When I started this blog, I fully intended to spend time ranting about, exploring, and explaining what it’s like to be a liberal mormon. It’s one of those essential parts of who I am that leads to uncomfortable and/or infuriating moments and I felt like I needed the blog to make up for not having a lot of like-minded allies in my life (except for MC–hi MC!). As it happens, I haven’t written much about it. I think maybe I’ve believed the way I do (in the correctness of the Book of Mormon AND the liberal agenda), that I no longer feel like the weird one. Like conservative members of my faith (as well as conservative christians in general) are the ones who should have to reconcile their politics and their religion, not me. I know this kind of thinking is dangerous in that it’s polarizing and can lead to narrow thinking. It has the benefit of keeping me sane, though, and the added benefit of being true.
In reality, it’s broadened my horizons. Now that I’m not on the defensive about my beliefs, I can more ably and accurately assess political statements of others and engage and meaningful conversation with people who do not feel like I do.
While visiting my family over memorial day weekend, I attended church with my parents. I don’t know why I didn’t expect this, but our local tea party loudmouth had a speaking assignment*, and she took full advantage of having a captive, non-critical** audience so close to a federal holiday and decided to talk about liberty. Not religious liberty, as guaranteed by the first amendment, or agency, a term that we Mormons use to describe our God-given right to choose to act for ourselves, though, that would be too appropriate for the occasion. Instead she decided to talk about liberty in that obnoxious, amorphous way that all tea-partiers do (i.g., saying it a lot, and loudly, but refusing to give it any meaning as the only people who deserve freedom are the ones who want the same things that you do). Oh wait, I know exactly why I didn’t expect this. Perhaps because I don’t expect people to make political statements from the pulpit? My mistake, I guess.
- When she called the Democrats in the government a “secret combination,” a Book of Mormon term that basically refers to groups of people who come together to do evil crap.
- When she dropped all subtlety less than five minutes into the talk and pinpointed gay marriage and abortion as attacks on liberty. The typical religious line is that these are attacks on family. It’s absurd enough to characterize the decision of two people who love each other and are already committed to living like family to get married as an attack, given that such a decision has no impact whatsoever on the structure or lives of any another family (and especially not on families bound together by LDS religious ordinances); let’s just say I think it’s even crazier to call a government grant of freedom to the only group that’s denied said freedom an attack on liberty.
- When she referred to tea party meetings as “constitution classes.” Let’s talk about the Constitution for a second. You know the 14th amendment? That part of it that guarantees all citizens equal treatment under the law (including LBGTQ folk)? That’s in there. And you know the right to privacy? That thing that lets people make choices about their family and reproductive lives and keeps the government out of our bedrooms? It’s in there also, maybe not in so many words, but it’s been there for almost 40 years.
- When she took words from the prophet and quoted them out of context to suit her political agenda. Awkward.
So this talk was infuriating, right? But because of my newfound religious-political zen, I was able to recognize that: (1) the speaker was crazy, not me; (2) that just because someone else decides to behave wildly inappropriately in church, doesn’t mean I belong any less; and (3) the great thing about the Mormon church is the way that so very many different people call it home — as soon as crazy tea party lady sat down, another speaker stood up and gave the best talk I’ve heard in years. Additionally, the whole experience led to a great discussion with my (decidedly conservative, or at least moderate) family after church, during which my dad introduced me to LDS apostle turned Utah Senator Reed Smoot, who went against the counsel of the LDS leaders at the time and voted to repeal Prohibition, because his job was to give the electorate what it wanted (booze). And the church didn’t kick him out, so maybe I’m good, too. (Or at least I don’t think they did. This post is not super well-researched.)
*In the LDS church, members of the congregation take turns speaking at meetings. A bishop, comparable to a pastor, presides over each meeting, but the members do the bulk of the talking. I love the inclusiveness of it, even if it does mean that sometimes crazy people say crazy things.
**By non-critical, I mean not inclined to critical analysis. Mormons aren’t any more or less smart than the rest of the population (again, this post is not well-researched — maybe there are measurable differences?), but we often refrain from thinking, or saying publicly, negative things about other members of our faith lest we be perceived as being judgy and unchristian. To which I say, sometimes judicious evaluation of whether a thing is good or bad or true or false is necessary.