About Those Missionaries . . .

About Those Missionaries . . .

I’m socially weird. I meet people on Facebook and become friends with them, rather than making friends and adding them on Facebook. I’ve found many of these friends in group chats and, I admit , I even made several good friends while playing Kingdoms of Camelot. I quit playing after a few months (I was becoming alarmingly obsessed) but I made some good friends and added them to my “collection.”  I never have met most of these friends in person, and I probably never will.

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That’s not to say that all of my Facebook friends came in this fashion, but a large handful of them have. In the past year or so, I have joined a couple of Facebook groups for progressive-minded Mormons. Two or three of my new friends came from these groups. I was a bit flattered, then, that one of these new friends asked to hear my opinion of one of his recent posts.

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My new friend said, Continue reading

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Love your neighbor. It’s the Christian thing to do.

Here’s something you don’t know about me:  I once had a boyfriend who was a preacher for the Christian Reformed Church.  I thought I was in love with him. I thought I wanted to marry him. But what I didn’t understand, was that he didn’t love me. At least not in the Christian way, that is.  And to me, love without the light of Christ is not love at all. It’s just lust. What an oxymoron it is to be in love with a man who considers himself a servant of God, but is unable to do so in a Christ-like way.

Let me explain. When it came down to it, he told me that he couldn’t marry me (even though he said he loved me) because I was a Mormon (LDS), and Mormons are not Christian. As a “messenger of God,” that would just be wrong. I was devastated. It was tough for me, because I even though I never used the word liberal, I did tell him how I struggled with members of my own faith because of our different ways of thinking. And he told me that he loved me because I was so different in the way that I understood God: not like the hypocrites who talked the talk and couldn’t walk the walk. But I was so nervous about losing him because I was a Mormon, I never could come right out and tell him that I was a liberal.  Honestly, I hadn’t come out of that political closet yet.

We had a hard time letting go of each other. He said that he couldn’t let go of me, but he also couldn’t marry me. I knew that his love for me was conditional when he finally admitted to me that the reason he was stringing me along was because he was hoping that he would be able to convert me to his version of “true Christianity”. I had an even harder time explaining to him why it was finally so easy to walk away from him. I tried to use the parable of the Good Samaritan to show how he was like the priest and the Levite who professed to be godly men, but passed right on by the injured man. Although they professed to love God, they couldn’t love their neighbor (Matthew 37-39). I was trying to tell him that as soon as he admitted that he wanted me to leave my church, I KNEW that he didn’t love me.  Not in the way God asked us to love one another. He just didn’t get it.

So when I found this statement from The Christian Left, a group that I follow on Facebook, I was finally able to put my finger on what I was actually trying to say, and why it hurt me so much:

We believe one of the most important things we do here is let as many people as possible know we’re here. When we say “we’re here” we mean all 191,000+ of us. Do you know why? Because liberal Christians are tormented by conservative “Christians.” They are told they “can’t be a liberal and a Christian,” which is saying “You aren’t a Christian,” which is saying “God has rejected you.” Do you know what it’s like to have doubts on whether God has rejected you? We can’t think of anything worse, period. That’s why this community is so important and it’s why we keep coming back. Liberal Christians often suffer the rejection and alienation of friends and family. We want them to know they’re not alone and that God has NOT rejected them, period.

I added my own thoughts in the comment section:

This is what it is like being me. Except add the Mormon part to it, because many Christians will say you can’t be Mormon and Christian, while many Mormons say you can’t be Mormon and liberal. It’s a tough row to hoe.

When I was finally able to put both ideas together I finally knew why it was so tough to admit my liberal leanings to my boyfriend.  If he was struggling to accept me because I was Mormon, how would he handle it when he found out I was liberal too?  If I was afraid of the reactions of my Mormon friends and family when they found out I was liberal, how would my conservative Christian boyfriend handle it?  He didn’t. He couldn’t. It was a doomed relationship.

To be honest, even though I have some very good Christian friends, I DO NOT at all feel accepted by the general Christian public. Not because I am a Liberal, but because I am a Mormon. And once those who understand that I am a Christian because I am a Mormon find out that I am a liberal because I am a Christian, will they reject me too? So let me try to further explain:

Being a liberal Christian means understanding what Jesus meant when he told us to love God with all our hearts and then to “love thy neighbor as thyself”. He told us that there are no greater commandments than these two (Mark 12: 30-31). So why can’t we keep them? If you can accept yourself, knowing all of your flaws and inadequacies, and you can love God because you know that he loves you despite all of your inadequacies (THAT is God’s amazing grace), then why can’t you accept others whose flaws and inadequacies are different from yours?   Being a liberal Christian means knowing that placing judgement on others means asking for judgment upon your own head. Did not Jesus say “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2)?

I just wanted to be loved as God loves me. Unconditionally.  I guess that was asking for too much. I guess that is asking too much. I was hurt. I was rejected. By a human being. I’m not perfect. He’s not perfect. I guess I’ve been guilty of judging too. In the end, I am so glad that it didn’t work out between us.  It isn’t right for me to expect perfection from any human being.  I just wanted someone who was trying. And I have that now.

My second husband was Catholic when I met him. It didn’t bother him at all that I was Mormon. In fact, he was very interested in understanding what it meant for me to be LDS. I was worried that he might join the church for the wrong reason (me). I told him that it was okay with me if he wanted to stay Catholic. I told him that if he was really sure that he did want to be a Mormon, that I didn’t want him to do it until after we were married, and I even went so far as to tell him that I would be angry if I found out he was joining the church to make me happy. And I meant it. It was a year and a half after we were married that Tony “took the plunge”. And today, four years later, he is preparing to be sealed with me in the temple. We don’t always agree, and we definitely have our differences, but I do know that LDS or not, I have a truly Christian husband.

I admit that I still wish for an apology from my ex-boyfriend. It would be nice to know that he understood how he hurt me. In fact, it would be nice if we could all catch a glimpse into our neighbors’ hearts when we hurt them. Even though God can do it, we can’t. So why would we expect an an apology when we are hurt by our neighbors? You can forgive your neighbor when they hurt you and don’t apologize. Perhaps they have no clue that what they have done was hurtful. I was single after a divorce from my first husband for eleven years. He had been a member of the bishopric. It was during that eleven year period that I met that Reformed Christian boyfriend. I took a long time, but I was able to forgive my ex-husband. In fact, I was already into my second marriage before I could truly purify my heart and let go of that hurt. I’ll be able to forgive that old boyfriend too. And it will be a good thing because that is what we have been asked to do (Colossians 3:13).

All Christians don’t think alike.  All Mormons don’t think alike. You will even find differences of opinion from church leaders. It’s okay. You can love your neighbor despite their differences.  It’s what God asked us to do because he loves ALL of his children, Christian, Jew, Muslim, and Atheist. We are all loved equally because that is what God does. It is ungodly to be hateful and judgmental. If you can’t do it on your own, remember, “with God, all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). I am trying, and I have a husband who is trying. You can try too.

“This is not the God and the Christ that I Believe in”

I may be a late-comer to the bandwagon on this issue. I found this just two days ago as I was taking a closer look at Jim Dabakis’ website. And as I read, I knew I could not remain silent.  Dabakis  is pleading for help because this is an LDS issue, and Dabakis is not LDS.  But Dabakis is gay, and I am not.  I may not be able to completely understand what a gay person goes through, but I think I can understand what a gay person in the church goes through.  Especially here in Utah.  And when one member of the church sends anonymous letter of condemnation to another member, there’s a serious problem. This is the third or fourth letter of this kind, and the recipient’s sister explains:

Erik is an active member of the ward.  I’m assuming he hasn’t been to church in a couple weeks so the author must have assumed he had left the church. The letter was left on my parents front door in a plain white envelope. My parents as well as Erik live in South Ogden. This is the third or fourth letter left for him. It greatly upsets my parents.

The letter:

Left on the doorstep. And NOT THE FIRST TIME

The words I have to describe this horrific letter are inadequate, but let me give it a try.  Aside from the vile rhetoric in this letter, there are three glaring problems with the author’s argument: Continue reading

Some Truths About God’s Love

I’m moving back to Utah soon, and as the move approaches, my anxiety increases.  I am seriously nervous about the way my people who call themselves Christian, seem to be seriously lacking in the pure love of Christ. I count myself among them.  I have been so frustrated lately by the amount of judgment I hear, and lack of tolerance I see, from members of my own faith. It’s hard to want to go back into that culture.

We place judgment on others and call them evil because they are different from us. We fear what we don’t understand. We forget that we are all children of the same Heavenly Father, and that he loves us all equally.

 

. . . If you love me keep my commandments

Keeping the first of the greatest commandments should come easy if you are truly a Christian, but the second of the two greatest commandments is not so easy for many (including myself). Continue reading

Confessions of a Third-Grade Bigot

My father often tells a story about an event that happened when I was quite young.  And while the story has nothing to do with me, it has everything to do with my understanding of literacy, and so I tell it too.   It seems that a man came from out of town on business. Dad met him at an informal reception in the workplace, and upon learning that my father was Polish, the man began telling Polack jokes.  This particular situation can be easily compared to the same man visiting, and upon meeting a particularly beautiful blonde colleague; he begins telling dumb blonde jokes. My father might have laughed at the first basically benign joke, but as the jokes continued, and as time went on, became more distasteful and bigoted, my father was no longer smiling.  Dad knew that he could have just left the room; instead, he waited for a lull in the barrage, and asked pointedly, “Do you speak Polish?”  When the man answered negatively, Dad asked “How does it feel to be dumber than a Polack?”  This put an effective stop to the jokes.  This particular story has stayed with me throughout my life.  My dad tells the story often, always in response to some particularly bigoted statement by a family member or acquaintance.  I think the story stays with me for the same reason. I mean, how can a monolingual individual possibly be more intelligent than one who is bilingual? But I think now, too, of the gender-related as well as stereotypical issues with dumb-blonde jokes.  How can we use language, gender, hair color, skin color, or country of origin as a measure of worth?  Why do we?

A similar story is told by my mother, always in response to the assumption that she must be bilingual.  Both of my maternal grandparents were immigrants. My grandfather, an illegal German immigrant who jumped ship from a merchant vessel when it landed in California. My Grandmother came as an Austrian refugee of the Holocaust.  The two met and married in California, and spoke fluent, albeit different, dialects of German in their home.  When my mother was born, local school officials suggested that speaking two languages, one at home, one in public, would confuse my mother (despite the fact that her two sisters, both more than a decade older than her, were bilingual). So my mother was raised speaking English-only.  I feel that my mom was deprived of some important linguistic skills that could have opened so many doors for her.

I think of the general attitudes and discourses regarding literacy today, and I can see how closely related they are to the attitudes and discourses regarding the first languages of my grandparents, and the value they placed on learning English as direct evidence of their worthiness to become citizens of the United States.  Grandma spoke a dialect of German commonly referred to as Platdeutsch (Low German), while Grandpa spoke Hochdeutsch (High German). Grandma, being painfully aware of the disadvantaged classification of her dialect, made every effort to adapt her skills to accommodate the more privileged dialect of Hochdeutsch.  She knew how this advantaged categorization of language affected the way others classified her, so she reverted to her Platdeutsch only when arguing with my grandfather as a point of irritation.  Grandma’s painful awareness of the privileging of dialects led her to insist on the use of “proper English” at all times, just as she insisted that my mother never leave the house without gloves on.  Both modes of communication, the one verbal, the other visual, were distinct determiners of status in the eyes of my Grandmother.  Much of this insistence on “proper,” albeit arbitrarily defined behavior, is still evident in the values expressed by my mother today, especially when it comes to language.

As a child I came to adopt these same values, insisting that there was just one correct way to communicate, and that “proper” English must be used as a method of maintaining societal integrity.  When I think about those attitudes in relation to my own life, I think most specifically of a field trip that I participated in when I was in the third grade. This particular field trip was significant to me at the time, and has stayed significant as part of my growth as a literate woman. In retrospect, it has become even more significant to me as a way of understanding differences in backgrounds and cultures that contribute to the growth of a literate America.

This was the year my family moved from a middle-income neighborhood in “white American suburbia” to a rented home in Lark, a tiny defunct mining town that housed a

variety of elderly widows, Mexicans, Navajos, and single-parent families.  My parents were attracted to this location because of its low rent, and more importantly, its proximity to the property they were planning to build a new home on in an exclusive gated community.  In my new school, I was among the minority—a child from one of only two intact white middle-class families in the whole town. We only lived there for two years, but those two years shaped my early attitudes about reading, writing, and communication in the English language. Continue reading

God Doesn’t do Definitions

Yeah, I know it’s OLD news, but it’s been on my mind for some time now, and in light of recent suicides in Utah, I’ve decided to say something. Better late than never, I hope.

Despite the fact that I live in the suburbs of Chicago, I am inexorably linked to Utah and its culture due to the fact that I was raised there, and that I lay claim to membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (The Mormons).  When I first moved to the Chicago area, I moved into the city itself. Specifically, the neighborhood of Edgewater. I very quickly discovered that Edgewater lays claim to the largest concentration of  homosexual individuals in the nation. I honestly had no problem with that.

Given my past experience with with the GLBT community, I was feeling comfortable with the prospect. I had a very good friend in college who was gay, and I hoped to find another close friend like him amongst my neighbors (cute male friend–no pressure). I didn’t think there would be any problem with my religion, after all, it was not my intent to convert anyone, just to get to know people.   It wasn’t long, however, that I discovered that the cultural bonds of my home state had become a stranglehold in places where my religion is widely (and wildly) misunderstood, and I felt myself caught in a noose created by the cultural ties that bind, leaving me unwittingly alienated by my neighbors.

I lived in a newly rennovated condominium where I met Darren.  He lived a floor above me, and was outgoing and friendly. Darren lived with his husband and their “kids” (a couple of schnauzers), and was happy to introduce me to his friends and family.  They seemed like nice people, and I looked forward to getting to know them better.

Our building was shaped in a U surrounding a courtyard, with our back porches facing each other; his looking down on mine.  On my back porch sat an old church pew which became the focus of our first conversation. “You are not conducting church services in this building, are you?”  Darren quipped. I quickly assured him  that I was not looking for converts, although the conversation also presented an opportunity to share my religious background.  I explained that the old pew came from  a church where my father once presided as a Mormon bishop in a small Utah town.  The bench was a family keepsake–and yes, I told him, I am a Mormon.

 

http://www.cafepress.com/editormom/1266905 Design copyright © 2006 by Katharine O’Moore-Klopf

 

For a couple of weeks, Darren was very friendly in our comings and goings from the courtyard. One Sunday after church, I sat out on my old church pew and teased him: “Services started at noon, where were you?”  He had an easy-going banter making our burgeoning friendship quite comfortable; but not long after California’s Proposition 8 passed, the banter disappeared behind a slammed door every time I poked my head out the back door.  A few weeks after our first meeting, I walked through the courtyard with my scriptures, all dressed for church, and saw a glowing cigarette butt pass within a couple inches of my face and hit the ground in front of me. I looked up to see where the cigarette had come from just in time for Darren’s back door to slam again. Continue reading