book reviews, homosexuality, religion

Repost: My review of The Cross in the Closet, by Timothy Kurek…

I posted this review on my original blog on March 25, 2014. It appears here as/is.

Today’s review is about Timothy Kurek’s 2012 book, The Cross in the Closet.  I don’t remember why I downloaded this book.  I think I heard about it somewhere and decided it sounded interesting.  Right now, it’s selling for about $5 on Amazon, so that might have also had something to do with my decision to buy.  I read Kurek’s book in a matter of hours…  and when I was finished with it, I was kind of reminded of this video.

This video is definitely NSFW, but it’s funny… 

The Cross in the Closet is the true story of how Timothy Kurek, like several authors before him, decided to fake something in order to develop empathy.  Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By In America, faked being poor and uneducated so she could write about what it’s like to be poor and having to work at minimum wage jobs to get by.  I read her book in the early 2000s and enjoyed it the first time I read it.  Then I read it again and it kind of pissed me off.  Ehrenreich wasn’t really poor and knew there was an end to when she’d have to fake being poor.  She had an escape from poverty– there was a light at the end of the tunnel that she could use to bolster herself when things got really hard.  That’s not to say that I don’t think she learned anything.  It’s just to say that her experience wasn’t all that authentic.

In a similar fashion, Timothy Kurek, who grew up near Nashville in a conservative Christian home and spent a year at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, faked being gay for a year.  At the start of his book, Kurek writes about how Jerry Falwell had preached against homosexuality and how people who are gay or lesbian are living sinful lives.  When Kurek is confronted by a gay activist who calls him “brother”, he calls the man to repentance.  He is very sure of his position; that homosexuals are hopeless sinners who lead disgusting lives.  He treats them terribly.

After a year at Liberty, Kurek goes back to Tennessee because his parents split up.  He starts hanging around a karaoke bar in Nashville, where he becomes acquainted with some homosexuals.  One of his dear friends, a young woman he knew from church, comes out to him.  She is devastated because her parents have disowned her.  As Kurek awkwardly comforts his friend, he can’t find the right words to say.  He realizes that he’s been bigoted.  He starts to realize that homosexuals are people too.  Then, he decides he’s going to experiment.  He hatches his plan to come out as gay to his family and friends, even though he is straight.  He will spend a year on this charade, learning something about the homosexual community.

Kurek’s family seems to take his announcement with shock and dismay, but they still talk to him.  His pastor at church sends him a rather hateful missive about not condoning the sinful gay lifestyle.  Some of his friends quit talking to him.  Kurek goes to a gay bar and is immediately hit on, which makes him uncomfortable.  Fortunately, he has a gay friend from the karaoke bar who serves as his boyfriend during the year to keep him from being hit on by interested men.  The friend, whose name is Shawn, is black, handsome, and a very gifted singer… and he doesn’t have a problem playing “boyfriend” at first.

I was intrigued by Kurek, who claims to be a conservative Christian, but does things that I wouldn’t expect from a lifelong conservative evangelical Christian.  Though Kurek writes that he spent a lot of hours in church, he smokes clove cigarettes.  At the start of the book, he claims to have only tasted beer twice, but by the end, he’s very much a drinker.  He dances.  He also swears a lot for someone who is so apparently Christian.  All of these things go against what I’ve been taught about the evangelical Christian community and what they think is okay.     

As the year passes, Kurek finds himself becoming more involved and therefore more knowledgable about the LGBTQ world.  He makes many friends, works in a gay cafe where he learns how to make excellent lattes, and goes to a lot of karaoke bars.  He learns that many homosexuals are wonderful people and some are not so wonderful.  He makes some very dear friends, even as he fights his natural attraction to women.  He even discovers that homosexuals can love God when he stumbles across a transvestite singing “Awesome God” at a karaoke show.  In short, Kurek seems to learn that in the most important ways, homosexuals are really not so different than straight people are.  One thing I noticed from Kurek’s book is that the gay community he was briefly a part of seemed very tight knit and caring… not unlike some church communities.  Although knowing what I know about some churches, I bet the gay community’s caring was more genuine.  From what Kurek writes, most of the homosexuals he befriended during his gay year were still friends when he came clean.

Actually, Kurek’s description of the karaoke bars was interesting to me, since Bill and I once went to one in Key West, Florida.  I happen to love karaoke and they had a great show going.  We went; I sang; and the people there were really great.  We had a blast… though I would be lying if I said Bill wasn’t very uncomfortable at first.  He didn’t know how to behave.  Bill has an adopted “half-sister” who is a lesbian, though she’s 19 years younger than he is.  He doesn’t know her as well as he’d like to, but through Facebook we’ve discovered that she’s a truly wonderful person who is very involved in her community.  But despite having a lesbian sister, Bill hasn’t been exposed to members of the gay community nearly as much as I have and really felt out of his element in a gay bar.  For that reason, I could empathize with Kurek’s first experiences visiting establishments that cater to the homosexual community.

Kurek’s year of being “gay” was difficult, though his experience being “gay” definitely wasn’t as difficult as it was for most of the new friends he made.  Again, Kurek knew his condition was temporary and could count down the months before he could be straight again.  His family and friends were by and large decent about it… until his brother and his wife found out halfway through the year that Kurek had lied about being gay.  It caused a huge rift that Kurek describes rather poignantly.  Kurek is close to his brother, so his brother’s anger was very painful for him.  Unrequited love on the part of Kurek’s “boyfriend” Shawn, seems to make Kurek’s experiment more difficult for Shawn.

I was surprised by how Kurek’s homosexual friends took the news when he told them he wasn’t actually gay.  They mostly seemed okay with his experiment.  I’m sure that to many of them, what Kurek did was pretty bold and maybe even kind of cool, especially since it led to Kurek being more empathetic.  However, I couldn’t help but realize that Kurek’s experience with being gay was not as authentic as it might have been.  In fact, it was a bit contrived and what he did is nothing new.  And I wondered if any of his new friends were offended by Kurek’s decision to be “fake and gay”.  He doesn’t mention any that I remember, though.

Kurek’s writing is basically okay, though there are some typos and misspelled words in his manuscript.  Kurek’s dialogue also sometimes feels a little scripted… like something I might hear on a soap opera.  He seems very young, too… which I believe he was when he wrote this book.  The youth seems to inject his writing with the kind of testosterone that makes young men single-minded and dogmatic about certain things.  The writing got a little preachy at times.  That being said, I thought The Cross in the Closet was basically an interesting book.  I would recommend it to anyone who thinks reading about Kurek’s experiment might interest them.  You could certainly read worse.

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homosexuality, movies

Repost: Review of the film Men In The Nude…

As long as I’m writing about foreign films, here’s a review I wrote for Epinions in 2011 about the 2006 Hungarian movie, Men in the Nude. If I recall correctly, when I posted this review on Facebook, I lost at least one Facebook friend.  Fortunately, he wasn’t actually a friend.  I guess the guy was offended by the words “homosexual experimentation”.  I should watch more foreign films.  They are interesting, even if I do have to read the subtitles.  By the way, this wasn’t a porn film. My review appears here “as/is”.

Writer’s block plus mid life crisis equals homosexual experimentation

I’m not quite sure how I ended up with the 2006 Hungarian art film Men in the Nude in my Netflix queue.  I think I might have added it because I watched a few interesting Romanian films last year and wondered if I’d like Hungarian cinema as much.  In any case, having had this DVD in my possession for the past couple of weeks, I finally sat down to watch it.  It’s entirely in Hungarian, so actually watching the film is a must to get the gist of what’s going on.  There are subtitles at the bottom of the screen. 

The story

The film starts off promising enough, with a shot of the iconic Budapest train station.  Having walked around there with my husband Bill, I immediately felt oriented.  Then, once the setting shifts to a Hungarian restaurant where our protagonist, Tibor (László Gálffi), is on the phone with his wife (Éva Kerekes), things are less familiar.

Tibor is a writer and has been on the road promoting his book.  He’s suffering from writer’s block and appears to be pretty bored with his life.  After ringing off his cell phone and paying the check at the restaurant, he goes to a large bookstore where his book is being sold.  He listens to a Schubert CD and gazes at a table filled with copies of his latest book.  Suddenly, he is confronted by a young, blond, charismatic looking man who asks him to inscribe a copy of the book.  After Tibor writes a dedication, the man goes to pay for the book, but “conveniently” has no money.  Tibor offers to pay for it as the young man runs out of the store, setting off alarms.  He has stolen the Schubert disc as “repayment” for Tibor’s generosity.

Tibor later learns that his admirer is a 19 year old male prostitute named Zsolt (Dávid Szabó).  Though Tibor is married to a woman and lives a straight life, he is drawn in by Zsolt’s charisma.  The two begin a relationship and suddenly Tibor is able to write again.  Tibor becomes alive through his fling with Zsolt, who excites him and inspires his creativity.  Things become complicated when his wife, a blonde, narcissistic, has-been actress discovers their affair. 

My thoughts

Initially, I was kind of interested in this film.  The story is certainly intriguing, especially for a straight, American woman like me who has little experience with films involving homosexual relationships.  I thought Dávid Szabó was very watchable and seductive in his portrayal of Zsolt.  I could see why Tibor, a man who had always considered himself heterosexual, would be lured by his charms.  Szabó seems to have mastered “come hither” looks.  He has a beautiful, androgynous look to him and expertly flirts with the camera and Tibor.

About halfway through the film, my attention began to wane.  I started to notice how cheesy the soundtrack was, aside from the classical pieces that were included.  I lost interest in the story.  The sex scenes were not as fascinating and I started wondering when the film was going to end, even though it runs for a respectably brief 90 minutes or so. 

Nudity

Though there is some nudity in this film, it’s mostly very tasteful.  I don’t remember seeing any full frontal nudity, though there are plenty of naked bum shots and at least one shot of a topless woman.  There are both heterosexual and homosexual sex scenes as well.  I looked up this film on Amazon.com and noticed that the suggestive sell efforts seemed to point toward gay skin flicks.  I would say this movie is more like an indie art film than a skin flick.  Don’t be fooled by the cover art on the DVD.  It’s definitely not pornography. 

Overall

I’m glad I watched this film because I like to broaden my experiences with foreign films.  Even a badly done foreign film can be more intriguing than a lot of American films.  That being said, this movie did not hold my attention like the Romanian films I watched last year that inspired me to broaden my movie repertoire.  I’m sure some viewers will get caught up in the story and get more out of Men in the Nude than I did.  For me, this film was just “eh”.

Men in the Nude is not rated.  It was directed and written by Károly Esztergályos.

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book reviews, celebrities, homosexuality

Repost: A review of Meredith Baxter’s Untied

I originally wrote this review for Epinions.com in March 2011. I am reposting it here, as/is.

As a child of the 1980s, I would have had to have been living under a rock not to know who Meredith Baxter is. The beautiful blonde actress had made her mark back in the 70s with television shows like Bridget Loves Bernieand Family, but I knew her as Elyse Keaton, feminist matriarch of the Keaton family on NBC’s hit sit-com, Family Ties. In those days, she was known as Meredith Baxter-Birney, having married her Bridget Loves Bernieco-star, David Birney. Baxter and Birney later divorced; recently, Baxter made headlines by coming out as a lesbian. I learned about all of this and more by reading Baxter’s brand new memoir, Untied: A Memory of Family, Fame, and Floundering (2011). I purchased this book for my Kindle last week and found it a quick and interesting read. 

Meredith Baxter’s beginnings

After a brief introduction, explaining how she came out as a lesbian, Baxter begins describing her childhood. Meredith Baxter’s mother was an actress named Nancy Ann Whitney, who later came up with the stage name Whitney Blake. From a very early age, Baxter was required to call her mother Whitney, because Whitney didn’t want people thinking she was a mother. Baxter’s father, Tom Baxter, was a sound engineer specializing in live television and radio. Though her parents were married for ten years and had three children, their union ended when Baxter was just five years old. After the divorce, Tom Baxter remained a very small part of his children’s lives. Meanwhile, Whitney remarried twice.  

Baxter grew up in southern California on the fringes of show business. Her first stepfather, Jack Fields, was an agent who helped Whitney Blake get parts that later blossomed into a successful career on television. Baxter describes Fields as cruel, manipulative, and strict, but it was Fields who helped Baxter with her own foray into show business when she was a child.  

A complicated life

Though Meredith Baxter grew up to be a beautiful young woman, she comes across as a bit mixed up. In confessional prose, she admits to dabbling in drugs and alcohol, half-heartedly attempting suicide, and getting married for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, she was both lucky and talented and eventually started working as an actress. She had two children with her first husband, Robert Bush, and three with her second husband, David Birney.

Bitterness toward Birney

Meredith Baxter has a lot to say about her second marriage to David Birney. Baxter was married to Birney for about 16 years. Their union lasted three times longer than her marriages to Robert Bush and Michael Blodgett. However, the added length of the marriage seems to have tripled Baxter’s pain. She makes some very unflattering comments about David Birney and basically describes him as an abusive narcissist.  

A book about Meredith Baxter, not Family Ties… 

Though Meredith Baxter does dish quite a bit about being on Bridget Loves BernieFamily, and Family Ties, as well as a few of her better known made for television movies, I want to make it clear that this book is really about her life. And she has led a very complicated but interesting life, fraught with struggles, including alcoholism, breast cancer, and coming to terms with her homosexuality. But while there were times I kind of cringed while reading this book, I do think that ultimately, Baxter has put out a very positive memoir.  

Toward the end of the book, Baxter writes about what it was like to meet and fall in love with her current partner, Nancy Locke. Though she is “out of the closet”, I still get the feeling that being out is kind of hard for her. She very candidly explains how difficult it was for her to admit and accept her feelings for women. She also explains how hard it was for her to come out to people she loves… and how their reactions to her big news were surprisingly low key.  Untied also includes plenty of pictures.

Overall

I enjoyed reading this book, mainly because I’m a child of the 80s and I love biographies. I think Meredith Baxter did a fairly good job writing her life story. She really comes across as extremely human and somewhat down-to-earth. I do think she’s still in some real pain over her relationship with David Birney, but she seems to have learned from the relationship as well. I think Untied is worthy reading for those who are interested in Baxter’s life story.

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Duggars, homosexuality, politics, religion

“We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…”

I remember in August 2014, Bill and I were living temporarily in an apartment in Kemnat, a suburb near Stuttgart. I spent my days hanging out with Zane and Arran, burning up because it was hot outside. The Duggars were in the news because Michelle Duggar had made a controversial political robocall to people in Arkansas. Why was she robocalling? It was because she was hoping to influence Arkansans to vote against an anti-discrimination ordinance designed to allow transgendered people to use restrooms and lockers that correspond to their gender identities.

People were calling for the Duggars to be canceled in 2014 after this call… little did they know what was coming! And yet, they’re STILL in the public eye.

This morning, today’s featured photo was in my Facebook memories. Given that Josh Duggar is currently in huge trouble with the feds for being caught receiving and possessing images of child sexual abuse, it’s pretty crazy that in 2014, Michelle Duggar was saying things like “We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…” Wow… the hypocrisy is astounding!

As I waited for Bill to come home the other day, I ran across an episode of 17 Kids and Counting. In the beginning, you hear Michelle Duggar’s annoying baby voice as she lists all of her children’s names. At that point, Jennifer Duggar, born in 2007, was the youngest, and Michelle was pregnant with Jordan, who was #18 and would be born in December 2008. She would have one more live birth, when youngest child Josie was born very prematurely the following year. Then she got pregnant one last time and eventually lost that baby, Jubilee Shalom.

In the opening credits for 17 Kids and Counting, Ma and Pa Duggar talk about their “very conservative values” and how the children’s Internet access is “closely monitored.” Obviously, it wasn’t monitored that closely. And they weren’t allowed to watch TV, and yet they were ON TV.

I remember Michelle Duggar once had a good reputation as a wonderful, caring, and compassionate mother. I have never seen a lot of proof that she was a wonderful mother. On the contrary, I’ve seen evidence that her daughters are good moms, mainly because they’ve always been doing the heavy lifting of raising their siblings while their mom worked on perfecting her “baby voice”. And she used that voice to promote anti-LGBTQ propaganda while her eldest son, supposedly sheltered from the Internet, was looking at porn. Such hypocrisy!

As Bill and I were sharing coffee this morning, I was reading the Duggar Family News Facebook group. Someone had shared a link to a post from the truly creepy blog, Biblical Gender Roles about the practice of “domestic discipline” and wife spanking. I’ve written about this blog a couple of times before, most recently in July 2020, when a friend of mine shared with me a different post about “grooming one’s wife” to accept domestic discipline that came from the Biblical Gender Roles blog. I also wrote about a post that appeared in 2019 regarding marital rape— a woman’s husband wanted to have sex with her when she wasn’t interested. The blogger from Biblical Gender Roles wrote that according to the Bible it’s impossible for a married woman to be raped by her husband. And of course, my take is that marital rape is certainly possible and it can be perpetrated by either spouse. It happened to my husband when he was married to his ex wife.

Legally, rape means that a person hasn’t consented to sexual contact. It does not matter if the participants are married to each other. But fundie Christian women are taught to always be “joyfully available” to their husbands. When their husbands fall from grace, as Josh Duggar repeatedly has, the woman is liable to be blamed. Why? Because she wasn’t available enough for her husband to satisfy his sexual needs. Michelle Duggar, the same woman who, in a robocall to Arkansans said “We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…”, told her own daughter Jill, before Jill married her husband, Derick Dillard:

“And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.’ ”

In other words, this “wonderful mom”, Michelle Duggar, told her daughter that her body isn’t her own. It’s either going to be used by her husband for sex, or used to nourish and develop a fetus, who will either also be used a vessel for developing new life and as a sexual plaything, or will be a user, as males apparently are in fundie Christianity. Josh Duggar grew up being taught that his wife was to be used, and she was expected to be “joyfully available” to him, on the pain of being disciplined by the head of the family. His sister Jill, on the other hand, got a very different message. She was to be “available” to her husband, whenever he wanted her. She was to submit to his will. In short, she was physically an adult, but in all other ways, she was basically expected to be like a child– seen and not heard– quiet, submissive, and available always.

I’m sure, behind closed doors, Anna Duggar has been blamed for not satisfying Josh Duggar’s “needs”, causing him to fall into the dark web and view “forbidden images” of a sexual nature. But here she is, still in her early 30s and pregnant with her seventh child, another girl. Obviously, she was available to Josh, and he was fulfilling his sexual needs with her. But that wasn’t enough, and he’s evidently been indulging in illegal and immoral activities involving children. How did this happen?

I have never been impressed by either of the Duggar parents. For years, I’ve heard them both talk about how children are blessings and gifts from God. Rather than being good stewards of their children and raising them properly, Michelle Duggar basically turned into a brood animal and popped out children that were then farmed out to their sisters to raise. That’s not fair to the children at all. There was a time in history when having a huge family might have made some sense, since a lot of children died before coming of age and people had farms they needed help to run. Nowadays, I think having that many children is selfish and irresponsible. I don’t like to tell people how many children they should have, but I do think that if you’ve gotten to the point of farming out your kids to their older siblings, you’ve had too many. It’s not the job of underage children to raise their siblings.

Childhood is a brief time in a person’s life, and that’s when people should be focused on their own development and maturity. The way it’s been done in the Duggar family is that some of the children– the eldest sisters– had to grow up too fast. And yet, they were treated like children, forced to share a room and not allowed to choose what they wanted to wear or who they wanted to date or marry, in the sense that they needed Jim Bob’s permission and their husbands to be were forced to answer excessive questionnaires before Boob would give his “blessing”.

When I look at Michelle Duggar’s comment that “We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…”, and then I see that her very first child– one of the few that she must have had the biggest part of raising– has turned out to be a sexual deviant, I can’t help but think her thoughts on protecting children are warped. She didn’t even protect her own daughters from their brother– her precious firstborn son– who took liberties with them when he was an adolescent. They didn’t get appropriate and effective help for Josh when his deviant behaviors presented themselves when he was still a child. They also didn’t get help for their daughters, who were victimized by Josh. In a sense, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar failed Josh as much as they did their daughters… and all of those innocent children in the pictures and videos found on Josh’s computer who were exploited, abused, and even murdered for the perverse pleasure of Josh and his ilk.

Josh is a MASSIVE hypocrite. Here he is speaking about religious liberties and how businesses should not be forced to pay for birth control. You can hear him talking about how birth control harms unborn children, and yet he apparently enjoys victimizing innocent children who have already been born. He sounds articulate and well-spoken here, which is probably why he got away with this for as long as he has.

Notice in the above video, there are two men speaking about birth control and how it “causes abortions” (it doesn’t). Neither of these men will ever have to do the hardest work associated with pregnancy and child bearing. And they are in religious organizations where women are taught to be “joyfully available” to them and satisfy their “needs”, even when they are “big pregnant” (as Michelle Duggar put it). They’re more concerned about unborn children than they are born children… especially the female ones who will be born to satisfy their sexual “needs”. Well… that is revolting. It really is.

From the Biblical Gender Roles blog… a woman needs her husband’s “help” to control her spending and choose the “right” friends. Based on this, it sounds like he thinks women are never much more than children.

I’m sitting here reading the Biblical Gender Roles blog again. The poster on the Duggar Family News page had linked to an article on that blog about a young wife who was being “introduced” to the concept of Christian domestic discipline. In other words, she was being spanked by her husband. But the blogger wrote an earlier post about the husband’s perspective. In that post, he referenced his earlier post about how to “groom” one’s wife to accept the man as the authority in the home. He mentions that the wife must be young and sheltered, otherwise, she will never accept being “spanked” or otherwise disciplined by her husband.

This blogger has “mentors” who help teach these “Biblical principles” to couples who are interested. He says he vets the participants carefully, because he knows that more worldly people are “spying” on him and want to undo his work in teaching Christian couples to live by what he deems are “Biblical gender roles”. And based on what the young husband writes in the post from the gender roles blog, his wife has come to “accept” his leadership. She speaks to him “respectfully”, sticks to a budget, and I guess most importantly (to him, anyway), makes herself “available” to him sexually whenever he’s in the mood. She’d better, of course, or he’ll turn her over his knee and spank her, as if she’s a child (and personally, I don’t think spanking children is appropriate, either). How fucked up is that? The woman is a child in all ways, except physical. I am not saying the Duggars engage in these practices. I do think, however, that their collective mindset seems to be very similar to the one espoused by the guy who writes the Biblical Gender Roles blog.

More from the Biblical Gender Roles blog… where the writer explains that it’s “right” for a husband to discipline his wife for not putting out sexually, on the pain of being spanked.

Michelle Duggar, obviously, is very much in agreement that there are only males and females; they were all created by God; and that any person with “male parts” is a threat to female children. But apparently, once the females have reached physical maturity, that protection for them is no longer necessary. She unleashed her son, Josh, on Anna Duggar when he was 20 years old, knowing that he was a pervert. And she paid a lot of lip service to “monitoring” her children’s television and Internet exposure, although Josh obviously still figured out a way to get to the forbidden fruit. Maybe if she had been less “Christian”, he would have turned out to be a better person… or maybe, he was born to be this way, despite our “awesome God” who gifted the Duggars with so many children that they were obviously not equipped to raise properly on their own.

How dare Michelle Duggar try to tell Arkansas voters that she is concerned about putting the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child? Where were her concerns about her own daughters’ safety and innocence when they were growing up in her home? Where were her concerns about Josh’s future, when his deviant sexual proclivities came out? Why didn’t she help him possibly avoid falling into sins that could send him to prison? He is about to be the father of seven innocent children, but he won’t be around to take care of them. That task will fall to his long suffering wife, Anna, who has been taught that because she’s a female, she belongs to her husband and has no say over whether or not she wants to have sex! Michelle Duggar is concerned about transgendered people “victimizing” girls… but she was not at all concerned about her vile predator son victimizing her own daughters, and possibly her granddaughters, along with the children who were victimized in the images and videos that were found on Josh’s computer! And she’s all for letting the women be “childlike” in all ways, except for when it comes to giving their husbands sex. She’s even childlike in the way she speaks!

I really think our society is very sick. The Duggars are still influential to many, even though they are massive hypocrites. As recently as last year, they were still trying to get involved in politics, when their son Jed, ran for office against a woman who was clearly much more qualified than he was. He lost, thank God, but I will bet people still voted for him because he’s a white man, Christian, and a Duggar! There are still so many people, especially in the United States, who speak about their rights as “free people”. But they only want freedom for white Christian males with money. They don’t want women to have dominion over their own bodies. They don’t want people of color to have the right to live peacefully, and enjoy freedom of movement without being harassed by law enforcement. They don’t want poor people to be able to receive temporary government assistance, or children to be able to attend school without the fear of being shot. Their right to own weapons is more important than the safety of innocent people to be out and about without fearing being killed by their guns. And they want to be able to dictate to people which restrooms they can use, claiming that transgendered people are “mentally ill”, while they cover up for people like Josh Duggar and give him a platform.

I wrote about Michelle Duggar’s robocall on my original blog. In that post, I explained that homosexuality and transgendered people are not necessarily pedophiles or child molesters. At that point, we didn’t know about Josh… it was just months later that that particular bombshell dropped. One would have thought the Duggars would have been canceled, once and for all, after Josh’s hypocrisy came out. But, as my Italian friend Vittorio has pointed out, the United States is a “weird-o-rama” culture. The Duggars are oddly fascinating to many. Some of us are fascinated as we are repulsed. Others find them to be people they want to emulate. And so, they continue to people we talk about, and write about… and in some cases, make money on. I’m sure the people making YouTube videos about the Duggars are making some cash, anyway. I’m sure not.

Well… I guess I’ve rambled on long enough. Arran has just come to me, expecting a walk. So I guess I’ll close now, and take him out for a much needed constitutional. Hope everyone has a nice Monday.

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homosexuality, lessons learned, music, religion

Musical object lessons…

This morning, as I was waking up and checking out Facebook, I saw that someone in the Duggar Family News group had shared a few screenshots of Jill Rodrigues and her family singing a song called “Come On Down to the Farm”. I had never heard of the song before, but the author of the post commented that it’s a song about how animals procreate, used as an object lesson as to why gay marriage and homosexuality, in general, ought to be forbidden. I was kind of struck by the photos of Jill and her brood. They were clearly happy, mouths agape as they played and sang the song with much gusto. Here are a few screenshots:

Since they seemed to be so enthusiastic about singing this number, I decided to look it up on YouTube. Below are the lyrics:

Charming lyrics, huh? I guess, based on this musical object lesson, marriage is ONLY about making babies.

If you’d rather hear a slightly more professional version of the musical object lesson, check out this video with Rick Wingerter performing it.

It’s a catchy tune. I warn you…

Music can be a very powerful and effective teacher. It can be a lot easier to listen to a lesson delivered in a well-crafted and played song, especially if there’s fun involved. I’m not sure if the Rodrigues kids enjoyed playing this number, although they seem to have been well-trained to follow their mom’s lead. One thing I did notice as Jill was playing is that she sort of casts her eyes sideways at her daughter playing the fiddle. It could be because of the lighting or camera angle, but to me, she actually looks like she’s shooting her a warning glare. And then, at about the 5:30 mark in the video, the smallest girl kicks the family dog, who no doubt was in pain listening to the very enthusiastic, high volume squawking. I think the Rodrigues family is marginally better at playing instruments than singing.

As for the “musical object lesson” they’re teaching, I have a couple of observations. Now, I’ve actually spent a lot of time in barns and on farms. I’ve seen all kinds of interesting sexual behavior involving animals. I’ve seen geldings mount mares, even though they’ve been castrated and shouldn’t be interested in sex. I’ve seen male and female dogs humping each other or dogs that are the same sex as they are, mainly to establish dominance, even if they don’t have sex parts. And since animals lack a concept of marriage, and a lot of them are going to eventually be slaughtered and eaten, anyway, I’m not sure I would take object lessons from observing them on a farm. In any case, I don’t think I would take a lesson from farm animals about human sexuality. Animals aren’t capable of the same level of thinking that humans are… or, at least most humans. I’m kind of having my doubts about Jill Rodrigues.

I wonder what she thinks about people who are infertile? Should they not get married because they aren’t capable of making babies? Is marriage really only about having and raising children? And if people can’t have children, do they serve a purpose, in her view? She’s probably never thought about it… but then, she doesn’t seem to respect that not everyone believes in God, or even just her interpretation of God. In her simple world view, everyone on Earth should be following the Bible according to white Christians from the United States. Forget about any other religious books or traditions. Forget about other cultures and mores. We should just believe in the Christianity Jill and her ilk do. Seems very boring and limited to me. No thanks.

Lately, I’ve noticed I’ve been getting a lot of hits on my posts about Jill’s daughter, Nurie. Nurie, you may recall, is Jill’s eldest daughter. She is married to Nathan Keller, who is Anna Keller Duggar’s brother. That means Josh Duggar is Nurie’s brother-in-law. I remember that Jill Rodrigues was very excited that Nurie was marrying a Keller, and it seemed to be because that meant her family would have a link with the Duggars. I wonder how she feels about that now. I think Jill should sing a song about the evils of child pornography. That would be a more effective musical object lesson than a song about how “wrong” she thinks gay marriage and liberal views are. Moreover, as “unnatural” as Jill thinks homosexuality is, I would submit that viewing child pornography is even more so. Why isn’t she singing a song about her daughter’s brother-in-law’s perversions? If she did that, then I might be more impressed.

Nurie, by the way, is currently pregnant, and is due in the fall sometime. Her unborn baby is going to be a cousin to the Josh Duggar clan. I know this because Jill posted a video about it, probably a few minutes after Nurie conceived. And while I don’t follow her myself, Jill Rodrigues gets a lot of traffic in the Duggar Family News group. That’s really the only reason I know anything about her or her family.

Anyway… I think Jill is wrong about homosexuality and homosexuals. Having read so many tragic stories on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard about people who have been affected by homosexuals trying to live like heterosexuals, I can’t agree that people should simply pair up with someone of the opposite sex if they aren’t attracted. For most people, marriage is difficult, particularly if there are children involved. I know there are a lot of people who have been taught by their religious customs that they must live a “straight” life, even if they aren’t straight. So they suppress those natural feelings they have, marry someone who doesn’t share their sexual orientation, and proceed to have a marriage that isn’t as loving as it could be.

Some people do marry for practical and business reasons, and I have no issue with that as long as both parties are aware and agree. But I also know that sometimes homosexuals marry heterosexuals because they’re afraid of offending God; they want a family; or they can’t face disappointing their families and the fallout that can come from that. They go through the motions of the marriage. Maybe they’ll be strong enough not to cheat, but they’ll never be truly satisfied. And the spouse might be wondering the whole time what he or she did “wrong”, when the spouse just isn’t that into them.

Some time ago, I wrote a post about Lois Smart. Lois Smart, you might know, is Elizabeth Smart’s mother. She has six children with her ex husband, Ed Smart, who was very visible on television when Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her home at age 14. On the surface, they looked like a picture perfect family. But all along, Ed was hiding a secret. He’s gay. And in the Mormon faith, a woman needs to be sealed to a temple worthy man to take her “through the veil” and into the Celestial Kingdom after they’re both dead. Imagine how Lois felt when she found out her husband of many years, the father of her children, was gay and hiding that secret for so many years. As a believing Mormon, Lois is now left without a “temple worthy” husband.

While I personally don’t agree with Mormonism or its tenets, I can see how this revelation would be hard for Lois Smart. Because she presumably married her husband thinking they would be together forever. Now that Ed has come out, that dream may be dead. Now, Lois Smart could presumably remarry. She might find a temple worthy LDS man who will marry her and, with her connections, I have no doubt she could get a temple divorce without too much issue. Lois Smart is probably considered Mormon royalty of sorts. But her situation is just one of many facing religious people who don’t believe that people should be with those who interest and attract them.

I think it’s time that religious people evolved. Life is difficult enough as it is. People who are capable of consenting should be allowed to choose the right partner for themselves… or they should be free to choose NO partner, if that’s what makes them happy. Jill Rodrigues and her ilk should focus on their own lives and do away with the musical object lessons that do more harm than good… not to mention hurt the ears of anyone with an appreciation for music. One tip I would pass on to her is that singing and playing louder doesn’t equate to singing and playing better.

Moving on to the next musical object lesson.

This next bit is going to be shorter and a lot vaguer, mainly because I can’t get into specifics at this point in time. But this subject does kind of have to do with musical object lessons and getting meaning from songs. It’s particularly relevant in this situation, because object lessons in the forms of music and/or children’s literature are favorite props used by the people I vaguely allude to in this cryptic passage. Bear with me.

Over breakfast this morning, Bill and I were talking about a major decision he recently made that could possibly rock some worlds. At some point in the following weeks, things could get somewhat dramatic. On the other hand, it’s also possible that they won’t. We’re now at the stage at which we’re watching, waiting, and speculating about what could be coming in the very near future. It’s kind of like dropping a lit match in a forest. What happens next? Will the match quickly burn out and do no harm? Or will there be a raging and destructive forest fire? Time will tell. Either way, changes have already begun.

As we were talking, the song “Wrapped Around Your Finger” by The Police popped into my head. Here’s a video and the lyrics:

This song is brilliant… it’s loaded with symbolism and subtle, yet eloquent messages.

Lyrics:

You consider me the young apprentice
Caught between the Scylla and Charibdes
Hypnotized by you if I should linger
Staring at the ring around your finger

I have only come here seeking knowledge
Things they would not teach me of in college
I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold

I’ll be wrapped around your finger
I’ll be wrapped around your finger

Mephistopheles is not your name
I know what you’re up to just the same
I will listen hard to your tuition
You will see it come to its fruition

I’ll be wrapped around your finger
I’ll be wrapped around your finger

Devil and the deep blue sea behind me
Vanish in the air you’ll never find me
I will turn your face to alabaster
When you’ll find your servant is your master

You’ll be wrapped around my finger
You’ll be wrapped around my finger
You’ll be wrapped around my finger

As Bill was talking about this big decision he made and his subsequent action, I was suddenly reminded of the bridge of “Wrapped Around Your Finger”:

Devil and the deep blue sea behind me
Vanish in the air you’ll never find me
I will turn your face to alabaster
When you’ll find your servant is your master

The decision that Bill made a few days ago is a very long time in coming. There was a time when he really wanted to take action, but felt he couldn’t. He was restrained by doubts, fears, and worrying about potential consequences. Even today, he’s a little worried about the chain of events he’d set into motion and the possible fallout. But then I reminded him that the things that held him back in the past no longer apply. He’s not very accessible anymore… he’s not as vulnerable as he used to be… and pretty soon, someone is likely going to find out that their former servant(s) are now about to “own” them.

Even if that lit match in the forest burns out with no apparent consequences, I know that the reality is, things have forever changed. The roles have switched. The dynamics are different. I picture a face turning to alabaster– pale and frozen– when the realization hits them that they have seen their “tuition come to fruition”, as Sting puts it. Or… perhaps in less elegant terms…

Someone is about to get served. Whether or not it will be “on”, remains to be seen.

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