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

Mormons, What?

 Dear Kiley,

I wanted to share some of my thoughts on Mormonism with you today. This has been due to our conversations on it both yesterday and in the past. Also, you're wonderful! Any lesbian or bi lady looking to meet a wonderful and awesome woman should meet her!

Mormonism (also "Morg", "that church," "the church with the polygamists," and "aren't you the ones that wear the magic underwear?") is something I feel somewhat familiar with. I'd like to point out that I am not a historian in any sense (my major is political science not history) so take my opinions for what they're worth! Mormonism is too huge of a topic to address in one letter to you. Honestly, if I did that the pages would go on FOREVER! So, I'll subdivide it into more manageable topics (and not make them too wordy).

I do not promise coherency in these letters, by the way. Just the ramblings of a guy that reads too much, ha ha!

When it comes to Mormonism in general, I see a religion that does do good (acts of charity, creating a functioning community for its members to interact in, and developing a safety net within those communities) and does not so good things. I find, as I do with all other spiritual doctrines of other faiths, that Mormon beliefs are smoke and mirrors. I recognize that the Mormonism at BYU is quite different from the Mormonism taught and practiced in Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, and California where I grew up and served my mission. In interacting with people from other places, I have found that Mormonism is different to some degree depending on where you are. I absolutely detest BYU's Mormonism. How can a group of people so evidently and clearly intelligent be so...ignorant?

A couple examples to illustrate my previous comment. While in Sunday School a few years back, I had a teacher sum up the Reformation as a time when people were just searching for the truth and a jolly good attempt at it too but thankfully God brought about the Restoration later so that those people's kids could know the truth. I was a believer when I heard this and was flabbergasted. All I could was about how the woman had willfully and naively ignored the bloody and brutal history of the Reformation. Just read about the Anabaptists or the Thirty Year War.

A friend of mine had a roommate that saw the Holocaust as God's punishment of the Jews. 20th Century Jews deserved what they got because of what their ancestors supposedly did 2,000 years ago to God's son. That kind of thinking just makes any rational person's jaw drop in shock. Good to know that 6 million Jews were all that was needed to atone for the crucifying of Jesus. Good to know that the persecution and hate they received for the past 2,000 years wasn't enough. To lighten the mood, watch this video.

They speak as though their view were true. The Reformation was just a big ol' friendly chat that the Restoration settled the matter on and no blood was shed in either times. The Jews were merely settling a debt with God, that's all. I see this line of thinking throughout much of my friends' thinking. It's fine for the Lawgiver to have power over death, but we are supposed to follow his example, but not kill, but ignore when he wantonly kills because he has a reason, but, but but. The Canaanites were guilty of child sacrifice so of course they deserved to be wiped out. All of them: men, women, and children. Infants and pregnant women would not have been spared. This was all jolly good justice on God's part.

These first few ramblings are my opinions on Mormonism. They are incoherent. But I admit they begin to cover my disagreement with the Mormons on how they view death, rationalize history, and explain the actions of God.

Your friend,
That Crazy MoFo