Monday, June 14, 2010

Guest Post: Religious Culture

Today's guest post comes from Heather (who is the sister in law of our favorite crazy Polish commenter, Sylwia). I agree with a lot of what she has to say, but there are a few points that I don't. When I finish my required packing for the day and then nap for six or seven hours, I'll be back to discuss those points. In the meantime, I'd love top hear what YOU think. Also, if you missed the info on Weekend of Awesome 2011, scroll down to the previous post.

I was going to title this post "Mormon Culture" but I feel like this is a trend throughout the country. I've noticed it predominantly with Mormons because I live among them. I have contact with them every single day. In fact, I am one.

I was born in Wisconsin and by the time I graduated from high school, I had lived in Indiana, Utah (for a year and a half), Kentucky, California, and back in Wisconsin. According to Mormons, I grew up "in the field." By the time I came back to Utah 5 years ago, got married, and settled here, I had attended BYU for two years, lived in Spain as a nanny, served a mission in Italy, lived in Oregon for a stint, moved to Alaska for a few years, and generally explored.

My point of this background was to let you know that I'm not some sheltered Molly Mormon just because I live in Utah now.

There seems to be a trend to hate, and it really bothers me. You can hate Utah whether you live here or not. You can hate BYU, especially if you can't/won't go there ever, because it's way too restrictive. You can hate the fanatical among your religion because they want to limit the rights of the downtrodden. You can hate the United States because all the politicians are corrupt. And you can hate Mormons because you know some Mormon hypocrites. But you can hate all those things without any reasons. Or at least without valid reasons.

Hear me out on this. How many of the people who hate BYU have never had their freedoms restricted because BYU exists? Granted, if you live in Provo but don't attend BYU, you could be affected. How many people say they're going to become ex-pats if so-and-so gets elected but then never ever try to do anything in their community politics? How many Mormons do you know that hate Mormons?

Thing is, if I don't hate, people think I must be naive. I don't know freedom if I don't chafe at the rules of a private school. I can't understand politics at all if I love my country. I must be a true Molly if I like Mormons. And there's only one explanation for loving Utah: I found a secret pocket of good Mormons.

Let me tell you the truth. I LOVED the rules of BYU. They made it harder for roommates to take advantage of me. They made it easier for me to concentrate on schoolwork. And I chose those rules! I'm a little bit on the fanatical side of my religion. Some things absolutely do need to be restricted. Most politicians are at least a little bit corrupt, but so are most non-politicians. And somebody has to do the job and get hated for it. Mormon hypocrites? I've met plenty. But I can't punish an entire culture because of a few bad seeds. After all, aren't we all flawed? Isn't the purpose of religion to help us get better? Doesn't it say a lot for those who are at the very least pretending to try to get better?

So why the hate? Do I have to hate everything about my culture because there are little bits of bad mixed in?

When I was 20 and living in Spain I felt my flaws very uncomfortably. I told the lady I nannied for that being around her made me feel fat, and thus I didn't like being around her (yeah, I was a bit self-centered back then). This very wise woman told me something that has stuck with me. It has pricked my heart many times.

"You have no right to complain about something you're not willing to change."

Yeah, some things I can't change. But I can't complain about cliques at church if I don't make a sincere effort to talk to everyone. I can't hate my body vocally if I won't try eating healthy and exercising. I can't hate the country that allows me to run for public office and change things if I won't run. I can't talk smack about the mean people at church because I become one of them.

Do I have to be hateful in order to be cool? In order to not be a sheep? Do I have to be mad or dense (or both) if I like my culture? Do I have to be some kind of communist if I am a fan of rules?

I don't think I do. I think maybe we should all be praying a little like the cheesy Serenity Prayer:

"Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Let's add to that. How about: "Help me to stop being critical of people and things that are a little too uncomfortably like me or of things I don't understand. Help me to have a little less hate in my heart."

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