Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Good and the Bad...





WHAT THE "EVIL" CHURCH HAS DONE FOR ME AND HOW IT CONTINUES TO AFFECT ME FOR GOOD AND BAD…

(NOTE: I didn’t say the “Gospel of Jesus Christ”! I have a firm commitment to Christ and his teachings and I have faith in him, believe in his atonement and its real and everlasting influence on me. In this there is little doubt and abundant hope!)

FOR GOOD…

1. Because of the church, I have accepted callings and opportunities to serve that have made me a better person that I would have been otherwise. I have gained leadership skills and put in positions of leadership to reach out and help many that I would not have done without the church’s influence.

2. Because of the church, I have shed much of my shy exterior and become a pretty good public speaker, no longer fearing crowds or addressing the public in presentations. This has benefitted me in numerous ways in my business life and helped me to be a better man in my profession as well.

3. Because of the church, I have discovered my love for teaching and have been able to cultivate that seed planted years ago and have seen those skills of being able to teach grow and grow. I’m not saying I’m God’s gift to teaching, but I’ve been able to be put in many teaching situations, both privately and publicly and have been able to thrive in ways that would be highly unlikely to have happened otherwise.

4. Because of the church, I have become more compassionate and caring. I may have a compassionate spirit, but that fundamental characteristic has blossomed through the church's influence on me. I believe I am a caring person in general, but the church has taught me, trained me and helped me to focus that caring attitude in uniquely personal ways. I have learned to connect with people and love and have a passion for those connections that come by bonding through the church.

5. Because of the church, I served a mission that changed my life, taught me to speak a foreign language fluently, and welded in my soul a bond of unyielding love for a people, a culture, a country, a brotherhood, a home. That missionary service literally brought me out of my shell and helped me to discover who I was and what I could really do.

6. Because of the church,
that brotherhood made me connect to others and feel things and understand things about myself and where I knew I needed to be and who I really was deep down inside. I found my passion and I don’t ever want to lose it. I directly learned to touch and be affectionate and open and unafraid to express myself with the power of touch.

7. Because of the church, I was taught of the spirit and felt God’s influence in my life and recognized it as the miracle it really is.

8. Because of the church, I was taught to pray and communicate with God. I am still learning what that really means, and I know I need a lot more practice before I really understand it.

9. Because of the church, I married my wife because I was “in love” with her, but because the church instructed me that this was the right plan and path to take. I believed that and still do. I have no regrets and feel this was and is a good thing for me.

10. Because of the church, I have created a unique family. My children came into our lives directly because of the church. My family and my children (and all of the subsequent blessings that come with them) literally would not exist without the church in my life.

11. Because of the church, I rediscovered lessons learned in my past and relearned who I really was, and finally came to terms with my attractions as being just that – undeniable attractions for men.

12. Because of the church, I have a testimony of the Plan and the purpose for my life. I have been able to feel the optimism of the future, the hope in the Plan and the assurance of God’s love for each of us. I have a profound HOPE!

FOR BAD…

1. Because of the church, I learned early on that I was different, and that different wasn’t good and that I didn’t belong or fit with the rest of the guys.

2. Because of the church, I learned that “brotherhood” meant if you played basketball then you were welcome in the quorum, if you didn’t then you were expendable. Because I was no good at sports, because I was uncoordinated, had no body mass or muscles, I was of no use.
My self-esteem was shot. It took me a very long time before I learned another meaning of the word “brotherhood” (see above).

3. Because of the church, I learned the power of “expectation” and “obligation”. I became an eagle scout despite hating the program, and being physically abused and harassed in excess by boys in the troop. But you know… boys will be boys.

4. Because of the church, I hid myself and my desires and attractions, even to and especially with myself… to the point that it took me decades of denial and refusal of accepting myself. The church put me in a delayed development of self-awareness. I may have grown in other areas, but I regressed in others.

5. Because of the church, I was a good boy. As a good boy, I didn’t look at porn or think evil thoughts of women – I barely thought of them at all). As a good boy I never ever touched myself… yes, I never masturbated… and I never allowed anyone ever to touch me in that way. This may seem to be a good thing, but it is bad, because it delayed me sexually in exponential ways. No one was more naïve on his wedding night than I was. Confusion. Doubt. Pain. It was all there from the beginning and I put that at the feet of the church. It was not intentional, I’m sure, but wanting to be a “perfect boy” in so many ways became a huge negative once marriage was to be consummated. Oh how I wish that I weren’t so perfect.

6. Because of the church, I have been in a perpetual state of adolescent immaturity when it comes to sexuality. And as I became more aware of being “different”, I hid it away and refused to face reality and I regressed and became asexual in many ways that remain with me to this day.


7. Because of the church, I didn’t run off with my first real love… a man that truly loved me. I gave up that chance of potential happiness for something better, right?

8. Because of the church, I married a woman. Yes, I mentioned it as a positive and huge fountain of blessings above, but had I been able to face myself more honestly and not felt so “different” and not made to “fit in” and “do the right thing” and
“be perfect” I probably never should have married. The pain that has come from this reality years later, suffered through each decade by not just me but my wife as well, and all that goes with her self-esteem and self-worth being shot is a huge legacy of what some call “evil”.

9. Because of the church, I still live in the shadows. I cannot come out, not at this time. I’m too intertwined in all the tentacles of the church’s hold on me. I am in higher and higher leadership and deeper and deeper in the commitments. So, I can’t see a way out - not that I’m seeking a way out of the church – but a way out of the darkness and shadows of the closet, a way out of the dishonesty and double life living, a way out of the inauthenticity of self.

10. Because of the church, I still cannot face my wife straight out and with directness and honesty. Though she knows I’m gay, she really doesn’t KNOW me. And I don't let her KNOW the REAL ME. I want to take responsibility for this, but the fear put in my head from the church is always there in my mind. There is a real fear of doing so, being truly honest and authentic with my wife, and everyone else for that matter, and what it might do to our marriage and my association with the church (socially, culturally, emotionally, etc.) that has a hold on me that feels overpowering.

11. Because of the church’s stance on homosexuality, as I come more and more to terms with who I am, I am becoming more and more unsettled and confused by the Brethren. It is causing conflict and doubt that didn’t exist there before. I don’t want doubt. I want assurance.

So where does that put me?

And is the church a bounteous blessing or an evil curse?

21 comments:

Mister Curie said...

I think it is fair to say that the church is neither a bounteous blessing nor an evil curse as a whole. It doesn't have to black and white like that. The church does some really great things that could aptly be described as providing bounteous blessings, but as you note, it can also do some things that feel like an evil curse to some people. I think it is healthy to be able to acknowledge and accept both the good and the bad. I think the church is largely made up of very sincere members and leaders doing exactly what they think is right, unfortunately they are so convinced of the "truthfulness" of their beliefs that they can't comprehend how those very same beliefs could be harmful to others. In many ways it is the paradox of life.

Beck said...

"I think it is healthy to be able to acknowledge and accept both the good and the bad..."

I agree and that is what I'm trying to do. If I had to answer my own questions, I would totally agree that for the vast majority of cases, the church is made up of incredibly wonderful people doing the best they can. That is all that I've tried to do as well...

This isn't to place blame, but to realize that some situations and circumstances, and mentalities that I find myself in are as a result of growing up and embracing the church my entire life - for good and for bad.

Abelard Enigma said...

is the church a bounteous blessing or an evil curse?

Yes

Sean said...

I agree completely with Abelard. As you have said, you can see the good and the bad of the Church. In every aspect of life there is the good and the bad. The question is, does the good out-weigh the bad? That is only for you to decide, and we cannot decide it for you.

Mister Curie said...

I think your realization is valid.

Beck said...

ABE: Thanks... that helps!

SEAN: You want my answer? I obviously have a mixed review, but in the end, I feel deeply blessed and am grateful for the strength it has given me and my family. I feel bounteously blessed for my association with the church, the knowledge, the assurance and the hope that it has brought me and my family.

Is there still the bad that has loaded upon me baggage that I wish I didn't have and didn't need? Is there still bad that has put me in situations and a continued relationship that isn't ideal?

Does it remain "bad" because there is no real place for people like me (in a MOM, in leadership, and definitely gay) to feel totally connected and accepted and understood without having to live in a closet and hide the "real me" from the rest of the world, keeping it secret and playing the role of the good priesthood leader that I am with no sign of conflict and confusion and fear?

Certainly!

But, I have still chosen to be where I am. I am not placing blame, only pointing out that the results are "mixed".

Is the church inherently "evil"? Did it "intentionally" try to hurt me or make me do things against my will? No! But its influence was strong and remains so today and those conflicts still exist.

But in the end, FOR ME, the good definitely outweighs the bad. And I'm still an active participant willingly trying to make it better for others.

Ned said...

I relate to so much of your post, Beck. I've also benefitted from callings, miracles, love of teaching, increased capacity to care and express compassion. I've had wonderful missionary experiences and so many blessings associated with marriage and children.

I've also felt the profound isolation of being a non-basketball player in my youth and a non-straight but married man with children in my adult life. Yes, I've grown and learned much, but some of what I've learned is how to hide, how to sugarcoat, how to equivocate.

I know the church embraces much that is true, but I don't believe that it is the only true church. While I don't fully believe, I don't entirely doubt either. I applaud that the church is progressive in some ways yet mourn that it remains stubbornly backwater in others. Still, I don't see myself leaving this paradox of blessings and challenges, with much that is sweet and much that is bitter.

In someways I'm like a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. I sometimes mistake lack of active abuse when I attend church as a sign that all is well.

Wyatt said...

You're giving too much credit to the church for any of your ill or fortunate traits.

This has nothing to do with the church but how much you've allowed yourself to avoid.

Instead of avoiding who you are, allow who you are and stop using the church as a reason for anything.

Start focusing on you, that's where the answers are found.

playasinmar said...

"So where does that put me?"

In the red.

Beck said...

NED: So, if the church is nothing better than any other, then why keep hanging on to it? Why keep attending? Why keep taking the abuse? Why not seek out some other body or organization that is more progressive?

Isn't that the dilemma here? I mean, either it is "the true church" that embraces all truth, or it is just another church, like many that has some truth.

How could the "true church" not be able to address some of these key issue if it has ALL truth? And if it doesn't have ALL truth, then why stay?

Or is there more to it than that? Is there something to the truth that it has of the Gospel and the view of eternity and the Plan? Is there something to the spirit and the connections that somehow keeps a hold on me?

Or is it just fear? Am I just using the church as a crutch instead of facing myself?

Lots of questions from your comment... some a bit disturbing.

Beck said...

WYATT: Why are you still here? Why are you still caring about me? Why haven't you moved on? Why do you keep hanging around?

We've been "together" following each other for 4-1/2 years now. You've changed. You've moved on. You've chosen a different path. And you've blossomed and bloomed into a different creature.

I remember the "Elbow" of four years ago who wrote of his love for the church, his love for the Gospel, his love for his wife, and expressed those loves with passion and intensity and firmness and assurance.

You've been able to put the church, and your marriage, and the Gospel all behind you as you've branched out in a comletely different direction.

I commend you for facing your fear, for not avoiding your true self, for seeking your true vibrations.

Why I'm focusing on this particular post is because it was a natural extension of the previous posts where it is the "evil church" that has gotten me into this situation of being in a MOM in the first place; it is the "evil church" that has kept me hidden from my true self, ashamed of who I am and who I am attracted to.

So, as a natural evolution of the previous posts, I decided to spell out for myself the role the "evil church" has played in my life. That's where this came from.

I'm not really placing blame here or not taking responsibility for my own actions. The "evil church" did not MAKE me have difficulties in my youth. Nor did it MAKE me get married. Nor did it MAKE me do any of the things I've done. I have done them willingly, but maybe naively and ignorantly.

This was to show that the church has and continues to influence my thoughts and feelings and thus, actions, or even lack of action...

And yes, avoiding the truth of myself, and facing myself. Maybe I'm really afraid of being me. Maybe it's just easier to AVOID it all.

You're right. I'm still avoiding... but again, why do you care about me anyway? Why are you still here checking up on delusional never-authentic, always-avoiding Beck? Why are you still here? If you've moved on, why are you still looking back and reaching out for me lagging behind you?

Don't get me wrong! I love you! And I love that you DO care enough to keep staying and commenting... but I can't help but wonder why? When is it going to be obvious that I'm not worthy of your time, attention or concern? Because, I'm still here struggling to stay on the path I'm on... I can't run off to the other side of the planet and be a free spirit! I can't leave behind the commitments I've made! I'm not ready to leave my marriage, my family, my kids, my job, my religion... if that is avoiding the inevitable, then I guess I'm still avoiding the inevitable. I may be grasping at a false hope. Is that hope of somehow finding another way that makes this all work that hopeless?

Beck said...

PLAYA: I am truly sorry that you can only see "red".

Ned said...

BECK: My friend, I understand that some of your comments are rhetorical questions just intended to make me think, I'm nonetheless going to give a shot a answering them.

"If the church is nothing better than any other, then why keep hanging on to it?"

Because it IS the church of my parents, of my grandparents, great and great great grandparents. Yes, I like you, trace my Mormonism back to it's founding. I may not fully believe it, but I fully acknowledge that if there is a genetic, inherited component, then I've got it. James E. Faust talked about "believing blood" and I know I've got something going on within me as a result of my blood lines.

(to be continued)

Ned said...

"Why keep attending?"

I agree with the fellow at Mormon.org who wrote: "I enjoy attending weekly church services. Worshipping with others and feeling a connection to them and our Father in Heaven and Savior are among the highlights of my week. Once a month I lead a discussion at church with men who have become my brothers. This is a welcome opportunity to learn from each other about the gospel and how we can help our loved-ones and others. I have a long-time neighbor who is critically ill right now. I'm so glad we have become good friends through our spiritual beliefs and many years of serving together."

"Why keep taking the abuse?"

Because it is a MIXED bag, there's some great stuff in the bag along with the bitter pills. I really do believe there's a bit of Stockholm Syndrome involved. Read about it here and tell me if you don't think there are some elements that ring true for Mormon men in MOM marriages. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome

"Why not seek out some other body or organization that is more progressive? "

I have and will continue to do so. Why do you think I'm a Moho blogger? Why do you think I've maintained more than a decade of employment at one of Utah's most liberal-leaning organizations? Why do I voluntarily contribute some of my time and means to organizations that I do view as progressive? And on a good day, when I write a check or put some cash in an envelope and give it to the Bishop or his counselors, I feel like I am contributing to a fairly progressive church, but one I hope and pray will become even more progressive as it ages.

"Isn't that the dilemma here? I mean, either it is "the true church" that embraces all truth, or it is just another church, like many that has some truth."

I call black and white thinking on you here, Beck, and I call you to repentance. ;) Mormonism may well embrace more truth than some other belief systems, but that doesn't mean it is entirely true.

"How could the "true church" not be able to address some of these key issue if it has ALL truth? And if it doesn't have ALL truth, then why stay?"

For the same reason that when you buy a 3-day pass to Disneyland, you're probably going to spend the better of three days there. I'm invested in Mormonism. Have been for decades now. But like the occasional spot of vomit at Disneyland, even though it's a great institution it is far from perfect. One of the things that I do love about it is that we say that we believe the 9th Article of Faith. We believe that many great and important things will yet be revealed. That's worth holding on for. That's worth praying and perhaps being some small part of the change that will inevitably come. (Again there may be some elements of Stockholm Syndrome in play here, what do you think?)

"Or is there more to it than that?"

There we go. There's the point. It's not easily put into black and white compartments. The church, like the individuals who belong to it, is complicated. It contains contradictions and paradoxi.

(to be continued)

Ned said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ned said...

"Isn't that the dilemma here? I mean, either it is "the true church" that embraces all truth, or it is just another church, like many that has some truth."

I call black and white thinking on you here, Beck, and I call you to repentance. ;) Mormonism may well embrace more truth than some other belief systems, but that doesn't mean it is entirely true.

"How could the "true church" not be able to address some of these key issue if it has ALL truth? And if it doesn't have ALL truth, then why stay?"

For the same reason that when you buy a 3-day pass to Disneyland, you're probably going to spend the better of three days there. I'm invested in Mormonism. Have been for decades now. But like the occasional spot of vomit at Disneyland, even though it's a great institution it is far from perfect. One of the things that I do love about it is that we say that we believe the 9th Article of Faith. We believe that many great and important things will yet be revealed. That's worth holding on for. That's worth praying and perhaps being some small part of the change that will inevitably come. (Again there may be some elements of Stockholm Syndrome in play here, what do you think?)

"Or is there more to it than that?"

There we go. There's the point. It's not easily put into black and white compartments. The church, like the individuals who belong to it, is complicated. It contains contradictions and paradoxi.

("Is there something to the truth that it has of the Gospel and the view of eternity and the Plan?"

Yes, of course. It does offer answers to the big philosophical questions of life: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Just because the pat answers don't fully satisfy me or fully work with my situation, doesn't mean that the church doesn't have great value.

"Is there something to the spirit and the connections that somehow keeps a hold on [us]?"

Some of it clicks. I hear some hymns and I'm transported to a happy place. Some of it works through habit and guilt and commitment, but yes there are many spiritual components and connections that hold us, bind us, empower and comfort us; and also, sometimes, torture, frustrate and hold us back. As I said earlier, for me it is a mixed bag.

So now a couple of questions back at you Beck? What part of this do you find disturbing and why? What do you agree with and why? What am I missing (besides you, of course)?

playasinmar said...

It's an account. You are accounting. Your balance is in the red.

You are red.

Beck said...

NED: The questions were mostly rhetorical. I didn't mean for you to literally answer them, though I'm glad you did.

In answer to yours, the disturbing part for me of this exercise is that I have been a much more a "black-n-white" kind of guy for the fair share of my life (until coming out, and then much more recently in the thought processes since then) and so this is making me be much more in the grey middle than typical, and I'm finding it hard to think all-or-nothing thoughts anymore. In a church of prophetic absolutes and revealed truth, it's new territory for me to be so "mixed" in my pro-con view of what was supposed to be rock-solid consecration.

Beck said...

PLAYA: Not the way I "account". Per my lists the GOOD team had a score of 12 and the BAD team had a score of 11. That means the GOOD one by one point, or in other words a "mixed review".

playasinmar said...

Happiness is happy. Cooking the books, in this case, could get your soul arrested.

(Did you remember to assign a unique value to each item on the balance sheet?)

Beck said...

PLAYA: Yes, and in my book, the joys of marriage and family, despite the baggage that comes with the MOM, those blessing outweigh the bad.

So, in the end, it's still "mixed" but good.