New Episcopal Bishop Of Utah Will Try To Solve The Notty Problem

I’ve met Bishop Scott at various meetings here in the Chicago area, and I think he’ll be a great “pastor to the pastors” and leader of the Utah Episcopalians.

Video of the consecration service will be at the Diocese of Utah website.

The first time the Rev. Scott Hayashi served Utah’s Episcopal Church, he was puzzled by some parishioners’ tendency to define themselves by what they weren’t:  Mormons. He even remembers pointing out the silliness in a sermon at Ogden’s Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, where he was rector from 1989 to 1998.

“I asked, ‘Does this mean if the LDS people are against gambling, we should be for it? If the LDS people have the Mormon diet and believe whole grains, moderation in eating and getting exercise is what you should do, that means we should eat all high-fat foods and not exercise?  If the LDS people are against smoking, that means we should all be smoking like chimneys? Does this make any sense?’ ”

The next bishop for Utah’s 5,200 Episcopalians now frames the question this way: “Shouldn’t we have an identity that is formed on the positive, as opposed to being against something?”

Hayashi, 56, will be consecrated as Utah’s 11th Episcopal bishop Saturday by the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, in a ceremony at The Grand America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.

via Soon-to-be Episcopal bishop: Don’t let LDS Church define us | The Salt Lake Tribune.

I would add, “If the LDS people are non-drinkers,  does that mean we have to have alcohol at social events, and name local brews “Polgamy Porter” and complain about liquor-by-the-drink until the Legislature is forced to abolish it for the sake of the Olympics? Do we have to slurp coffee loudly in restaurants just to show all the Postum-drinking Peculiar People that we’re Not Like Them?”

Yeah, when I was younger and dumber I did a lot of beer-drinking and coffee-slurping whenever I was in Utah.  It stemmed from a compulsion to “stick it to THE charch” by visibly being a “sinner” instead of a “Saint.”

For a long time, this blog has had a category called “Notty Problems: Even Leaving Doesn’t Solve Them.”  It’s not often that I use that category any more; I thought I would be spending a lot more time working off some of my old issues, when I started blogging, that had to do with being a “NOT” from Utah.

When I lived there, I chafed under the overwhelming sense that I was alone in school amidst a huge throng of religious lemmings who all shared the same monolithic belief system, shunned outsiders like me, and occasionally turned on me in packs because they were unable to deal with the concept of “different.” Of course, I developed a bad attitude about it; because I was a non-Mormon who refused invitations to Primary (which was like Sunday school, but I think it was on a weekday) I was not to be trusted. I suppose for them it was hard to be friends with someone who was GOING TO HELL. Understandable, really. Fortunately, there were a few good friends who never treated me like that, but I bet I wasn’t an easy friend to have. Also, I was prickly and constantly on the defensive,  so even with other NOT-Mormon friends, there was some carryover.

As I got older and into high school, the feeling of being actively shunned changed. It seemed then that I was merely socially invisible, but if I dared to complain about the conditions of life in Utah as an unbeliever, I became visible for a moment. Then someone would always snap, “Well, if you don’t like it, you can just leave!”

This “like it or leave it” mentality was very common and being hit with it happened pretty frequently, because I complained A LOT about the status quo.

What? I was in high school. I couldn’t just leave. At least, not until it was time to go to college. And that couldn’t come a minute too soon. But I did end up “leaving” a lot of conversations and potential friends in high school. The lesson that I learned from that was “people don’t want to be your friend unless you’re just like them, so don’t bother or you’ll only get hurt.”

But when I did go off to college, what happened? I had a lot of friends, from many different backgrounds, especially during the first couple of years when dorm life forced me to get to know a lot of people at once.  Some of them are still dear friends and we remain in touch, mostly via Facebook these days.

When I first arrived at the University of Oregon 34 years ago, it was amazing to be in a place where most people were actually not interested AT ALL in religion, and who were not conservative, but liberal in their political views.

However, I was still forced to define myself in negative terms, as I often introduced myself as  “My name is Ginny, and I’m NOT Mormon!”  I had noticed an odd thing – people outside of Utah never asked what religion I was, as it seemed to be considered impolite or in bad taste. That is, UNLESS I was asked where I was from, and then religion was on the table. As in “Oh, are you Mormon?”

“NO. I am NOT MORMON.”

It didn’t matter that in college I was not attending church, although at the time I identified myself as a Congregationalist (“You know, like the Pilgrims, but not as conservative”).

It became a joke between friends, because I quickly gained the reputation for getting cranky if someone new asked me where I was from, and then if I was Mormon. Because NO, I am not one of those bullying assholes that tried to convert me as a kid, then told me I was going to hell because I refused to believe just like they did. And also because “no, I’m not like any of the few tolerant people I knew growing up who didn’t mind whether I went to their church or not.

My friend Kevin Swan had a special telephone shorthand; he would call now and then (even years later, long after leaving college) and start tapping out a little tune on the touchtone. The name of the tune was “You are a Mormon.” It went 3-2-1 11. And my response was to mash all the numbers at once so that it sounded like “CLASH! CLASH!” which of course meant F*** Y** and then of course, ha ha! we would carry on a more normal conversation. Except sometimes, just to get me riled up, he’d play the tune again and then I’d make the [expletive deleted] sound again. If he reads this post via Facebook, he knows where he can reach me, “CLASH! CLASH!”

So here I am, more than 3 decades after moving away from Utah, and I still have issues that for lack of a better term I’ve come to call “Notty Problems.” I still read the Salt Lake Tribune, taking note of quirky news stories that happen “Only in Utah.” As in high school, I read the letters to the editor in order to mock the Kolob-Aid drinkers and cheer for the independent thinkers, except now I do it online and get to use the handy “like” buttons. We have one or two LDS friends (one in Utah) and I refrain from bitching about “THE charch” because I care for them, but I really am very intolerant of official LDS leadership, as it comes from being treated with intolerance. It’s a failing;  I struggle with it. I only wish some leaders (Boyd K. Packer, I’m looking at you) would have a revelation about their own intolerance towards gay Mormons, and gay people in general.

The thought of Mitt Romney making a successful run for President horrifies me, because I know what and who he would bring along to the (Grand Old) Party. On the other hand, I like and admire Harry Reid (D-Hard Eight), because he’s an LDS Democrat, a feat only achieved by people who REALLY think for themselves.

I will probably never, ever be rid of this notty problem; I will always have a chip on my shoulder about a religion whose truest believers tormented and rejected me as a child and young adult.  I will try to take Bishop Scott’s advice to heart, though, and learn to define myself and my beliefs in positive terms, not negative ones.

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