Monday, November 23, 2015


We are approaching the end of the month of November, and I realize I haven't written much recently. That isn't because there isn't anything to write about. It's partly because I've chosen not to write until my life and my head have been calmer.

The last time I posted, I had just bruised my arm badly. That bruise has been taking its time to heal. It isn't healed. But it's been so colorful that I've been taking regular pictures of its progress, though. Unfortunately, the phone camera by the mirror trick doesn't work so well at capturing all the rainbow shades of bruises. But here is what the evolution of a bruise looks like, anyway.
Nov 7
Nov 9
Nov 12
Nov 15
Nov 18
Nov 19
It isn't quite as puffy anymore, although the colors are still spectacular. It didn't really hurt at first, but as the weeks have passed, I've noticed it more when I lean on the arm the wrong way. A couple of times it has ached at night. It was a worse injury than I initially expected.

The original post with the original bruise picture was actually a post about religion, and about going back even when it hurts. I have decided that this bruise analogy was really a very very good one. As a few weeks have passed since the religious event that bruised me badly, my feelings about that event have evolved. Some days it didn't hurt as much. Some days it hurt a lot. In all, I think the damage done to my religious observance was actually worse than I expected, like the bruise. It hurts. A couple of nights I have awakened aching. It's still shades of purple. But I can see that I am healing. Still, I cannot see things the same as before the bruising.

For the eight years I was working at G.O.D. University, I felt afraid to speak up about anything related to my religion. It would be so easy for Them to take away my job if they knew how I felt. I am still affiliated with G.O.D. University, at least until my PhD student defends his thesis and I drain some more money out of my US grant. But now that I don't work there anymore, I have more flexibility to say something when I am hurt, although I have many of the same fears.

At the encouragement of a brave friend, I finally wrote a message to my local bishop stating how I felt about the new policy. How it broke my heart. How it strained my mental capacity to believe. And how it hurt real friends of mine, people directly affected. My bishop met with me today and wept, and told me how my letter articulated some of the things he had been feeling himself. He had shared it, without my name, with the stake presidency, the local leaders one step above him, and he says they read it carefully, and it touched them. And they referred to it at least three times in a leadership meeting he attended this week.

In a church with lay clergy, you play leadership roulette. You never know what your local bishop will say or do in a difficult situation like this one (which is one of the main reasons I left G.O.D. University, by the way). But this man told me, with tears, of how he spent hours on the phone after the policy broke, speaking to his friends directly affected, and how he could see that so many people were hurting.

And yet apparently mine was the only letter. He thanked me for it, because he was able to share it, and use it explain. And he said it did make a difference, in spite of my fears. When I wrote the letter, I expected it to be received with outward kindness, because good people are kind. I expected maybe to feel some closure.

I did not expect the bishop to weep.

In the last three weeks, as I've thought about religion and my relationship with my church, and whether or not I wanted to stay, to continue to participate, I've been thinking mostly about people. I don't believe my church has a monopoly on goodness, and I no longer believe their exclusivity claims. But I do know that there are many amazing people in this religion, people I aspire to be like. These include several people who think deeply and laugh deeply in Melbourne, where we are moving, who are already good friends and with whom I expect to become even better friends. I don't want to give those people up. And apparently these good people also include my local bishop in New Jersey.

So what do we do now? When a policy is wrong, but the religion is good, and the people within it are great? We wait, and we hope, and we pray that it doesn't take long for the policy to change. And, apparently, we act when our conscience tells us to act, and speak when the heart and mind tell us to speak. And we wait upon the Lord.

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