Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Casual, superfical Christlike Love

One of the things that really bothers me about gay culture and what sometimes seems to also find its way into the SGA culture of the church is the tendency of guys to be wary nurturing friendships that are more than anything casual or superficial. Now granted I don't think people should write each other and be best buds for life. Casual is okay but superficial isn't.

I have a couple theories about this. I think that online based friendships based on common struggles foster these situations. People tend to open up and share deeply personal things with people they should only share with a loved one or a priesthood leader, but because of the nature of their struggle feel they can't. At first because of the perceived long-distance they feel safe. They feel a common bond with these guys and they form attachments. Some are starved for affection and crave approval. For a lot this is their only interaction with people like themselves. If they live in remote or isolated places or because of their religion or beliefs they are the minority these friendships become substations for the real thing. Or maybe they are just afraid of being honest about how they feel with people they really know. I think this is why do many people in the group move to Utah hoping to find the same kind of community.

You and I both know that a lot of guys who struggle also have emotional issues with attachment on both ends of the spectrum. Some guys are incredibly shallow when it comes to things like age, looks, and body size. They are good at finding justifications for this. They may tell you they love you like God tells them they have to love everyone, but again I think that is to make them feel Christlike and not mean. I've found that the key to being Christlike is how the other person feels and not how you feel when you strive to be that. A lot of these guys think that these measurements for perfection have something to do with the value of the person inside. Those who fit these standards of perfection often judge others who don't as less worthy and their attempts at friendship as desperateness and neediness. Those who don't fit it, also judge themselves harshly and often develop self esteem issues. They do come off as needy and lets face it, it probably is easier for young good looking guys to find supportive friends then those who don't fit that mold.

The problem comes when someone wants to move a friendship beyond the net. Personally I see the net as a tool. I don't really see it as a venue. If someone is worthy of friendship online then they are worthy of being friends offline. But thats just me. I've also heard of friends who needed to "step back" or take a break. I think that there is some danger in trying to seek advice about how to do something from people who haven't quite figured it out on their own. Strength in numbers isn't good when misery seeks company and unless everyone has the same goals some of this support can turn into enabling. I think others confuse support of affirmation. For whatever reasons I thnk at times we do more harm then good when we try to help. I really do think groups like Evergreen and FHE are a good thing, but they can become bad things to. I think they become what you put into them.

Because it is online, there is a certain amount of privacy and sometimes dishonesty. Again I think that we find ways to justify these little white lies about who we are and things like that. We are scared or need to protect something. For some people after forming what they think is a close friendship with someone online, then learning that someone isn't who they say they are, say their friend has lied about their name or age or other personal details really does put into question the truthfulness of other aspects of their friendship. Trust is an important element in a friendship. The person who is lying may feel they have good reasons.

Other people may not understand how someone can be so open to telling them things and than not want to hang out. Like I said there are all sorts of emotional and attachment issues here. All of these things are things that may be worth further study.

The other thing that bothers me about the subculture is our need to compartmentalize friendships. You know "these are my gay friends" these are my "straight friends" for me if we are LDS and trying I honestly strive not to make a separation.

I was reading the last few things that came from the church and was wondering if this is partily why Elder Oaks warns us about dwelling on the topic, getting too much involved in groups and making it the whole of our existences. I think that just as we aren't supposed to use the word gay as a noun to describe ourselves we shouldn't also use it as a means to pigeon hole our friends.

I know that a lot of what I think about the subject doesn't bode well with what has become the popular, accepted or comfortable beliefs among the faithful SGA or the Moho community. I think that a lot of what I believe falls in line with what has been taught, but I'm not afraid to be blunt about it or soften it so that people won't feel bad about themselves. I know no one likes to be broken or and everyone wants to feel like nothing is wrong with them. But lets face it. We are ALL broken. Everyone is broken, thats the reason we are here. That's why we needed an atonement. We are imperfect. This urge if acted on will separate us from God as all sins will. And if not acted on or overcame will strengthen us and bring us closer to God. Some urges won't go away, some will. I honestly believe that a lot of the guys who deal with this, and I mean the faithful ones generally lack a sense of the eternal and have been deceived by some philosophies of men that have crept there way into their reasoning and their desire to feel unbroken. The argue against change because they don't want to believe that they need to change.

I think too many in this group have accepted the fact that they are gay but that they won't act on it. They have accepted many elements of the gay culture into their lives. They are living in the world and trying to be as much a part of the world without being of the world. No before you get upset and tell me I have no right to judge. I think there is also another very important concept that we have all forgotten. We all judge. When we choose to enter into a friendship for whatever reason we have done so based on a judgment. We need to not confuse judgment with condemnation. We reap what we sew, we are a product of our environment. If we surround ourselves with reminders and with parts of a culture then we normalize these things in our lives and they become part of who we are. When we use standards of the culture to judge other people we are adopting those values.

I know that the first presidency doesn't recommends marriage as a cure to this. I was glad to see them say that. What I'm afraid of however is how that will be read or perhaps misread to mean. "See, I was right, marriage isn't for me." I choose celibacy, not pursuing women, not trying instead of pursuing "change" and generally resting content with "mortal mediocrity" as a friend of mine recently put it. I know that many bristled when President Packer said that one of the sins that results when homosexuality is fallen into is pride. I think this is what he means. This is pride, self deception, apathy and honestly its not taking responsibility for the agency we've been given. All things that the devil uses to persuade us from pursuing righteous ends.

Now let me say I'm not innocent. I have my additions, I have my issues and things I've done that have made me unworthy. I don't justify it, or say "well it taught me this so I'm greatful for it," I am, but to be honest I wish I hadn't done some of those things. But admitting this I think allows me to say that I know from expirence what I'm talking about. I've seen what happens when we act certain ways and let certain elements into our lives. I know the end result. We can hide behind a mask of "not judging" but at the same time I think we need to be honest to ourselves about the consequence that follow such self imposed blindness.

This is life. This is our personal trail. For those who accept it as who they are and who are grateful for it and who don't want to change but who strive not to act on it because its a sin. That's like accepting that God has given you a gift that you are never going to be allowed to use, God is not that cruel. There isn't any other word but stupidity for that kind of thinking. We live in a world that for whatever reason God has decided that we need to be tested in this way. The church honestly doesn't need to know "why" we are this way or what causes it. We know that we aren't bad people for having these feelings. We know that God loves us. Most of those who have given up didn't do so because they wanted to "spite God" they did so because they are disparate or tired of fighting. Those of us who are trying, desperately want to be loved and understood. But neither groups will ever be happy is they see the church as a prison that they live in that confines their desires.


Anonymous said...

Well, Jerry, I agree with most of what you've said, but I have to disagree about one thing. I don't think it is necessarily a lack of faith to admit that you may always be attracted to men and not to women. I think that in some ways that can show a lot of faith. It may be the truth. You may always be attracted to men. It's possible that this will be a trial for the rest of your life. Does that mean that you didn't have enough faith in God? Not necessarily. I don't deny that God has the power to take away this and any other trial. Of course he has that power, but he also has the wisdom to know what is best for us, and if taking away your same gender attraction is not the best thing for you, he probably won't do it. If you lose sight of that, you may become bitter and angry that God hasn't fixed you. Maybe you're not meant to be fixed. My mother has suffered for many years with severe depression. She has had many priesthood blessings from my father, home teachers, bishops, stake presidents, and general authorities, including multiple members of the Quorum of the Twelve. And yet she remains in the same state of depression. Is this because she lacks faith? Is it because the people pronouncing the blessings lack faith or the power of the priesthood? I don't think so. I think it is because my mom still has something left to gain from this trial. She may live with it for the rest of her life. You may remain attracted to men for the rest of your life. You may not. You may fall in love with a woman and get married and have children. You may not. I find nothing wrong with accepting that reality. You are not condemned to celibacy because of your attraction to men, but marriage and family may be more difficult to achieve.

Jerry said...

David, thank you. I agree with you and should have empathized that point in my blog. I do believe you touched on a point I missed. But I also think that many gay, SGA, Moho's or whatever have a distorted since of reality. I do think we need to accept ourselves. It's the notion that change is somehow selfish. I don't accept that even if something is real, like our feelings or attractions that we are trapped or bound to them. I think we can accept them and at the same time not act on them. But I don't think we need to define ourselves by them. You make an awesome point and I agree with you.