Looking for Clarity in Mixed Messages

Competing communications

Mixed messages occur when we communicate two competing ideas. This results in miscommunication and logical conundrums. It is part of life and can often be attributed to our perception of words and actions.

For example a female often sees sexual advance of a male as a guy just ‘being nice’ while the male experiences a woman who is just being nice as a ‘sexual advance.’ Clearly this leads to confusion between both parties.

There are other cases of mixed messages though, such as where an abuser sends signals of love and hate towards the victim. Keeping them wondering exactly what is needed for love from the person in control. The narcissist creates a double bind in the relationship that is difficult for the victim to recognize and often keeps the victim in the situation far longer than expected. It also happens to the dismay of this on the outside that can readily see the abuse while the victim remains essentially blind to it.

In one case the mixed message is a misunderstanding due to personal bias, while the other is a situation where a level of thought control is exerted by one party over another emotionally attached person. There is another category of mixed message in my opinion. The religious one. I think we find components of both concepts in religious mixed messaging.

Relationships matter, good message

There is definitely a relationship at stake. You are supposed to ‘personally’ know Jesus right? In my discussion with people of differing levels of faith it becomes very clear that how a particular scripture or statement by a trusted leader depends greatly on a person’s point of view.

 

obi wan

 

But there is also messaging via the party in control that is worth consideration in my humble opinion. This sermon on the Fridge was inspired by such a message I recently read by a leader of faithful Mormons. There were some ideas in his talk that I really, really liked. Here are some examples:

 

“This is an important reminder to modern Israel that we should treat one another with respect and kindness and especially those living among us who are not members, because we were once strangers too.”

“If a neighbor, work colleague, or schoolmate is not interested in investigating the gospel, we must always continue to extend the hand of friendship”

“I invite every parent listening today to talk with your children about how they should treat others not of our faith on the school playground and in our neighborhoods. Our children learn best by the example of parents and leaders. Let us be careful regarding what we say about others and how we treat our fellowmen.”

“If we are His disciples, we must practice Christian civility and kindness to all we meet, including those who have chosen to disassociate themselves from the Church.”

 

Personally I found these to be great sentiments and appreciated hearing them taught from the pulpit. They addressed concerns I have as I watched my family ostracized from the community due to no longer believing the the prevailing faith. If I had one regret for following truth that lead to the collapse of my shelf it is the effect it eventually had on my children’s friendships when they came to similar conclusions as I did. It’s hard to see your own child treated differently due to not being of the same faith. So that last quote was very meaningful to me personally.

What is the whole message?

If only I could end it there though. The problem is this isn’t the only part of the message. Here are some other quotes from the same talk:

 

“I raise my warning voice, as Paul did, that there are those “that trouble you”—people that “pervert the gospel of Christ.” I would be shirking my duty if I did not raise my voice to warn you of the challenges we face today.”

“We are saddened when we witness some of the “very elect” deceived as Jesus warned.”

“To me this is a perfect analogy of what happens when stalwart Church members, the “very elect,” those who for all appearances seem to stand tall and erect in the faith, die spiritually.”

“Viewing podcasts and Internet sites that raise questions and doubt without being intellectually honest and that do not adequately and honestly present the Lord’s perspective”

 

To me this is a very mixed message. Love the heathen, be kind and nice and civil, but don’t let them contaminate you with their thinking or doubt. The unbeliever apperently needs to be both respected and pitied as a great tree that lost its roots and died? Taking it a step further old stereo types are reinforced with messages like this:

 

“When someone stops doing these simple but essential things,1 they cut themselves from the well of living water and allow Satan to muddle their thinking. Sin and guilt cloud the mind—leading them to deny past inspiration and revelation and causing a “de-conversion” from the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Non-believers are sinful, bad message

The person that leaves must be sinful to doubt the faith is core to this message. I still have no idea what ‘sin’ I was committing when I realized what I considered spiritual proofs of my own faith were no different than the things Muslims or the FLDS felt or any other religion. Looking at this with brutal honestly I had to consider the reliability of these feelings if they could also cause a teen girl to think it was necessary for her to become polygamous bride to a cult leader like Warren Jeffs.

 

 

Reading this talk, the mixed messaging of love your neighbor as your equal, but remember how lucky you are to be one of the chosen few was glaringly obvious to me. I think this is  because once I stepped out of the grasp religion had on my thoughts I noticed this conflicting communication is rampant in all faiths.

Bible says don’t kill, then Nephi is told to kill a drunk guy. Thou shalt not lie, but then Joseph Smith lies about his polygamy and orders a printing press destroyed for exposing it. You don’t even have to leave the bible to find mixed messages.  In one verse Jesus says love one another. Then in another he says you need to hate your family to be his disciple. 2 Entire maps of scripture have been put together highlighting the conflicting ideas.

I have determined mixed messages come part and parcel with religious faith. But I doubt most believers consciously realize the mixed messages that are being sent because they have been used to it for years.By now it just seems normal to hear such conflicting concepts reinforced. It’s simply the way religion works if you will. In fact I tend more to that explanation than an overt effort to control the thinking of members. Some find it abusive and cult like. I think it is more mild and unintentional myself.

Seeking clarification

Maybe part of the mixed messaging goes the other way, and like the relationship were one person can’t see things the same way the other can is a failing of not listening… That conclusion I reach because of this last quote that stood out to me.

“It is hard for me to understand why anyone turns to other voices on the Internet without first turning to voices of the scriptures or the voices of the living prophets and apostles.”

Let me see if I can clarify for Elder Ballard that which seems to be so hard for him to understand.

I did turn to the scriptures, and the voices of living prophets. But I kept hearing these mixed messages that frankly put never really get answered in way a that builds faith.

The answers in the new essays, especially if you do your own research following the footnotes, don’t honestly paint a compelling picture. They come off as weak justifications for some pretty awful things. Or they cause massive contradictions about how things that were doctrinal all of a sudden now aren’t. Like how the living prophets of yesterday like Brigham Young where just a product of their racist generation when they prevented Black people from getting the priesthood? Really? If that leader was off his rocker in his time and place why should I believe the current divisive LGBT rhetoric from leaders today?

I did turn to the faithful for answers to my questions. They didn’t have answers. In fact all they had was what you said. Blame to give me for not studying hard enough.

This is NOT a failure of trying

I want you to know I was reading the Book of Mormon daily the night my shelf collapsed, prayerfully looking for these answers that every leader says are there. I have yet to find clear and succinct answers. Only contradictory apologetics that put more spin on the facts than a used car salesman. I did everything asked and more before considering the possibility I was wrong and had put my faith in the wrong place. What have you done? Have you read the CES letter? How is it a director of church education can’t answer anything on the list of those items? How is it so much of what is in there is known to so few members of the faith? Why is the answer always my fault for not trying hard enough no matter how hard I try? Can’t you see how self serving such an answer is? You can use that kind of answer to prove you shouldn’t leave any religion. It’s illogical thinking and rests on circular reasoning that in any situation other than testing your own faith is obviously false.

 

 

Maybe the reason these podcasts and websites you vilify get more attention than the leaders of the church from those that questions is simple. Maybe it’s because these voices that are both somehow evil and to be avoided and yet made by non believers that shouldn’t be avoided but befriended….

Maybe they aren’t sending the mixed messages you have been.

 

 

“I just like to shoot straight, I’m a man of science, “

 

  1. Constant repetition is a well known way to control a persons perception. Is it really any wonder that ceasing to constantly repeat something might change a persons perspective?
  2. Luke 14:26

Chapel of Pain

Beginnings and Ends

We bury her tomorrow. My mother. She had been sick for a while, but after a debilitating month she finally let go.

After the initial shock of her passing, I have to admit I felt only relief and release. Her torment, that she had both suffered and created, was finally over. The fear and apprehension I felt every time I spoke with her, her projection of guilt and shame over my ‘apostasy’, her deep-seated need for comforting lies about her as a mother … and overshadowing it all, her enduring abusive behavior. It all died with her and I finally felt free.

Yet now as the funeral approaches, I’m experiencing a growing sense of dread. In part because of the platitudes I expect to hear about my mother, ‘the angel’. In part because of the mormon service my family is planning. And in part because it will be held in the LDS chapel where I suffered so much as a child.

Dark clouds of trouble hanging o'er us - an LDS chapel overshadowed with foreboding clouds
Look, see yonder… dark clouds of foreboding

Buildings and Tearing Down

Attending her funeral in that chapel won’t be easy. Some may see it as a house of peace, but for me it was a house of pain. So many conflicts. So much torment. So many memories. It may seem strange to think how strongly they still affect on me 30 years later, but I suppose that’s why they call them formative years. It was traumatic at the time and it remains difficult to process today, especially at the thought of going back.

I have vivid memories of that chapel. So much of who I am was formed there during the bubbling cauldron of my adolescence.

That was where my father forced me to get baptized when I turned 8. I told him that I didn’t believe and didn’t want to make that commitment, but he said my testimony would come after my act of faith and he set the date. When it was over, I couldn’t stop crying from the font to the confirmation. Because I had just made lifelong covenants to a church I didn’t believe in, and I took that seriously.

So you see, that chapel was where I learned to doubt myself, where I learned that those who can’t feel a testimony of mormon truth must be blinded by sin or pride. And that if I couldn’t believe, then I must be sinful … my thoughts and feelings unreliable. And if so, I was better off trusting my leaders instead of myself, even when it didn’t make any sense.

That chapel was where I learned that only mormon kids were worthy of being friends with. That I was to live in the world, but not of the world. And to avoid the world, the people in it and their beliefs at all costs, associating only with mormons whenever possible … because mormons were safe and the world was dangerous.

– But ironically, that was where I was bullied and beat up by the ‘moral and worthy’ mormon boys at church. I was so excited to learn how to camp and earn merit badges with the scouts, but they only wanted to play sports on scouting night. I was asthmatic and didn’t know how to play, so they used me as a tackle dummy and laughed when I lay on the ground and couldn’t breathe. And when I tried to quit, I got in trouble for not being a team player.

– Where the bishop interrogated me in detail about my worthiness. And publicly humiliated me by not letting me pass the sacrament. Why? Because touching myself was the only way to get rid of my morning erections so I could get dressed for school. I tried everything … wearing tight clothes to bed, tying it off with rubber bands or string, self-inflicted pain, icy cold showers, scalding hot water … but nothing worked. The only way to get dressed was to ‘commit a sin’. I felt so horrible about myself that I even tried to follow the Bible’s advice and ‘cut off the hand that offended me’. But the attempt was so painful I couldn’t go through with it, leaving me feeling even more guilty about my lack of resolve as I cleaned up the bloody mess and painfully tried to heal. At church, the other boys laughed and joked about touching themselves, and obviously never told the bishop. I saw them rewarded for lying about something normal, while I was punished and shamed for being honest.

– Where I was forced to attend Youth Conference, where we were lectured about the evils of science, the lies of the world, the temptations of movies and music, and the sins of desire and sexual attraction. They taught us never to touch or fantasize about the opposite sex. And that god would judge us for eternity over every thought and feeling that crossed our adolescent minds.

– Where I was forced to attend church dances, even though looking at girls with desire was apparently a sin next to murder. And touching them with desire would lead to my damnation. But I found out the hard way that declining to attend dances (even with the pure intent of avoiding sin) was also wrong, and would get me in trouble with my parents and church leaders. I guess the only thing worse than touching a girl is acting like you don’t want to touch girls.

– Where I was taught about the blessings of eternal sex in the celestial kingdom. I remember the married man standing in front of the class, telling us all that sex was worth the wait and how he wanted to stay worthy and enjoy it in heaven forever. Which was in stark contrast to his declarations of the evils of masturbation, sex and fantasy from just a few moments before. I was literally being taught that even though sex was good and I should want it, that any desire for it would lead to my damnation.

After these experiences and many more, I grew to hate that building and the faith it represented. To hate the lies my church leaders taught me, the no-win situations they put me in, and the physical and emotional abuse they both inflicted on me and forced me to endure within its walls.

And now my family wants to celebrate my abusive mother’s life in that house of lies and pain.

The moon casts eerie light on the ruins of a chapel on the plains.
The paths of my memory lead to the crumbling walls of a broken childhood.

Out of the Frying Pan

The closer I get to the funeral, the less I want to go. I don’t even want to get on the plane, much less step foot in that building. I feel sick, paralyzed. My wife had to buy the plane tickets, and I’ve been so upset I had to call in sick every day this week.

Some mormons would say my negative feelings prove that ‘apostates’ are filled with the spirit of the devil … or that a sinner has innate intolerance for the holy ghost … or that an ungrateful son will always be selfish toward his mother. But no, this is what happens after 27 years of abuse at the hands of a church.

To dismiss me as an ungrateful, angry apostate is to ignore the 20 years that I devoted to the LDS church after my baptism. Submitting myself to the mormon faith I had no testimony of. Believing that my thoughts must be wrong because everyone I loved and trusted told me so. Studying, fasting, praying … hoping for a long-awaited testimony with each act of faith. But receiving nothing in return but emotional and religious abuse, a near death experience from arsenic poisoning on my mission, and years of subsequent nerve pain that the LDS church covered up, blamed on imaginary sins, and threatened me to keep secret.

So when I say it will be difficult for me to sit through my mother’s funeral in that chapel, I’m not talking about a little boredom or discomfort.

I’m talking about going to dinner with your rapist and having to pick up the check. Or holding your child’s birthday party in your pedophile uncle’s back yard and having to smile and introduce him to all the kids. Or openly crossing enemy lines after escaping a POW camp where you were tortured and almost killed.

To go to my mother’s funeral, I will have to walk back into the house of pain where I suffered decades of emotional and religious abuse that I’ve worked so hard to leave behind.

Right through the front door. Tomorrow. 

I’m scared. 

Making Pokemon a No Go is a Mistake

The Church Of The Fridge endorses Pokemon Go. Yep you heard it right, it’s a good thing. Since personally playing this magical game my interactions with my children steadily increased. Not by forcing them to talk to me, but in a natural more organic way. We share rare catches on our family text group. We go for walks together hunting creatures and stocking up on Poke balls. It’s an easy game to play. It encourages walking and interacting with each other. The ease of play makes it fun for young and old alike. A game that appeals to such a wide age range is rare indeed. Did I mention the walking part?

It’s been great for me personally, a reason to exercise and chat with my kids. Something to talk about we both enjoy. And according to my old religion it should be avoided. When I first heard the admonition to not play Pokemon Go in a recent broadcast, I was flabbergasted. I mean didn’t he know that there are Poke stops at EVERY church building. Pokemon Go has made many an unwilling teen far more interested in going to church lately than any activity I am aware of. I think the fear promoted in the counsel to not play is unfounded. The rising generation is built to multitask. Information flows to and from this generation in lots of different ways, internet, twitter, instagram, phones, TV, cable and so on. They have been raised on reaching for a device in their pocket to access the knowledge base of the entire planet when their curiosity is peaked. I presume as the old guard, it is hard for the leaders to grasp that a child or teen can swipe a Poke stop every few minutes and still get something out of a lesson. But they can as can be attested to my kids pipping on a conversation I was convinced they weren’t listening to while they played a game.

After pondering the massive generational gap on this edict another thought hit me. Earring’s… I remember when women were limited to only one earring per ear by prophetic decree. At the time my wife was saddened as she removed her second pair. I saw her give up a piece of individuality that day, a dimming in what made her unique and valuable to the world. Sure she complied because it’s all about obedience right? But at what cost? Since we have left the faith much of the light that made her amazing has returned. That has been one of the more unexpected benefits of exiting a regime that controls so much of what you wear and how you are supposed to look.

The next thing that hit me was the poker ban. A little while after the the earring banning came the poker ban. It happened when the world series of poker was at an all time high in popularity. I suppose that is one of the reasons to ban things. If everyone is doing it it must be wrong. At the time, I played a monthly game with some of my best friends, I was playing occasionally with my brothers and sisters too. For me a small amount of $$ in a game was a great way to spend a couple of hours shooting the breeze while basically handing a friend twenty bucks of mad money. For a person that tends to be more introverted, these games were a great way to socialize and develop friendships. But, in an effort to obey I quit going and quit playing with my compadres. I remember how it saddened me at the time.

Concluding that this whole Pokemon No Go really wasn’t all that different than prohibiting other popular items like extra earrings and card games in the past I had an epiphany. I think this is a cry for attention. Religion as a whole is struggling to remain relevant in an ever changing world. For one so ensconced in gerontocracy the LDS faith is a case study in adaptation difficulties. Dogma once shrouded in ritual as divine knowledge is regularly destroyed by accessibility to information on a scale that has not been available to any previous generation. The old game doesn’t work anymore. So faith as a tool to help humanity is … well … kind of showing its age. It’s far too easy to hop back in time to a video or a text conversation and see exactly what was said.

The used car salesman tactic of BS’ing your way out of a uncomfortable corner is giving way to a style of open discussion where we have to look at and deal with faults in each other rather than ignore them or hide them. It’s not all roses, the reality is I do look fat in these jeans, and the white lies that greased human interaction such as these don’t work as well anymore. I think we are giving up some privacy sure. But we are also creating a world where open, honest, brutally honest discussion is the norm. This prevents oppression and encourages freedom. This is the party in the world today where the crotchety old man called religion is sitting in his chair being ignored so he lashes out with wisdom that used to be his gift to society but instead is rapidly debunked by google.

If faiths are to remain relevant in the world to come. Faith needs to adapt. Faith in a religion often equated to faith in oneself. Faith in your ideas and choices. Feedback that the risk you are taking is worth the effort. This is why the Fridge endorses Pokemon Go. Because it is a good thing that has strengthened families. Those that embrace it have used it to create positive change in their lives. Sure it may be a short lived success. But there will be another thing and another thing and another thing in the future that humanity creates to feed our social needs. We should watch for it and embrace it.

I think religion needs to finally realize what has always been it’s best product offering to humanity. It’s hope. Hope that wrongs will be righted and things will get better. All the hell fire and damnation fear tactics just don’t work anymore in the world of iPads and information. Humanity is basically good, and the old monster under the bed stories are being exposed for the myths they were all along. The new message is Hope for a Voltorb, but be happy with that Rattata for the candy you get. And always remember just being alive is a wonderfully magical experience waiting to be explored.

It’s time to find what works and promote that, rather than cling to outdated dogma dismissing anything new and popular. That is the sermon on the Fridge today.

Now if only I could get Niantic to put a Poke stop here…