Tuesday, February 3, 2015

thoughts on religion and equality and love

I just tried to post this as a comment in the last post, but it won't let me because it's so dang long.  So for what it's worth, here you go.

Thank you for all the insightful comments…I’m finally back to give my own two-cents, although I’m not sure blogger takes comments this long! {it doesn't...}

This blog started out being a record of our family life, but has turned out to be much more than I had ever anticipated.   I hope that part of what it has grown into is a place for people to find a normal family that is trying to be the best that they can be using any positive resources they can, but most especially using their relationship with God…who knows them individually and knows how to help them through the inevitable struggles that come their way.   I want to show that good relationships and family systems often don’t just happen, they need to be worked on, and that having faith and a relationship with God can sure help on that.  I didn’t ever intend for this spot on the Internet to become a place to discuss my specific religion, but because that religion is so tightly interwoven into everything I do I guess that comes with the territory.

My religion has been a cornerstone of how Dave and I raise our kids, and because we are so grateful for that, I’m so happy that I can share it.  I’m so thankful that through reading this blog a few families have taken it on so whole-heartedly that they have been baptized.  I am so happy to hear from them and the joy and happiness that has come into their lives because of that decision.  It was the cornerstone of my family growing up, and as crazy as some of us are, it helped guide and direct us all in a way that I can never be quite thankful enough for.  The whole church is built around families and how to make them stronger.  I know I weave this into many posts, and have said it over and over but I can’t say it enough: I am so grateful for my religion! 

Now, that is certainly not to say that it is perfect.  Nor are the people who take part in it perfect.  Oh boy, everyone sure makes mistakes.  But that’s what’s so beautiful about the core of it all:  We have a Heavenly Father who loves us.  And He has given us His Son to take care of all the things we do to “mess up” through grace and pure love if we will only just accept that gift with our hearts.  He atoned for our sins and gave us all the opportunity to repent of our mistakes and to be able to return to live with Him some day.  My religion teaches that God wants us to have JOY.  It teaches that we can find that joy by serving and loving others and by creating strong families.

That is the core.   And I think it’s so important to remember that core when you try to dissect all the different parts, because everything comes back to that.

Ok, so on to Jill’s point that many people perceive undercurrents of racial and gender inequality in the LDS faith.  I think you are exactly right on that.  Some readers have already commented on this much better than I could, but for what it’s worth I’d like to say that we are taught in my religion that women are strong.  We have the power to do whatever we want.  We can truly change the world.  We are also taught that women in general are wonderful nurturers.  Aren’t those things combined the most amazing gift?  Isn’t it wonderful that we truly have the power to change the world by striving to love others as Christ would love…not only children who we can teach to make a difference in the world, but those we interact with on a daily basis... adults and friends and peers and complete strangers alike.  Women can be tremendous nurturers of EACH OTHER and we have the power to bring so much happiness through doing just that.  Personally think that is one of the most glorious gifts we can be given.  Does that mean women are weak or somehow inferior to men?  Of course not!  Although I do believe men and women are certainly equal, we are not the SAME.  I just don’t know why so many people in the world try to make us that way.  Why not celebrate  what makes us different and take pride in it?  Are all women the same?  Of course not.  Some are more nurturing than others.  Some have brains that are wired for being amazing CEO’s or brain surgeons or teachers or astronauts.  Some find their talents in sewing or cooking or making a home a beautiful place.  We are all different.  Vastly different.  And how wonderful if we can learn to celebrate those differences rather than judging or nit-picking what others do around us.  We need to be our own best selves whatever our hearts lead us to be.

As far as the racial inequality within the LDS church, I think those misperceptions are bound to come when living in an area that lacks a lot of diversity like many readers have eloquently already commented.  If you take a look at the larger demographics of the LDS church you’ll see that there are more LDS members of the church outside the United States than inside, and you may have a completely different view of the LDS religion if you were to live among church members in Africa or Europe or our little expat branch in Shanghai....or even just in Iowa or Tennessee where there isn't such a high concentration of Mormon church members.

The truth is that the LDS religion is not a perfect religion.  Is any religion perfect?  I think not.  There are wonderful leaders working hard and praying their guts out for guidance to make it better, but we are all human.  Sometimes I think that people of my faith are held up to a pretty steep measuring tape.  I don’t know why.  It’s like people get mad when they see a little crack in our supposedly supposed-to-be-perfect demeanor.

But of course no one on the planet is perfect or even close to it.  Perfect people don’t need a Savior. 

As far as the reference to religion dividing people instead of unifying them, and the point that you can’t really have empathy for people if you don’t really know them, that could be a whole post in and of itself.  Wouldn’t the world be such a better place if we could all walk around in someone else’s shoes for a little while?  If we all just had a little more empathy for what others are going through?  That’s a pretty tough thing to do…we all get so caught up in our own little bubbles and our own narrow versions of reality, but I love that our religion teaches getting an education and reaching out to others to try to figure those things out.  Going on missions to take us out of our own narrow views and trying to serve others.  Serving unconditionally in any capacity we can.  But most importantly it teaches that we should have Christ-like love for every single other person on this whole entire planet.  

Not just the ones who are nice to us.  

Not just the ones who think the same way we do.  

It teaches that really, when it comes down to it, we are all children of God, no matter race or gender or financial status, no matter how we choose to spend our time or how we choose to live the lives we’ve been given.  We are all part of His human race.  Our responsibility is not to judge how others are living their part, it is to examine our own lives to see how we can do better.  How we can love better.  How we can forgive, and how we can use the power of the Atonement in our own individual lives.  And His hand is always stretched out to help us do just that if we will only ask (my fav. scripture in Isaiah).  I believe that THAT is the purpose of life, and what truly brings the JOY that God wants us to have.  We just need to strive to love each other as He does.

I am trying to do just that.  Of course I fail and make mistakes every single day, but I love the quote I have shared before from an "unknown" author:  "Oh God of new beginnings and second chances, here I am again."  Each day is a new chance.  And boy howdy do I ever need all the chances I can get!

**post edit note, I took out a few lines of this post and took off the comments (although I do appreciate them!) because it took away from the focus I want to keep here.  
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