Cafeteria Religion

Children

If you’d spied my sister and me in Chick filA one afternoon last week, you’d probably think we were just a couple of “older ladies” enjoying a meal together, perhaps sharing anecdotes about our children or reminiscing about the past. We did a little of that, but we also had a serious discussion about cafeteria religion, the kind in which people take what works for them and conveniently ignore the rest. Examples abound. I’m familiar with them because I practice that type of religion myself. Just about everyone does, even those who think they’re nearly perfect.

Here are just a few examples of cafeteria religion that we discussed.

*There are those who say keep the Sabbath holy, but then they justify dining out, shopping, or going to the movies. I know because I’ve done this before. “I deserve to go out to eat because I work so hard during the week, and Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest (for me, that is…not necessarily for those working in restaurants).”

*Then there are those who give lip service to “love one another” but they look down their noses at people of a different social class, skin color, or ethnicity. They might even put their homes on the market if one of those people move in down the street..or horrors, next door!

*And let’s don’t forget those who give enormous sums of money to their churches, even exceeding the ten percent tithe, but they’re hateful, rude, and snarky to the people who work for or with them.

*There are those who “tsk tsk” those who are have fallen away from the straight and narrow and completely ignore the “judge not” instruction.

I hope this isn’t coming across as an accusatory blog. It’s just that I heard an excellent talk in church in Myrtle Beach a couple of weeks ago that fit perfectly into the cafeteria religion conversation that my sister and I had, and I can’t get the talk out of my mind. The speaker read the account (John 20:17) of Christ’s words to Mary Magdalene after He was resurrected. “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”

To me, the connotation is that God is His  father and her  father and even our  father. Our father is not just the father of Southern Baptists but also Jews and Buddhists and Hindus. He even loves the atheists and agnostics. In fact, perhaps he has a special love and concern for them. Who knows? None of us can really presume to know the mind of God. We are His creations and not His equals.

That’s it,  my musing for the day. I, like you, have issues and am sometimes guilty of picking and choosing which commandments and/or guidelines I want to follow. What about you?

Love Letter on the Beach

IMG_5302

I took a quick beach walk before heading home Monday and an elderly man approached me with a smile, a folded piece of paper, and the words, “Here’s a love letter from your Heavenly Father.” A little surprised, I simply replied, “Thanks. I always like hearing from Him.” The exchange didn’t even take ten seconds. He went his way, and I went mine, and yet….

That’s what I put on Facebook early this morning as I was comparing my surroundings of today to those on Monday. Working on end-of-semester journals and portfolios in my little hideaway above the garage is just not quite as awe inspiring as “da beach.” Ah well, the sea and sand beckon, and I shall return soon.

In the meantime, let’s get back to the opening paragraph. A Facebook friend and writer whose work I admire said she wondered whether women passed out such letters to men who were walking alone on the beach. Truly, I got a good chuckle out of that one. The thought of it is preposterous (to me anyway). In no particular order, here are some reasons why I can’t see a woman, regardless of age, distributing religious literature to single men on the beach.

1. She wouldn’t be presumptuous enough. I might be overstating this, but generally speaking, women aren’t as anxious to solve all the problems of the world. Scholars who’ve written about gender differences in communication say that we womenfolk use language to forge relationships, to nurture, and to make things “all better.” Men, on the other hand, communicate to solve problems, offer solutions, and take care of business.
2. She’d be so happy to get a few moments of quiet solitude and reflection, a respite from cooking and cleaning that she wouldn’t want to spend it approaching strangers. Many (not all of course) men get up, get dressed, and head out the door. Women usually tidy up a bit, especially after preparing breakfast for the family or starting a load of laundry.
3. She’s probably at home ironing, washing the frying pan, or homeschooling the children. While this reason sounds a lot like the second one, it’s different. The second reason implies that the woman wants solitude so much that when she finally gets it, she doesn’t want to puncture it by approaching strangers. The third reason implies that a woman is too busy to stroll along distributing literature.
4. Women aren’t as well known for proselytizing. Yes, there are women ministers, missionaries, and spiritual leaders, but their roles are more restricted than those of their male counterparts.
5. She knows it wouldn’t be a good idea. Even on a public beach, there are sleazy folks.

Yes, my writer friend’s question gave me much pause for thought. I still don’t have the definitive answer of WHY. How about you? If you’re a woman reading this, would you approach a single man on the beach and give him a letter from his Heavenly Father? Why or why not? And to any and all, would you find it stranger to be given such a missive by a woman than by a man?

Confessions and Revelations

Confession: My friends and I aren’t perfect. Revelation: Neither are you!

A facebook post from my friend Connie has motivated me to say a few things that have been on my mind and in my heart lately. She and I attend the same church and see eye-to-eye on most (maybe all) things spiritual. She’s a “sister” who, like me, does her dead level best to be kind, honest, caring, giving, and all those other positive things that we’re supposed to do. We turn the other cheek, work on being nonjudgmental, love our families, attend most church meetings, pay our tithing, and even visit sick people in the hospital.

Connie and I often laugh and joke at where we’d be and what kind of lives we’d be living without what we refer to as “the gospel” in our lives. It’s only a skip and a hop to pondering the same thing about our friends and acquaintances who are apparently farther along the path of enlightenment than we are…or so it would seem from the outside looking in.

But are things always the way they seem? I know folks who darken the church doorway more frequently than I probably do, but they’re judgmental, unforgiving, and rumor mongering (always wanted to use that term). Others are pessimistic beyond belief although throughout the scriptures we’re told to be of good cheer. They worry incessantly about tomorrow despite the frequent Biblical instruction to have faith. Remember the tiny sparrow?

And then there are those who could spout off the 10 Commandments like nobody’s business, but they put possessions and “other gods” before God, take His name in vain, and/or treat their parents abysmally. And let’s don’t forget those who think keeping the Sabbath holy means going out to eat after church and sleeping the afternoon away. Don’t even bother responding to this by telling me that going out to eat as a family keeps unity going AND helps insure that those working in restaurants have jobs. (As an aside, I’ve been known to do all of the above.)

Here’s the difference between Connie and me and “those other people.” We KNOW that we aren’t perfect, and we don’t need anyone to tell us that or to remind us of the shoulds and should nots. We know them, and we’re trying to incorporate them into our lives as best as we can. All of us are in different spots in our spiritual progression.

Time to bring this to a close. Here’s what I know: LOVE is the word. As I write this, I can’t help but think of my former mother-in-law and the many acts of love and compassion that I’ve seen her perform. This afternoon, I’m thinking specifically of how she’d often leave church early to go home and put the finishing touches on a scrumptious meal for her family. Lots of mothers do that; I used to too (although my children might take issue with the scrumptious part).

Here’s what set her apart from me and the other mothers. Before any family members partook of the Sunday feast, she fixed a plate of goodies for a “shut-in” neighbor and sent it over by one of her sons. Did she leave church early? Yes. Did anyone at church have anything to say about it? Yes. Did she show love? Yes. Did you?

Here’s my goal as found in Micah 6:8. I rediscovered this scripture after reading Same Kind of Different as Me.  “And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

She’s Not Fanatical

One of my writing friends and I had a great conversation yesterday, and among our many topics, children and parents and families came up. What’s the best way to raise chidren? Is divorce something that the parties involved ever completely recover from? We didn’t resolve all of the issues under discussion, but we did pretty much nail this one: The most important factor in raising responsible, mentally healthy children is L-O-V-E. Naturally, we talked about our own darling offspring, but we also talked about our own parents.

Today I’m missing my parents and yet feeling their influence at the same time. If that doesn’t make sense, read on, and maybe it will. This morning I’ve been thinking of a conversation that took place about 25 years ago between my father and another man:

“Is she the sister that’s a Mormon?” he asked my father.

Glancing in my direction (I hope with a smile), he replied, “Yep. That’s her.”

They were silent for a few moments and then my father added, “But she’s not fanatical about it.” Bless his heart!

That man knew his children well, and he respected all of our ideas and opinions although they were often different from his. Knowing that the four of us were endowed with different temperaments and tendencies, he and my mother allowed us to develop without too much interference. That’s not to say that we didn’t get a nudge or push in the right direction sometimes, but I don’t recall any of us ever being told that our ideas were stupid, off-the-mark, ill-formed, silly, or strange.

Back to the Mormon thing, sometimes I really really really miss my father because he was so non-judgmental. If I’d wanted to become a Buddhist or Hindu, he might have raised an eyebrow, but then again, he knew me well enough to know I wouldn’t do that. He knew that even though I loved to learn and explore and investigate, I’d probably never stray from the doctrines of Christianity.

And he was right. I’m a Christian, a follower of Christ, and I’m a Mormon. Why am I telling you this, especially since just about everyone who reads my blog already knows it? I’m telling you this because I’m beginning to feel like the “Mormon thing” might be making some of my friends uncomfortable around me lately, especially since Romney is likely to be the Republican nominee for President.

There’s no need to feel weird about me, Folks. As my open-minded father said, I’m not fanatical. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the teachings of the LDS religion, especially since they’re pretty much the same ones that my parents taught me, things like being kind, honest, and hardworking. At the same time, I’m not so zealous that I’m going to get all preachy and start pontificating on the perils of not seeing things my way.

All of the Mormons that I know adhere to 13 Articles of Faith, the 11th one being, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege. Let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

So friends, there’s no need to feel uncomfortable about talking about Romney or Joseph Smith or polygamy around me. I’m at peace with the choices I’ve made in the religion department. Just don’t ask me to go out drinking with you or blow smoke in my face.

Melissa’s Question

A week or so ago Melissa packed up her stuff to leave the adjunct faculty office where we’d been working and then asked, “So Jayne, I’ve been wondering. How do you feel about all these things people are saying about your religion?”

I must have looked at her with a quizzical look because then she said, “You know what I’m talking about: the Broadway play, Romney running for president, and that television show about the Mormons with all those wives. Seems like every time you turn around, someone is saying something negative about the Mormons.”

Ah yes, I knew exactly what Melissa was talking about. It’s just that I’m kind of, sort of used to it. Melissa is an educated, open minded person who believes, as I do, that people should be allowed to worship who, when, where and how they feel like it. Neither of us would deliberately attack or make disparaging remarks about other people’s religions, and we don’t understand all the Mormon bashing. Hmmm. Let me correct that. We refer to ourselves as LDS (Latter-day Saints) and not Mormons, mainly because we don’t worship Mormon. Gee whiz. No.

I can’t remember what I told Melissa, but I’m telling you that yes and no, it bothers me and it doesn’t bother me. No one likes to hear her religion, children, fashion, decorating style, etc. criticized, but at the same time it doesn’t make me angry. It makes me sad.

If you criticize one of my children or grandchildren, I’ll probably think you have a few loose screws or that you really know him or her. Then again, I might get really angry. It depends on who says it, what’s said, my mood, and so forth. If you criticize my decorating style and remark that it’s a bit eclectic, I’ll bid you adieu with a gentle reminder that “to each, her own.” If you criticize my religion,  I won’t get angry. Promise.

I’ll feel sad. Then I’ll wonder how anyone could doubt the truthfulness of a church known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. I might add that in line with what our name implies as Christians, we do our dead level best to love and serve others, even when they vilify us unmercifully. I must also add that we, as followers of Christ, never berate or belittle other religions Indeed, the 11th Article of Faith states that “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

About the sad feeling, I might also be puzzled at why you (in a general sense) feel the need to be critical and I can only conclude that you haven’t checked us out for yourself. That said, why not do it at Mormon.org? We have no secrets. We welcome you to follow the Savior’s admonition to “Come unto me.” We don’t care how much money you have or haven’t, the color of your skin, your past, or your occupation. We believe that we’re all brothers and sisters of the same Creator.

 Let’s talk about the three things Melissa mentioned:

The Broadway play entitled The Book of Mormon. Naïve me, I downloaded the music from iTunes only to discover that that it wasn’t something I wanted to listen to, much less see (the musical). I was psyched up to listen to it on one of my daily walk/jogs, and then I heard the F word. And then I heard it again. Then I heard even worse language. Why do intelligent, educated, gifted people have to resort to such vulgar vocabulary? Surely, there are some slang, cool, or hip words or expressions they can employ to get audiences and praise.

I ended up deleting all but one of the songs. I kept “Hello” because I think it’s probably like many missionary experiences. I don’t even want the selections on my iPhone whether I’m listening to them or not. As someone said, if you want to be entertained for an evening, see the play. If you want to feel peace and joy for a lifetime, read the book.

By the way, I think the play has a happy ending in that some of the people of Africa are converted and later become missionaries themselves. Some of my friends say, “Well, no wonder your church is growing so much. Look at all the missionaries.” I can only ask, “Doesn’t your church have missionaries too?” Sure,there are differences. Our missionaries don’t receive a salary, and they only serve a limited amount of time, depending on their age and gender.

Some people look at television shows about people who purport to be LDS, and yet they practice polygamy. The LDS church has not practiced polygamy since the late 1800’s when it was forbidden by the law of the land. “That’s disgusting!” people say. If you’re one of those people, how do you reconcile your feelings when looking at the lives of Jacob, David, or Solomon? Don’t even bother telling me that things were different back in the day. Please.

About Romney, whether he’ll be our next president is hard to tell. I’m no prognosticator. All I know is that whoever is elected to that high office will be there because that’s who God wants to be there at that time. I picked up that way of thinking from Billy Graham who’s been puzzled and almost heartsick at the election of some leaders.

I could go on and on and on and on but I won’t. I’ll end by inviting you to check us out at www.mormon.org if you want the whole story. You’ll find tons of information as well as profiles of members from all over the world. Mine is there, right along with those of folks from Canada, Africa, and France.

Yes and No

I’ve been pondering about why some people seem to delight in making disparaging remarks about other people’s religion, including mine, and wondering why in the name of heaven they do that. As my sweet mama would have said, it’s uncalled for. Does it bother me? Yes and no

There’s nothing like a brisk walk in the chilly, invigorating fall air to stimulate some deep thinking. For sure, not all of my thoughts were deep (Where did she get that cool jacket? What size turkey should I buy for Thanksgiving? I need to vacuum my car.), but some were.

I was thinking of how some people seem to delight in making disparaging remarks about other people’s religion, including mine, and wondering why in the name of heaven they do that. As my sweet mama would have said, it’s uncalled for. Does it bother me? Yes and no.

Yes because no one wants to be insulted, and when one’s religious views are mocked, it’s hurtful. I’m not sure whether it’s because the person (me) identifies with the religion so much that attacking it seems like a personal affront or what.  But here’s the real reason for yes. It’s upsetting because “sweet is the peace the gospel brings,” and I’d like for everyone to feel that same sense of serenity and calm. So yes.

But no too. No because whether people join me in my belief that God is our Eternal Father and that Christ is His Son and the Savior of the world doesn’t change the truthfulness of it. I LOVE the writings of C.S. Lewis, and I’m copying something right out of Mere Christianity. “Perhaps we feel inclined to disagree with Him. But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all of your reasoning power comes….When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on.” Gotta love that!

So yes and no. I was thinking yesterday of a verse in John that I recently discovered. Christ has just asked the twelve if they will go away, and Simon Peter answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Exactly. Where else is there? Who else? What else?