Friday, January 16, 2015
Friday, February 8, 2013
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
|He then proceeded to use the blood as finger paint. The desired affect (which I don’t think he accomplished) was to make it look like the zombie had just devoured someone’s brain and was covered in its victims bloods.|
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Monday, January 17, 2011
Although Facebook is relatively new, our culture is already establishing unwritten rules of etiquette regarding proper behavior within this forum. The punishment for any lack of respect is simply to be quietly cut off from that network. No explanation or notification is required. You will simply lose your privileges of being in the know.
What a great opportunity for those lucky parents that are cool enough to be accepted by their children as a facebook friend. No parent should take this gesture of trust lightly because your child is basically saying that you can hang out and listen while he talks to his friends. Hopefully, most parents recognize that their input is not always necessary or even appropriate.
This is actually one of the main areas of concern that most people have with Facebook, it’s too open. We connect with different people on different levels and we tend to emphasize commonalities and downplay differences. I don’t think that makes someone two-faced. We are just required to compartmentalize the way we present ourselves to different people. Perhaps some people think that they need to be the same person around their friends, and bishop, and boss, and family--who am I kidding? No one thinks that. Even if you think that, it probably isn’t true. We need to have the ability to control and manage our different relationships and Facebook can make it a little difficult.
A wise parent will take advantage of Facebook. They have a choice opportunity to see a different (and probably more authentic) side of their children. Do you really know what music your kids like? Do you know their real political views? Who they are dating? Where they go clubbing? What trashy shows they watch? All this information and more can be yours if you learn the art of restraint.
Parents are allowed to quietly lurk. This is usually tolerated, but be careful, there will be many opportunities where you will be tempted to act like the mom or dad you are and try to throw some guilt or disapproval at your child (even if he is 30 years old, and married with 3 children). You will get no special treatment in the world of Facebook my friends so don’t blow it.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Have you ever taken a moment to pull out of you your day-to-day routine to step back and observe your cultural zeitgeist from a distance? The word Zeitgeist basically refers to “the spirit of the times” or the general, cultural, ethical, spiritual and/or political climate of a group of people (thanks Wikipedia). Do you ever wonder how the technological advancements and the general attitudes of our day will be viewed in retrospect?
What an exciting time to be alive. It is such a privilege to be an observer and participant of the current cultural shifts. I wanted to share what some of my observations have been about developments in the world and what I think it means to my religious community specifically. I would be interested in hearing your opinions as well (as long as they are nice).
I think the impact of the Internet, and especially social networking sites on our consciousness are equal (if not greater) to the influence of the printing press. The Internet was definitely a huge step in establishing a connection with the world at large, but it has been good ol’ Facebook that has helped us to step over and take advantage of this technology. Many of us have recognized the benefits of connecting to our friends and family and once we have been integrated into basic networking the conversation continues to extend to other like-minded people from all over the world. We find ourselves interacting with friends of friends (of friends) in discussion threads. It is easier to track down and follow those people who have unique ideas and perspectives and to contrast them against their opponents. I have friends and business contacts all over the country (and even the world) thanks to the technology of the Internet and the contribution of that nerdy Mark Zuckerburg.
Blogs are significant, in my opinion, as well. To get something published in the past required the author to be skilled and worth paying for. Now anyone can be a published contributor to social issues. Everyone has been given a voice and, based off of their ability to hold interest they have the potential of gaining an audience to interact with as well. Personal blogs have demonstrated the ability to influence elections and turn the tides of thought. Many people, like myself, view a blog as a journal or personal record and get joy out of writing even though very few will ever read it. There is a thrill that comes with exposing ourselves to the world and seeing if anyone cares about what we think and feel. Every now and then someone does and it makes it all worth it.
So what does this mean for us? How will it influence our zeitgeist socially, politically, or religiously?
First, I think that information is more readily available to us. True, there is an abundance of poor quality information, but if a person is taught what to look for they can quickly find reliable peer-reviewed information as well within moments (as opposed to hours looking through books in a library).
I think this makes all of our institutions more accountable. It will be much harder to manipulate the minds of people when they are all able to connect and readily share information. Governments, religions and businesses have all tried to filter information to some extent in the past but now issues are becoming more and more transparent.
If you know me personally, you probably know that I love religion. I love chewing on big questions. My religion (Mormonism) is currently only less than half a percent of the world’s population, but I love thinking about what the future of my community will look like as it continues to grow and find its place in the world (or conquers it ;).
Within Mormonism specifically (a religion that was established well after the advent of recorded history), I think that we will experience pressure from both faithful and unfaithful members to adopt a much more open approach of interaction about our past. Many are in denial that there ARE any problematic aspects to our past but I think this unsympathetic opinion typically comes from those individuals who have never really evaluated it themselves.
There are many LDS historians like Richard Bushmen and Todd Compton who know all there is to know about LDS history and have still retained their faith (albeit a complicated faith). This demonstrates that difficult issues about our history can be reconciled, but it is no secret that our church has been hesitant, shall we say, to candidly address historical issues and their implications on our modern religion. If members want to understand the true nature of a prophet for example, providing them a white-washed, glossed over, representation will not be satisfactory for a generation of people who have journals and scholarly works at their disposal. They WILL investigate deeper and a stance of openness is the only approach that will surmount the oncoming hoards of curious investigators.
Although the church has neither addressed problematic historical issues in depth nor provided a descent forum for members struggling to faithfully reconcile this information, the Internet has provided the space for members all across the faith spectrum to interact and openly evaluate the goods and bads of their faith tradition. Many who choose to not participate in these discussions may be skeptical of the benefits of such interaction, but a vast number of other people have embraced it and believe that openness is the only correct way to proceed. These people are following the spiritual charge to seek out truth and are willing to bravely move forward knowing that some of their previous conceptions may need to be adjusted in order to make room for additional light and knowledge. Through this investigation beliefs may become more complicated, or perhaps are in danger of erosion, but over-all the conversation is refined and the pearls of truth rise to the surface. Ultimately, these people agree with Socrate’s statement that the unexamined life is not worth living.
In the past, struggling members have been pressured to adopt one of two acceptable responses to a crisis of faith; accept the church as it currently is, or move along and be demonized with the apostates. This is the message that many dissenters receive.
Online however, members are given many other options (BWA HA HA). There are several groups of eclectic Mormons who all share a common interest and love of Mormonism who find themselves at some middle ground in a tug-of-war between faith and reason. These Mormons seem to reject the strong dualistic options provided by the church yet still find great value in certain aspects of Mormonism. They may still hope that one day in the future God will grant them more understanding but, at the present moment, they may remain conflicted about some specific aspect of their tradition, or maybe they don’t literally believe the church’s foundational claims but find them useful for living a happy life or maybe they have been profoundly affected by the teachings of a non-christian tradition. They identify themselves with titles such as, New Order Mormons, Café Mormons, Zen Mormons, Liberal Mormons, Post Mormons, Cultural Mormons, Jack Mormons, Unorthodox Mormons and Gadianton Mormons. …Just kidding about that last one.
Are you uncomfortable yet? For most traditional faithful members there are probably multiple red flags going off at the mention of groups that allow for a non-absolutist approach to a faith that is often presented as black or white. It’s worth stating that 2/3 of our church is inactive and that the majority of self-identified Mormons would classify themselves within this Gray zone. Knowing how to approach these “fence riders” can certainly be tricky but would we prefer to push them off our fence, or find a way to accommodate their inquisitive, meddling minds?
I would like to point out (cautiously) that I myself experienced a crisis of faith and struggled for years over how to process my cognitive dissonance. This doubt was not brought about by personal sin (unless you really DO believe that doubt is actually a sin which is creepy) The conflict came from a sincere desire to understand truth and although I searched prayerfully, I was never confident that there was any faithful member that I could open up to about it. Honestly, It hurt really bad and I have never felt so isolated and abandoned. Our church rewards passionate conviction and is embarrassed by needling skepticism, yet we are expected to be skeptical about competing philosophies and truth claims.
It was voices from the aforementioned villainous groups (and some very loving and concerned individuals) that convinced me to remain an active member to this day, but on my own terms. I was sincerely touched by the honest concern that I felt from good people who had experienced the doubt and frustration I was experiencing and provided the space and reassurance, that the church did not, to honestly evaluate my beliefs.
From this perspective I was able to come to this realization…..(ahem)…
“I am a Mormon damnit! I am a quirky (annoying?) part of the family who has sprung from the loins of our quirky polygamist ancestors and if you really care (as you are obligated to) then you’ll put up with me. Forgive me for holding to the beauty I have experienced in this faith while taking ownership of the fact that many things have just not been revealed to me in as convincing a manner as they may have to you. As long as prophets have an imperfect track record (which has always been the case) I will continue to give serious criticism to any concept that feels wrong in my heart (unapologetically). At the same time I will try harder to open myself to truth wherever and from whomever it comes. I don’t care about “lines of authority” when it’s my “personal line” that validates all other lines. My God wants me to search for understanding, not intellectual out-sourcing. I firmly believe this to be true and I don't think Mormon doctrine conflicts with it."
I say give the title of “Mormon” to whoever wants it. I feel that the idea that all of the members sitting next to you in the pews on Sunday have the exact same beliefs as you just because they are there is a little naive. But I’m sure all of them feel the church is the right place to be at that time. We all want to be happy and we have a beautiful shared narrative to launch us on our journey.
Many believe that our founding stories and documents are literally true as they are portrayed, many do not, and many don’t care whether they are true or not. They are simply looking for peace and have found it within Mormonism. If God knows a better way to connect to someone, maybe we should step aside and have confidence that it will work out with out our manipulations. What do we do in the mean time? We LOVE them and we shut up and listen. If God really wants us to search for and embrace truth, maybe we should even consider the perspectives of the unorthodox to add to our understanding (yeah I went there…….gulp).
Currently the church is launching a PR campaign (http://www.mormon.org/people) spotlighting eclectic Mormons and stressing that they are valuable to our collective LDS identity. Many of these individuals represented (inter-racial couples, members struggling with same sex attraction, working women, small or single parent families, etc.) would have been frowned upon or marginalized in our church’s past. Do we really believe that they are valuable or are we threatened by innovative artists (sorry Greg) and Musicians (sorry Janice) and intellectuals (sorry Glenn) who bring all that they are to the conversation? (The comments in parenthesis are obviously based on my truly biased opinion).
Many people are attracted to the LDS approach to life for a variety of reasons. Is there something wrong with someone who chooses to stick around and hold on to what the church is offering or are we consumed with the idea that this church is only about complete conformity? How quickly, when a controversial political or social subject arises, do we figuratively draw a line in the sand and demand that struggling members decide if they are "with us" or "against us". If these words have come out of your mouth I beg you to revisit the situation with awareness and please just try to be quiet the next time around, even if that's how you really feel.
Wow, this blog really started being about one thing and then surprisingly became something else. You could never expect such klutzy writing from a professional which is why blogs are awesome.
My name is Chris Brewer. I am an artist, A questioner, a really shoddy philosopher, guitar-player, skateboarder (as of last week), and Krav Maga practitioner and…
I AM A MORMON!
Friday, September 17, 2010
So I have to admit that sometimes I really get confused about our understanding of God. When we dig down to the roots of God’s plan there is one fundamental concept that does not resonate well with me. Maybe you can help me understand why I should worry about it because on a practical day-to-day level I suspect that’s all it really does, makes us worry.
It has long been established in the Western tradition that God cannot look upon sin with the least bit of allowance. For some reason the god of the universe is not just emotionally but somehow physically repulsed by sin. Prophets infer that embedded within the natural laws of the heavens is a physical law in which perfection (water) and imperfection (oil) cannot occupy the same space. We don’t know why but apparently it is so.
This creates a dilemma for our loving God who has numberless children who will unfortunately be consumed by the flames of his goodness if they try to look upon him unprepared. This problem evokes a reference to the character of Rogue in the X-men comics who has been cursed with an uncontrollable mutation that causes her to absorb the energy of anyone who has physical contact with her. Even those people that she deeply loves cannot allow themselves to get too close to her in case, in a moment of weakness, they give in to their hearts to kiss or caress her and fall down dead completely drained of life. Her dilemma is truly heartbreaking because we all know if there is one thing that we all value it is love and connection with others. Since God is a loving God, we know that he must share that same desire. To see the pain in the eyes of all those people who want to be close to him but are by definition unclean must surely be a curse.
I think viewing this repulsion as a natural law of the universe is easier for me personally to reconcile with a loving God rather than believing that he just personally detests anything unclean or different from his image. The former God would love me as I am but understand that there is a barrier that I must cross to get to him. The latter does not like me right now as I am currently in an inferior phase of development. He would not stay in the same room with me. This God does not see complexity in the world but is willing to send me away to exist forever in unhappiness if I question one of his orders.
This barrier to reconciliation lies at the heart of God’s plan for our salvation, in fact the entire plan is established as a way to overcome this basic law of repulsion. We will not be happy unless we are in God’s presence after we die yet his presence sounds more like the flames of hell for all those who do not bare his reflection.
It’s interesting to note that many people living on this planet are unfamiliar with this law of the universe and the true nature of God. These people have been living and dying for millennia unaware that they are fundamentally flawed. It’s sad to imagine that hundreds of thousands of people could miss the real point of this existence and waste their whole lives just trying to be happy and wise.
How would things be different in my daily life if this heavenly law of repulsion did not exist? What if my God was not unlike myself raising my own children? I love them. I am affectionate, I guide them, and I do not expect them to understand everything. My sons make stupid decisions sometimes (which I expect) and they deal with the consequences. If my son Max jumps off a high chair that I warned him about and he splits his lip why should I take that as a personal insult? He’s learning from experience.
At no phase in his development would it be useful for me to tell him that one day I will leave him if he doesn’t become exactly like me, that I will no longer stand to be in the same room with him if he embraces another truth or another path to happiness other than the one I provided, that I will lock the door to my house if he is not sufficiently convinced or satisfied with my wisdom.
The times when I feel like a bad parent are the times when I am upset at a child because of my pride. They are not acting any differently than anyone would ever expect from a growing kid but the sin is mine when I think that I own them and I have full control over their path. It’s my problem if I decide to distance myself from them because of their natural flaws, not theirs. I can offer wisdom and love and hope that they learn to value the same things as me but they may not and yet still be legitimately happy or if they suffer because of poor decisions they don’t need to know that my love will be retracted in addition to the natural consequences they may already suffer.
Again, I want to hammer in that point: When your child exercises poor wisdom and brings suffering upon himself it is the parent's problem if he is ashamed and turns away from the child. Why would he be ashamed? Where would that shame come from? Both he and his son want to be happy but the son tried to obtain his happiness in a way that his father knew was risky.
Doesn't it seem plausible that the shame would come from the fact that the child simply didn't trust his father's wisdom unquestionably? Does this also infer a challenge about who is right? And what child has the audacity to challenge a parent? There are many things that a father can feel confident being right about, even if his child is a little behind but what type of a person feels diminished when their sole ownership of truth is questioned?.......... Well I do sometimes but I have to admit that I expect a little something more from God. If he really is a jealous God it makes sense why you deserve an extra punishment in addition to the natural consequences of your actions for daring to question him.
Shame........from the creator of the universe.........for what?
Let's repose the scenario just mentioned but this time we'll say that the child broke something expensive. The father is angry and starts to tell his son how he won't stand for such behavior and how he plans to send him far away where he can live with other idiots who break nice stuff. While the father is still fuming a neighbor, who has been listening from a distance steps in. The neighbor says,
"Excuse me. I'm terribly sorry about your situation. I can totally understand why you would be justified in sending this young boy away for breaking your expensive stuff. He obviously couldn't handle the responsibility of staying in your immaculate mansion in the long run without making more mistakes, but I have a very special empathy for your son sir. I have personally experienced the pain this child feels because I was a youth summer camp instructor and I saw sooo many boys make poor decisions and break lots of stuff. So I would like to cover the costs of any damage inflicted by your son in the past and I will cover anything he does in the future to lash out as long as he really thinks about his mistakes, recognizes how unhappy they make him feel, and then promises to do things that bring him and everyone else real joy. I will be happy to give him plenty of great advice and show him the love and empathy that you are justified in withholding. After all, you have a kickin house sir and I wouldn't want to see anything stain it. The father, recognizing that he now has nothing to lose begins to smile. "You really get me neighbor. You're the type of boy a dad could call his favorite". He is now pleased and everything is mended because he knows that whatever happens (son makes bad decisions, son embraces his father's way) he wouldn't have anything damaged in his kickin immaculate mansion.
Soooo....remember this story is only to illustrate an idea. It's not meant to be sacrilegious I promise. Does the father seem any more lovable in this depiction? But why not? Everything got fixed, even his unspecified expensive thing that got broken. It seems like eventually father and son will be able to occupy the same house (if that's what the son actually wants).
I'm sure at least some readers will be confused at what I'm really trying to get at here. Maybe I've lost your respect at this point for casting deity in the role of a grumpy abusive father in my story. Why should this matter to me? Why is a quirky person like me concerned about this idea? Maybe it's because I feel every one of my sons has been perfect since they stepped foot in this world. Their natures are not offensive to me. All I want for them is happiness and fulfillment. I certainly think there are other ways to help them find it besides jealous threats of abandonment. They simply need to recognize what they already are at their core. Perfect.
Anyway, while we acknowledge that the judgmental God with vanity issues must exist so that we can know we are right and others are wrong, It’s more useful for our day-to-day to think God is the unconditionally loving one. The one who will forever help you onto your feet when you fall, The one that will be there for you when you are in a self-made hell and not judge you for your foolishness. This is what I feel from God, acceptance, patience, and the purest unconditional love.
I certainly hope my Creator doesn't have issues with me that keep him at arms length when I see him again. In the mean time, I just plan on enjoying my family, being the best person I can be, and breathing in the beauty of this life.