On Discomfort and Tyler Glenn’s “Trash”

This morning Tyler Glenn released a music video (link below) for a song called “Trash.” The video symbolically, and somewhat graphically, condemns the Mormon church and its founder Joseph Smith. I don’t believe the song refers explicitly to the church’s policy for same-sex couples, but that policy is undoubtedly bundled up in his evident anger. These are my thoughts on the video. They are intended for a Mormon audience.

You might be wondering, “Should I watch it?”

Tough question. If you mean, “Will I want to download the song afterwards?” the answer is, maybe maybe. I’m kind of iffy on it myself.

If you mean, “Will I feel happier after watching the video?” the answer is, probably not. You may feel uncomfortable, sick, and/or angry, or you might feel validated, but probably not a lot happier.

But that’s really not the only reason to do things, or even the best reason. Generally, I think we would be better off if we got more used to seeing things that make us uncomfortable. We all gravitate toward things that hit our pleasure points and reinforce our attitudes. That’s good because it makes life enjoyable, and it’s particularly good when our current attitudes are good. It’s bad, though, when we are in need of a paradigm shift, because our desire for comfort shields us from improvement.

As a rule of thumb, if you are 80% right and 20% wrong, you should feel discomfort about 20% of the time, and at least 20% of your attention should be focused on righting what is wrong. If everything you see makes you happy, or if you never feel the discomfort of wondering whether you are wrong, you might be avoiding reality a little bit.

If you’re now wondering, “Will the discomfort from watching this video help me to change for the better?” the answer is…still, probably not.

Certainly, you should be aware of the kind of emotion that Tyler is expressing in the video. You should know that people are angry. You should know that most gay Mormons leave the church because they find it an inhospitable place for worship and spiritual development. You should know that many of us are still baffled (some more than others) by the November 2015 policy decision. You should also know that many people, gay and straight, feel personally betrayed by things they are learning about the church and its history. The discomfort that comes from being aware of all that is, I believe, something you should definitely experience.

I just don’t think this video is going to do the trick. To be clear, I don’t feel offended by Tyler’s video, nor do I feel the need to defend it. We’ve all got things to get off our chest. Tyler happens to be a musician and performer, so he expresses himself through music and performance. There will certainly be some people for whom this song and video resonate. But others will only be turned off.

The thing is, emotions are complicated. Some negative reaction serve an obvious purpose. For example, a threat to your physical safety can release adrenaline and speed up your heart rate to get you ready for a “fight or flight” response. An insult to your integrity can illicit a similar reaction, even though your physical safety is not actually in danger. An insult to your religion can evoke the same kinds of feelings, even though their benefit is less obvious. The images in the “Trash” video are likely to evoke those kinds of emotions in many Mormons.

So if you still have 5 minutes to spare, instead of watching the “Trash” video you might want to spend 3 of those minutes reading Christian Harrison’s BCC post from November 6, 2015, “Yet I have hope,” and the other 2 minutes thinking about why someone like Christian would feel to write, “the Kingdom of God isn’t supposed to hurt this much.” It will likely make you uncomfortable, but in the best way.

 

Now, if you are feeling brave, the video.

(Side note: Christian’s post mentioned above is included in this collection of 49 reactions to the policy change).

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5 thoughts on “On Discomfort and Tyler Glenn’s “Trash”

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful post Jon. I agree that “Trash” is not building any bridges, nor do I think it was meant to do so. I’d like to make a case for why it appeals beyond just validating anger and hurt, though.

    To me, it’s about power. The Church and its leaders have assumed the power to tell “The Mormon Story,” from its early years to the modern narrative about who’s a righteous defender of truth versus an apostate “servant of Satan.” With this video, Glenn turns that relationship around and recognizes that any institution only has the power that we bestow upon it. It says fine, you don’t have to accept me, but you can’t erase me. You can reject my “lifestyle,” but I can reject your origin stories and your symbols and your policies. You don’t get to control my story; I do.

    In that vein, I think taking control of one’s own story is powerful and potentially life-saving. Maybe that’s why this video resonates with me so much.

  2. Thanks Kent! Great thoughts. I actually do think that every gay Mormon should watch the video. But other Mormons I’m not so sure.

  3. Wonderful post Jon! After watching Tyler’s Mormon Stories interview, I was actually somewhat surprised by the intensity of anger in the music video. The interview is deeply moving as he talks about his emotions attending his nephew’s baptism the day after the November LGBT policy was leaked. His family was also distraught and had a hard time accepting that the policy was from God. After trying so hard and enduring so much pain, he decided to look into the history that he had avoided, and he says he lost his whole faith that weekend. He said he felt angry that for decades he had wrestled so hard with the issues he was taught he needed to fix in his life only to find out that the wrestling was completely unnecessary. He wishes he had just accepted himself fully all along, and that was the source of a lot of anger. He has also mentioned that this song is the most angry of the upcoming album, so I’m very interested to hear what other ways he addresses his faith transition experience. He also mentions how beautiful he finds Mormon community and how much he loves his Mormon friends and family.

    The video was definitely shocking, but as Kent says, taking back personal empowerment was actually pretty cool to watch :). That said, I’d love to see if other songs on the album try to build bridges between those who are still faithful and those who feel cast out.

  4. Cliff! Yes, the Mormon Stories interview is definitely worth hearing/watching as it helps to understand the process Tyler has been through to get here. Just last summer at the Affirmation conference he said he was still an orthodox believer in several ways and that surprised me at the time. It would be easy to say he’s taking the easy road if you don’t know how long and how hard he fought to keep believing in spite of everything. I’m looking forward to his upcoming stuff. Should be an interesting ride!

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