Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gay/straight friendships

The New York Times has an interesting article on friendships between gay men and straight men.

I have a fair number of straight male friends, and they do some of the things mentioned in the article, like asking me for advice about women. I also hear a lot more of their soft sides-- feelings, insecurities, etc.-- than they share with their straight friends. They'll say something like "You have to promise not to tell the other guys, but ...."

I'm a fan of difference. It keeps things interesting.

Anyway, read the article.

Required viewing

President Obama, speaking to GLBT leaders at the White House.

My favorite part is from 7:35 to 8:45 when he reiterates his promise to act. Maybe I'm a sucker, but I believe this guy and am willing to give him time to act.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The gift of the Holy Ghost

A good friend of mine is the minister of a large Presbyterian congregation in South Carolina. I told him the story of how I was recently on a business trip to India and went to a Hindu temple. At the temple I was overwhelmed by the very recognizable attitude of worship that I saw in the people there. My LDS upbringing let me instantly recognize an outpouring of the Spirit. The icons and symbols were completely foreign to me, but the devotion, faith and hope for divine intercession in daily affairs were utterly familiar. In fact, I was unable to distinguish what I experienced there from the fervor of an LDS testimony meeting.

My friend the pastor listened to this story and then told me that he feels that God has called him to be faithful within his tradition but that his community of faith is not inherently privileged, more valued by God or “correct” than any other. His moorings seemed to be quite intact. He was confident of his relationship with God and the value of his ministry to others. I was struck by how his acceptance of other traditions gave his faith strength, resilience and even a kind of maturity.

When I tell this story to fellow Mormons, the air gets thick. Before I even get done with the story, the answers are already formed. Sometimes the answers start even before the story is finished. :-) In essence, the Hindu religious experience can’t be real because there are no priesthood keys to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. This devolves into hair splitting over the definitions of light of Christ versus Holy Ghost, etc. It ends up being a long, tortured and thoroughly unsatisfying discussion, at least for me. The problem is that I've been to testimony meetings and I've been to Hindu temples in India. You can't tell me that the experiences aren't identical. It contradicts direct observation.

My conclusion is that a belief in exclusive access to gifts of the Spirit based on ordinances and priesthood keys is not a pillar of faith. It's a pillar of sectarian division.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Utah the outlier

The respected statistical blog Five Thirty-Eight recently pointed to a fascinating chart that compared public attitudes about various gay rights questions across U.S. states.

This is from a study by Jeff Lax and Justin Phillips at Columbia.

Utah is one of the stragglers at the bottom the chart. But that's not the interesting part. Since the chart shows multiple measures of public support of gay rights, there's not just one number to look at.

Utah's pattern of opinion is unique. It shows dramatically lower support of basic gay rights such as equality in health insurance and housing than all other states. Also interesting is Utah's 50 of 50 ranking of gay parenting. If you study the numbers you could easily make the case that Utah is the state with the lowest overall public support for gay issues in the nation.

Public opinion in Utah is significantly out of step with the rest of the country, even political backwaters such as Alabama. One can speculate that Utah's status as a statistical outlier has a lot to do with the influence of the LDS Church on public opinion in the state. If the Church's influence really is behind these numbers, then this chart should be a cautionary tale for the Church's PR department-- they are at risk of seriously tarnishing the Church's brand with mainstream Americans.

It is also interesting that Idaho is the only other state that is similar to Utah's pattern of gay-related public opinion (for example, in very low support for gay parenting).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Friends as family

It's been a long month. One of my best friends, a person I've been close to for twenty years, died on May 19 after a long illness. With the help of a hospice nurse and her friends, she was able to pass away with dignity at home, in her own bed.

One of the conditions of gay life is that our closest friends become our family in a way that you almost never see in the straight world. Like many things gay this is poorly understood from the outside, but it is noble and sacred.

May this dear one rest in peace.

Friday, June 5, 2009

This week in Australia

I found this funny image:

It's from a gay blogger in Australia who was doing a photo shoot of his buff friend when the LDS missionaries came by. The blogger writes:

One of [the missionaries] seemed a little too happy to pose with [the bodybuilder], while the other one seemed a little scared that he might catch “sinner” if he got too close. The dark haired one even said “we saw you from a distance and I said WOW he’s BUFF”.
This is pretty funny. Can you pick out the gay Mormon in the picture?

Defenders of marriage (funny)

Via TJ Shelby