Helping Someone Find the Best Church (For Them)

I suppose something to note up front is that I believe that my particular faith is the best. If I did not think my faith tradition was the best, I would go find another. I see no need to attend a church that I do not think is the best possible. I strongly suspect that is the case for everyone who reads this. “Your” denomination is the best. It has the closest thing to the pure Gospel possible as that fits with your own experience and theology. So I think that can provide a good common ground if everyone who reads this understands that everyone else’s faith is the best. Now, that said, what can we do to help other people find faith? Is my faith tradition always the best for someone else?

Certainly there are some, even many, in the LDS tradition who would say that our faith provides the only means of the highest exaltation in the Kingdom of Heaven. I would even say that I agree with that. However, I also think that the LDS Church is not the best option for some individuals. So what should be do in these cases? Perhaps this comes from my looking to become more of a multi-denominational minister through chaplaincy, but I’ve come to look at things from the view that I’m supposed to help lead people on THEIR faith journey, the one that gets them closer to God, rather than trying to get them into the place where I am taking my journey.

This idea comes from an experience that I had this past week. I had to speak in church last Sunday, the 15th, so I invited a coworker of mine to join my wife and I while I was speaking. Surprisingly, she said she would come. I say surprisingly because she is a lesbian and the LDS Church is not exactly accepting of openly gay individuals. I was not sure if she would come with her wife. She did not for a few reasons, none relating to how the Church treats LGBT folks. That said, though, I did feel the need to send my coworker, “Peggy,” (like from Mad Men, not my coworkers’ real name) a message just reminding her that I’m LDS and that, as a church, we do not have the most welcoming record for LGBT folks so if she did not think she would be comfortable in the church, I understood, and she certainly should not feel like she had to come. I wish I didn’t have to send a message like that. But she came and seemed to have an enjoyable time. Back at work, we were discussing church in general on either Monday or Tuesday, I can’t remember which though it doesn’t matter. Peggy started talking about how she was raised in a rather conservative religious household, though not as conservative as some, and how church was still important to her. What to do from here, I wondered?

As we were talking, Peggy talks about how church is important to her, how she wants her kids to be raised around a church community, but that her wife had not grown up in any church. She wants to make sure that whatever church they go to when she is able to take that leap into a church with her entire family is welcoming and accepting of them unconditinally as a family unit. So, what is the “right church” for her and her family? As much as I would like to have been able to sit there and say “hey, come to my church, we’d love to have you all” I know that is simply not the case, not in reality. How would they be treated in church? Certainly they would not be treated the same way that I am treated. Peggy’s wife knows fully well how they might be treated given that, as I hear the story, her LDS brother will barely speak to her after she announced her marriage to Peggy. I hear that story with mixed emotions of sadness and anger, but I suppose I do not know if there may be any additional details as to why this happened…although I can’t personally think of a reason that would cause me to stop talking to one of my siblings and I have to admit that I’ve given at least one of my own siblings pretty damn good reason to stop talking to me at least once; we still talk. So, given that I know that she and her family would be, at the very least, treated with a type of benign neglect, how do I proceed?

I have to consider that Peggy would have to get a divorce from her wife in order to be baptized into the church. So, do I really think that membership in a particular church that will not be exceptionally welcoming of them (well, I guess just her?) is grounds to break up a family? No, absolutely not. So, in effect, that rules out Peggy and her family coming to ‘my’ church. Whether I feel that I have enough knowledge on the subject matter to fully agree or disagree with the policy is different matter, but that’s another discssion. But where would they be accepted? Do I have the ability to help Peggy find a place where her and her family will be accepted? Certainly I do. I know of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches through a fellow student at United and that church is a LGBT focused minitry. I noted to her that I know that there is a congregation in Manhattan. I noted that some congregations of the United Church of Christ are listed as Open and Affirming in that they fully accept LGBT folks into the congregations and that there is a search feature on the UCC website that would allow her to search for only those congregations. I also mentioned that, at least some of, the congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are fully accepting of the LGBT community; I know this because I read Nadia Bolz-Weder’s book “Pastrix” and I know that she’s ELCA. So, what did I do here?

I helped someone to move forward along her own spiritual path. Her family is important to her as is mine to me. Christianity is very important to her as it is to me. However, she would not be welcome at all Christian churches, she and I are both aware of that fact. So, should I try to coax her into attending a church that is going to constantly call her a sinner, try to drive her towards some, probably physically and mentally unhealthy, form of repentance, possibly (probably) drive apart a family, but that will almost certainly see her walk right back out the door eventually? Common sense would say that is not the answer. So I have to help her on her own journey to faith. The path that she can come to love. The path that can lead her to the transformative Gospel of Jesus Christ. She has said that she wants that Gospel. I can do a little something that might help her to find it. That is a big deal.

So, maybe some questions for thought:
–Is my path or “your” path to the Gospel the best for someone else?
–If Christianity is about community and Christian practices, isn’t it significant that someone is a part of the Christian community?
–Does it matter if that community completely agrees with my personal theology? (That’s a very broad statement, BTW, because, at the very least, all those churches do not agree with my theology of God/Godhead/Trinity, regardless of anything else)
–When we talk about religion and Christianity with someone, do we think about the religious path that is best for them or the one that will make us feel the best about ourselves? Should those two be the same?

Daily Fast Write 3/26/15

Well, no real fast write today either. Sorry for that and to readers. I was about to write this, but then had a situation come up that was far more important. Sometimes the ability to help comes at the most unexpected times. It’s strange how fast conversations can change. Peace be with you all.

Daily Fast Write 3/25/15

Annunciation. Interesting day. I didn’t realize that this was a celebration until yesterday. Celebrating the the announcement of Jesus Christ. Very interesting. Maybe we should celebrate more of these feast days. Hmm, somebody will probably say it’s a manmade celebration or something of the sort. That’s OK, I wasn’t aware that an extra day to celebrate Jesus was a bad thing. I’m still annoyed that we’re not celebrating Easter in Church. And we wonder why some folks say we aren’t Christians…OK, good night everyone.

Daily Fast Write 3/24/15

I passed my test today and I’m a certified rape crisis counselor in the State of New York. Now I get to do the real interactions. Yikes. This should be quite the experience. I’ll have to see how this goes. Yeah…that’s all I have. Been a long day. At least I’m holding myself to doing these every day even if some are not much of significance. Peace be with you.

Sex in the Ten Commandments

A conversation with my sister has prompted me to write this. I have intended to write this for quite a while now. What do the placements of the two mentions of human sexuality in the Ten Commandments tell us about how the ancient Israelites viewed sexuality? To start, allow me to list off the ten as they appear in Exodus 20: 1-17
Then God spoke all these words:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 1) you shall have no other gods before me.
2) You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
3) You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
4) Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
5) Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
6) You shall not murder.
7) You shall not commit adultery.
8) You shall not steal.
9) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10) You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

The numbers I put there are not the verse numbers, but are numbers to indicate the number of the commandment. So, we first see “adultery” as the seventh commandment. I’m not really one to define words, but it bears noting that “adultery” is defined as “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse.” That’s from Oxford. Note, that is does not say “Thou shall not commit fornication” or “Thou shall not have unmarried sexual intercourse.” Now, before someone thinks that I am trying to say that fornication is just fine according to the Ten Commandments, we have to consider the Second Testament passages that say fornication is bad. I’m not going to list those out. My view on the reason “adultery” is used in these texts, based on the assumption that the received text is true to the original, is that the same concept applied whether or not the female was married or not. Why does the female matter? Because married or unmarried, the concept of “adultery” remains the same because in the ancient world, and even today to a certain degree, she was property. I firmly believe that this commandment is there to protect a man’s property.

Indeed, the tenth commandment supports that. Do not covet your neighbors house, wife, slaves, donkeys, it says. A house is obviously property. A slave is obviously property. A donkey is obviously property. It doesn’t take a genius to determine that the wife being lumped into that commandment is a direct way of saying that she it property and really not much more. So I don’t think these commandments are really there to prevent sexual relations. They are there to prevent a man’s property from being defiled. The word “Adultery” can apply in both situations because prior to marriage the woman is the property of the father (this is still true today, to a certain degree, with the old custom of asking the father permission to marry) and after marriage she is the property of the husband. We see that today in the changing of names, a very visible representation of property changing hands. There is some additional First Testament support for this idea of property transfer. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 reads “If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.” So even if the the man defiles the virgin, it can become OK if he just pays off her dad and takes her in as his property. He literally buys the young woman from her father. The ancient concept of a dowery is the same as well. You want the father’s property, so you bring something over to buy it.

So, we can talk today about how the Ten Commandments talk about not having sex before or outside of marriage, they do. But just remember, they don’t do it because they’re worried about pregnancy or because the sex itself is bad. They’re doing it because sex defiles, damages, another man’s property and how dare you defile his property.

Daily Fast Write 2/23/15

Sexism. That’s a good one for tonight. Do we even recognize this anymore? We should. When was the last time you heard of a male being sexually assaulted? Probably a really long time ago, if ever. Why? Well, sexism. I know, I know, hard to believe that males can experience sexism. But it’s true. Males certainly can. But how can you convince a jury that a male was raped by a female? The average juror is a moron anyway, they won’t even convict a lot of men of raping women because of some crap argument that she shouldn’t have been in that neighborhood or something. Idiots. See, if all males were actually men, women would be able to lie down completely naked in the middle of MetLife Stadium and not have to worry about anyone touching her. But we don’t have men in the world. That said, what does it matter? No matter what she was doing, if she drunk, on drugs, in the “wrong” neighborhood, whatever, if she doesn’t consent, it’s rape. Even if she consents to one thing but says no to another, it’s rape. But you can’t convince idiots on juries of that. And if the rapist of a white man in a business suit? Forget about it. And we really think the idiots that let these male rapists go free are going to convict a woman of raping a man? Doubt that. Sexism happens all over the place. And we allow it….is it better that people change religions or that they go away entirely? Surely, I think it’s that they change. What is religion, anyway? Can I really be sure that what I believe is absolutely correct? Surely not….Doctor said that McCoy needs, or might need “speech therapy.” Bother. He said that it wasn’t a big deal, just preventative. McCoy says 10 or so words. I can’t remember how quickly Trey progressed. I do remember Trey’s first word was “dumb.” Literally the word Dumb. Hilarious. But McCoy seems fine, he can say stuff, he can recognize almost anything. Maybe I should read to him a little more, I don’t do that as much as I could….Oh bother, speaking of things that I don’t do as often as I could…I challenged everyone to say the Lord’s Prayer 5 times a day on Sunday during my sermon, I haven’t even done that myself. Sigh. I’ve got to be better about that. Why the Lord’s Prayer, my wife asked me? I’m not sure, really. Just felt promoted by the spirit to say that and challenge people to do that. Hopefully it can be uplifting for people. Peace be with you.

Daily Fast Write 3/22/15

Racism. Does racism exist in modern America? Yeah, you’d better believe that it does. I’m white, what do I know about racism? I don’t have to worry about driving down the street and get pulled over simply because I’m a person of color. I don’t have to worry about going into Target with my wife and somebody see me wearing a turban and decide to heighten their sense of alert around me. I have to confess that I did that myself the other day. We were in Target, I saw a gentleman wearing a turban shopping with his wife, and I immediately became a little suspicious. I noticed myself doing this fairly quickly, like almost instantly, but why did I do this to begin with? Was he doing something strange? No, not at all. They were looking at shirts or something. They were in the clothing section, can’t remember what they were looking at…Oops, I just ended a sentence in a preposition. Such terrible grammar. I’ll have to work on that….Some lady, I think it was a lady, asked on the Mormon Facebook page about going to the movies on a Sunday. I said I’d love to go to a show with Jesus on a Sunday, get some popcorn and Milk Duds. I then jokingly said that we could just go to a Jewish store, they have Shabbat on Saturday. That raises an interesting question. So if the idea of not going shopping and such on Sunday is to keep someone else from having to work, is it then sinful or disobedient if I, say, go out with my entire extended family to a Jewish deli on Sunday when they have already celebrated their Sabbath and I am using this time to grow closer to my family? Very interesting indeed. I’d never really thought about that before. I was being cheeky when I said it on the website, but it’s a valid point, I think. Oh, one thing that annoyed me to no end, on virtually every post on that site, come to think of it, such terrible grammar. Bad spelling, using the wrong word, their/there/they’re, ugh, so annoying. I mean, didn’t these people learn grammar in school? American folks too. I can understand it if it’s a non-native English speaker, but these are native English speakers and writers. Oh dear. CM Punk said that folks called him a “quieter” on Twitter. They were trying to say that he’s a quitter, but have no idea how to spell stuff. Oh dear. He was a good wrestler. Shame he didn’t stay around, well, shame for fans. He seemed to be doing great when he was on Colt Cabana’s podcast. I’ve started listening to podcasts when I run, better than music I think. At least I can get some education while I run. Some really good religious podcasts out there, I’d like to find some more. Maybe I can. I’ve gotten a few views today on my devotional video. That’s good. I think I said I’ll get longer if it goes to 25 views a day. The video itself that is. I’d like for it to get there…. “The Jewish Way.” That book is sitting on my desk right now. I need to page through it. I have an open invitation to attend a Jewish service in Riverdale. I’ll take him up on it for sure. He said the whole family can come. Brad was a great guy, really genuine. Maybe he’d be willing to come down to Staten Island as well. Have to see how that goes. Can’t invite him to any non-Sunday things, because he can’t come to anything on a Saturday because that’s still Shabbat. He’s Orthodox, I assume that means that he tries to not to anything at all on Sundays. No cooking, no cars, etc. Sheesh, so sad. Hassidic Jewish family died in a house fire in Brooklyn. I think they were Hassidic, at least Orthodox. Seven kids died. The oldest child and the mother survived. Apparently the mother doesn’t know yet because she’s still in critical condition in the hospital. The reports said that the firefighters were shaken up as well. That makes sense. I’d be shaken up too, that’s for sure. Why would a white person be annoyed that someone was talking about racism? Nonsense. I think she’s just annoyed that I’m willing to admit that the Michael Brown case should have gone past Grand Jury, though I don’t think that anyone was “guilty” of anything criminal. I think that we, as white people, or heterosexual people, or males, don’t see things that are discriminatory. I mean, I fit all of those. White, heterosexual, male. For all intents and purposes, I’ll never experience discrimination. So who am I to say how a black female might experience discrimination? Who am I to discount a white, gay female who feels that something was discriminatory? So she feels that a group mistreated her. Should she interview them to see if she can discover their intentions? I think not.