Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Value of Life (and Death) and Karen Walker

Dear Kiley,

I wanted to talk about the value of life and death in the Mormon Church as far as I've seen and interacted with. As always my disclaimer, I am no expert so take my opinions for what they're worth.

When I was in Kindergarten there was this story that was shared with all of us kids. I was six years old (that's twenty years ago for me, lol!) then. My teacher (Mrs. Walsh, I believe), told us the story of the Gingerbread Man. As a child I loved the magical nature of the story. A gingerbread comes to life and runs away to go on an adventure. My teacher made us gingerbread cookies (real ones!) and I loved the smell and taste of gingerbread. There were even little adventures connected to the story that the teacher had us play. Yes, Mrs. Walsh was a good teacher.

Stories are meant to teach morals and such. The gingerbread man got careless and trusted in something that he shouldn't have trusted in. That carelessness cost the gingerbread man his life. A sobering thought indeed. Now, I know there are other meanings to the story (never let a woman put you in the oven or put frosting on your head before running), but I just wanted to share that observation.

The Mormon and Christian God is the creator and destroyer of all things. Mormons, though, limit God's creative and destructive powers. God does not create from nothing (ex nihilo or "out of nothing") and cannot send matter into oblivion. But the Christian God can and does. This difference, however important theologically and in the realm of matter, is not going to be addressed here.

Returning to childhood memories, I want to bring up another story. Remember the song "I'm trying to be like Jesus"? I find the song, as an adult, incredibly fascinating as it is an insight into remaking what has traditionally been taught about so many topics. Now, the point of the song is to encourage children (and by extent, adults) to follow the God of the New Testament, Jesus.

Children are typically sheltered from the more heinous stories of the God of the Old Testament (death seems to bother children somehow). But the funny part with this song is the great theological point that it fails to address. Jesus, as the Mormons see it, is the God of the Old Testament. That God is a God with so much blood on his hands that you could probably fill the rivers, oceans, and lakes with it and still not run out. He is responsible for the worldwide massacre in the Flood, the nearly successful genocide of the Canaanites, the murder of the first born Egyptians, the slaughtering of the Israelites before healing them with a brazen serpent, the wholesale slaughtering of the Assyrian armies, the murdering of a man for attempting to steady the Ark of the Covenant, and so on. Honestly, I could continue to list off story after story of the God of the Old Testament (a.k.a. Jesus the future Messiah) and his many fascinating ways of killing people (See 1 Chronicles 21: 1-14). In the Old Testament, from how I see things, Christ/God is quite the vindictive God. He is a God that responds to "sin and iniquity" with speedy death sentences (Romans 6:23). Families were slaughtered for one person's sins, the person died as well (Numbers 16:30-33).

Resurrection does not give value to life taken away. In fact, it cheapens life. In Sunday School lessons by the dozens, I was taught that the people killed in the Flood were sent to the afterlife to learn about God. They could not stay on Earth because their wickedness would destroy the plan of God and God would just not have that! This was seen as good thing and in every lesson the people in class would murmur their approval of this story.

The problem with this line of thought, though, is that it teaches something very sinister. Your life only has value to God and the followers of that faith so long as you are accomplishing the goals they/God has in mind. The moment you step outside of it, you are no longer of worth or use. Death is a kind service to give to you. Your life is not priceless but, rather, with a price. It is something with a finite value, to be extinguished when your service is no longer needed. That you can be revived is an empty and cheap promise. Why bother, then, with even living? God does not seem to care much about your life. When dealing with rulers, the lives of the common people are just pawns to be used as bargaining chips against their rulers (1 Chronicles 21: 1-14).

I'm gonna have to cut off my line of thought for now. This letter is getting just too long.

Your Friend,
That Crazy MoFo

1 comment:

  1. I listened to "I'm trying to be like Jesus" and the song kind of pissed me off... (Now I may have to write about that song and pick it apart.) Though the Will and Grace clips at the end made me laugh. (Good idea to counteract one with the other...)

    Only to add to your list of death and destruction - don't forget about the Nephite pride cycle and all of those killings...

    Resurrection and the reward of heaven do cheapen life and serve to simply shift all focus from the present to the future...

    I think agency plays into the whole vengeful God thing too... Mormons believe that Christ was sent to earth because he fought so that we would have agency to make our own choices. Satan's plan was to make us do the right things and thus save us all... In many ways God killing off the wicked every time they start to go astray of his plan ultimately takes away agency...