Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Randy Bott, Racism, and Reconciliation


It was near the end of my mission. I was fairly new to my area, and my companion and I were dutifully compiling our nightly numbers (designed, as far as I can tell, to make teaching the gospel as cold and impersonal as possible). Out of the blue, the phone rang. My companion answered; it was one of the zone leaders. He wanted to speak with me.

This was a surprise, because I barely knew this elder. We'd crossed paths at a zone meeting or two, but had hardly spoken. So, while I had nothing against him, I couldn't imagine what he wanted to talk about. Being a lousy journal keeper means I have to reconstruct our conversation from memory, but as I recall his first words were something like, "So I just want to know why you don't believe in prophets and apostles."

I responded succinctly: "Huh?"

"You told Elder So-and-So that that you don't believe in Mormon Doctrine."

Ah yes. Sometime not long before, I had spoken with another elder about my feelings on the venerable MoDo, particularly as it related to black people and the priesthood. Not as a debate, just an amiable exchange of ideas. My position, naturally, was that MoDo wasn't authoritative, and that the "seed of Cain/Abrahamic curse" interpretations of the priesthood ban were perhaps unfounded. Back then I wouldn't have said (as I do now) that such views stem solely from racism and have no part in my brand of Mormonism, but I still knew I was uncomfortable with MoDo and with interpretations of priesthood and race that seemed arbitrary and hateful.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Towards a Mormon Male Sexuality, Part I

Emma: Do you think about genitals all the time? I do. I think it's odd that everyone has them. Don't you? [...] People act as if they don't have genitals. I mean, how can men and women stand in a room and discuss business without even one reference to their genitals. I mean everybody has them. They just pretend they don't.
--Maria Irene Fornes, Fefu and Her Friends

I. A Night at the Theatre

About a week ago, I attended a staging of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. The production has almost become a tradition at the University of Maryland. They have organized and performed this memory, rant, and prayer for 13 years now. This is the case across many campuses because Ensler has permitted her work to be used in a larger effort to recognize V-Day: a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. Rather than collect royalties for the use of her script, Ensler permits groups to stage her play if they follow some strict guidelines that she outlines (like which monologues must be used) as well as donate the proceeds to a cause which addresses violence committed against women. At the University of Maryland, the ticket sales of the annual performances of The Vagina Monologues have consistently supplied the majority of the operating budget of SARPP: the university's Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Program. Beyond providing education and workshops to prevent assault, SARPP also addresses some very practical concerns like the initial medical bills that victims of sexual abuse accrue or the cost of changing locks on doors. These are organized responses which hope to confront the troubling dynamics of rape culture on the macroscopic level of society while helping women, men, and children as individuals according to their own needs.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Race to become Chief Judge

This isn't really a political post, in the sense that I have any important points to make. It's more of a weird Athena-like idea that popped into my head and pounded against my skull until I allowed it to break free. Think of it as "likening the scriptures unto us" upside-down. It started with a bit too much Politico and a few bad puns. The result was this:

Nephite Times

5 Things We Learned from the Last Republicite Debate

1. Romni is still the frontrunner
His opponents’ accusations of stiffneckedness and vanity failed to hit home this time, with Romni maintaining a tight focus on reestablishing commerce throughout all the land and on helping every man to labor with his own hands. He even went after Santoriantum on religion, arguing that the cause of the Christians was best served by any candidate holding the traditions of the fathers regardless of his manner of worship. Nevertheless his costly apparel and great wealth make it hard for him to relate to the poor, which may hurt in the general Chief Judge election.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Correcting a Mis(sionary)conception

On my mission, I developed an irksome habit of becoming quite clich├ęd in my mannerisms. Perhaps nothing is quite so emblematic of that as me repeating the oft-quoted plight of many a missionary--”I don't believe it! We come as bearers of light into a pitch-black world, but so many people whose doors we knock on open up, see our light, then shut us out and stay in darkness!”

Look at the elder on the left's face. This conversation is not going well.
I remember hearing that. I remember saying that. And I remember the day I thought about it and realized why it didn't add up.
Now, I didn't come to this conclusion until after my mission, but I think that this realization helped me to not only realize a missionary's role better, but to better empathize with those people who so often slammed the door in my face.