Wednesday, February 8, 2012
As I've been navigating my path in Mormonism, I've found myself questioning all of my religious beliefs. This was bound to happen, since once you remove parts of a structure of belief, you have to re-examine all of the pieces. In general this has been a rewarding and exciting experience, and I've been having fun with it! Since I no longer assume that the LDS church's definitions of things are right for my life, I've had to start from the beginning, all the way back to God. When I say God, I'm open to He, She, Them, It. My preference is currently She and He, which I'll discuss at some point. But even that came second to the question of whether I believe in God and what kind of God that is.
First off, I believe in God. Why? Because I choose to. I have no proof one way or the other, but I find comfort in the concept of God, and therefore choose to believe. I've been reading The Case for God by Karen Armstromg, which discusses the various ways God has been discussed in the Abrahamic religions. In the early days of Christianity, people were much less likely to try to prove the existence of God through scientific means. When churches started saying that science proved the existence of God, that's when they ran into problems. (Which might be why some members still deny evolution.) I'm less concerned about the actual existence of God then I am about how the concept of God is used. My belief in God makes me a better person, so I continue to believe. I once heard a quote attributed to Mother Teresa: "If there is a God, I'm going to live my life as he would want me to live." I can't know if there is a God or not, but I can live in a way that God would approve.
This leads to another question to answer: what does God want me to do? In the church, we have leaders to tell us exactly what to do. But so many of the rules they "pass down from God" simply don't make sense to me. I've prayed about them, and feel that they really don't matter. Yet the church keeps telling me that it does. The church believes it can tell me what God wants for me better then God can tell me what God wants for me. For a church born out of Protestantism where a personal relationship with God is more important then clergy, that strikes me as odd. I'm told that I can have personal revelation, but if it conflicts with the church, then the church is right. But the God the church teaches is irrational to me. On the one hand, God loves everyone and we are supposed to do the same. But then God seems to care more about our hair length, jewelry and drinking habits then how we treat other people. That simply doesn't sit right with me. We teach about a loving Heavenly Father; my parents don't disown me for not cleaning my room or for wearing something they don't like. The things they get upset about are things that they think will hurt me or other people. So, using the idea of loving parents as a base, I've come to believe that the things God wants me to do are things that will make me a more compassionate person and things that will improve other people's lives. Scripture seems to back this up, especially the New Testament.
But I'm not sure if this belief actually sits with Mormonism. I once told my bishop that I though the most important thing to God was to love and take care of other people. He scoffed a little at the simplicity of that; he seemed to think I was being stupid and missing the point. But what is more important then loving others and taking care of the people around us? As a bishop, what does he feel is more important? He is very attached to obedience, and seems to feel that following all the rules is the most important thing to do with your life. But how accept that judging someone else, making someone unhappy, denying someone things they need is okay as long as I'm not drinking tea, spending 3 hours in church every week and covering my cleavage. I just can't accept that. I can't accept that God would keep people out of heaven for things that have very little effect on anyone's life, especially if those rules led to less compassion.
This is going to need to bleed onto other posts. So to sum up, I believe in God, and I believe that the things God cares most about are how we treat other people. IF something isn't going to hurt us or someone else, my God doesn't really care. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says that commandments are important because they turn us into certain kinds of people, and if they aren't doing that, keeping them doesn't serve any purpose. So if it's not turning me into a more compassionate, more intelligent, more aware person, I don't think it is of God.