Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Religious Ponderings

I was meaning to write about this great PBS documentary I've been watching on Mormonism, so that'll be the focus of this, but first, Jerry Fallwell has died.

Now, this guy has a family, and I'm sure there were many, many good things about him. But he was also a bigot who thought that the Anti-Christ would have to be a male Jew (Funny, considering that's who your savior was as well) and that "pagans, and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'You helped this happen,'" in regard to September 11. It was a pretty narrow view of the world this guy had. And I sincerely hope that if there is something tangible about the soul that continues on to Heaven or Nirvana, or whatever, that Fallwell gets to spend some much needed time right now to learn the tolerance he didn't practice in life. (Oh, and also, this is a secular nation, whether he likes it or not, so he can stick that in his pipe and smoke it. Or could. Whatever.)

Anyway, The Mormons. So, I have a few (okay, one) Mormon friends, and from what I know from her and that one awesome episode of South Park, it seemed very strange. Of course, when you really look at any religion in the world, they look pretty strange. Take Catholocism for example. "So, your guy came to earth to teach love and tolerance and they killed him. And even though he supposedly took away all your sin with his death, you're pretty much going to feel guilty for every little thing, and decide what your Big Book really says about everything, but sometimes you ignore the stuff your guy said about loving other people and reaching out to the people no one else would. And at some point, you're going to turn some stale crackers and bad wine into his body and blood, and ask us all to participate in cannibalism? Riiiiiight." Now, my point here isn't to mock Catholicism. I was raised Catholic, and I still have a great respect for the Church even if I don't agree with alot of its principles and practices. Same kind of thing that goes for Mormonism. But here's a couple of things that blew my mind in a good way:
  • The Mormon Church is easily the most effective with regards to charity and assisting in communities. According to the documentary, Mormons were on their way to Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina even hit, and they didn't just drop off supplies and leave. They helped clean and rebuild as much as they could.
  • Generally speaking, Mormons put their money where their mouths are. Most serve on missions when they're around 20 and go to preach their gospel and I assume work in the community. They also put a huge amount of emphasis on the family, and are actually required to spend one evening a week with their families, which sounds harsh, but is probably very good for the family unit.

Here's a couple of things I wasn't so stoked on:

  • You can be excommunicated if you have an opinion that differs from Church dogma. So, if you're a feminist and are outspoken about it, you can be thrown out of the Church, and "unsealed" from your spouse, children and family. If I were a practicing Mormon, I think that would be devastating. The Church essentially tells you that your entire family will all be together, physically together, in the next life, and you won't be with them anymore.
  • Mormons are a bit more secretive than I would like. They're not transparent about where tithing money goes to, and they're even more guarded regarding their temple ceremonies. On the one hand I know they want to keep their sacred practices sacred and private, but on the other, don't be surprised when people make assumptions about your religion that aren't true. Myths are more interesting than truth, and I can almost guarantee the things we imagine going on are far more benign. But still, it gives an air of caginess I could do without.

Anyway, the documentary was terrific, extremely interesting. You should try to catch it if you can. It's just interesting to think about and I find the more I learn the more everything seems to boil down to similarities. Who knows what I'll arrive at eventually.

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