Saturday, March 03, 2007

Light

A few days ago I got my wee bloggy feelings tweaked, by what I felt was a hurtful exclusion. Notice that I say felt, not thought. My intellect is absolutely sure that the exclusion was not meant in a hurtful way, and not exactly done in a hurtful way by the excluding party... and while I try to live the motto of my bastardization of a darn good Brigham Young quote:

"She who takes offense, when no offense is intended, is a fool. And she who takes offense when offense is intended... well, she is probably a fool too."

I got my feelings hurt anyway.

Chalk it up to the system de-jack-up-ification process of getting off the Yasmin, leaving me bloated and weepy... and sensitive dang it... but there ya go. Ouch.

I hate getting my feelings hurt. And I really hate getting my feelings hurt when I cannot understand why/what about what just has happened is hurting my feelings. I reference this mess of my personal little owie only as it has bearing on the meat of what I wish to say. I don't want anyone else getting het up about an unfortunate crossover in language and purpose, or the old and rather tired lies of the past that still affect the way some people do, and will always view me. No matter what I do or say, and no matter what I really believe.

Hello, My name is Bon (The Mama) Chaos, and I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am a Mormon, and this means that I am a believer in Christ, and an adherent to His teachings. I'm talking the whole ball of wax... His divinity, Godhood, literal Resurrection and the Atonement. In my book, this means I am a Christian.

But.

I also believe that God has dealings with his children today, just has he has in antiquity, a.k.a. modern day revelation. Yup, a Prophet of God alive and well today. I believe in the Bible (so far as it has been translated correctly), AND that The Book of Mormon is exactly what it purports itself to be on it's cover: Another Testament of Christ. According to some folks, that makes me "Non-Christian" or "Unorthodox Christian" at best. And at worst, a minion of the very adversary himself.

Unfortunately? There are slew of really awesome Bloggers doing some fun and cool bloggity-stuff out there, with that less than inclusive view of what it means to be Christian. These bloggers speak the same language of spirituality that I do. They speak truth, and try to live their lives in much the same way that LDS women do. They are often humble and smart women... only with a bias.

Now, now... don't get me wrong, there are some very important doctrinal distinctions between LDS and many mainstream "Christian" beliefs, especially the Evangelical set of Christianity. Coincidentally, the set that seems to have the most in common with LDS women, when you look at their lives and standards through the filter of a blog. Take away that filter? Hooo boy. It has gotten ugly in the past.

Basically, I was checking out a blog that was calling for submissions of posts that dealt with the topic of living in a Christian community; specifically the practical nature of service and helping in your community (your Christian Community). I have had this post of my own zipping about in my head for a while, and it was in line with what this blogger was looking for BUT. I noticed that in her side bar, she had been a nominee for a blogging award thingy, that last year was unwittingly the means of a public spanking of a blogger who is LDS, because she was LDS. The whole thing was an unfortunate mess. And while I do not think that just because a blogger was nominated for an award in and amongst the unfortunate hoo-rah of what happened, is cause to assume anything about her specifically... it did put me on my tiptoes. I am not interested in another flogging, especially one that actually involves ME!

So I emailed the blogger and asked if she meant "Christian" or only "Her Kind of Christian As Defined By Her." And in fact, it turns out that she did mean the latter. She was very gracious about it, and never did come right out and SAY... "No" to wanting a post from an LDS, or what she called an "Unorthodox Christian" point of view, but then, she really did say "No."

She then ended her missive with "God bless you for your sensitivity."

Sensitivity. Is it "sensitivity" or just plain old "caution" to check if an iron is hot before rubbing it vigorously on your face?

Now we are gonna switch gears here because the topic of the post that I wanted to write for this woman's collection of posts? Heh. Well, let's just say that something happened a few nights ago that has me thinking down a different track. A broader sort of avenue.

The Groundwork: As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, if I were to pick up and move to East Texas next week, a place where I do not have any family back-up (not very close anyhoo) and then two weeks after moving in, I were to take wretchedly ill.... say a sort of cancer that I can recover from, but that has me down for a few hard-hitting months... who would take care of my kids while I was incapacitated, and Dadguy was at work? Who would vacuum the floors and scrub those toilets? Who would make the meals? Dadguy is a very capable guy, but that is a deep, deep burden to care for, in addition to a sick and suffering wife.

There is no question in my mind as to "who." In the church the first line of defense is a pair of women who are assigned to watch over you as a sister. They are your "Visiting Teachers," and while they may not get out to visit you every single month and share a spiritual message the way they are supposed to, it is a rare occurrence that they are not right at your door in times of misfortune or need. Then there is the Relief Society, the entire contents of the adult female portion of the congregation... they are kicking in to high gear and doing what it takes, the second you ask, and often long before you are ready to ask.

You, as a Mormon woman are called, along with another gal who is your "companion" to visit a short roster (2-4) of other women in the Ward and so on. Any woman over the age of 18 is part of this. I have been a Visiting Teacher of young single women, older single women, married, widowed, divorced... lots of kids, can't have kids. All.

There is also assigned to each household a companionship of men... they are called Home Teachers. They are also responsible for the families they watch over and visit. In our church we believe that it is awful hard to progress spiritually when you are starving and frightened. We also covenant with the Lord when we are baptised to, among other things, bear one another's burdens.

I am not an expert on all the welfare functions of the LDS church, but the little I do know? is impressive. The Church is ready to, and does ship food, clothing, books, hygiene kits, baby care packages, medicines and cold hard cash as disaster relief. To any one. I have toured Welfare Square and seen the organized LOVE that is there in the form of huge bales of clothing, and warehouses full of food.

I could go on in detail about the myriad of ways that the church is there to be back-up in times of trouble. There in a human one on one level, and on an institutional level: I DO NOT claim that this post is in any way comprehensive or definitive.... but the point I wanted to make, is that lots of you out there are NOT Mormon, and a good chunk of all y'all are not a part of any church. I don't know what it is like to be you. I don't know... how you sleep at night. And I cannot fathom what you would do in a personal disaster. What would you do in a larger disaster... flood, war, etc...

I was kinda thinking that I was... mmm, one up on ya? And in terms of big-guns back up, yeah, I may be, BUT.

I am now thinking that I was thinking in a sort of exclusionary way. Like somehow the way that I live and do things is so different from the way that y'all... the no-church goers do.

A Story: Two nights ago, I called on a woman to come to my aid at 1:30am. She left her warm bed, husband and sleeping children to come running two houses down, through the snow, her pillow clutched to her chest. Y'all, she needed her sleep, and yet she could not rest until she got a call from us that Pearl seemed to be out of the woods and was getting oxygen. The woman I called was a member of my Ward, but she was not one of my Visiting Teachers. One of my VT's in fact, lives two doors down from me on the other side, but it was K that I called. K, because of the bond of love that I have with her. We are friends.

If she wasn't there, I likely would have called one of my VT's... but she was there. She was the person I called when my heart was palpitating and my sleep soggy brains asked "what do we do?"

As human beings we are hardwired to love and help each other. That hard wiring is something that I believe is a gift given to every human being. A certain sort of Light. When it is nurtured it grows and leads a person to do kind and moral things... to seek truth. But I also believe that we can turn our backs to that Light, that we can push it away and in so doing, we become capable of uglier and uglier things with little or no trouble to our hearts. The Light inside becomes dim, and is sometimes extinguished.

I suspect that there is a very special price that will be paid by those who cause that Light to be extinguished in babies and children.

There is a term for this light... we call it the Light of Christ. You may be Buddhist, or Atheist, and that term may piss you off a little, but humor me. I am going somewhere with this. Here's the deal... this Light of Christ, Para-Conscience, or Morals, or Human Spirit or whatever you want to call it? I think YOU have it.

When I was an active drug addict... spending most of my time with other drug addicts, you could still find folks who would give you the shirt off of their backs. They were basically kind to others and tried not to do too bad of things. Granted their Light was compromised by the drugs, and their addictions made many of their decisions for them.... but when they could, most of them tried to do what was right.

Most folks who belong to most religions, or live a conscious and good life in general? Good solid Lights. This Light urges you to do better, to love, to embrace truth. And most folks, if given a half a chance would help you out in a jam. Wouldn't they?

What I am getting at, all Ye who hath slogged your way through this beast of a post, is what is your back-up? Who would be there in a pinch, and what's the plan, Stan? I am interested in posts about Community, and what your part in that community is. What do you do? And what would you do?

Do ya wanna?

Shoot me a link to your post, or just leave a comment that outlines what's what. I don't care... tell me about how your local PTA backs you up, or write something about your way-cool pastor, about your next door neighbor, how you volunteer at the local Red Cross... or just what your plans are.



If I have torqued someones bolts or gotten something way off in this post... feel free to say so... keeping it clean please.

16 comments:

Blogarita said...

I'm one of those no-church goers, but I really enjoyed this post.

I was thinking along the same lines not long ago after hearing (country singer) Tracy Lawrence's song called "Find Out Who Your Friends Are". It's about being in a bind and finding out just who will come to help you, no questions asked and without expecting something in return.

The Chorus:

Find out who your friends are
Somebody’s gonna drop everything
Run out and crank up their car
Hit the gas, get there fast
Never stop to think “what’s in it for me?”
Or “it’s way too far”
They just show on up
With their big ol’ heart
Yeah find out who your friends are.

It made me question who in my life or in Spouse Guy's life is that type of friend. As it turns out, I think we can count on our friends more than our family in some cases.

I recently wrote about our friend Ron is this post. He is one of those friends for us, and hopefully we are the same to him. It's nice to know that there are still people who are able to think of others and not just themselves.

bon said...

Yeah! This is EXACTLY what I'm talking about. I remember that post Blogarita, and knowing that you are a no-church goer... I suspect that this post of yours is one of the things that I have read/heard/thought that inspired this "Light" post.

Fantastagirl said...

When Mr. Incredible was in the hospital having surgery, or in the hospital with his pancreatitis this fall, I had a group of ladies - made up of a co-worker, and two friends, that called me everyday to see what I needed, I never took them up on their offers (pride I guess), but I know that I can call them at any time in the morning and they would be at my home in minutes.

Growing up I was very involved in my church. But since college I am no longer an active member, I have some issues I need to work out, forgiveness on my part (I guess), a better understanding perhaps, and with time I'll get there. I know for our kids we should become active members, but it's so hard when I'm not sure what I believe anymore. Growing up I wasn't allowed to question, I had to just accept what I was taught, and that's not what I want for my kids. I do believe in the power of prayer - and say prayers daily, I just don't think I have to go into a particular building every Sunday to have my prayers answered. It's hard to sit in there knowing that the man sitting two pews ahead of you is cheating on his wife and kids, with the wife of the family two pews behind you. I feel like there are too many hypocrites that act all perfect one day a week...and it drives me nuts!

Becky..Absent Minded Housewife said...

A small part of the reason I'm not longer interested in involving myself in the LDS church was the exclusion from community. When they decide you don't belong in Utah County, you absolutely don't belong. I have other reasons, which are doctrinal, but that's the one that stings.

Here in Bendover there is sort of a survivalist mentality because we lack resources that many take for granted. If I called down the street for a neighbor to come, they would, because there is no one else. I don't even know what religious affiliation they are. We're isolated so those of us in for the long haul take care of one another, socially and in crisis. I've lent help to those barely able to speak my language.

What's funny is that when I come back to Utah County to visit and I run into people I know, they always ask what the world we do in Bendover. Lifestyle is assumed, it's an evil evil place..and then another exclusion based on the assumption. When I tell them that my husband is a teacher, and we don't live in a trailer home or work at a casino, we're only partially forgiven. They don't know that Bendover is an incredibly polite place to live...in fact it's rare I open my own doors in public around here.

Lynanne said...

Wow, what a thought-provoking post. It's going to take me a while to digest it before I attempt a response on my blog.

I guess I probably would fit into your non-church-goer group also. I am a member of a church but don't attend (though I often wish I could). I struggle with my faith and what I believe. My biggest difficulty with religion is how some groups exclude certain other groups of people (or that profess that anyone who doesn't believe what they do is doomed for hell.) Who are we to judge who is worthy?

While reading your post it occurred to me that I too have an exclusionary way of thinking. I automatically assume that people who are members of certain religions will not want to be friends or associate with me for what I do or do not believe. Or they may claim that I can be their friend even if I'm still going to hell in their eyes. Now I wonder if I unintentionally exclude people from my life because I am suspicious. Am I any better than they are?

As for where I turn to for support I'm not very good at asking for help. I have many friends and acquaintances that I know I could ask for help, but only one or two people I've actually called on. Good friends are gold, that's for sure.

Again, great post and I'm so sorry to hear you got your feelings hurt. :(

Meredith said...

Ok, it took me a long time to wind my way through your post, not because you were rambly (ok, a little :-)) but because I was trying to see what the point was since there was a lot of religion in your post and I think my brain sort of goes "la la la" when I start reading about religion. No offense obviously. Many people really like to discuss and share religious beliefs but I'm not really one of them. I think I had a religious post way back when, but it was more a political one.

See, now I am rambling.

I have sought out a community based on my religion before and it has not really been worth it for me. I don't get what I want to out of it and don't end up feeling like it is "my" community or anything like that.

I have, however, always been blessed with an amazing family and great friends. The reason we are moving cross country is to be closer to friends for the exact back up reasons you talk of. If something happened to me, my husband, or both of us, my parents, aunts/uncles, cousins could jump in immediately and help. And they would too.

Living so far away from family has been rough but I have amazing friends who have always been there in a pinch. One time when LM was so sick that he had to have an IV and both B and I were so sick we were passing out at the hospital, I was so scared that we could not take care of our son properly. I called a friend who lives half an hour away and has her own toddler and husband and she was at our house in an hour, with food, and stayed the night.

I have not been called on to go that extra mile yet for my friends, but I would, in a heartbeat. I believe in your light, I believe that there is a lot of good and love out there and that community is what you make of it. The bond can be but does not have to be made of blood or a shared religion. The bond can be made of anything - as long as it is there.

elizasmom said...

I have a push-pull relationship with religion. I have a tendency to be a bit Groucho Marx-y about joining things. It's just me, being a habitual outsider, more than anything else. And yet, one of the things that I like, OK love, about my neighborhood is that I finally live in a place where people stop and chat in the street, and where we could run over to our neighbor pleading for help with a childcare emergency and they would welcome the opportunity to help us — and where we would do our best to repay them by supporting them when their house was hit by an arsonist.

I, too, am inspired by this post (and as a non-church-goer-agnostic-whatever-I-am, no, not at all offended that you put things in your LDS frame of reference), and will post something in the next few days.

Thanks for a GREAT topic.

Mama D said...

Hoo Boy. That was a great post. How do you follow that up?

Your church and support system sounds amazing. I don't think many people are fortunate enough to have that many people looking out for them.

I find our church to be pretty decent in that department but specifically the small group that we are involved in are our care givers.

When Peter's dad passed away it was mostly our small group and previous small group who called, visited, sent cards and offered help.

We felt pretty blessed and looked out for. I don't know what people do without that sort of thing...

Shelli said...

This is an awesome post, Bon. And I will take up your challenge and I will try to have it done for Tuesday's post. I will come back here and tell you when it is up.

I did think one thing that I wanted to say here...I don't think that, when we get to the pearly gates, God will be sitting there saying, "Mormon? To hell you go. Catholic? To that side of Heaven. Lutheran?" Etc. I believe in Christ as my Savior. I think that is what you believe in, too.

JD said...

Must digest slowly the words in this post.... Love the Brigham Young quote.

I'll come back to let you know when I have posted on my bloggy!

Nancy said...

This is a great post, Bon. I am fascinated to read about the community aspects of your church. It does sound like an incredible support system.

I must say that J and I are pretty well equipped to support ourselves in case of an emergency. When we've had to take one or the other kid to the hospital before, one parent went with the sick one and the other stayed home. We've got supplies packed away in case of emergency or crisis.

But it's the times that we do absolutely need another person here that give me pause. My parents and MIL have come up on fairly short notice to help out, but they are each a couple to several hours away, and can't drop everything unless it's an Emergency with a capital E.

Barring that, we have some friends in the neighborhood and community that we could rely on. My best friend in the area I know I could call and she would be here. But if she were not around or couldn't make it? I am not sure what I would do. It does worry me somewhat.

How to change this, I don't know. I think you've read my posts about how I don't want to be hypocritical by participating in a church community when I'm not sure I believe. It's a struggle to find another community-type resource without being a churchgoer.

Shelli said...

It will be up at midnight in the central time zone, or as I like to call it--Shelli time. :)

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

I think you probably have a vague idea of where my ideologies lie on the religion issue. I'm a live and let live person, I'm not big on judgement, and I have a real problem with dogma.

I have friends who are "christian" who have no such community. They get great personal benefit, but my sense of the community is not as great as what you describe in yours. They are more dogmatic, but it works for them.

I have a parent who is Hindu. You wanna talk community? They've got it in spades. Wow. Nobody starves in their presence. All are loved, fed, educated. There are no exclusions. To me this is a Community with a Capital C!

I have friends who are Catholic - that's also a strong community, but their focus is on the poor. I like that too.

Your church and community are a great deal more personal than some others I know - and if it works for you I certainly understand why you want to share it, and tell everyone about it.

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

And...

and and...

I'm a big believer in creating my own community. And I have.

There's no rule book for this, but I have a sense of who my friends are, who I can call, etc. They were all there for me/us when I broke my arm. It means a lot to me to have those people in my life, so I tell them.

sarah k. said...

Getting your feelings hurt is so normal. But realizing the futility of it and forgiving is coming closer to "what would Jesus do." I hate the commercialization of that phrase, but trying to be like someone who is famous for patience and forgiveness can't be a bad thing.

Becky's experience in Utah County makes me sad, since Mormons are supposed to show love and respect to everyone, regardless of their beliefs or declared religion. I also live in Utah County, but my experience is the opposite. I'm surrounded by people who came and scrubbed my toilet while I was pregnant and in too much pain to bend over. These people show their love for me, even though I'm not a model of faith, and am not always in gear. It's not about a commonality of beliefs, but about taking care of your neighbor.

When we move to Ohio this summer, I'm hoping that people there will know they can call on me because I'm one of those Mormons who believes in helping people. I hope they don't think I will only help if I can be assured of their mutual faith in the same God I believe in.

dubby said...

I have been LDS for twenty-five years and yes, I have been called out of bed to help someone watch kids at 2 in the morning so her husband could take her to the hospital. I felt it was an honor to be called instead of her struggling to get by. I have found this community even in my extended trips to Europe, where the attitude in general is very blase. Among the LDS members, the sense of fellowship and love is there the minute you walk in the door. Individuals vary, congregations vary, but the overall fruits of the LDS church are better to members AND non-members alike, than any I have every checked into -- which is a LOT! And Mormons are the first in line to help with crises around the globe, to anyone in need.