June 22, 2009

I’ve been pondering a weighty topic for the last week or so, wondering why a couple of Christian concepts seem to be mutually exclusive, and, moreover, how shall *I* reconcile those?

No, I’m not telling you what they are. I ran across a passage in a book that spoke to my questions (although didn’t answer them, precisely). So I’m just going to post the passage. Character names are left out, as I want it to stand on its own without any preconceived notions.

[The man] smiled. “What does this look like to you, Miss [ . . . ]?” He pointed around the room.

“This?” She laughed suddenly, looking at the faces of the men against the golden sunburst of rays filling the great windows. “This looks like . . . You know, I never hoped to see any of you again, I wondered at times how much I’d give for just one more glimpse or one more word—and now—now this is like that dream you imagine in childhood, when you think that some day, in heaven, you will see those great departed whom you had not seen on earth, and you choose, from all the past centuries, the great men you would like to meet.”

[ . . . ]

“Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be left waiting for us in our graves—or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.”

“I know,” she whispered.

“And if you met those great men in heaven,” asked [another], “what would you want to say to them?”

“Just . . . just ‘hello,’ I guess.”

“That’s not all,” said [he]. “There’s something you’d want to hear from them. I didn’t know it, either, until I saw him for the first time” —he pointed to [a third man]— “and he said it to me, and then I knew what it was that I had missed all my life. Miss [ . . . ], you’d want them to look at you and to say, ‘Well done.’”

The parable of the ten virgins

So for those of you not up on your New Testament or Christianity or Jesus or anything like that, our micro Sunday school lesson text comes from Matthew 25:1-12.

Ten virgins are going to a wedding and they bring their little oil lamps for light. Five of the virgins bring extra oil and the other five virgins only have enough to last the ceremony and go home. Well, the groom’s late (viz. “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” v.5) and everybody runs out the oil in their lamps, but the ones who brought extra oil refill their lamps and are allowed into the wedding. But because the bouncer can’t see the others in the dark, he doesn’t let them in because he doesn’t know if they’re invited or not.

The moral of the story is obvious: Be prepared.

And, more specifically doctrinally related: Be prepared for the coming of the Lord.

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Tent revival: ur doin it rong

Okay, so I thought I’d attended my last evangelical tent-in-a-sanctuary revival in 1986 when I left private Southern Baptist education. While I mourn the lack of liturgy and ritual in our church service (aka sacrament meeting, for those non-Mormons who aren’t keeping track of the vocabulary and couldn’t care less) and we’re not as silent as the Quakers, I really really really despise the rah rah rah hard-sell religious pep rally motivational seminar worship service.


It took me a full 30 seconds into this to figure out this was us and then couldn’t bear to watch another second. What, did we turn into the 700 Club while I wasn’t looking? What happened to the angst-ridden EFY and Youth Conference testimony meetings awash in sweet spirits and tears and Happy Valley Girlesque avowals of eternal gratitude and BFFness?

Sister Dalton, Brother Dahlquist, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re Mormons. We are not evangelicals. Evangelicals curse and hate and spitefully use and persecute us and they always will. They do this for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that we’re not trinitarians and we value works over grace (yeah, LDS types who take umbrage at that—think about that a while before trying to hamstring me with The Miracle of Forgiveness). Stop trying to be them and to curry their favor by emulating them. Oh, sure, they liked us well enough during the Prop 8 bullshit, but then they went back to hating us once we did their dirty work for them. And now half the rest of the world hates us more than they already did.

Who thought this was a good idea? You’re going the wrong direction. We’re fucking weird. Own it. Embrace it.

Hat tip Main Street Plaza.

::grumblegrumble:: Next thing you know, we’ll have crosses on our steeples and speculate about who’ll be left behind at the Rapture. Note to self: Find nearest coven in case of emergency eject.

Officially on holiday

I have a boatload of work to do on the damned day job (filthy lucre!!!) and I have 23 people coming for Christmas Eve (which wouldn’t actually mean much unless you saw my house) and Tax Deduction #1 is home on Christmas break (yay) and I want to spend some time reading and writing (and possibly sewing). I’ll be back Saturday or Sunday or thereabouts. Thought I’d leave you with a pic of what a friend called my “dredle tree,” which lives in my office in November and December.

Dredle Tree

Mormons and vampires


So I’m looking through my stats and come upon the search phrase, “is there a correlation between mormons and vampires.”

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Just like every other organized religion on the planet. And those who submit and bare their necks to the teeth do so willingly. Or not. Maybe. Kinda sorta.

Sparkly!Faith—any faith, one that takes into account the possibility of a higher being—requires something of you. It asks you to believe in something you can’t see, can’t feel, can’t touch. Then it sets down the philosophies that this faith’s higher being represents. Further, it asks that you take these philosophies upon yourself; whether it asks you to simply believe them or live them or proselytize them is yet another philosophy it asks you to take upon yourself. Then it sets forth boundaries of behavior that you agree to in order to function within that higher being’s philosophical boundaries. And last, it may ask you to present yourself accountable to a human functioning as the higher being’s representative; if not a human, then to the higher being itself at some time in your future.

I know quite a bit about evangelicals. You know, born-again Christians: Southern Baptists. Pentecostals. Those folks. I know quite a bit about Mormons. You know, ’cause I are one. I don’t know much about anybody else.

Christianity generally asks you to believe the following:

1. That a higher being (hereinafter referred to as God) created the world and humankind in 6 days (could be literal, could be metaphorical) with his hands.

2. That he set up a number of rules (also known as the Law of Moses) for the people to follow.

3. That he alternately rained death and destruction down on his chosen people or those who would slay his chosen people, depending on who pissed him off that day.

4. That he asked his chosen people to slay a lamb as sacrifice and atonement for their sins.

5. That he somehow magically impregnated a virgin with his divine baby-making matter so that the son she bore would be half-man, half-god (hereinafter referred to as Jesus) and therefore perfect.

6. That he wanted Jesus (aka his son) to take over the whole sacrificial lamb gig so his chosen people wouldn’t have to do it by hand with an actual lamb anymore. And oh, this has the added benefit of saving everyone else who believes in him (Jesus), too. No more raining death and destruction on anyone. Jesus’s atonement for everyone’s sins makes him the savior of mankind.

7. That God, Jesus, and a heretofore unmentioned wraith (hereinafter referred to as the Holy Spirit) form some sort of triad of purpose and/or existence.

Note: Evangelical Christianity (which is really what I’m talking about because that’s all I know outside my own faith) asks you to believe that these 3 entities are 1. Somehow. Like, a trichord in music, or an egg, or well, you know, anything with 3 distinct parts bundled up in 1 package. 3-in-1. This doctrine is hereinafter referred to as Trinitarianism.

8. That God/Jesus/Holy Spirit set forth a new set of rules to follow, the first of which is to believe that Jesus died to atone for everyone’s sins.

Note: Evangelical Christianity is particular on this point, because it doesn’t matter how much other good stuff you do in the world, if you don’t get this first point down, you’re going to burn in a lake of fire for eternity. If you never had the opportunity to hear the gospel of the atonement (hereinafter referred to as the Good News), you’re going to burn in a lake of fire for eternity. Sorry ’bout that. And oh, if you profess belief after a life of absolute assholery, you’re going to heaven, so good on ya!

And what is heaven, by the way? What do you do there? You sing praises to God. You live in a mansion (the one that Jesus prepared for you) that is built on a street of gold. You wear a crown. The jewels in your crown denote HOW good you were. Is there a ghetto in heaven, where people who were assholes live? And wear nickel-plated steel crowns set with cubic zirconia?

And how do you manifest there? Are you the gender you are? (I’m told no; that you become some androgynous person mingling at the Great Cocktail Party in the Sky™). Are you married to your honeybunny there?

9. To prove this measure of faith, you get dunked in some water to baptize you and cleanse you of all your sins. Metaphorically speaking.

10. And also, that God asks you to tithe 10% of your earnings, however you define that.

Carrying on.

Mormonism asks you to believe points 1 through 10

Except for the side notes. We are generally silent on the subject of creation versus evolution. Quite frankly, I don’t know any Mormons who stress about this and I know quite a few (including me) who figure it could have been done any number of ways and in any number of combinations and are kind of scratching our heads over why creation and evolution seem to be mutually exclusive.

PLUS the following:

11. That some specially dispensed Jews were asked of God to build a boat and head west about 2000 years before Columbus did and settle in (but arithmetic isn’t my strong point, so check me on that).

12. That these people survived and thrived for a long long long long long time before being wiped out. But before they were wiped out, they scribed out their history on plates of gold.

13. That somewhere in the early 1800s a kid by the name of Joseph Smith was visited by God and Jesus (who were, by the way, NOT 2-in-1) and given instructions as to the nature and history of the specially dispensed Jews, instructed to be their spokesperson by translating the golden plates, was visited by the Angel Moroni on a regular basis, received continuing revelation from God, and pretty much spread all this information around.

Note: At the time in history that this was happening, there were a lot of crackpot religious theories going around that people believed and wanted to believe and subscribed to; it was just that this one had a better marketing team.

13a. That polygamy was commanded of God and that the stoppage of polygamy was commanded by God. That blacks weren’t eligible to hold leadership positions in the church because of some holdover Victorian bullshit, but then they were. Yay! But we don’t talk about those, not really, no. It makes us uncomfortable, you see. Move along. Nothing to see here.

14. That we make certain covenants with God (in our temples) that include things like giving your time and your talent and your resources to the building of the kingdom of God on earth, and well, chastity (meaning, if you’re single, don’t do it and if you’re married, only do it with your spouse). Okay. Well, that’s certainly groundbreaking. Welcome to Christianity 101.

15. That when you get married in the temple (or re-married, which term is “sealed”), your marriage is for eternity as long as you obey God’s commandments and don’t break the covenants you made in #14. Also, any children you have are yours for eternity also (but there are THOSE days with the Tax Deductions when that’s not the most attractive thing in the world).

16. That it is possible to become a god, with your own world(s).

Yeah, we’re not encouraged to talk about that in public, either, but hell, everybody BUT US talks about it and to me, this is THE selling point of the whole deal. Criminy! Can you imagine being imbued with all that knowledge and skill—and having a workshop big enough to create worlds and creatures? I’m so jumping through whatever hoops for the possibility of that kind of an eternity.

Mormons didn’t come up with this idea by a long shot; we simply actively, quietly really believe it. But really, I’m going to believe this is a possibility whether hoops are involved or not—because it suits my nature to believe this.

17. That God has asked you to obey certain rules as a token of your faith.

18. More rules.

19. More rules.

20. More rules.

Technically, we believe in salvation by grace. In practice… Not so much. The party line is: You are saved by grace after all you can do. But the “all you better do or else” starts adding up really fast.

The “or else” isn’t couched in terms of punishment because the concept of “hell” (the burning lake of fire kind) is a non-starter for us. It’s always couched in terms of rewards you will not have earned.

21. That “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the prophet” is actually God’s words and not the prophet’s because heaven forbid a prophet remain fallible after he becomes the prophet. See 13a.

To summarize:

Sparklier!Christianity in general asks you to believe a lot of weird shit.

Evangelical Christianity asks you to swallow the idea that there’s some kind of 3-in-1 thing going on with God; it also asks you to swallow that people who’ve never heard its doctrine are going to hell by default.

Mormonism (a Christian denomination, as noted by the words “Jesus Christ” in our official church name) asks you to swallow a whole boatload of other weirdness beyond what Christianity in general asks you to believe.

But the thing is, if you can swallow mere Christianity, if you buy into any belief system with a higher being who demands something of you, you’ve already tendered your neck to the fangs of religion. Religion is a vampire.

Which vampire bit you is kind of irrelevant once you’ve decided to submit.

But ours sparkle.