Monday, October 4, 2010

Playing Church-part II My Run-In With the Mormons, Myself and Others

Our move to California came at the peak of our involvement in a mega-church in the Midwest. We were among kindred spirits. Everyone looked, talked  like us. We provided 'special music' and participated in potlucks, Bible studies (where most everyone thought alike). Somehow, we thought we were changing the world. To our defense, we were heavily, and happily involved in raising our children, which is plenty of 'changing the world' for most folks. But, we were Christians. There should be more. We, after all, are entrusted with the message of the eternal redemption of mankind. It is not a responsibility to be taken flippantly.

California could not have been more of a brick wall. Although I had spent much of my childhood in Central California, it was in the rather narrow world of my parents church life. The Midwest had been a conservative extension of that. For one thing, the music, and clothing in these west coast  churches was strangely 'contemporary'. Some of the people had tattoos, piercings, even the young ones! Echoing our parents angst, (yes, parents have angst) about the demise of culture, we stood at an emotional distance from these who claimed the same faith, but clearly demonstrated it so differently. It was scary! Our girls would most likely choose a mate from this pool, and the pickings's were not up to snuff in our view. How could we even begin to change the world when the church people needed so much 'reforming'?

We did have a few Mormon friends (they really prefer to be called Later Day Saints) who exhibited the high moral appearance we longed to see. To this day, I have a fine appreciation for the squeaky-clean image and excellent work-ethic my LDS friends have, but to my chagrin upon closer inspection, we found they were normal sinners like the rest of us, although the basis for their trust in God was something quite different.

I thought deeply about the essence of my faith, what it was at the core, without the 'trappings' I had become accustomed to. A missionary friend gently reminded me that when they went to a foreign field they spent months and even years researching the culture so they could adequately communicate the love of God to them. A small screw slipped loose from the rather rigid box I had assumed was the 'proper stance'.  My faith, my soul's trust was not in a culture, however wholesome, or healthy it was. My soul's trust was in God, and I could maintain that anywhere I was. In fact, I realized almost certainly I was now in a foreign culture, at least to my hothouse existence up till now, and a certain amount of shock was normal.  
One day, in conversation with a younger person, I made some disparaging comment about "the culture" and immediately was rebuffed by his comment, "You are a part of this culture, too!"

Often a paradigm shift occurs in a moment. Mine did.

I was invited to my own life as both a participant and a responsible party.  The gap lessened, and my box grew larger. As we continued to attend services (I really think we've overused that word) I opened my mind a little wider, and saw that so many of the ways I'd 'done' church were culturally based, but just about 30 years behind the current culture. Who was I fooling? Only myself.

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