Friday, November 10, 2006

Is It Possible to Be Civil?

As much disrespect as I have for the Mormon church and its leaders, I don't go out of my way to do the moral equivalent of sticking a thumb in the eye of every Mormon I come across. I try to treat them the same way that I would like to be treated and I try to remember that I was once an over zealous believer.

I wasn't a bad person then and I don't think I'm a bad person now. I was and am trying to do what I feel is right. Part of that is trying to understand what is right and then trying to do it. I suck at it, but I do try. I think that most religious people are in a similar situation; they are trying to do what they believe is right.

I was at the bookstore getting a running book today and browsed through the religion section. I was mostly interested in finding some books on Islam. My recent email war with my father has made me acutely aware of how ignorant I am of one of the world's major religions and one that is having a huge impact on social and political events. While browsing I browsed a lengthy tome on the historicity of Jesus that would have made Jeff Lindsay pround. I also found a few books on Islam that ranged from apologetic to harshly critical.

Am I entertaining any notions of converting to Islam? Hardly. So why read? Because I feel that part of what is right is to understand people and their world view. Part of it is also so that I know how to properly respect their beliefs and culture.

A couple of recent events have really bothered me. One was some posts reveling in the fall of Ted Haggard. Another was a post on an exmo mailing list by an exmo Christian preacher who told of showing temple garments to meetings and the laughter it elicited. In the first case I said that I felt sorry for Haggard and in the second I stated that I didn't think that it was civil to publicly belittle and mock what other people consider sacred. Neither of my responses were well received. Apparently I'm alone in having some empathy for Mr. Haggard and his fall from grace. One respondent told me that Mormon temple garments have more in common with Nazi symbols than a Jewish yamulka.

I really, really dislike tele-evangelists and the cult of personalily that surrounds the leaders of some of the mega churches. It's just as unsettling as the same phenomena in Mormonism and many other religions. The demonification of homosexuals is also a mystery to me. I have a brother in law that it gay and he's one of the nicest, most decent people I know. But, to me, there is just something unseemly about taking pleasure in the suffering of another person or in the extreme lack of sensitivity that is often shown for people that believe differently. Maybe it is based in a desire for revenge for past and present wrongs. If so, it's a manifestation of the least and lowest of our character.

So, I'm sorry for how homosexuals are treated. I try to stand up for them and their rights whenever I get a chance. But that doesn't mean that I think it is good or healthy for me to take an eye for an eye when I get the chance. I'll continue to try to counter the influence of idiots like Ted Haggard. But I won't take pleasure in his suffering, as easy as that might be. And I'll speak out against Mormonism and try to point out the facts as I understand them. But I won't be going out of my way to shove it in the face of other Mormons and treat them in a way calculated to offend them.

One final note. I know that the comments were made on blogs and mailing lists that are intended to let people vent so this really isn't meant as a criticism of the people involved. I'm actually sorry if my defensive comments there and here upset people. It's more a reminder to myself to not let my feelings to cause me to lose empathy for the people around me who may deeply believe very differently than me.

Confused? Sorry, no time to edit right now.


Sister Mary Lisa said...

I don't find your comments here confusing. I think you have the right idea here, really. People deserve to be treated with dignity, simply because that is how we would also like to be treated.

Sideon said...

Regarding Haggard. I pity him in that he is a miserable man who hates himself, immensely. When he chose to direct that self-hate into political actions and religious exhaltations against gays and lesbians... then he drew the line in the sand. He crossed the line himself by being a hypocrite - being the very thing he hated - by lying to himself, to his family, to his congregation and to his religious tenets.

I feel badly for his family. It's an ugly ugly ugly situation, and I hope that he reconciles with his wife and family.

You've given me food for thought, Bull. It makes me question what kind of person I am that revels in that man's misery. I never said I was a saint, but it doesn't mean I have to be a devil, either.