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Archive for February 2008

Second Hand Convictions

In religion and politics, people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination.—Mark Twain

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Young Lovers

She is a petite, delicate, blue-eyed blonde, while he is a strapping young man with auburn hair and soft brown eyes which never stray for long from her face.

They hold hands, they kiss, they stroke each other’s arms, they listen attentively to each other. They are totally besotted.

What makes this scene so disturbing, however, is the fact that Danielle and Nick are half brother and sister.

Danielle and Nick only met as adults. Danielle says of their first meeting “I was nervous about meeting Nick because although he was my brother, he was also a stranger,… We just clicked straight away. It’s impossible to explain. I just felt drawn to him, as if he was the person I’d been waiting for all my life.” Three weeks later they became lovers.

They might be suffering from genetic sexual attraction:

Genetic sexual attraction is a recognised psychological phenomenon, which sometimes affects siblings or blood relatives separated at birth, who then meet later as adults.

The term is believed to have first been coined in America in the 1980s by a woman called Barbara Gonyo, who wrote about the unexpected lust she felt for the adult son she’d given up for adoption 26 years earlier.…

According to research, first published in the British Medical Journal in 1995, by Dr Maurice Greenberg and Professor Roland Littlewood, 50 per cent of people seeking post-adoption counselling “experienced strong sexual feelings in reunions” with their real family.

This can happen between siblings, mother/son and father/daughter and is believed to be the adult response to the absence of “bonding” in childhood.

The natural repulsion brothers and sisters often feel for each other as children is a safeguard against incest and those who miss out on that bonding, according to psychologists, can develop obsessive feelings for their sibling as an adult.

Those feelings may or may not become sexual, but those that do take that course challenge our notion of incest because there is no coercion or abuse between consenting adults.

Do we treat them as perpetrators of a disgusting crime against nature, or victims of hardwired sexual attractions to inappropriate individuals?

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Irony vs. Sarcasm

Because I have a pedantic side, please bear with me whilst I get this off my chest: let’s set the record straight on the difference between sarcasm and irony.

Sarcasm is a remark intended to hurt someone, an insult.

Irony is a remark that says one thing on the surface, but given the context, conveys another contrasting idea.

That’s it, simple as that. Forget any definition of sarcasm that contradicts what I just said because it’s wrong. I’ll give you a moment to purge your memory of all heretical definitions—

As you and your friend walk out of the theater, if your friend slips on some ice and exclaims “I love New York in the winter!”, your friend is being ironic: saying one thing and meaning another.

If your friend sees a hated ex-lover getting out of a taxi with a new love and yells “Jane, you ignorant slut!”, then your friend is being sarcastic: intending to hurt someone.

If you had just seen the premier of Fool’s Gold, and Kate Hudson is within earshot when your friend says “Well, that was an evening well spent!”, your friend is being both ironic and sarcastic: saying one thing while meaning another and also trying to insult poor Ms. Hudson.

I’m glad we could get that straightened out.

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Missionary Self Abuse

I happened upon this video of a Mormon mission president preaching to the missionaries in his charge about the problem of masturbation among the missionaries. The female missionaries were escorted from the room because masturbation isn’t a big problem for women and because it would be inappropriate to talk about S-E-X in mixed company. It shows just how seriously masturbation is taken, and how afraid of it grown men are.

The mission president goes so far as to blame the low baptism rate in his mission on masturbation among the missionaries. I wish I was more shocked by this video, but the views expressed therein are typical. Those two years of my life were such a pressure cooker. The expectations to work 12 hours a day, win converts, and do it while completely suppressing my youthful sexuality were suffocating and dangerous. I learned a lot on my mission, but I wouldn’t call them the best two years of my life.

Update: Thanks to Kullervo for pointing out the rest of the videos in this series. For those who aren’t familiar with the kind of fundamentalism that Mormon missions tend to breed, these videos are very instructive and sickening, Parts 1 and 6 especially.

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4
  5. Part 5
  6. Part 6

Walking backwards to avoid seeing a picture! I would laugh if it didn’t make me sad to see how afraid he is of seeing some skin. Little does he realize that his fear is his real problem, not his desire to see nudity.

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Second Anointings

Many LDS members who have received their Endowment and have been sealed to their spouse in the temple may think that they’ve received the summum bonum of LDS ritual. Not so.

I just stumbled across an account of receiving the ordinance of the Second Anointing (or Second Endowment) in 2002. It is apparently still practiced quite regularly despite being discontinued in the middle of the last century.

A compilation of my mother’s family history casually mentions that one of my ancestors received this ordinance. I thought it odd at the time to see the casual reference because it is not talked about much in the church now. I imagine most members have only heard whispered rumors about this ritual if they’ve heard about it at all.

Reading this account and the comments that followed reminded me of The Inner Ring by C.S. Lewis. The recipients of this LDS ritual are charged to tell no one that they’ve received it lest others in the church envy the privilege. They are promised exaltation in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom on only one condition: that they never deny the Holy Ghost. The officiator in the ritual grants them the “[power] to be a member of a Godhead”. In other words, unless they blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, they’ve made it. They have endured to the end and made their calling and election sure.

It must feel pretty spiffy to be a member of such a special club, the inner cabal of an already exclusive church. It must feel even better to believe that you have the power to decide who makes it into heaven. This is yet another way LDS ritual separates “us” from “them”.

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