Friday, August 23, 2013

Religious Freedom and Business Owners

I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that this topic is still fighting for center-stage. This time it is in the form of an absurd law-suit targeting a Christian couple's photography business for declining services for same-sex ceremony. After finding a favorable alternative for the desired photography, the offended party decided to sue the Christian couple for discrimination wherein the state courts ruled against the refusing photographers. Apparently, owning a business obligates the owners to provide demanded services. At least, it does in New Mexico...

Reading the story from a conservative newspaper, it is also not surprising that the majority of the comments fall on the side of the couple's rights with a small portion vilifying that position as being the same as old time segregation. People. We've been here before and it's just going to keep coming up. The right is terrified of the liberal encroachment upon their moral conscience and the left if offended that the right would even consider that liberal alternatives are inappropriate. As I've said in a previous post, there are unfortunately bigots on both sides of the fence. I also said there, and say again here, that I don't care to try to stare down either set of bigots.

Most of the comments after the Deseret News article are actually fairly tame if rather irritated at the situation. I confess that I also find it concerning that the government thinks to rule on a matter of moral conscience and I came across many responses stating many of my own thoughts on the matter. They also make the points as clearly as I could hope to so I shall refer you to them rather than quote them here. (I highly recommend reading through comments - they are my favorite part of controversial issues as the debate gives a broader perspective than I could create with only my own thoughts to work with and have not infrequently caused me to adjust my own position on a matter.) I have made it about 100 comments in and it occurs to me that one issue has so far been missed.

What has been a bit surprising to me is not that atheists or others in the LGBT community attack the Christians in saying that Christ loved and sat with the sinner so 'they/you must not be good Christians' but that other Christians are attacking from the same ground. One might suppose that this is evidence on the side of the suing party, but everyone seems to be missing the fact that there is a relative issue directly addressed in the New Testament dealing with this.

In Romans 14, Paul takes the Romans to task for the contention arising around the issue of meat sold in the marketplace. The truth was, though, you couldn't actually be sure which meat had been offered to idols and which had not. Therefore, it became a risk in buying and eating meat that one might end up with meat that had been used in the offerings. Some only saw it as meat and did not find offense in the buying and eating of it. Others felt that to eat of that meat meant they were participating in the pagan worship and, after all, is not the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me"? It went against their conscience and so they avoided contact with it. It became an even bigger issue when eating at the house of one who saw no problem with it (it's only meat after all) and they were then placed between holding to their beliefs and not offending their fellow Christian friend.

So what does Paul say about it? Mostly he agrees that God knows that meat is meat is meat, but he also says that it is uncharitable for those who are unbothered to force those who are disturbed by the origin to hold to one or the other for he says that it is the conscience of the person that determines their reality. If to eat means to participate in pagan worship, then that person is right to avoid the meat and their friends would do well to respect and support them in maintaining a conscience void of offense. If the person has a clear conscience knowing that not knowing leaves them innocent of accidental 'participation', they are likewise uncondemned of God in that thing. 

19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
 21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
 22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
I honestly can't say whether I would have been willing to accept an obligation to participate in an event that is clearly stated as against God's law. I think it's easy to understand that it could feel like being forced to witness idolatrous offerings (even greater than the risk of meat of unknown origin).  Many would say that is discriminatory and Jesus says love everyone, but there is a difference between loving a person and participating in improper events. One (attacking) commenter condemned (illogically as it has no evidence outside of the speaker's imagination) the photographers because they 'would deny service to provide individual portraits to homosexuals which proves they are discriminating and were right to have lost the suit' (not exact words, but the gist of the statement). Honestly, I doubt the sexual orientation would have had any bearing on services provided outside of the union ceremony. Yes, we are to love everyone, even the sinner (aren't we all?). That does not equate to being forced to support the sin. And a concerned Christian can be easily understood to have such a reaction in this situation.

Government cannot dictate every element of the business sector without becoming their own entity of monopoly and therefore tyranny. Free enterprise dictates that if a business chooses to engage in undesirable practices, they will face the natural consequences from the consumers by losing business. It is their right to do so. It may not lead to commercial success, but in the 'pursuit of happiness', if one values his values more than his monetary gain, I see no justification for the government stepping in to say otherwise.

As Christians, how can we think to condemn and force a straying from the dictates of conscience of another Christian? Are we not all metaphorically part of Christ's body? Has the hardened skin of the heal a right to condemn the sensitivity of the eye-lid? I could say I fear the way the tides are turning if I did not understand what we have been warned and prepared for its happening ahead of time. Those of other persuasions often mock such feelings and outlooks, but truly, time will tell all things. I simply hope that all who are not interested in the impending violence, figurative and literal, will seek to support and strengthen each other in the ways of peace taught not only by Christ but by the other main religions as well. And that we will focus on it without tearing ourselves down in the process. 

I believe my God is the same God the Jews and the Arabs worship and that He will truly guard those with an honest heart. I warn that we lose integrity when we target others in a misguided sense of superiority and that leaves us vulnerable to falling further. Let us not fall, but let us stand together and stand strong against the coming times.

(Mormon Articles of Faith # 10 & 11)
10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. 
P.S. I included number ten because when America finally implodes, and the rest of the world is in their own chaos, Mormons are taught that Zion will be a place of refuge for those who do not wish to fight and that will not just be for Mormons, but for all those who do not follow, nurture anger and hate. It will be a refuge for all the pure in heart. This may sound absurd and fantastical to any non-Mormon readers out there, but after having seen Jericho (TV show - fascinating!), I greatly desired to tell these fictitious people there is an alternative of safety. So maybe you will consider it a strange and ridiculous belief right now, but should the time come where you recognize truth to what I'm saying here, know that it is an option of safety.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hi. My name is Katie. I am a poet.

They say the first step is acknowledgement... (think AA confession, added since few seem to catch the reference)

Now that we've all had a chance to laugh at my absurd discomfort, I thought we might move on with the subject. Thanks to a lovely website found at Relative Finder which lets you link up with your LDS Family Tree account and then pulls out the relations to some of the big names in church and world history, I know I can pass some of the blame on a distant relation to T S Eliot and some twelve composer/lyricists of LDS hymns. Not that I claim any significant skill or aspiration in the medium. I just seem to be cursed with a mind that sometimes finds its easiest expression in verse format.

So why does having to admit some poetic tendencies literally make me nauseated? That would be due to this recurring image that I have of the stereotyped 'emo' person at a poetry reading typified from a Home Improvement episode I saw as a child. The Taylor family (likely at mother Jill's urging) sat in disbelief and discomfort while the unrestrained and directionless spewing of emotional wallowing. The only part I recall is one girl standing at the microphone forcefully... cursing (?), "Die. Die! DIE! Go on - DIE!" and Randy retorting, "You first." His attitude rather parallels my own to those who choose to glory in the dark of depression.

Please don't get me wrong, here - depression is a real and serious issue for many people. I do not have it and I can't say I understand it. I have had to deal with some pretty heavy emotional stresses in my life, however, and they even found a great release in the form of poetry. Which leads me to my main complaint with a characteristic often represented in poets: they glory in the underbelly of emotion. Really? Why? What's the point? That happens to be a very quick turn-off for me in writing, music, tv/film, and even in people in general. Case-in-point, I knew a kid some years back with great potential but hung up on some partially disclosed issues of his past. Emotionally, I actually got pretty darn close with him until I realized that it was easier for him to complain about being stuck, not knowing what to do, when it was his move in life. There's a difference in struggling under burdens you can't change that overwhelm you and those that 'surround' you because you're unwilling to get off your duff (no offense to Hillary intended) and do something about it.

Come to think of it, I have a poem about it:

November 7, 2008

Make a choice and go
To see where it will lead
Or choose instead to stay,
But "Choose!" I beg, I plead.

And worse yet still is fear
To commit to things unknown.
When did courage come to be
No longer garden grown?

Or then there's blame and fault
To deny a duty's yours.
For others are not meant to be
Assigned your rightful chores.

So leave me then, I pray,
To weed my garden's choice.
But don't be shy to call when
You need a bold, strong voice.

I am actually well aware that it's not always clear-cut from person to person who is truly trapped and who is not. But everyone can act. Even if it is only to look for a way to keep going. Or even just put a voice to the nightmare so it's not all bottled up inside. Such are not how I see the 'emo'. Such cries rend my heart for their pain and leave me sending prayers to heaven on their behalf. I just seem to have no patience for those who make camp in the dark and then complain about it, or worse - glorify it. Yech.

The other nauseating element of poetry was reinforced by my semester of Victorian Literature where we learned of the poets and audience who cared not for substance but for how the sounds could cause swoons. Again: really? 'Who cares if it makes sense so long as it elicits a visceral reaction?' Well... that explains a large majority of modern media, too. There's a fine line running through the idea of "art for art's sake" and I've discovered that it's far more frequent for such claims to fall on the side of the ridiculous. It is not always empty, but I still find less of value when a thing is meaningless.

For example: There are many songs in foreign languages, usually with a certain tonal sound, that I greatly like. Take "Transformation" by Phil Collins from Brother Bear, or "Baba Yetu" by Christopher Tin from the computer game Civilization IV (nope, only know of it from the music - never played it). The first is an Inuit translation of the lyrics and the second is Swahili for "The Lord's Prayer". Both are favorites of mine. Then consider Adiemus by Karl Jenkins (music that came up on the Pandora station). I loved the sound and looked it up to learn what it was saying only to discover it said nothing. It managed to avoid the ridiculous but I simply can't engage on the same level without something to focus the lingual meaning.

There it is. You may disagree. One person I knew had a habit of posting the second type of poetry on facebook as well as her resulting swoons and if she were to see this post, she'd surely be one of those disagreeing. None-the-less, these are the reasons why I always feel a sense of shame at the designation of poet which automatically is applied to one who has ever written in verse. It is something I have consciously been trying to re-frame in my mind as it logically should not be a shameful thing. I remind myself most of all of Eliza R. Snow as a talented and meaningful poet whose works uplift and inspire and show the good poetry can bring. I think of how songs are simply poems put to music and of the music version of Robert Frost's "Walking Through Woods on a Snowy Evening" learned in grade school. I think of the epics of Homer, and yes, it even occurs to me now to think of Shakespeare (having spent four years in a festival city, it'd be embarrassing if I forgot him...). I am trying to change my perception of poets and therefore my connection to poetry. And in writing this post, I'm hoping it'll help it sink in a little deeper. Also, this sets the stage so that I might actually let myself share some of the things I have written over the past sixteen years in possible future posts. Don't expect incredible, but they do all actually say something...

Friday, August 16, 2013

"That there should be no schism in the body..."

I have clearly been remiss in keeping up w/ the blog. Truth is, I have been greatly preoccupied in considering an upcoming move, overwhelmed with an influx of the neighborhood garden excess (somehow I'm a critical step in the off-loading process even though I'm harvesting from a simple garden of my own...), and dealing with exhaustion in general from a continuing valley in the overall health state. Writing just hasn't been the highest on my priority list and trouble concentrating beyond the rest has left me with insufficient brain-power to care to focus on any blog-post subject for the time it would take to get one out.

After a couple more big cooking projects to try to use up some of the monster zucchinis that keep showing up on my door-step like morning manna, I'm also quite exhausted today. I'm supposed to be more careful with how long I stand, but between the zucchini recipe and the cookies (hey - after all these veggie dishes, you'd want a treat, too) I kinda pushed the limit. After the previous veggie cook-up (14 cups worth!) I was out of it for two days. Actually fairly out of it right now - you just can't see how many times I zone out while typing before posting.

So why am I sharing the personal? Why am I showing how even a basic project for a few hours (I'm following instructions after all) leaves me so wiped? Why am I even telling you that my life is so limited by health issues that the doctors can only recognize but can't explain or fix? Issues that almost have me house bound. Why even tell you something like that? Why presume you'd even care to hear about it?

Believe it or not, there is actually a purpose. I'm hoping I can focus well enough on it even now because it's a thought that's been percolating in the back of my mind in general and directly applicable to what's been going on in my world of late.

As I said at the beginning, I'm preparing to move in the next couple of months. I have some basic ideas to what I want but I'm not completely sure how to make it work (Heavenly Father will have to do that) or what/how I need to approach it to get what I want out of the move. I don't want to be so isolated anymore but in a ward full of grandparents and in the city of the hated past where I'm always on the watch to avoid interactions with people who'd unknowingly stir it back up, I'm kind of living in my own quiet corner, keeping to myself. But I don't want that to be my life for the foreseeable future.

I want to have people my age to interact with. I want to be close enough to activities and life so that, finally having friends again, I can have to support to be part of life again. I want to be in a situation to try to follow my dreams even though my health's such an unpredictable roller-coaster I can't really guarantee how much I can do or when I can do it. I want to be able to make a difference in the world, see the world, and reach out to people with truth through story and the gospel and I can't bear the thought of sitting around waiting for the doctors to figure it out before I start. I've had blessings say they'll manage it and fix it, but I've finally realized that none of them said when that would happen.

And so it occurs that maybe I can find a place to volunteer. Maybe, by not being an employee, they won't have the pressure of expectations for pay and I won't have the pressure of trying to meet them even if I keep crashing and have to rest. Maybe that will mean they'll have patience with the fact that I don't know much about the film industry and so I can pick things up until the docs do get it straightened out. And then I'd have experience and contacts/references to help me move forward with actual employment.

Only, I've been having enough trouble that I've needed help getting home from church next door one out of every two weeks. I have things I need to do before moving and I don't have enough energy or focus. I don't want to bother people needing enough rides (losing focus and dizzy spells mean driving would be a bad idea...) to do everything since I crash every time I go out. (Note, 'crash' regards to blood pressure falling and muscles not responding and insane sudden weakness/light-headed-ness. Not in reference to driving...)

Are you surprised I've been a bit overwhelmed and even discouraged? How can I imagine that life will be any different when I move? How can I think I can make a difference when I can't even get out on my own to interact with people? How can my life have as much potential now as when my body actually managed to function? What could Heavenly Father actually do with me in this state? Wouldn't/Aren't I just being a burden on everyone? Because I'll clearly need some serious help to do what I'm hoping to. (Those last two questions most indicative of lingering home negativity and abuse...)

I'll tell you something, though. Once I realized that the fear and doubt and discouragement were the opposite of the Lord's purposes (go figure who that indicates...) I was able to recognize how much I have already been helped. I was able to feel the confidence and encouragement and assurance that things actually will pull together. I may not know how. I may not know exactly where it will take me. But once I started seeing the hope, the stress has dropped by half. I'm still super exhausted and I still have much to determine, but the Lord has a purpose even for me.

This brings me to the thought in the back of my head. In 1 Corinthians 12, it talks about the gifts of the Spirit and how we are all part of the body of Christ (metaphorically speaking) and how the body best functions when all the different parts are represented rather than every part being the same. A body of feet couldn't eat. A body of eyes would never get anywhere. A bunch of bones would become a dust heap, and ligaments and tendons are pointless without bones and muscles. The parallels can go as deep as our current understanding of physiology.

Paul is writing this epistle to two sets of people. To those who condemn others for being of less value than they imagine themselves to be. And to those who fear that they are less than others due to the happenstance of their placement in life.

The pituitary glands are said to be the size of grains of rice, yet they have direct influence on how my body (mis-) manages my blood pressure. I am very anxious for the small things that aren't functioning properly to be found and remedied to return the level of activity I previously enjoyed. I care about them because of how they affect me.

But God does not consider our value quite the same way. I've already considered this concept in how I see others and wishing they saw their value, but I'm beginning to consider that and how it actually applies to me. Maybe it's a bit harder for me as I didn't have the benefit of being loved, or appreciated beyond my Cinderella services, at home. Or that dad repeatedly made it clear I had no right to expect or even hope for indications of value, self-worth. Maybe one of the lessons I'm meant to get out of learning to deal with this seriously annoying health situation is not just to ask for and accept help, but that needing help doesn't mean I am lacking. It just is what it is and as I have part in this life, I have just as much right to help and love and purpose and direction as I'd see in every other child of God. Even if things aren't working perfectly. And if God loves and wants to help me because He does, it seems I have no need to feel guilt for imagining and hoping and expecting that He will.