Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Religion Should Not be an Excuse

A few weeks ago I was talking to my dad about my problems with the patriarchy in the church. I've seen the priesthood and " men are the head of the house" used to demean and damage women. Any system that gives power to one group of people and not to another creates a situation where power can be misused in horrible ways. In expressing this to my dad, who was born and raised in the church, is a strong member, and one of the kindest and most generous people I know, he said that people will hurt each other regardless of the patriarchy in the church, so the church isn't responsible for how men in the church misuse power. The church preaches against abuse, so the fact that it gives men power is irrelevant. I couldn't frame a logical argument against that at the time, even though it felt wrong. Last night as I was falling asleep I found my argument, which is that religion should not give people an excuse to damage others.

Religions are all based on a concept of divinity. Most contain teachings on love and compassion. (See Towards a True Kinship of Faiths by the Dalai Lama.) Mormonism teaches that everyone is a child of God, and claims to be God's true church on the earth. And yet it puts women in a subordinate position to men, strictly defining what is and is not acceptable for women to do, calls homosexuals sinners, and on and on. So it preaches love, equality and kindness, but creates situations where abuse, hatred and cruelty can exist and be supported by church doctrine. There is no excuse for a religion, a system connected with Divinity, with a higher plane of understanding and existence, should be giving someone an excuse to damage others.

There is a quote from She Who Is by Elizabeth Johnson, "because God's glory is humanity...because God is the creator, redeemer, lover of the world, God's own honor is at stake in human happiness. Whenever human beings are violated, diminished or have their life drained away, God's glory is dimmed and dishonored. Whenever human beings are quickened to fuller and richer, God's glory is enhanced." a system based on the idea of humanity's divine creation, which Mormonism is, should not intentionally give power to one group at the expense of others. People will misuse power, and there are numerous social and political situations that create differences in power, which lead to abusive relationships. But religions should not add to this problem; their very nature should prohibit that. The fact that people will not misuse power does not mean that religions should add to that problem.

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