The About Section of this blog might have been my greatest source of anxiety stemming from SFSF. I never knew what to write in that section. It’s a silly blog. “A venue for my writing.” It began with movie reviews and shorts about phone books. My posts got a little more personal. Sarah joined and eventually settled into writing Miss Connections. I experimented. I made a feeble attempt and making it a local webzine.
I think it’s really about one thing. It’s a writer coming out of his shell, building the strength to say what he initially wanted with those early, vague posts from four years ago.
There has been ambiguity in recent posts about God. I’ve said a thing or two about prayer, and God. That vagueness was sort of intentional. It was an unconscious preface to this post.
To be clear, I do not believe in any organized religion on this planet. I lost my faith in a traditional God merely via the The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormon church. In my early, even more fired-up 20’s I used to tell myself that my agnosticism was a euphemism for my atheism. Since then though, my beliefs have morphed and I’d say that I’m more truly agnostic. When I was 21 I just assumed that after death there was “The Blackness,” but I didn’t give it much thought. (Who would want to?) In recent years I’ve considered “The Blackness” a bit more and it’s grown closer to a charcoal. I recognize now that I truly know hardly anything. I recognize that no typical Christian God alternatively means Something, because it means Something Else; and in recent years, I’m more and more interested in the Something Else, and less in being vindicated, and in hearing people say “you were right to leave the Mormons.” I’ve actually gotten more spiritual as this journey has gone on. And with the risk of sounding pretty ridiculous you could say I’ve seen more “magic” than I ever did on the other side of the fence. Though, I think religious people are partially on to something with their spirituality. I think positivity and optimism go a long way regardless of your belief system.
I just deleted a long paragraph about how the talented are doing nothing these days and the idiots are the ones actually getting things done. Idiots’ music is heard on the radio. More idiots than geniuses are making films. It was a bit of a tangent and a digression. As I was writing that paragraph, Sarah was there in the back of my mind.
One day, a couple of years back, she wanted to make some sort of statement, something about the purpose of the blog. In a post, she wanted to state that I was an Ex-Mormon. I told her that I wasn’t ready to do that. I don’t know exactly when our exchange happened. It was certainly after What I Wanted To Write, a post in which I thought I’d made a statement or two that hint at my beliefs. But I don’t know if Sarah’s suggestion was before some of the other personal posts like the seminal Ether 12:27 or Bright Lights Big City. I think in a post or two I’ve uttered the phrase “not really Mormon anymore.” In Bright Lights Big City, I essentially say that I’m free. To this point, I’ve felt like I’ve basically said what needs to be said. I didn’t want the reader’s job to be too easy, because my job was never easy.
But again, maybe it’s time to be clear. Sorry Sarah, I am an Ex-Mormon. I don’t believe in any of that stuff. I don’t think it’s right that blacks weren’t allowed to have the priesthood until the year my oldest brother was born (and I don’t buy the excuses as to why this was permitted; usually it boils down to another mysterious test from God), I don’t believe gay marriage should be defined as anything less than straight marriage, I don’t believe a woman’s role is to stay home if she doesn’t want to, and I just don’t believe in any of it. I haven’t for ten years and I turned my beliefs over because I felt it was the RIGHT thing to do. I believe in the wrongness of the Church with far more conviction than I ever believed in its rightness. The leaders of the Church try to call your bluff. They say that if you don’t believe Joseph Smith was a prophet and you don’t believe the current prophet is called of God and you don’t think the Book of Mormon is true than you don’t believe in the whole shootin’ match. Well, guess what? I don’t.
The Church forces this reaction, my reaction, out of people, more so than say, contemporary apostates of Judaism or Catholicism because Mormonism is a stage or two behind many other religions as far as its assimilation into mainstream culture. It should be clear that I don’t come from a branch of Mormonism in a remote Utah town that still clings to more archaic practices like polygamy; though I don’t come from a religion that has given birth to fellows like Woody Allen, or Martin Scorsese, who have communicated their struggles with their respective cultures on-screen for the last couple of generations. The absence of those voices results in loneliness amongst the apostates, and that loneliness exacerbates the fear of leaving. It’s hard to leave people, do you understand that? The Church I come from is in a half-life, and I believe I’m just part of the process, a natural reaction.
Other Christian Religions:
A “cool” church might be better than a more fundamental, old style of Christianity, where the woman is seen and not heard, and where homosexuality is verbally assaulted. Christian rock bands (ironically) play the most soulless music on the planet while accepting teenage homosexuals. No. WRONG. You want a place where young people can gather and learn values? You want to strengthen the community? Get a little courage and start a group that isn’t affiliated with any sort of hate whatsoever, even if you discount the hate as merely an ancient vestige. Modern Christian churches aren’t the ideal, and they certainly aren’t cool. A religion that is reformed to the point where it behaves with equality but is rooted in inequality is imperfect. It’s a compromise. If a Christian is okay with homosexuals, if they think nothing less of homosexuals than they do their “straight” neighbors, I don’t think the air is clear. The elephant is still in the room, it’s just smaller. The doctrine exists and members of Christian churches are married to that doctrine. Space will always exist between a person who is a member of an organization that condemns homosexuality and a homosexual person. A gay man might be comfortable with a “cool” Christian who is gay-friendly and in every ostensible way egalitarian, but I promise you that all things being equal, a homosexual is even more comfortable in the presence of one who is not married to doctrine that places one sexual orientation above another, just as I am less comfortable around people who may love me, but are waiting for me to come back to the fold. People want to be comfortable. It’s been over ten years, I am certain of these things. The ideal scene has NO elephant in the room. Extremists will gravitate toward the core, and the core promotes bigotry. And extremists will always exist, because inherently, there is always an extreme. Religions based on the Christian Bible put the heterosexual person above the homosexual. They put the member above the non-member. One could argue that they don’t, that “we are all God’s children,” but I’m speaking in terms of righteousness. A Christian God prefers you to be hetero over homo. That’s what I’m talking about here. When one believes he or she is less obedient than his or her neighbor, it’s psychologically damaging. And I don’t agree with that. We as a progressive society should be reaching forward, beyond our archaic values systems.
I believe that we need to allow criticism of religion. Just as we permit religious freedom, we need to defend the freedom to critique all religion. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that we need to encourage criticism of religion to compensate for the current atmosphere which wrongly discourages it. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me over the years why I’m not Mormon anymore. “FOR THE SAME REASONS YOU AREN’T” I wanted to shout. Are you kidding? As if believing in something other than what your parents believed was some crazy new concept. Religions aren’t Peoples. They are theological philosophies and as such they should be debated. If peoples’ faiths are shaken, well boo-hoo, mine was, it’s a part of life
So that’s that. I just wanted to make things clear.
The last twelve years have been quite a journey. It’s been pretty difficult. Pretty rough. I’ve read a lot. I’ve looked up lots of words in the dictionary. I’ve watched youtube videos of my favorite authors, learning the trade. I have grammar and vocab apps on my phone (I used to use them.) When I was in Boston, I was almost always poor. I walked to work, I went to bed hungry a couple of times. There was a lot of hard labor, if not easily defined, that went into the words you’re reading right now. But without question, the hardest thing to overcome is my fear of getting these words out. I switch to the present form is for obvious reasons. Everything else pales compared to the hurdle that is the fear from the response of the church I left.
So that’s it for now. I want to take a break from all this serious business of catharsis. I’d like to put certain things behind me, & I think it’s best to put away the old blog. After I click the publish button for this final post, sanfranciscostreetfighter has served its purpose. Though I’ll make an effort to clean some things up and to make it easier to navigate. My early, 2nd Tour of Seattle writings will surface somewhere else, as well as everyone’s favorite substitute teacher, Mr. Meardon. (Maybe.) I might hide stuff in certain spots for die-hard fans of the future, but otherwise, Esephesef is going to be a time capsule.
I’d like to have more fun with writing, use metaphor every now and then. I want to work on screenwriting and songwriting. Perhaps make a freaking buck or two doing what I do. I feel like hanging up the first-person narrative form for a few seasons. Writing teachers discourage it anyway; it’s just a glorified diary. I should thank Sarah and Graham (he did some amazing illustration on the blog.) Also I should thank everyone in Boston. They were part of the process. When I was impassioned and inebriated at the end of a night, I was only saying what I was too afraid to say before, yet still too afraid to say more formally. Six years ago, I moved to Boston for the sole purpose of becoming a writer and I’m pretty sure that I succeeded.