During my first week at BYU I went to a "Y group" activity, basically a day camp for disabled 9-year-olds that has been appropriated, unchanged, as a bonding activity for new BYU students. As I struggled to think of something to draw on my name tag (we had to draw things we liked so that other people could see a rudimentarily drawn basketball and know immediately that they wanted to be your friend), I feared that I had gone to the wrong university. That feeling grew stronger as my group, following the cues of every group on DT field, started playing Duck Duck Goose. Finally, after we had all shared our thoughts on why we loved BYU football so much, I was able to escape while they were dividing us into teams for Red Rover. I was in full-blown existential crisis. Although I had never fit cleanly into any group in high school (my best friends and I shared no discernible demographic or overriding interest), I always held out hope that I made sense within the broader LDS community. That first "Y-Day" activity showed me that my impressions of what I thought the Church to be were wildly mistaken. I was annoyed by much of what I saw in Mormon culture and I gravitated towards people and things which were often critical of it.
Now this is not to say that I plan on leaving the Church, just because it has made embarrassing mistakes in the past, has a membership I don't particularly like (speaking collectively and not individually), or because I strongly disagree with some of the current policies and stances (I will probably rant against a few specifics in later posts). The reason I bring this all up is actually because I have seen some things lately that make me proud to be alive, proud of other's accomplishments in ways that I am so rarely proud of my own, or my Church's actions.
First off, I just got back from seeing Wicked. I was blown away. It wasn't merely the fantastic singing, fabulous spectacle of costumes and dancing, or even the distractingly cool Oriental Theater as much as I was impressed by the fact that the show had profoundly good messages. Too often I hear derisive comments directed at "the World" as if non-LDS people were some homogeneous group, hell-bent on killing babies, kicking puppies, and burning American flags. I must admit to feeling a pang of shame that I felt more uplifted by Wicked than I feel most of the time that I go to church. As with all good art, however, I do feel proud to appropriate it into my theology, believing that God has directed me to seek out things that are virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, or of good report.
Earlier this week, I listened to the latest episode of This American Life entitled "Go Big" which documents Geoffrey Canada's attempt to make Harlem a better place. I won't go into the specifics, because I think that all of you should listen to the first part of this episode yourselves, but this show has made me happier and full of renewed hope for humanity since I listened to it.
At such a time as this, where my anger and disillusionment are being stoked almost daily by the presidential race, Proposition 8 (again, more to come later), and ball-jointed dolls, I wanted to share some hope that there is some good still in the world. If you find yourself in a situation where you need something to draw on a name tag, might I recommend a tiny caricature of Ira Glass or the Wicked Witch of the West? On second thought, I think I would recommend that you leave immediately when asked to make such a name tag. Duck Duck Goose is sure to follow.