Archive | October, 2008

It’s almost over.

31 Oct
Sorry for kicking you

Sorry for kicking you

I know. I KNOW. We are all so tired of the political discussions. However…. my e-mail box is constantly being visited by my sweet Mormon friends (many from out of state) sending me Yes on Proposition 8 information. So far, I haven’t answered back as I’m trying to save my energy. But – most of the information is inaccurate and based on unsubstantiated fear. I’ve been doing a lot of research on a lot of issues for this coming election, and I’ve spent literally hours reading legal arguments and reasoning for both sides of Prop 8. I’ve been doing lovingkindness meditation when I get frustrated. I don’t want to get sucked into contention – but I also don’t want to be silent on this issue.

My tribe is Mormon. Mormons have taken a very visible stance on this issue and it makes me wince every time I read about it. Just because there are many Mormons behind this issue, does not mean that we all think alike. Sometimes we need to say something, more than we need it to be heard. Here’s what I felt compelled to write to my church leaders about Prop 8. FWIW – I apologize for veering off of the norm on this blog. Regular programming will resume after next Tuesday. Consider the dead horse kicked. (Oh there goes my bodhisattva practice – oy!)

August 14, 2008

Dear President Monson, First Presidency, and Quorum of the Twelve,

I write this letter with a lot of respect for what you do, not as a means to affect change within the church of any kind, but to simply bring more awareness to a quiet side of the issue on Proposition 8.

As a wife and mother of three, I understand the importance of family and the value of morality. After much consideration, I have decided not to support Proposition 8. I am saddened to see the church take such an organized effort against gay marriage. I have always respected the church’s statement about voting which I understood to be: pray, ponder and vote according to your own conscience. Creating an organized effort to support this proposition, speaking about it in church meetings, asking for help with polling and monetary contributions is contradictory to this teaching.

I am concerned about the amount of time given to this during church. I understand that many members already oppose gay marriage, and that is just fine for them. There are also some of us who believe differently about the subject. It’s not a matter of being right or wrong, but about being able to vote and discuss all things openly and lovingly and create respect for a difference of opinion. Even though my views are different, I want my chapel to be a comfortable and safe place to worship. I would also like to feel comfortable bringing a non-member friend to church, but right now that is out of the question for me given the inordinate amount of time being devoted to this topic.

It is incomplete to say that this is a moral issue, therefore it is okay for the church to organize a political action. I understand that the church teaches that homosexuality is a sin, yet I cannot find one real threat to my own traditional marriage by legalizing the marriage of my gay neighbors. My marriage will not be adversely affected if our gay friends marry. The success of my marriage is up to my husband and I. It appears to me that the church is choosing to make a statement about the nature of homosexuality, more than it is trying to protect marriage.

There is a lot of fear about what might happen within our society, our church, our schools and our families if we allow gay marriage. I literally hear, “I’m afraid we’ll have to add gay parenting to school textbooks, I’m afraid that the church will legally have to perform marriages for gays, etc. ” I’ve learned through experience that most projected fears have very little to do with the reality of how life actually unfolds. They almost always end up being more of a reflection of our internal state of mind. As a group, it’s a good opportunity to step back and reflect on what our collective fears are telling us about our culture within the LDS church and how we should proceed from here.

We cannot hide behind this proposition. We need to deal with these fears and concerns regardless of whether gays receive the right to marry. They are independent issues that need attention. Regardless of what the community teaches our children, we need to teach them about homosexuality and how to interact with our gay friends. As members we need to be educated about how to love and lead a child who we suspect might be gay. We need to find a place and a way within the church for gay members.

Gay couples are not going to disappear from our culture. The stance within our church will not affect gay couples outside of the church. Gay couples will continue to commit to each other, regardless of the initiative. They will continue to raise families. We can encourage a loving attitude towards them and their children or foster an attitude of alienation and superiority. I want my children to know that under no circumstances are their friends with gay parents any less whole than our own family. In no way is their family inferior to ours. To me, this is an important part of morality and maturity.

I have heard the reasoning, “Have faith and follow the brethren.” With great respect, I must say that we are all simply human, and throughout the history of the church the leadership has occasionally missed the mark. During the civil rights movement, the church had similar fears about the Equal Rights Amendment. The leadership and many members were afraid that marriage and families would be threatened. Members were asked to be politically active and many who supported the ERA publically were reprimanded. The womens’ movement has created huge opportunities for me. My husband, who is a hands-on parent, has a much more intimate relationship with his kids than the generations of fathers before him simply due to the equality of parenting time and division of parenting responsibilities. Equal rights have benefited us both tremendously in so many ways that I can’t list them all here. Looking back, the church’s defensive stance against the ERA was not what was best for me while growing up in that era, and I believe that denying gays the equal right of marriage is not in their best interest either. It is also another example of how a movement that is already started will continue to move forward, whether or not the Proposition passes. Thankfully, the women’s movement was propelled forward, even with the failure of the ERA, and my life is incredibly different because of the women who followed their conscience and spoke up. I believe that a similar movement is moving through our society as we deal with this issue of gay marriage.

It is clear to me that opposing gay marriage will alienate a group of people already rejected by the Mormon faith, creating more pain for these couples and families who are trying to make peace in this often intolerant world. I’ve lived in California most of my life. I have gay friends, neighbors and students who are wonderful, moral people. It is clear to me through study as well as talking with my gay friends, that homosexuality is a genetic trait, not a choice. Research backs this up over and over. Statistically, it is nearly impossible to change sexual orientation, despite radical and experimental treatments, some of which were conducted at BYU at great cost to their subjects. I do not think that people should be denied the pursuit of family, or the pursuit of happiness because of their sexual predisposition.

I would love to see more members of the church reach out in understanding for what it is like to be a gay person in the world, let alone a gay member of the LDS faith. I would encourage you to sit back and reflect on your own sexual attraction and where it comes from. What if your nature steered you toward a same-sex attraction? Where would your place be within the church, and how would you find a realistic and fulfilling lifestyle? I see no support or advice within the church for these members who are trying to navigate their lives and achieve a sense of wholeness and happiness. They are often rejected and left feeling broken and hopeless with nowhere to turn. I believe that God’s plan includes happiness.

Ultimately, I was looking for a motivating force for whether to support or reject the initiative. Around me, I see that fear and defensiveness are the motivating forces for those members opposing gay marriage. As I grow in understanding of the nature of God, I understand that fear is not the Divine motivating force. Love is the divine energy that connects us all, and love is the motivation for my support of gay marriage. I do not believe that God works through fear. As a Christian, I choose love, acceptance and understanding. I have an opportunity to wage war or to wage peace, and peace is why I will vote no on Proposition 8.

I know that you are all extremely busy men – thank you for reading my letter.

Much love,
Laurie Gallagher

Advertisements

Growth

21 Oct

My friend Scott took his refuge and bodhisattva vows this weekend and it got me thinking about spiritual evolution. (Congratulations again Scott!)

I found this marvelous quote by Anais Nin that seemed to deserve some real contemplation:

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.

Let me really digress.

20 Oct

Tonight at dinner, Drew said the prayer. She always says the dinner prayer, even if someone else says it first.

In her sassy voice she prayed: “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the food and the poopie. Amen.”

Me: “Not OK Drew. Please say that prayer again.”

Drew: “Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to stop saying poopie. Amen.”

Here’s one for the boys

20 Oct

Things are getting a bit heavy here at BB, so here’s one for the boys. My boys to be exact – Brandon and Kieran, enjoy all 21 seconds of juvenile humor!

Cynicism – part 1

17 Oct

I look forward to my weekly podcasts with The ID project – Ethan Nicturne’s unique and modern interpretation of Buddhism is educational, honest, and entertaining. This week the topic was Cynicism and the 3 pillars of zen. As a religious refugee, his talk hit upon a lot of thoughts I’ve had lately and he put it so eloquently: (Keep in mind that he was speaking – not writing!)

“One of the things that I’ve always like about the Buddhist tradition is that you are required to be skeptical. Now that’s a strong statement. I did not just say it’s unlike some other spiritual traditions because they let you ask questions, or if you’re a somewhat disbelieving son of a bitch like myself they’ll allow you to stay in the room, right – but they really want you to come around to their perspective. The Buddhist tradition is a method of investigation and inquiry that requires disbelief to function. Do you see the difference? It’s different than saying if you have any questions, sure, and we’ll enlighten you, and then eventually you’ll get it, and become a Buddhist and we’ll humor you through that process. You need to not believe – to get anything out of this. So that really fascinated me, Because of that I think it’s the perfect method of life inquiry for our post-modern, democratic society. “

Ethan hits it on the head for me. This method of inquiry is so refreshing because it is ego-less in it’s approach. We get to approach the teachings with a skeptical mind, and through application we see if they actually work. The Buddhist teachers are the first to say, “hey, if it doesn’t work, don’t use it. No problem.” This way of approaching spiritual life is all about truth, not about belief. The tradition is about using what literally works, not about defending a set of beliefs. There is nobody trying to convert anybody. The basic premise of the tradition is to sit, be still and pay attention. If you pay attention, truth will be illuminated. Religion goes the opposite way and says, “Here’s a list of things that are true – live this way. Take this list and through belief that these things are true, they’ll be true. If you want to ask God yourself – good! Ask him. But if you get a different answer than we believe in, just keep asking until you get the right answer.” I know this is provocative to say, but it seems to me that religion asks us to believe in things with no burden of proof. This later approach is similar to using the scientific method in reverse – taking an assumption and finding the proof to justify the belief. In the Buddhist tradition, it’s the other way around. It’s about keeping a completely fearless, open mind and noticing what pieces of truth I can find along the path. The burden of proof is on the teaching itself – the awareness of reality, rather than on the practitioner or the rigid belief. It’s so beautifully said in my favorite quote by Thich Nhat Hanh: “Your own life is the instrument with which we experiment with the truth.”

Greenfrog sent me the following story while back, knowing it would make me smile.

August 31, 2008
Tricycle’s Daily Dharma
What Happens to Most Pieces of Truth
One day Mara, the Buddhist god of ignorance and evil, was traveling through the villages of India with his attendants. He saw a man doing walking meditation whose face was lit up in wonder. The man had just discovered something on the ground in front of him. Mara’s attendants asked what that was and Mara replied, “A piece of truth.” “Doesn’t this bother you when someone finds a piece of the truth, O evil one?” his attendants asked. “No,” Mara replied. “Right after this they usually make a belief out of it.”
-Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield, in Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart
from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book

Interestingly enough, faith is a big part of Buddhism. I’ll continue this post and jump into the 3 pillars and how contemplative study actually illuminates the truths within religion. In the meantime, take a listen to Ethan’s dharma talk – it’s a good one. (It’s on I-tunes under ID Project)

While we’re on the subject…

17 Oct

of politics. What do you all think about Prop 2? It basically requires that by 2015, all California farmer’s need to adapt their animal enclosures so that their chickens, sows, and cows can turn around, lie down, stand up, and extend their limbs. This is not about free range, or letting the animals see the sun. It’s not about encouraging the animals to live in their own natural instincts. It just says that they should be able to turn around, lie down, stand up, and extend their limbs. The egg laying chickens can still be stacked cage on top of cage, pooping on top of each other.The animals can still be factory farmed and enclosed. We’re talking about a simple widening of the cages by sometimes 2 feet, or not packing the chicken cages so tight with animals so that the chickens can spread their wings and the baby cows can turn around.

The downside to Prop 2 is real. This type of automated farming is so common now that it will really affect the farmers – some of who have been in farming for generations. I take that pretty seriously – we don’t want people to suffer either. I see this shift in farming inevitable though, and the farmer’s will be given until 2015 to make the necessary changes. From what I’ve read, it seems like eggs will be affected the most. We’ll probably end up importing more eggs from out of state to comply with this proposition, and the cost will go up.

People are waking up – they are paying more attention. Green is growing and awareness is heightened. I see this as a necessary step, and I have empathy for both the farming industry and all of us who may pay higher prices. I don’t think everybody should be vegetarian – it’s a big shift and it’s unrealistic. I do feel better about my 3 carnivorous family members buying meat products that came from happy animals though. I’m relieved to be a vegetarian and I’ve committed to buy free range eggs. I don’t think prop 2 is enough but I think it’s a start in the right direction.

What do you think?

My family raised a few free range chickens and I used to get to gather the eggs. One small chicken coop was so overwhelmingly stinky. I cant look at this picture without holding my breath!

My family raised a few free range chickens and I used to "get to" gather the eggs. One small chicken coop was so overwhelmingly stinky. I can't look at this picture without holding my breath!

Which eggs do you want to eat?

Which eggs do you want to eat? And don't even get me started on baby cows...

Prop 8

15 Oct

I totally get that people disagree about politics – that’s cool. I like to give people their space and I like to have space when it comes to political opinions. Proposition 8 though, really hits home to me and I’m glad to have the right to a voice in the matter.

I think of all the titles I’m uncomfortable labeling myself as yet accurately describe me and shape my path in this world: yogi, student of Christ – Buddha, Mormon, mother, bodhi-sattva, bhakti, straight, female, etc. and how can I possibly vote against gay marriage?

Equality, love and acceptance. The pursuit of happiness, the art of accepting your true nature as whole and perfect. The world could use a little more of this.

Please vote No on Prop 8.