September 2009 Archives

Sunstone: Secular or Religious Organization?

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Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows that I am a fan of Sunstone, an organization whose "about us" statement on its website currently reads

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints* is a vibrant religious tradition with a diverse membership that has widely differing needs. For many Latter-day Saints, one of these needs is free and frank exploration of gospel truths as they relate to the complexities of today's society. Some crave stimulating discussions of contemporary scholarship, literature, and social issues. Others find great comfort being able to read, hear, and share personal faith journeys, including all their twists and turns and occasional uncertainties.

Through its many forums, Sunstone serves these Latter-day Saints and many others for whom life and faith is a wonderful but unique adventure. Sunstone brings together traditional and non-traditional Latter-day Saints, promoting an atmosphere that values both faith and intellectual and experiential integrity.

* Sunstone is an independent organization, and does not have any official ties to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I value Sunstone enough that I have published my work in its magazines, presented papers at its symposia, donated money, and volunteered my time.

Recently I was asked to serve on one of its committees, and I said sure. In the course of trying to help this committee do what I believed was its appointed work, I encountered some difficulty, and asked for clarification about the committee's purpose and goals. As part of the answer, one individual (and I want to stress that the following statement came from one individual, and has not had the blessing of the entire Sunstone board--not yet, anyway, and I hope it won't be granted) told me that

we certainly don't want to do anything that would give the impression that Sunstone is a secular organization, that it isn't overall trying to be a constructive community within the LDS church--basically anything that would violate the spirit of Sunstone's mission statement. Hence never a chance that we'd serve alcohol, coffee, or invite speakers who are antagonistic to Mormonism, etc.

This made me wonder what Sunstone's mission statement is, so I did some googling, and found this (scroll all the way down if you really want to read this in its original context):

The Mission Statement of the Sunstone Education Foundation is to sponsor forums of Mormon thought and experience. Under the motto, "Faith Seeking Understanding," we examine and express the rich spiritual, intellectual, social, and artistic qualities of Mormon history and contemporary life. We encourage humanitarian service, honest inquiry, and responsible interchange of ideas that is respectful of all people and what they hold sacred.

All of which raises many questions for me, the biggest one of which is this: Is Sunstone a secular or a religious organization?

Drawing a Line in the Sand

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Crazy Mormon Stuff That Will Make Your Gut Ache

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One of the traumas of growing up Mormon in the 1960s, 70s & 80s was having to deal with the crazy people who subscribed to the crazy political ideas of Cleon Skousen, a nut job so extreme in his right-wing insanity that the church unofficially repudiated him and officially distanced itself from him. Turns out Glenn Beck lists Skousen's work as among his most important influences. This piece from Salon on the man who changed Glenn Beck's life is just so damn depressing, and forced me to relive some of the worst parts of my adolescence--moments where I KNEW, thanks to basic logic, that the stuff someone was spouting was batshit crazy, but their immunity to logic made argument impossible, especially since, being young and still relatively uneducated, logic was all I had on my side, while the crazy grownup had all this "information."


I just can't believe we're here again. I remain firmly agnostic on the question of god's existence, but at moments like this, I definitely believe in pure, malevolent evil. It's the simplest explanation for why Glenn Beck actually has influence in this world.

Bad Blood

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gwa sya.jpgIn case you've never tried it before, let me assure you that It's really hard to take a picture of your back. I had to use a mirror to make sure that the camera was actually aimed at me and not at the wall behind me.

Yes, that splotchy red expanse of skin is my right shoulder and back, and no, I was not injured in some horrible accident. Or rather, I WAS injured in some horrible accident, once upon a time, and the gross bruising is evidence of that. It's just that the injury is old, and the bruising is recent. Also self-inflected.

See, I was employing a technique called gua sha (read all about it in a Wikipedia entry or at a website called Gua Sha), which I LOVE both because A) it works and B) I can do it myself--at least on some parts of me.

All I Have to Say Right Now

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This amazing discussion from both Main Street Plaza and Blank Canvas of how you can review organizations you're affiliated with in order to determine that You might be a member of a cult if certain things are true is careful, thoughtful and upsetting. It deserves careful commentary, but really, all I have to say right now is "Holy crap" and "if you are or were ever Mormon, read it yourself."

Finally, I Understand Labor Day


I never understood Labor Day. It made no sense: there's a holiday to celebrate work? You celebrate work by taking a day off? What?

This morning I read this essay by Michael called Who are the wealth creators? in Salon.

Well, who are the wealth creators? That is one of those questions I never really had to confront growing up as the happy child of white-collar capitalists. Sure, I took a semester-long course in free enterprise in high school--you had to to graduate--but I swear we didn't really confront this question. I think we just assumed that wealth was like matter: it had always existed, or else it had existed for so long that there was no point of imagining a time when it hadn't existed. Without ever really thinking about it, I was sort of willing to operate on the assumption that one of my in-laws explicitly avows: "Wealth is limitless, not a pie. The fact that someone else has a really big piece doesn't mean that my piece necessarily has to be any smaller." And although I was sort of smart enough, even as a high school student, to know that wasn't true, I didn't care, because I didn't really know any poor people--or at least, if I knew poor people, I didn't know they were poor. Every student in my tiny school showed up each morning reasonably dressed. No one looked underfed. How bad could being poor be? It probably wasn't all that much worse than not being rich, which we weren't, but we didn't suffer particularly from want.

Of course, I've come a long way since then. I've realized that being poor can be pretty bad. But more concerned with the question of "who controls wealth?", I never stopped to ask the question, "Who creates wealth?" until I was confronted with it. Turns out different schools of thought have different answers to that question. Lind writes,

Something You Wouldn't Expect, and Rice Pudding

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Last night I went to a terrific party in the neighborhood of Main Street and 1700 South, which, I learned, is one of the main spots in SLC where prostitutes hang out, waiting to be picked up. But they don't like to just stand on the street corner, because they're more likely to get attention they DON'T want that way, so they walk, up and down various streets, including some of the residential streets just off Main. This means that occasionally, my hosts explained, that they will glance out a window and see a john picking up or dropping off a prostitute, right outside their house.

They also said that two of the busiest times for SLC prostitutes are--that's right!--the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October, which, in case you didn't know, is when the church holds its General Conference. On those two weekends, Mormons from all over the world converge on Salt Lake's downtown in order to listen to exhortations about how to be righteous. Some of them stay with family in the suburbs, and some of them rent hotel rooms and have sex with prostitutes.

It makes a sort of sense but it just wasn't something I had thought about or ever expected to hear.

Anyway. The party had a theme: Bollywood, and guests were asked to bring Indian food. I am a dessert gal, so I volunteered to bring rice pudding.

This Makes Me Slightly Less Tired

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A few days ago I wrote about how Utah politics exhausted and dispirited me. Here's something that makes me feel a little better: a terrific essay by Boyd Peterson called Why I'm a Mormon Democrat.

The Carnival of Feminists, Reborn

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Longtime readers will remember that for a while, I was a diligent reader of and linker to the Carnival of Feminists. I even hosted it once. Then real life intruded, and I got busy and lazy. Then I recommitted to blogging, and then I wondered what had happened to the Carnival of Feminists while I wasn't paying attention.

Turned out that real life intruded on the CoF, too. It ceased to be--until the women at Female Impersonator started it up again recently. Check out the current carnival, which includes a link to a discussion of November on Dollhouse I was curious about, given that I hate show. Maia of Alas, a blog didn't change my mind about the quality of Dollhouse, but she did raise some interesting issues about gender and advertising. Also don't miss this amazing post about losing an unplanned baby, that totally kicks the ideological ass of anything Katie Roiphe wrote.

And please go here to submit any great feminist commentary you find in the future on your favorite blogs.

It Just Makes Me So TIRED


OK. Here's the thing. Some celebrities, having been inspired by President Obama's request that we all work to make this country a better place, went and made this SHOCKING video, in which they pledge to do things like work to be better mentors to children and conserve water. You can watch it here:

And the PTA of Eagle Bay Elementary School in Farmington, UT, decided to show this video to the kids at the beginning of the year.

And boy oh boy are some parents and various right-wing wackos PISSED, according to an article in the Deseret News.

OK, there are some silly pledges, like Anthony Kiedis saying that he pledges "allegiance to the funk, to the united funk of funkadelica," which some dumb bitch named Jennifer Cieslewicz from Kaysville says is "unAmerican. It's disrespectful." Apparently she doesn't want her children to find out at school that some things are unAmerican or disrespectful, since it's not the school's job to promote patriotism or respect--as she also comments, "Values are to be taught in the home-not the school."

I admit I was a bit jarred by the pledge to "serve President Obama," given that he is following too closely in W's footsteps. I wish that had been left out. But I don't think it renders the whole video unworthy of my attention. I was moved by some of the pledges, which were, by and large, pretty general. I understood that these were other people's pledges. I didn't feel I had to adopt them all. But apparently Eagle Forum et al don't trust their kids to understand that. No--their kids are just TOO INTELLECTUALLY DELICATE to be exposed to other people's visions for a better country.

In the comments about the article, people ask things like, "What if the video showed Tom Selleck saying 'I pledge to support the Second Amendment by encouraging more people to get handguns to defend themselves.'"

Well, gee! First of all, that pledge is much more specific than most of the pledges in this video. But propaganda that blatant and militaristic was something we all encountered in from 2001-2008, and some of us managed to deal with it without going apeshit. I remember talking to my high school students about the very pro-war videos that got shown, courtesy of some news organization, every morning in the high school where I taught in spring 2003.

It's moments like these when I'm REALLY to live in the small island of blue that is SLC, instead of being adrift in the nasty ocean of red that is the rest of Utah.

And I'm also dreading what sort of google ads will turn up on my blog when all these references to Eagle Forum and the Second Amendment show up.... oh well.


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This page is an archive of entries from September 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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