UU Mormon

Posts Tagged ‘morality

For an eternal verity abides beneath diversities; we are children of one great love, united in our one eternal family.

— W. Waldeman W. Argow

The minister on Sunday talked about creating “a broad universalism,” that beneath all our religious and political and philosophical differences we’re all the same.  Every person has inherent worth and dignity and is deserving of respect.

The words are different than I’m used to (one of the good things about going to a different church– you think more deeply about a concept when the language is varied) but the idea is familiar… We’re all children of God, every person is of infinite worth, we are all brothers and sisters, we should love and serve one another.

She introduced a new UU theme for the year — Standing on the Side of Love.  At the Equality March on October 11 UUs wore bright yellow t-shirts with the slogan.   ssl

To start off with, though, she talked about why a broader universalism is needed, why we need to speak our minds with greater respect and kindness.   She talked about the current pervasiveness of meanness and hate.

A Baptist pastor in Tempe, Arizona preached a sermon to his congregation called “Why I Hate Barack Obama,” saying that he prayed for the death of the President and hoped he would burn in hell.

I read another article recently that said the Secret Service may be relieved of its treasury department duties in order to focus on protecting government leaders.  Threats against the president are up 400 percent compared to the Bush administration (and I suspect it’s not because President Bush was so widely beloved).

A childhood friend of mine recently sent me a note thanking me for the political posts I’ve made on on my Facebook page.  She said it renewed her faith in humanity to see them.  More specifically, it renewed her faith in Mormons.  Another LDS person she knew had been posting anti-Obama sentiments in her status updates that my friend considered hateful, and this person seemed to connect these sentiments with her religion.  My friend was starting to make judgments about Mormons and the religion as a whole based on these hateful messages, and she was grateful that I reminded her not all Mormons think that way.

I didn’t tell her that her other friend may (or may not, I don’t know) be more representative of Mormons than I am, since I’m distinctly unorthodox.

It hurts me that my church and its members are adding to the divisiveness and polarization that’s going on right now. The LDS religion teaches that “broad universalism” and yet… Glenn Beck’s books are prominently displayed in church-owned bookstores, and there’s that whole Proposition 8 thing…

I’ve heard a few reasons for the strenuous efforts of the church in the campaigns to deny or revoke the rights of gays to marry, and basically they come down to these two things:

1) God says marriage should be between a man and a woman (or, in the eternities, women)

2) Gay marriage would infringe on the free exercise of religion

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently gave a speech comparing the backlash against the Mormon involvement with the Prop 8 campaign to the voter intimidation of blacks in the South during the Civil Rights movement, and warning that religious freedom is in danger.  He was, I can only assume, trying to play on the Mormon persecution complex to bolster the determination to oppose gay rights, i.e. if people hate us for it, we must be right.  Us vs Them.  If they have rights, ours will be taken away.

And ours are more important.  He said:

But unless the guarantee of free exercise of religion gives a religious actor greater protection against government prohibitions than are already guaranteed to all actors by other provisions of the constitution (like freedom of speech), what is the special value of religious freedom? Surely the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion was intended to grant more freedom to religious action than to other kinds of action. Treating actions based on religious belief the same as actions based on other systems of belief should not be enough to satisfy the special place of religion in the United States Constitution.

While church leaders continue to build higher the battlements in the war of values and supremacy of rights, they are also emphasizing civility in public discourse.  We need to be polite to those we’re working against and the people whose rights are less important than ours.

The word I’m not hearing in any of this is “love.”   Is the great commandment “love one another,” or is it “legislate ‘moral’ behavior”?   What is the more compassionate course of action?

LDS science fiction author and board member of the National Organization for Marriage, Orson Scott Card claims that a society that recognizes gay marriage will crumble.   For all I know he may be right — I don’t believe he is, but I don’t know. But my conscience tells me that the current situation is unacceptable, especially in the church (see the stories of gay Mormons and the suicide list at ldsapology.org).  Even if I might be making a mistake I would rather err on the side of compassion, on the side of love.

Perhaps I should get the t-shirt.

I had a lovely talk with Butterfly the other day. She’s 11 and very scientific and serious-minded. It’d surprised me the week before that she commented with such astonishment on how they didn’t tell her what to believe in her RE class. We talked about that some more. I told her that I don’t have all the answers and I know what it’s like to feel guilty about not being able to believe everything I was taught at church, and I want her to hear different points of view and be free to make up her own mind about what she believes.

She thanked me. Not with a casual “Oh, thanks, Mom,” either, but enthusiastically, with sincere gratitude. Thank you for not telling me what to believe! It sounded like it was something she had already thought about. Something that was important to her.

Can that be? She’s eleven.

Then on Sunday I heard some of General Conference, and this statement from Elder D. Todd Christofferson jumped out at me:

I’ve heard a few parents state they don’t want to impose the gospel on their children. They want them to make up their own minds about what they will believe and follow. They think that in this way they are allowing their children to exercise their agency. What they forget is that the intelligent use of agency requires knowledge of the truth, of things as they really are. Without that, young people can hardly be expected to understand and evaluate the alternatives that come before them. Parents should consider how the Adversary approaches their children. He and his followers are not promoting objectivity but are vigorous multimedia advocates of sin and selfishness. Seeking to be neutral about the gospel is in reality to reject the existence of God and his authority. We must rather acknowledge him and his omniscience if we want our children to see life’s choices clearly and to be able to think for themselves. They should not have to learn by sad experience that wickedness never was happiness.

Hm. It was in the context of a talk about moral discipline. Basically, it seems to be saying that you can’t have or teach morality without believing in God.

When mev met with the missionaries this was a topic of the discussion where I saw the mismatch in underlying assumptions. The missionaries said that in order to do what was right, you had to know why you were doing it, which was to follow God’s plan. “Why?” asked mev. Why couldn’t you do good for its own sake? Why couldn’t you want to make the world a better place simply so that the world would be a better place?

Um….

Point for the atheist, I thought.

I agree with Elder Christofferson on some things. I think my kids do need to be prepared to evaluate the intelligence and rightness of their possible courses of action. I don’t think they should be left to be influenced purely by the world at large, although I don’t believe they’re being targeted by Satan. I want to raise them to be responsible and compassionate. I would like them to know about their own religious heritage and other people’s too. But I don’t think pretending certainty about the unknowable would help me accomplish those things. And admitting what I don’t know seems to have increased my daughter’s trust in me. We can talk about what we think and believe and don’t believe.

I told her that they said in General Conference that I shouldn’t let her make up her own mind about what to believe. She laughed.

And she said that it didn’t make sense to her for there to be one correct religion, because what you believe depends on where you were born. How could she assume the religion she happened to be born into is the right one when everybody else all over the world thinks the same thing? (This was not something she heard at church. It was because of something she read in a fiction book about how you wouldn’t find Hindus in the Arctic (well, you know, unless they moved there) and she thought it through.)

If I were a Calvinist I would think she was predestined to be a Universalist…