop. King, who looks a little like Alton Brown, is an expert bassist and utilizes that thumb slap method, which you can hear in all their stuff. Lindup is fine on the keyboards, but his real strength, and an underappreciated gift to all mankind, is his singing voice. It's this beautiful high falsetto that is the perfect compliment to any song. I dare say, he may be the greatest back-up singer in the history of recorded music. Every song is given weight and made better by his voice. Every one. It's one of the world's most amazing instruments.

World Machine was their sort of coming out in the states, the first thing they released here that got any attention. And the album is deeper than just that wonderful single. "Leaving Me Now" is one of the great love songs of the 80s (be sure to get the version on this album, and not their greatest hits package, Level Best. That album cuts off the final piano-played coda, which is the best part.) "The Chant Has Begun" really showcases their African influences, and "Hot Water", the follow up single to "Something..." that went nowhere, is them on full tilt. That monster bass, the spastic percussion, and the righteous horns all come together for a major good time. Incidentally, all of these were hit singles in the UK. Here? Nada.

Truthfully, every 80s music lover should have Level Best in their collection. Not only will it bring back memories, but it's the sort of stuff that manages to put a smile on your face. And, the follow up album to World Machine, Running In The Family, might even be more consistent from beginning to end. But, this one has the sentimental value. Plus, it has that song!

Nugget: "Leaving Me Now". Seriously, that piano!

Monday, March 9, 2009

This Week In Mormons In The Media

It just got ugly out there, folks. Another rough week of stuff done to us and stuff we've done to ourselves.

First off, apparently "Big Love" is going to be showing a temple ceremony in an upcoming episode complete with temple clothes and rituals and everything. I would post the link or photos that are out there, but I'd rather not fan the flame. Needless to say, this is extremely hurtful. I'm completely against censorship and all for artistic expression, but I feel this is one of those times where it's really meant to provoke and make us look stupid. Figure this, a group of people gathered in a boardroom somewhere and decided to do this and knew that it would be salacious. They probably thought they would "blow the lid off" something. It isn't journalism and it certainly isn't respect. It's sensationalism. Whatever your feelings about the church, you would have to agree that showing our most sacred rituals is a bit like playing film of your parents having sex on the nightly news. It's inappropriate and it isn't fair. Why do people take such pride in knocking us down?

To their credit, the church has taken a higher high road than I would have ever imagined. In an official statement you can read here, they basically say these things happen all the time and, while we don't like it (not to mention it goes against the agreement HBO made with the church when the show first started), it doesn't seem to do long-lasting damage to the church. We get this stuff thrown at us all the time, and we're still standing. That's an amazing stance because I feel more like starting something on fire or picking a fight.

If you want to write in and complain (or encourage, it's a free country), you can go to this site to make yourself heard. I've always watched "Big Love" and kind of enjoyed it. Sure, the line between the real church and the polygamists is often fuzzy, but I still found most of it fascinating and the actors are excellent. We don't currently have HBO and I'm thinking now I'm going to have to forget about keeping up with the show in the future. Not just because I don't support it, I also don't want to see it.

Good ol' Chuck brought to my attention (via Perez Hilton, of all places) a recent study by Harvard in the Salt Lake Tribune that Utah leads the nation in people who purchase online porn sites per capita. In fact, the study showed that the states with the highest numbers were also among the most conservative and outspoken on issues like same-sex marriage.

You know, I'd like to fight against the stereotype that religious people are really just hypocrites because it never seems fair, but it's information like this that makes it hard to defend us. And, you can't sit back and say it's all the nonmembers that are looking at porn. Clearly, that won't float. To quote Bill Cosby, "Come on people!"

Here's why Utah is in this situation.
1) Obviously, the Law of Chastity constricts all kinds of sexual activity, and that's a good thing. The natural downside of strict rules like that is going to be curiosity and rebellion. It may be natural, but it doesn't make it right. People are finding ways around the Law and, I'm sure, rationalizing it to themselves by saying "I'm not technically cheating, so I'm still ok." Maybe not, but that doesn't mean you aren't a scumbag.

2) No strip clubs in Utah. There may be one or two somewhere, but, for the most part, there isn't a way to blow off that steam. Again, I see this as a good thing. But, again, if you oppress people they'll find alternatives for their desires, especially ones as strong and crippling as sexual ones.

3) We ARE hypocrites! It's so easy to do your pious thing at church on Sunday and then be as demented as you want in total privacy. The privacy factor is a big one. Members love to put up a front, especially in Utah. It's survival of the fittest over there and your standing in church is connected to your standing in the community, the money you make, the clothes you wear, the car you drive, and your Stepford Wife's new boob job. Utah Mormons like to think they're the example of a Zionistic society that can be reached with righteousness and discipline, but what they're really doing is not being honest with themselves about life and the world and their own challenges getting through it. Utah wants to be California so bad they hurt! The article would also have you believe the numbers are skewed because of a large youth population, but are they not responsible for their actions as well?

So, cut it out! If you're one of these people, quit being so selfish! We love to stop gays from getting married, but no one can stop us from some good old porn? If this is you and you're reading this, you're an ass. There's no excuse, especially if you're married with kids.

(Note: When I googled "Big Love" to get a photo, for some reason one of the sites was Thomas Dolby's blog. Yeah, as in "She Blinded Me With Science" Thomas Dolby. Check it out because, apparently, his wife was an actress in the film playing at Temple Square. Crazy.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jimmy Fallon His Face

Ugly. Not car wreck ugly, but maybe “not-so-pretty girl at the prom with salsa dribbled all over her dress” ugly. More, “that’s a shame” than “that was lame”.

I don’t think I ever watched Conan from beginning to end the entire time he was on, but I’ve already watched the first two Fallon’s and they seem pretty unsaveable. The blame does not fall squarely on him, however. Jitters are to be expected, especially from someone who can wear his heart (and butterflies) on his sleeve. The problem was how unfunny the whole thing was. Nerves you can overcome, bad writing has a stench that lingers.

Jimmy is someone you want to root for. He seems like a nice enough guy, hip in a slightly nerdy way, so he may be given a grace period that grants him an entire first season. Conan and Kimmel got off to memorably bad starts as well before settling into their own brand of wack. Jimmy may do the same, if he lasts that long.

There are a couple more big problems.
1) He doesn’t seem to have much talent as a stand-up comedian. I don’t know much about him, is that where he got his start because it doesn’t feel natural on him. His monologues fall completely flat (there’s that stench again) and the clever bits thrown throughout the show tend to misfire. One skit had people from the audience on stage to lick something for $10 bucks. Not funny.

2) He sorta suffers from mush mouth. If you’ve ever watched an Elvis Presley movie, you’ll notice that all of his lines come out of his mouth as if they were one word. “Welldarlingmeetmebythepoolafterthelastsong.” This was, no doubt, the amphetamines talking. Jimmy seems to have a similar cadence where he starts to say something, giggles, cuts himself off with an “awesome” and then tries to regroup. Maybe it’s because his guests are so much funnier than he is that he can’t help himself. Maybe he can outgrow this tick. Maybe not.

I wish him well, but it doesn’t look good. As Lorne Michaels told him, “you don’t go from this to being the third lead in a movie”. It’s a career maker or breaker. Too bad no one’s planning a sequel to Taxi or Fever Pitch (I did love that movie) for him to fall back on.