I have plans for church tomorrow.
I had a talk last week with my parents about this whole LDS thing and some of the issues I have with it. We couldn’t go into depth because I could tell they were getting frustrated with my way of thinking (we just have different ways of going about religious issues), but we could talk about the fact that I don’t attend church because it makes me too angry to sit in a service where everyone is so concerned about drinking and watching R-rated films that they kind of forget that Jesus hung out with prostitutes. I guess that’s a cliche by now, but it is probably the number one problem I have with attending any church services. I think taking one day a week to really focus on things of a spiritual nature is great, and that going to church is a really logical way of doing that, but I can’t get past the actual people who surround me.
Here’s an example. It’s one that I gave my Dad in our conversation and it has complications that I’ll get to, but I think it’s a pretty clear way of describing the pettiness that can exist in organized religion. This week I have to grade what are called “standards papers” for the intro to film class I TA. My students, for the most part, are very articulate, but every paper takes a stand on the rating system as though God himself controls the MPAA and as though I am Satan personified if I attend a film with innapropriate content (sex, violence, and swearing). The students claim that no film needs to have those things to tell a story. I get pretty sick of writing that there was once a talk to the youth that mentioned R-rated films, and that this distinction hasn’t been made since in LDS doctrine. I hammer it into their heads that you have to judge content with context and that you can watch a film intellectually without accepting everything it presents. But, I still feel that my students leave at the end of the semester with a rigid idea of what their religion dictates they can view as far as media goes.
So, obviously this isn’t very important. But, putting patriarchy, polygamy, Satan, and One True Religion aside the R-rated thing illustrates how people use religion to help them create a list of strict rules that, if obeyed, will get them into heaven. It’s much easier to avoid watching an R-rated film than to actually have to consider the issues being presented in many of those films.
And I don’t think this is just an LDS thing. That’s just what I’m most familiar with.
This conversation with my parents, though, was so frustrating because it was so logical. My dad believes that Mormonism is the One True Religion, but he respects my relativistic point of view. What he doesn’t respect is the reason I don’t go to church. He thinks that I’m stereotyping and demonizing as much as church members do to me. I can’t put culture aside and consider the concepts that the Church teaches.
This is true. I can’t put culture aside. But isn’t that sort of the point of religion? It’s a community based entity that gets strength from unity. (Larry Miller can refuse to show Brokeback Mountain and auto sales suddenly surge?) So isn’t supporting a religion also supporting the culture? I do think I am being unfair in some respects, but I don’t want to associate myself with many of the cultural aspects of the church.
And, then again, I don’t want to associate myself with many of the doctrinal aspects…so there’s that too.
I just realized this wasn’t a prayer. I don’t really know how this fits into my concept of God. I’m just sort of frustrated. This seemed like an okay outlet.
Anyway, I said I would give church a chance again tomorrow. Wish me luck. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of new prayer ammunition.