Thursday, December 05, 2019

Would we identify Christ as Christlike?

This week, people doing the Light the World service game with the Church were challenged to share on social media about someone they consider Christlike. I read a lot of wonderful tributes to a lot of wonderful people. It got me thinking.

If Christ were actually walking among us in blue jeans and a T-shirt doing His work, would we put a tribute up to Him on social media about how Christlike He is? Would we identify Jesus as Christlike?

We tend to identify people as Christlike who serve others, who fill their time doing good, and who were really nice and supportive and loving to the person who is making the tribute. We also tend to identify people as Christlike who are very good people who conform to our social expectations. I didn't see any tributes to ex-cons, homeless people, or recovering addicts, for example, even though they most certainly can be Christlike.

So would Jesus conform to our expectations? He did not conform to the expectations of of the Pharisees of what a righteous Jew looked like. He, in fact, is very nonconformist because His whole message is to overcome the world, and conformity is actually usually a worldly mandate (what is conformity but matching what the world around you expects of you?) (Hopefully the world around you is righteous. Not just looks righteous and tries to enforce the appearance, like the Biblical Jews and much of the modern world, but really -is- righteous.)

Another thing people identify as Christlike is being a loving support and a comfort. And Jesus did promise that He would not leave us comfortless. And He does love and support us. But He also discomforts us.  He pushes us to grow and stretch and become, often in ways that are uncomfortable. He pushes us to leave behind the most natural ways of doing things--the natural man is natural and easy, and we are supposed to not embrace that. He asks us to be humble and accept God leading instead of us leading in our lives. He tells us we're wrong and to repent, even if our beliefs are closely held and we are 100% sure we are right, and even if our actions feel fully justified and harmless to us. That's not fun. That's not comfortable. That's not easy. The only thing that makes it work at all is that we can be confident of his absolute, unfailing love for us (proven by giving up His life for ours), His authority, and His infinite knowledge. Without those three things, we could not submit to His tutelage, and we wouldn't want to, because it's not comfortable. Growth is not comfortable. Becoming is not comfortable. Metamorphosis is not comfortable.

The secondary question I came to in all this pondering was where I should have started in the first place. What does Christlike mean? Which is to say, "What is Christ like?" My parents told me that they are pretty sure Jesus can dance and knows all the funniest jokes. They didn't want me to think of Him as a weak, emasculated, wimpy, sweet quiet thing that spends all day holding butterflies on his fingertips and smiling sweetly. He's presented that way a lot. It dawned on me once that Jesus is smart and sensitive. Do we think of Jesus as smart? Do we consider that hundreds of people could hear Him speaking in outdoor meetings before mics were invented, so He was probably kinda loud? Do we recognize that He was a rebellious teenager in running away to teach in the temple when he was 12 and not telling His parents first? Doing His own thing all the time, His own way, against the grain and against what His society would prefer. He didn't seem to get less rebellious. Good thing He was right.

In learning about His mission and His ministry, do we fail to learn about Him as a person worthy of emulation? Obviously we cannot and need not and should not do His mission--we have our own missions in life. But we can obey Him, and we can emulate His person, if we can figure out what that is. We can list things from the scriptures and learn a lot, but the thing I came back to over and over was His invitation to "Learn of me." Do you know that "of" means "about," but it also means "from"?  And Jesus is clear that He wants us to know him (not about Him only) so that when we see each other, we know each other--we will see Him as He is and be like Him. He warns that people will think they knew Him and He will have to tell them, "I never knew you." Which is to imply that you never knew me, either, isn't it?

So what is Christ like? I think perhaps it would be wise to get to know Him, learn from Him, and find out.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Why "God designed all the bad stuff we go through" can't be true

Recently, someone who should have known better taught in our stake conference that God designs all the bad stuff we have to go through.

He used those words, and he said it more than once.

Now, I don't want to condemn this person. He had recently gone through a lot of tragedy in his family, and I think he was searching for meaning and comfort and to cling to faith, and somehow he felt like if God planned this for his family, that meant it was for our good and he could take that bitter medicine and would be okay.

The trouble is, this is a false doctrine, and it can easily be explained why.

If God designs or plans something, then it is His will. Therefore, the people who are making it happen are doing God's will.

So if someone breaks into your house and kidnaps, rapes, and murders your five year old (as was in the news recently), that person is doing God's will and is, therefore, His servant. That means it would be unjust for God to punish them because they were doing God's work.

This flies in the face of reason, of the nature of God, and of God's words, which condemn soundly this kind of behavior in all kinds of ways. If we make this behavior God's work, then we make God a liar because he cannot both forbid us to do these things and condemn them and simultaneously have been the planner of these these things.

Furthermore, if we attempt to stop these kinds of tragedies and intervene in abuse, poverty, illness, we are working against God's will because he planned those things for those people. We would be sinning by trying to interfere with God's plans and trying to stop God's work.

This also is impossible in light of God's own instructions to us that we should obey the commandments, not hurt people, and try to help people out of poverty and illness, including by using God's own power to do so. If God designed and planned those horrible things to happen to people, he would be contradicting himself by asking us to work against his will to stop them!

So in two ways, God comes out a liar if we allow for the idea that God designed all the things we go through.

There is another danger to this doctrine as well. If we embrace the idea that God planned all the bad things that people go through, then we are less inclined to jump in and help when they are suffering. We instead are inclined to think that we should let them suffer because God wants them to, and who are we to interfere in God's plan for those people. It's a wicked belief that leads us to abandon actual commandments and let people suffer alone.

Fortunately for the man who taught this false doctrine, there is true doctrine that will give him peace and comfort and purpose, and these true doctrines come right from the scriptures.

It is important to remember that God is ultimately in charge of the world, and He is aware of our suffering. Knowledge of suffering is not the same as intention for suffering, though. But He does know and He can help. Allowing us to learn and grow and suffer does not mean he planned it, nor that he lacks power to intervene. He can and does intervene--but sometimes not how we want Him to.

Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God" and D&C 90: "Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good."  The promises is not that God designed these things, but that He has the power to turn all things to your good if you love Him.

God allows the hellish experiences (because earth life really is hell in a lot of ways), but we can be assured that He will turn those to our good (remembering that His eternal view of our good, which is rooted in our ultimate glory, is different from our limited earthly view, which is rooted in immediate comfort more often than not). When the scriptures say we have to submit to the will of our Father, it is talking about this--submitting to God's way of turning things to our good, not necessarily that we have to submit to awful experiences purely because they are God's plan for us.

The other comfort is Jesus. We can get comfort and peace and experience because Jesus suffered all things to help mitigate the realities of living in a fallen world. He saves us, not from God's will, but from the reality of mortality. If we embrace the false idea that God designed all our hells, then we risk not putting Christ at the center of things. Sometimes we have to swallow a bitter pill, for sure, but we don't have to do it alone, and God wants us to reach out for help and relief through Jesus. If we think God planned it, we might not take advantage of our privileges under the atonement and the priesthood, and God gave us those things so we would use them and benefit from them, not ignore them so that we can suffer. Suffering in and of itself is not noble or wonderful or glorifying, and we risk elevating it to this magical status, over Jesus, if we embrace the idea that God designed our pain. Martyr complexes benefit no-one.

In reality, embracing the true doctrine invites us to lean on Jesus. It is a gentle but powerful invitation to actively exercise faith and trust our Father. It invites humility and becoming as a child and understanding our true, proper relationship with our Father. The false doctrine, in contrast, leads us to be angry at God and push back. It makes God our enemy. It rewrites baptism to God pushing us under the water and holding us there for our own damn good, and that destroys faith.

But God is not our enemy, and we do not need to embrace doctrines that destroy faith. Gentle invitations to exercise faith are much better, and we should pursue and embrace those. "I know you are suffering, and I'll help you through it and ease your pain and make sure it benefits you" is much, much nicer (and more accurate) than "I planned this hell for you. Thank me."

We don't need to embrace the false doctrine, even though it is widely taught. Instead, we should cling to the actual doctrine: that God can turn things to our good if we love Him, and that we have Jesus to help us. This doctrine leads to a true exercising of faith. The other does not.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Did I just read that?

To illustrate the importance of punctuation.

This is the headline: "Tree falls on tent killing woman"

This means a tree fell on a tent that was killing a woman.

But with a comma, it could mean a tree fell on a tent, killing a woman.

And with a hyphen, you get that a tree fell on a woman who kills tents (a "tent-killing woman").

Punctuation makes a big difference!

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Did I just read that?

I don't even know what to make of this one. This is the caption that appears under a picture of a window in an abandoned building.

"This is the Giuseppe Antonini, which was a facility on the outskirts of Milan. The facility once housed Napolean Bonaparte and Benito Mussolini’s illegitimate son."

I can't did Napoleon and Mussolini have a son? There are so so many problems with that. I mean, they're both men...and Napoleon died 62 years before Mussolini was born....and would you really want those gene pools mixed?....and they spelled Napoleon wrong.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Did I just read that?

"Investigators later determined that two toddler-aged children were inside the suspect during the shooting but were not injured. Police said neither Martinez nor Pacheco were the parent or guardian of the children. "

Uh....not sure how that works.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Yet another post on feminism

I know I write about feminism kind of a lot. Off an on. 

The reason I write about it so often is I feel immense pressure to be a feminist (ALL acceptable women are feminists, apparently), but at the same time, I feel an immensely strong gut reaction telling me feminism is not healthy for women. But the logic and spoken aims of feminism are very compelling, and some of the problems they are addressing are very real and need to be addressed.

So I feel conflicted, and I write to try to address that conflict, to resolve it and help myself understand why I can't be a feminist of any stripe despite the social pressure and the work that needs to be done.

Before I say anything else, I do know that I'm oversimplifying by using the word "feminism" and that there are many kinds of feminism (and I actually am not opposed to all of them.) I also know that there are many problems that women face that need to be fixed. And I also am saying right up front that I know many excellent feminists that this absolutely does not apply to.

Here's my latest bullet list of reasons feminism is making me uncomfortable, based on my own observations. (I add that because feminists are incredibly aggressive--to the point of cruelty--at defending their positions, and whenever I post stuff like this, they come out to tell me that my observations are wrong and mean and destroying women because feminism is the only path to success for women. So I'm saying up front: These are my own personal observations from my own personal life. They in no way are blanket claims of always truths, but they also are the things I've seen over and over and am making judgments based on--and that's probably unfair but it's my reality. And the fact that I have to put this in here should tell you something about why I can't embrace being a feminist.) So, my list:

• Despite protests to the contrary, feminism publicly is still often anti-man, anxious to belittle and condemn men and deny the masculine nature in order to elevate women. I don't think this helps anyone.
• Feminists still use men as their "measuring stick" of what is success and where we are aiming to be. I don't see any way to succeed if we make men the measuring stick because we are not men and never will be, so we will never quite measure up. It puts women in an inherently inferior position, and it forces women to deny their nature in order to succeed. This harms women rather than helping them.
• Feminism often belittles women for intelligently making the best choice they can for their own lives, claiming that if they don't decide to conform to some money-based evaluation of "success," they were manipulated by society and couldn't possibly be making these choices of their own free will. That actually makes it harder for women to be what they want to be, not easier. (You can see this in the pressure women have put on them to not choose a caring profession, to choose a science or math major even if they really love history, etc.)
• Feminism makes faith and having a relationship with our Father in Heaven noticeably more difficult for women. For some reason, Feminists often seem to have an automatic distrust of the motives of every man, and not of women. Consequently, they find it hard to trust and act on instruction from God. I have a hard time embracing anything that makes faith harder and more complicated, and that interferes with women's ability to form trusting relationships with God and Jesus.
• Feminists are often obsessed with power and who has it, to the detriment of understanding and interacting with their world. This is a very narrow way of looking at the world--very reductionist--that does not tend to show a whole and fair picture. It is, absolutely, one piece of a big puzzle. But it's a mistake to say you understand the whole puzzle completely based on observing one piece, or even a cluster of pieces.
• Feminism distorts thinking, and in a way that leads to greater unhappiness in life and a limited ability to interact with society in a way that will actually make changes to things that hurt women. Feminism is not a paradigm through which to view the world if you want high life satisfaction. It pushes finding offense and power imbalance in every single thing you see--but only if you are on the lower side of the imbalance (never if you have more power, and especially never if you are misusing it). There are other distortions to the thinking as well.
• Feminism elevates women to a more perfect status that they actually have right to claim (with claims like, "If women were the bishops, nobody would ever be offended in church" that are patently untrue and also ridiculous), elevating themselves to ridiculous and foolish heights, while simultaneously laying claim on and denying the existence of feminine traits.  (This is really part of the distorted thinking, isn't it?) On the one hand, they say there are no inherently feminine traits but it's all social constructs, and on the other, they restructure school to take advantage of the way women think and work to the detriment of boys. All while saying we need to act more like men to succeed. (The danger of saying there are no inherently gendered traits is that in doing so, they are accepting male-ness as the default and denying female-ness exists at all.)
• Feminism not only ignores but denies that sometimes women have a role in their "problems." (For example, sometimes women bear the burden of the "thinking work" in a household because they are so sure only women can do it right that they actually refuse to let men carry that burden at all out of certainty that the men will do it wrong. And then they complain that the men aren't carrying the burden. Or, in a less negative light, sometimes women make less money than men in the same jobs because they women put higher priority on family time and refused to make the family sacrifices that put them in the top positions at work, eligible for the top raises. So they make less money, but it's a direct result of the good choices they made.)
• The sociocultural demands that feminists have put on women in the name of "freedom" have made it harder for women to embrace and enjoy motherhood (especially of raising many children) and do it well. The only valid contribution to society is measured in dollars and cents and positions at work. That's just a shame, and its wrong, too. Anyone can make money. Only women can mother. (Men can contribute, but they father--which is also vital. Just different.)
• Feminists don't understand what women actually are and what will make them eternally happy in the greatest senses. (Really, only God can know that for anyone, so it's not their fault.) But, despite this lack of knowledge, they work very hard to not only define but enforce a single right "path" to life satisfaction that they not only offer but demand that all women walk. They deny they do this, but actions and social pressure speaks louder than words.
• Feminism is essentially inward-looking. But God has asked us to spend our lives looking outward, not inward: serving others, loving others, using our talents to build His kingdom, having charity, etc. Humility is impossible if our entire paradigm is inward. The nature of feminism is in opposition to the nature of "Forget yourself and get to work." Feminism is often selfish and rooted in pride, and that is not a path to anything good.
• So much of feminism is whining and complaining, indulging in anger and celebrating being bitchy and obnoxious. I'm not interested in those things. That's not who I want to be, and that's not what I want to spend my time or energy on.
• Feminist approach to problem solving is counterproductive. It practically forces people to dig in their heels and defend their position rather than productively leading everyone to greater understanding and change. This is weird because the much-maligned "Feminine Nature" is actually supposed to be good at gently leading people along to change and understanding, but feminists are particularly bad at this, coming across as rude, selfish, obnoxious, and aggressive instead of as a safe way to learn and change and fix problems. (For example, complaining, having mean letter-writing campaigns, and protesting against the Brethren is far, far less likely to cause change than simply asking the questions. "Why don't women do _____?" is way way more effective than "Women Must be allowed to do _____!")
• Feminism leads to a particularly narrow view of the world. It thrives in and loves the echo chamber. For example, any time there is a change they hoped for, they think, "We did this! It's because of our voices!" without even a thought for, say, the global nature of the Church, the fact that there are other voices that were speaking out in more effective ways, that God had something in mind, etc. 
• In acknowledging that there is pain and unfairness in the world, feminism seems to reinforce and rejoice in it. It comes across as the ultimate "girls crying in the bathroom" clique that ever existed, and seems to love the victimhood more than the possibility of healing. And in trying to hear and love the victim, they often are cruel to those who were not hurt.

And now that this is written, I'm always afraid to post these because of the inevitable backlash. No-one is more capable of being cruel and needling to the heart of a woman than an angry feminist. No-one has more "need" somehow to lash out and address every slight and every insult than an angry feminist.  And feminism teaches women to see hurt and be angry all the time. Feminism, in practice, is often the glorification of the bitch. And I have been treated cruelly so many times by feminists that I'm afraid to even post this, anticipating backlash (and for some reason they feel compelled to attack, not just brush it off and think, "She's wrong. I'll just go on with my life and ignore it."). But I want myself and my kids to understand why I can't join in, so here it is. Again. (I write about this stuff SOOO much!)

Ultimately this is my bottom line: Throughout my life, I've had times where I looked at a group of women (returned sister missionaries and mothers of many children come to mind right off the bat) and saw characteristics I wanted to have. I found myself saying, "I want to be like them," and I knew I had to embrace the same experiences and ideals they had in order to gain the benefits they had that I wanted. There is no other way to get the deep, calm, wise patience of being a mother of many children than by mothering many children (whether they are your own birthed children or others you mother). There is no other way to get that particular kind of confidence and class that returned sister missionaries have than by going on a mission. When I look at feminism and the women it produces, I don't think, "Gosh, I want to be just like that!" In fact, I often think, "Oh my! I hope I'm not like that!" That gives me very little incentive to embrace feminism.