DISCLAIMER: This is something that I have been mulling around for a while, trying to think of a way to express it without coming off as hypocritical or condescending. I will start this post off by stating clearly, I am Mormon. I love the teachings of my faith. I think the leaders within the Church organization are men, doing the best they can, filtering a perfect work through an imperfect vessel, being themselves. I don’t necessarily agree with everything they do and say, but I do look to them for leadership and feel they are inspired by God. I do not love the culture that has been created by members of the church, but I have long-ago separated doctrines of the Church from the oddities found within the culture created by its members. So, with that business out of the way, here I go, releasing the bee from my bonnet.
While I am personally of a more liberal socio-political persuasion, I have a lot of friends and family that are more conservative. Although I am not an avid follower of The Blaze or Fox News, I know what is said by them, thanks to copious re-posts and “likes” that show up in my social media feed. The “conservative” half of the United States of America is quite concerned with the waning Christian culture in our country. They blame the Muslims. They blame Obama. They blame the welfare system and self entitlement. They blame Europe. They blame the media. They blame the over-worked, under-paid teachers that make up our education system. The “other” half of us are, too, concerned with religiosity. Contrary to popular belief, we are not all God haters. According to the exit polls from the last presidential election, only 12% of the population was, and they were of both parties. However, that’s not the point, so I won’t digress. My point is, as I see this war within our country of finger-pointing and hate mongering in the name of Christianity, it makes me sick inside. I would like to propose another fault with whom the decline of Christianity lies. It’s within the Christians. I say that, including myself as a Christian.
As The Sound of Music says, “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”
“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen 1:1, 27). Whether you are Jewish or Christian, this is a truth you hold dear. At that point, God began giving commandments instantly, on how people should live their lives. The definition of the word commandment is that it is a divine rule. It’s important to note this. Rules are simply ways we are told to conduct ourselves. It is not a forced action. Just because God gives us a commandment to follow does not mean that we must follow this, otherwise they would not be called commandments. They would be called compelments. Like all rules, commandments have consequences when broken. This is where scriptures get tricky. Some of the consequences for broken commandments are quite clear, others, not so much. However, it is still our choice.
So we go through Adam and Eve, Enoch, Noah, bla bla bla… a bunch of stuff, and we get to Moses. The first commandment given to Moses, written on the stone tablets is, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Ex 20: 2-3) Notice, in the editing process of the grammar of the King James version from which I took that quote, “gods” was not capitalized. This signifies a lack of specificity. These “gods” don’t have to be golden calves. They can be anything from money, riches, and celebrity to ourselves. The latter being the most common. Many of us practice the religion of narcissism. I have my own blog named after me. Clearly I am guilty, so stay with me here. The first commandment of the religion of narcissism is that I am the smartest and most important person I know, and the second is whatever I do and however I do it is the correct and right way. Yep. Super guilty. Yes, this is also part of the culture that I described in my beginning paragraph disclaimer that drives me insane. (So there you go, I’m a hypocrite, too, all in one paragraph. Clearly I am writing this post for myself as well, so refrain from posting scathing comments in my feedback telling me that I am a terrible person. Thanks!)
With a hop, skip, and a jump, Christ comes in the New Testament. Christ establishes new commandments. While these don’t abolish those set forth by Jehovah of the Old Testament, they build upon the concepts. Christ’s “first” two commandments can be found in Matt 22: 37-40. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Layman’s terms, love God first, above all else, with everything you’ve got. Then look at the people around you, that you interact with, no matter where you go. These people are your neighbors. You should love them every bit as much as you love yourself. When Christ presented these ideas, they were clearly stated together. I believe this was with perfect design, because when you love God with all that you have, you then realize God’s love for you. When you realize God’s love for you, you love yourself more, because you see your value. When you know your own value, and you give all around you the same value of love, well, you are loving them as God does. It’s a complete circle. I could go into the beattitudes at this point as well, or other great teachings, but for the sake of brevity, I will stick with the basics here.
So the first three topics of reference are all from The Holy Bible. It’s the number one book sold in the world. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the most read, because it isn’t. It’s the second most read, to the Quran, but let’s stay out of the great Muslim debate (which is ironically as old as the books themselves, and it’s beginnings are recorded in the Bible) and stay on topic. The third reference I would like to pull is from a talk given by a current leader in my church, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf. In April 2010, he spoke about Christian love in a talk called, “You Are My Hands.” I strongly encourage reading this, as a great view on Christian conduct. In this, he says, “The Savior revealed the perfect priorities for our lives, our homes, our wards, our communities, and our nations when He spoke of love as the great commandment upon which ‘hang all the law and the prophets.’ We can spend our days obsessing about the finest details of life, the law, and long lists of things to do; but should we neglect the great commandments, we are missing the point and we are clouds without water, drifting in the winds, and trees without fruit.” In my words, don’t get caught up in what people look like, eat, drink, wear, think, do. Sure, there are several commandments about these things. However, if we make these more important than loving one another, all our other works, though well-intentioned, are moot.
Okay, so I got through all the theological stuff. I did that first to get you all on the same page, as you may have clicked on my blog after reading some angry rant by someone on some topic that you disagree with, or saw another annoying post by that person who is a perpetual bragger. If you got here after receiving yet another Farmville request, yes, you needed this to bring that roaring boil of annoyance down to room temp.
As I went through what I consider to be the basics of the Christian belief, I ask where there is room for hatred? I’m not talking wars and bombings. I am talking posts about “I have to push 1 for English!” and “I support the ugly bearded dude who says hateful things!” The reason why I mentioned some of the conservative news sources at the beginning is because these sources, (actually, The Blaze, to Glen Beck’s credit, is by far less hateful… he’s improving. Give credit where it is due.) are focusing so much on the attack of Christianity that they have Christians fault finding with one another. I present Mike Huckabee, for starters, and his consistently ignorant commentary on my own religion. Thanks for your thoughts, dude. What did we ever do to you? Moving on to political issues. So someone is gay and you don’t agree with homosexuality. Love them. So someone immigrated illegally. Love them. So someone who lost a child to a school shooting wants to lobby for gun control. Love them. A child “comes out” to his/her parents. LOVE THEM! Our country lets political opinion and differences of dogma create rifts in a quite common ground and mutual belief system. I see religious groups, in righteous indignation, saying “I am right, that’s all that matters.” God didn’t do that. God gave us rules with consequences. He set those consequences and will collect on them. We didn’t and we won’t. The second we play the, “I am right” card, we, ourselves, broke the rules. Have you ever had an argument with a disenfranchised atheist/agnostic? One of the first things they pull out is, “If these people believe in God and Christ, why do they behave in such cruel ways to others?” That’s not a fun question to try to answer, because they are correct. There is no justification.
I’m not saying we all hold hands, sing Let There Be Peace On Earth, and let all morals fly away in the wind. I’m saying, if you are a Christian, live your life as a Christian. Live the rules you believe God gave you, and love others, even if they don’t follow your rules. Your life is the only life that is any of your business, in the end, so make sure your life is lived as you believe it should be. Take a stand for morality, justice, and truth within yourself. Ya, it’s hard. Ya, I suck at it 95% of the time. However, I think we all need to take a look in the mirror and find out where the Christian inside us has gone.