Sunday, July 13, 2008

Spiritual, not religious - proud to be labeled "progressive"

My elder Brother, Jesus was progressive - one of the leading progressives of his time. His voice spoke on being kind, adultery, hypocrity, being charitable, not judging, paying taxes, and a myriad of other issues that I don't necessarily need to name here.

For over 23 years, I was a member of the LDS Church - that's the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly known by its nickname - the Mormons. The same religion that Mitt Romney affiliates himself with.

Some 2 years ago, I had to painfully extricate myself from this church that I had known and loved. I had been baptized in this organization, been married for 15 years in a sacred temple ceremony to my former husband and raised 3 of my 4 sons faithfully in this religion. Seven years ago when I moved to Utah, I was disturbed to see that there was an inordinate of racism experienced first by me and then by my 3 teenage sons. As things became progressively worse, I tried to make sense of it.

According to the most recent census data, Utah is less than 1% black. According to Mormon doctrine/theology/tradition or even heritage, blacks were deemed less than, or even inferior - their dark skin was allegedly the mythical mark of Cain. While I am no scriptorian, my readings and research into this matter have never revealed to me whether this mark was a wart on the end of Cain's nose as punishment for his sins, but I do know that Jesus died on the cross for any "sin" or transgression committed by any who have lived or died, including Cain.

It is then, not surprising that there are vestiges left over in Utah of racism, based partly on those archaic and, in my belief, incorrect teachings, and on the teachings of one of the early leaders of the LDS Church - some have called him "American Moses" - that would be Brigham Young, who believed and stated that blacks were lower than dogs.

In 1978, the ACLU was going to sue the LDS Church and force them to make public their financial records - this was their way of getting the LDS Church to bring blacks into full fellowship. Up until that point, their fellowship was limited to merely visiting church - no participation in communion, baptism services, no admittance to the temple. The dream of any worthy person of the LDS faith.

When I joined the LDS faith in January of 1982, this was explained to me in a peripheral way, essentially making it sounds like an unfortunate blip on the screen of LDS theology. Friends had often asked me how I could align myself with the religion. One of the men I admire greatly is a former ACLU attorney and civil liberties champion. He is Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah. One day, years ago, I was in his office. He was praising my intelligence and intellect and was the first person who had intimated that Brigham Young - a Mormon leader and prophet was racist. He asked me why I was in the Mormon faith. I told him that the Church worked for me and should the day come when it no longer did, I would leave.

I know exactly how Senator Obama felt when he had to extricate himself from his church over the Reverend Wright debacle. I have been there. I cried more tears over that than even over my divorce from my husband of 15 years. The pain was visceral.

As I look today at the potential (and in some cases, certainly in some African Episcopal churches) for the same rift to come to the Episcopal Church over women being ordained to the priesthood. In the Mormon Church, my understanding is that many people left after blacks were allowed to become fully functioning in the church.

I continue to be spiritual and not religious, because it is more important to me to be like my elder brother, the Savior, Jesus Christ, than to associate with any church that discounts any of my brothers and sisters.

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