Empathy in the back seat

I am your older brother. I have been around the block a little more than you. I feel responsible for how you develop. I might even say it is my duty to teach you how to live a good life. But life isn’t easy and sorrows abound. That is why I feel your pain, even as I force you to hit yourself repeatedly in the face in the back seat of our car, currently driving to Grandma’s.

The feelings of betrayal, confusion, and despair are understandable. How could this be happening? Why has your own hand turned against you? It is best not to question. No one really knows. Some things must just be endured until the end of our car ride to Grandma’s.

You might say to yourself, “I am not the problem here. I only am hitting myself because you are making me.” But you fail to see the bigger picture. Older brothers have made younger siblings hit themselves in the face in the back seat on the way to Grandma’s for as long as I can remember. This is established. To question it is to invite the wrath and condemnation of the parents.

Perhaps you’d like to try to contact the parents directly? You are welcome to contact the parents regarding many things. I encourage you to do so. But, as I said above, to approach them regarding the reasons why I am forcing you to hit yourself in the face will not go well. There will be yelling, the car may be pulled over, or possibly turned around. We both do not want this, because Grandma is cool and gives us nice things. It is better to just endure the punishment your hand is giving you for reasons that remain obscure.

I will sit with you in this. I will be there for you. You are not alone, as I force you to hit yourself in the face, while we ride in the back seat to Grandma’s house. It is what I can do.


  1. Yep.

  2. Mr. Roberto says:

    But when you contact the parents, talk only to Dad. Never to Mom.

  3. William Dixon says:

    This type of post makes me not want to visit BCC.

  4. I love this so much. I have also sat in that seat. There is a metaphor here that is so clever and absurd that it is genius.

  5. My apologies. But I’m having a hard time following this. The best I can figure you are equating the younger brother hitting himself in the back seat to Church leaders’ refusing to recognize LGBT relationships or allow same sex marriage or something related during their way back to heaven. If that is the case, for the analogy to work, the older brother = Church leaders and Grandma = God. Where this falls apart for me is that, if one believes the Church leaders, they are only following God’s will and are not the one’s who are making the rules. In your analogy that would be akin to “Grandma” asking the younger brother to hit himself — not the “older brother”.

  6. Is just an analogy. No analogy is perfect.

    It actually speaks pretty well to the false consciousness that the lgbtq community is creating in anyone struggling that they won’t be happy unless they live an unfruitful, immoral life. So they keep hitting them in the face with the victims own hand as they drive this false consciousness even further into their minds.

    Your instruments of sin and justifying sin will be turned against you.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    John C, you are going to have to explain your meaning. I caught the reference to having to deal with adversity, but not the connection to LGBT issues. Was that the sole point you were trying to make?

  8. There are so many ways this can be applied if “big brother” is church leaders. I am not gay or guilty of any sin, but it still applied to my life as I tried to heal from childhood abuse. The church was the biggest hindrance to healing, because “big brother” kept forcing me to hit myself, all in the name of “getting to grandma’s house.” I won’t take the time to go into detail, because there were several ways church leaders did not understand the issue. There were conflicts between church definitions of “forgiveness” and protecting my own children from abuse. There were issues of me having ownership of my body against what the church told me I had to wear as underwear. “Big brother” eventually drove me out of the car, so now I am walking to grandma’s house.

  9. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Commentors: when you go to a standup comedy show, must you have a q&a in which you demand the comic explain that one joke you didn’t get? Or when you read a political cartoon that you don’t understand, do you email and seek an explanation from the artist? What on earth do you do with song lyrics that seem slightly inscrutable? Facepalm.

  10. Thomas Parkin says:

    This made my day. :)

  11. BlueRidge — they do if they are fans of McNaughton’s propaganda.

  12. Blueridge: Agree that John C has no obligation to explain the joke (and it would be extremely cringe to do so.)
    However, I do understand to an extent where critical commenters are coming from. This is the first post since the end of GC, and the fact that it’s too vague to really have a single coherent discussion about is a bit frustrating. I personally would have enjoyed it a lot more if we had a few more specific posts first.

  13. john f: Jon McNaughton is a national treasure and I will brook no criticism of him. One of the funniest men in America.

  14. @philo, the way I see it, your second comment falls squarely into the same ‘problem’ as you are claiming the OP does. There is almost no way I (or most people who read this blog) can read your comment as anything other that obvious snark because of how bad McNaughton is. And yet . . . perhaps you are serious? I’m going with the snark, but . . . I can’t be certain. Ah, the problems of written communication.

  15. None of your business says:

    Is this the OP that proves BCC has jumped the shark? Sure seems to be…

  16. Ah, I hope it didn’t sound like I think the vagueness is an inherent ‘problem’ with the post – I like it, I just think that right at this specific moment there’s probably a good bit of energy floating around, and this isn’t the right kind of post to channel it*. Not a bad thing, just an explanation for the frustration.
    The problems of written communication, indeed!

    *Or rather, not all of it. It’s cathartic for a lot of us, and I imagine it’s especially cathartic for a few of us, but it doesn’t leave much of an outlet for the more, ah, verbose impulses. As evidenced by the fact that I’m typing all of this over a super meaningless meta issue.

  17. @Philo. I hear you. And I hear the post. In all honesty, I’m so tired right now, maybe all I can handle right now is the poetry of acknowledgement. Perhaps I can face the many phantoms another day.

  18. All, the people not getting it, lucky you. I imagine it is great not to have your religion cause a great deal of pain and then tell you the pain is all your fault, for something that is not a sin, and I am not talking LGBT+ issues or anything that is against the church. That was why I explained how it applies in my life, in ways that Grandmother really would not like to find out big brother was forcing me to hit myself.

    Jesus talked in parables for a reason. For those who have ears, let them hear.

  19. Grateful reader says:

    I like this post. It expressed so many things I have felt that drove me to despair. That despair led me to God. Now l love the Church but with an eyes-wide-open kind of love. I love people in my neighborhood ward and the missionaries that don’t talk down to me like I’m five years old. I don’t make my identity or sense of self depend on how much random of church leaders I exhibit.

    If you are mad or disgusted with the post or BCC, you don’t know the sad world I have lived in for years or how wonderful I feel to be on the other side of that world, healing and finally living a life of hope.

    If you think you “know” who/what brother is for every single reader here, you are likely frustrated that people don’t just fall in line like you expect.

    You probably express hatred toward people like me who think and share and make you feel uncomfortable because you don’t want to. Even if you don’t, I think God loves my ability to understand what this writer was doing to heal the wounds of others.

  20. Don’t make me stop this car.

    A post that is clearly a metaphor and doesn’t explain its meaning is a bit of a mirror for the commenters to look in and discuss what they see in themselves. So people that appreciate the OP might say “yay thanks for bringing up Topic A that I really need to talk about”; they are really showing that they are interested in that topic. And the haters that say “topic B really annoys me and I’m tired of you bringing it up” are ironically the only ones bringing up topic B explicitly, and thereby demonstrating their possible obsession with the topic.

    Yes, they are all possibly correct that the original poster considered both topics A and B. But the folks who actually raised these topics explicitly are the commenters. And that is the beauty of a metaphorical post.

    With all that said, I have just one question.

    Are we there yet?

  21. Canadian Dude says:

    The post speaks to the problem of not being allowed/encouraged to verify the legitimacy (spiritual, empirical, ethical, etc) of revealed doctrines & policies backed by church leaders.

    The church frequently does this weird magic trick where it simultaneously claims that 1) “When the Prophet speaks, … the debate is over” ; and 2) John 7:17; James 1: 5-6; and Moroni 10 which emphasizes the importance of personal confirmation.

    So when Renlund says:

    “When we ask for revelation about something God has already given clear direction, we open ourselves up
    to misinterpreting our feelings and hearing what we want to hear.”

    How does that square with apologetic and lay claims that members/nonmembers are actually *encouraged* to seek confirmation of prophetic council?

    How does a person confirm then what “God has already given clear direction” on?

    It’s a ludicrous and closed system that continues to enjoy the assumption of prophetic infallibility, but absent of both a doctrine and empirical record of said infallibility.

  22. A Poor Wayfaring Stranger says:

    Canadian Dude, I always appreciated President Hinkley’s admonition at the end of every conference that we think through what was spoken in conference and then ask the Lord to tell us if what we heard was truly His word for us. I can’t ever imagine the current church leaders admonishing us to do so. They’re content to believe that what they preach is ALWAYS right so therefore we needn’t bother with asking God to give our own personal witness about the truth and rightness of the things that they preach. Nelson likes to use the negative term “lazy learners” to denigrate anyone who has a different view than his when in fact the “lazy learners” are those people who don’t bother to think through what they’ve been taught and are more than happy to let someone else do the thinking for them.

  23. Aussie Mormon says:

    “Nelson likes to use the negative term “lazy learners” to denigrate anyone who has a different view than his when in fact the “lazy learners” are those people who don’t bother to think through what they’ve been taught and are more than happy to let someone else do the thinking for them.”

    The SINGLE talk where he’s used that term doesn’t have anything like what you claim in it.

  24. Pconnornc says:

    “ When we ask for revelation about something God has already given clear direction, we open ourselves up to misinterpreting our feelings and hearing what we want to hear.” I am looking for the falseness of this statement? It doesn’t prohibit against asking, but their are pitfalls. Renlund’s example of someone receiving revelation that embezzlement was the answer to their financial issues is a great example.

    Using the author’s analogy, the older brother might say “Mom & Dad have told us 100 times we’re not getting a dog. They have even give us reasons why not. You are welcome to go ask them again, but keep in mind that they might not take it too well.”

  25. Ryan Mullen says:


    Re “I am looking for the falseness of this statement” by Renlund.

    To flip his statement around, when we fail to ask for revelation about something and instead assume that God has already given clear direction, we open ourselves up to perpetuating harm and failing to correct injustice. Since God does not objectively make Their will known in the same way that another human can, the possibility that an intervening human (or group of humans) has already misinterpreted their feelings and heard what they want to hear can never be eliminated.

  26. pconnornc says:

    Ryan – that’s not falseness, it is rewording for a different purpose. Elder Renlund made a true statement and gave examples of how people have misinterpreted. Anyone else tell me what is false about his statement?

  27. PConnorNC,
    I’m not clear on what you want. It seems like you are asking someone to disprove a hypothetical, which isn’t really a thing argumentation can do.

  28. Thank you for your post.Then I realized it could be an advantage.

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