In some ways I’m very fortunate in my relationship to the Church. Even though I’m really pretty radical on a lot of issues, for the last several years I’ve been very empowered within the Church both formally and informally. I’ve been to every PEC meeting and many Bishopric meetings in the last three years. Hardly a month goes by without me teaching a lesson in some class (it’s been Gospel Doctrine, Elders Quorum, and Institute most commonly). My voice is heard and my influence is felt in a large way. Never has a different view, shaggy hair and a beard, or even a vocal disagreement with the Bishop (even if, looking back, I can see that I sometimes handled it inappropriately) jeopardized that standing. And believe me, what I unleash on my fellow bloggers is nothing in comparison with the fiery and sometimes too-self-righteous indignation my Bishops have had to endure on occasion.
I don’t know if my ability to maintain this empowered status in the face of my unorthodox views and behavior is due to having very patient, understanding local leadership or because I’ve been in inner-city units that don’t have many choices for leadership positions. But whatever the reason, maybe I’ve been luckier than I realize. I say this because a few weeks ago I was talking with my parents (and Bob), and they haven’t been so lucky.
Here’s the story:
My dad — who’s definitely got his own rebellious streak — has been exploring some of his own topics on what it means to be human, our relationship with God and so forth. One of these topics is sexuality. Sex is, of course, central to our humanity and something to be proud of, used properly. He has been considering displaying some artwork that he thinks tastefully celebrates this aspect of our nature. Ultimately he has decided against it for two main reasons, one of which I completely agree with and one that puzzles me.
The first reason he has decided not to display such art is that he doesn’t want to make other people — who may not be as comfortable with sexuality, even tastefully displayed — uncomfortable. My brother and sisters who still live at home bring over lots of friends, home and visiting teachers come by, etc, and there’s no reason to shove things in people’s faces if they’re uncomfortable with them. In a way it’s the same sort of idea as not stopping the Gospel Doctrine teacher every time she doesn’t acknowledge the latest FARMS position on the topic being discussed in class. I get it. This sounds like a great reason not to decorate with such edgy stuff.
But he went further. My dad said that the other reason not to display this kind of art is that he didn’t want to be marginalized in the Church. Marginalized? Yes — he thought his voice and influence in his ward would be quieted. He would become “one of those” people who should never have any leadership or teaching positions. Whose house parents wouldn’t let their kids visit. Whose raised hand in Sunday School would send an uneasy hush through the class and start the teacher’s mind racing for ways to protect his flock from this wolf’s dangerous ideas.
Perhaps I exaggerate. Maybe he meant something subtler than this. But he was clearly afraid of something.
It’s just that hanging some risqué artwork in my home seems rather benign compared to some of the explosions I’ve had in the Bishop’s office without suffering anything like this this. Not that I’m proud of exploding at the Bishop — I’m just saying that I’ve done a lot of stuff that’s more deserving of having my influence curtailed than having a little tantric statue (or whatever he’s considering) in a quiet corner of my living room. The point is that even if I need to learn better how to handle my disagreement or even outrage with aspects of the Church, expressing myself has never caused me to be put on any official or unofficial blacklist.
It’s largely a moot point, of course. My dad is very concerned about making people feel comfortable, so reason number 1 is more than enough to keep him from doing something so bold. But since my dad and I see things so differently on the issue of marginalization, I want to ask you, my fellow bloggers, to share your thoughts and experiences on this matter. Is my dad paranoid? Do I have too narrow an experience base to know what it’s really like for slightly edgy, somewhat unorthodox members in the Church? Does this kind of marginalization even exist, and if so, what does it take to incur it?