Friday, June 14, 2013

talking to people of faith.

A few things.

First, this article by professor Michael J. Stevens on his studies of elevated passive aggressive behavior in Mormons raised on the Wasatch Front:

"As I began to teach my usual rotation of courses using the BDQ, I noticed a striking trend with my students along the Wasatch Front—occurring with undergraduate and graduate (MBA) students, and with males and females. The preference for the avoidance style of conflict resolution was surfacing at a significantly higher rate than I had seen in the Midwest and Texas... Passive-aggression is the least common response option to conflict among the U.S. population at large and is typically viewed as an inadequate and unconstructive strategy (at least over the long term). It is generally used by those who would prefer that the conflict simply go away... In its milder forms, passive-aggression will manifest itself merely as polite and innocuous attempts to steer clear of uncomfortable topics or encounters with others. However, in its more insidious forms, passive-aggression can rise to a level of interpersonal hostility and contempt that embodies a “whatever” response to the views and opinions of others... The presence of significantly elevated levels of passive-aggression among the LDS population born and raised along the Wasatch Front deserves some analysis." ~read more

Then in the SFF community, This open letter from Nancy Fulda about feeling discriminated against for being Mormon:
"In a recent conversation with other authors who are practicing a religious faith, it became apparent that many of us feel social pressure to hide our beliefs. I’m not talking about common politeness and self-censoring during conversations at conventions and on the internet. That’s a no-brainer. I hope anyone who’s met me in person can testify that I’m not the kind of jerk who goes around rubbing other people’s noses in her opinions. I’m talking about something else. I’m talking about feelings of rejection because of who we are and what we believe — independent of any specific actions we have taken. Feelings of invalidation and dehumanization. Fear of being ridiculed or publicly dogpiled if we allow our religious affiliations to be known..... I realize that many people within SFF have had horrible experiences with members of organized religions. I am not those people who mistreated you. Please do not treat me as if I were. Once we have gotten to know each other, you may conclude that I am a despicable person, or you may decide that I am actually quite reasonable. I can deal with either option, but please do not reduce me to a stereotype." ~read more

A response from Keffy Kehrli:

"Basically, it’s religious intolerance unless I remain completely polite in all instances, no matter what someone says? It’s religious intolerance if I emphatically distance myself from any single tenet of what someone believes? Fuck that.....If you want to start dialogue with, “I want to discuss this but refuse to change any aspect of my faith,” then why the fuck should I participate? What’s in it for me, except a gradual wearing down of my defenses until I smile pretty and agree that why yes anything you say is totally acceptable regardless of any potential harm it may do to others?... Wow, it must be really nice to be so privileged that as long as nobody raises their voice, you feel welcome and comfortable. That must be fucking amazing. You know what makes me feel unsafe in a space? When someone rolls out some bullshit about queers and then nobody SAYS ANYTHING BACK because we’re all just being nice here and arguing isn’t nice. Fuck nice.
" ~read more

The other side of that argument from Christie Yant:

"In the vast USian social, political, and cultural arena, we as atheists, agnostics, Jews, pagans, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Baha’ist, Wiccans, B’Nai Noach, Sikhs, etc. often feel excluded and as if the majority were living in a completely different world than we are....And then we find SFF, and the majority is like us. Or at least, not Christian. It is a tremendous relief–we can breathe....We forget that there are people among us with deeply held religious views, who believe in a higher authority and in mysteries that don’t require proof. We start to talk about religious people as if they are stupid (they are not). We don’t understand why or how anyone could think the way that they do. We openly mock their beliefs in our conversation, our shared popular culture... People are afraid to mention that they went to church, or that they pray, because they are afraid that they will be derided and treated with contempt. They have good reason to feel that way. I know exactly how that feels, and I should know better than to do it someone else... I don’t assume that an individual necessarily agrees with every aspect of their church’s doctrine (and am often shocked when I learn that they do agree). There are Catholics who use birth control and Mormons who support marriage equality and Jews who oppose circumcision." ~read more

Yesterday was the memorial for my Grammy, my mom's mom. Our family is so rife with religious tension; I've gotten used to feeling isolated and excluded for having left the Mormon tradition to become an atheist but I tend to forget, my mother joined the Mormon church in her twenties, earning her isolation and exclusion from her extremely evangelical Christian family, causing protracted tensions and religious arguments that have lasted decades.  Yesterday's memorial had distasteful elements of the Evangelical crowd using a eulogy to target and exclude the Mormon contingent in the family. To target my mom. (Who at times has barely been able to speak to me because of my own choices regarding faith. Well, and vice versa, I admit.)  Wow I wish I had a better way to wrap this all up nice and tidy with a great conclusion, but I don't. I'm too guilty in too many ways and just want move on and get to work.

Monday, June 10, 2013


April, the day after the Boston Marathon bombing, I used a ball point pen to cut deep gashes in my sketchbook. I was angry at everyone. Hurting for people I didn't know.  Stressed, trying to keep on top of work, to take care of family, struggling quite a bit to train for a marathon I was signed up for. "Just tried to run, didn't make it 10 yards" was an entry on that cut up page. Another: "realizing I will not be able to complete my training for the SD marathon.

May was better. Running was better, work was better, I wasn't angry at everyone.  Then a friend died. Unexpectedly. Distressingly. I got the news as I was walking out to door to go running, but it took days and days to slowly seep in and become real, a recurring hurt that kept cropping up. Then my mom's mom, Grammy, was put into hospice as the reality of her situation became apparent, after emotionally draining discussions about end of life plans as those close to her struggled to accept the inevitable. Family gathered. People I had not seen in years and years. A celebration, a commemoration, hugs and songs and vigils by Grammy's bedside. She lingered, made comfortable by steady pain medication and not ready to quit the party. She continued to linger, for days and weeks. It was easy to forget that there was an end drawing near while I got on with work and family and travel and the last few weeks of marathon training.

June 1st, the day before the marathon, we are picking up our race packets. As I look around at all the other participants it crosses my mind that I am not ready for this. I do not feel fit enough and strong enough. June 2 the race begins and by 6 miles in I am tired. By 18 miles in I have started to walk intermittently, just wanting to be done. If a shuttle had come by offering an out, a freebie to the finish line, I would have taken it. Somewhere between mile 20 and 21, I got the text message that Grammy had finally passed away. She had lasted so long, been so tenacious. I had forgotten, for the moment, that she was on the brink of passing. There was 6 miles left. There was the humiliation of walking past cheering crowds. There was the running coach at mile 23 who reached out and grabbed my hand as I walked by and said "you got this" (I cried a tiny bit, then started running again.) I finally ran the last two miles crossing the finish line almost an hour slower than my first marathon.

In reality the marathon was just a few difficult hours in a weekend that was otherwise enjoyable and full of friends and family. Today, a week after the marathon, I finally ran again. Just a quickie. My legs still feel like lead, slow, sluggish. Today's run put me at 500 running miles for this year. Tomorrow, I'll go out again.

It was a disappointing marathon, but a good time to hang out with people I love, a good time to be alive and moving, no matter how slow. That's good enough for now.