First off, the above photo was not taken by me...at least not with a camera. I did lift it from a Google image search, though. The town you see is Bend, Oregon with one of several mountain peaks in the area visible (don't ask me to name any of them, though). Bend is the closest town to the geographic center of the state. It is one of the fastest growing towns in America, due to its 300 days of sunshine each year. For Oregonians who get tired of living in the rainy climate on the west side of the Cascade mountain range, Bend is the place to retire. However, the high desert climate means hot summers and cold winters. Forest / shrub fire danger in the summer and blizzards in the winter. But through it all, the sun still shines for most of the year. And at night? You really see a sky full of stars, which is one of the reasons why I love going to Bend every year.
Before I get to the Bend Institute, I did want to update yesterday's post about the woman who just went off on me on Facebook. She had sent me a private message on Facebook, asking for an apology for being judgmental of her!!! I was stunned. I wrote back to her and she still kept accusing me of being judgmental. I'm baffled, but as I read back over what she wrote, her comments don't make a lot of logical sense. She has serious psychological issues and its a good thing she defriended me. After the private message back and forth that led to nowhere, I ended up blocking her so that she can never harass me again. I hate doing so, but the woman is completely delusional. At least she gave me insight into how she thinks. In her mind, if you disagree with her opinions or point out her personal attacks, you are "judging" her and if you don't agree and keep trying to have a discussion, you're not listening to her and she'll get tired of you. Also, in her mind, if she does not agree with you, then you are "bi-polar", "off your meds", and "dropped on your head as a baby." Like I said, the woman has zero logic, which doesn't surprise me. She spent years in a religion that does not logically make sense (the LDS Church) and then had some experience that disillusioned her and she left, getting involved with anti-Mormon groups that are filled with their own illogical arguments.
Here is what I had written to her, which she did not address in her response. She kept repeating the line that I had judged her, so I blocked her:
"You are out of line. Don't you realize that it was YOU who were insulting and judgmental? You know nothing about me, but you have accused me of: (1) ignoring the history of the Community of Christ; (2) of being in a cult; (3) of being bi-polar; (4) of being prescribed meds that I am not taking but needing to; and (5) that I was dropped on my head as a baby. ALL BECAUSE I DO NOT AGREE WITH YOUR VIEWS!!! You are the judgmental one, not me. I have never judged your worth as a person, that you are mentally ill or needing to take medicine to moderate your personality. So, please look in the mirror and see that you are the one projecting on to other people the parts of yourself that you do not want to face.
You obviously had a negative experience in the LDS Church and I have not disagreed with you on that. But just because your experience was not very good does not mean that my experience in an entirely DIFFERENT church is the same as yours. I'm very universal in my scope of what I believe and I don't believe in conformity, so what might resonate with one person won't necessarily resonate with another person.
All your comments of yesterday did was create unnecessary division and made enemies of potential allies. Your loss. Have a nice life. When you have experienced God and Jesus, you would not be as hateful as you are. I felt the love of God and Jesus this past weekend at a Community of Christ retreat. Wish that you could experience that love for yourself someday. God bless you on your journey..."
One of the baffling things about people is when they try to make me their enemy. Its the strangest thing because I am such a great ally and most people who know me prefer to have me in the ally column. Not that I have enemies or believe in them. I just feel sorry for people who think I'm their enemy because it does not take much to make me a friend for life.
In contrast, at Bend Institute on Saturday, I was carrying a plate with my lunch to find a place to sit on the picnic tables outside when I heard someone call my name. She was sitting on the steps of the church in the shade and I instantly remembered her from the dinner we all had at the Marrakesh restaurant last year in Portland. She's a larger than life personality with unmistakeable blonde hair and a sense of humour you just cannot deny. She immediately called me out on some Facebook posts I had made where she said that I wasn't very nice. I actually don't remember anything I posted in contrary to what she might have posted, but she let me know right away that she is "very conservative" and a Republican. I could only imagine what kind of things I might have said. Yes, I can get heated in expressing an opinion, but that's just politics. I hope I did not get personal, though I do admit that can be a flaw if the debate gets too intense (I have been known to use "the nuclear option" in debate). I strained to remember what I might've said to her in past debates. I only remember two contentious people, whom I am no longer Facebook friends with. Both are church members. One is the anti-government anarchist / "sovereign citizen", the other is the Glenn Beck-loving mother of the former MAYAs leader.
However, this lady had no idea what she did. By making me laugh, she basically assured my friendship for life. A few years ago, I was thinking about all the friendships I've made since high school and how the friendships formed. I realized that in every single case, when a person was able to make me laugh, they had earned my loyalty for life. No matter how different we are, there was something about the ability to make me laugh that transcended everything else. Laughter is a good thing. As this lady and I agreed, on Facebook, it is difficult to gauge a person's comments or intent. Were they just joking? Are they disagreeable in real life? In person, people are surprised to discover that I'm not the humourless ideologue they seem to think of me based on my "snarky" comments in regards to politics and religion.
During the weekend, it was almost embarrassing when several people approached me and said, "You're that Facebook guy!" They knew me from posting on various people's Facebook walls, even though we aren't friends on Facebook. I kind of felt like a celebrity because they knew about me and what I posted but I didn't really know who they were. I had mentioned some of this during the final worship service on Monday morning when I shared a short testimony about my experience at Bend Institute. For the Saturday evening worship service conducted by the Young Adults, one lady's "sermonette" inspired a word / idea that others used when they shared a testimony. She had mentioned her "snark." As in, the cynical and witty comment in one's mind when they are skeptical about what someone else says or does. She claimed to be good at keeping her snark silent in her mind. For my testimony on Monday morning, I said, "While others have the ability to keep their snark quiet and in their minds, my snark loves Facebook." This got a laugh from people. I mentioned that after hearing several people share about how the words they've written had inspired others not to take their lives or to discover our church, I felt perhaps it was time to rein in my snark and be a little more careful about what I write and say, so that I can inspire others.
The problem with snark is that it is far too easy to do and its based on being clever and witty and sarcastic. For people on the receiving end, or for people who identify with certain political figures who are on the receiving end of my snark, this could create unnecessary divisions. People who disagree could easily end up viewing me as their enemy, when that's not my intent at all. My snarky comments on Facebook are all based on scoring a laugh among my friends who share similar political views. I don't hold a reverence for politicians like some people do, so I think a witty commentary on the absurdities of our political caricatures is in keeping with the great traditions of satirist Voltaire and the aristocracy of pre-Revolutionary France. Against the abusive power of politicians, sometimes all we have is our wits to keep us in good spirits.
On Sunday the 4th of September, which happens to be the birthday of one of my best friends Nathan, who is serving in the U.S. Navy in Sicily right now, a group of us went to an Italian restaurant. This gave me a chance to get to know Jammie, her mother, and her adorable little daughter a little bit. Jammie is the woman I had mentioned above, the "very conservative" Republican church member. Sean, the YAPS leader loved to stir the pot by accessing my blog on his phone and letting her see the photo I have of Michele Bachmann eating a corndog. When she expressed shock at the innuendo I was implying, the others at the far end of the table got curious to know what the deal was. I did not know who they were (they were part of our retreat) nor how they might react to such a photo. Fortunately, they lost interest when the phone messed up the link.
After dinner, the waitress brought out a plate with a brownie and ice cream on it and a plate of a slice of cheesecake with three candles. We sang happy birthday to the lady sitting on my left, while other restaurant patrons watched. I kept thinking how odd this was, because here I was in an Italian restaurant in Bend wishing some church member a happy birthday on the same day as the birthday of my best friend Nathan (also a church member) who is in Italy at the moment. Weird synchro, there. Perhaps the universe conspired to get me to participate in his birthday in spirit, from across the miles. That was truly a nice moment.
In tomorrow's post, I'll write about other aspects of the retreat. Today, I wanted to write about the Facebook aspect and snark, and how easy it is to defriend / unfriend someone you disagree with. At Bend, though, I got to meet (again) a fellow member of the church and enjoy her for her personality and relatability, regardless of our political differences. To me, this is the essence of Zion. Our interpersonal relationships with people matter more than our political or spiritual differences. We can come to a place and put aside those false divisions and just appreciate the uniqueness that we all are, and feel the love of God wash over us all. It was a beautiful experience, and thus why I feel sad that the ex-Mormon lady does not seem to understand that or have had that kind of experience. As my favourite campfire song goes: "It only takes a spark, to get a fire going / And soon all those around can warm up to its glowing... / The Lord of love has come to me and I want to pass it on..."