Monday, April 11, 2005

Politics from the pulpit

The pile of laundry in my home is reaching Mt. Trashmore proportions, so I planned on spending my Sunday running up and down the stairs ferrying my clothes to the machines in the basement of our apartment building. Unfortunately, my wife took the laundry card with her so I was stuck with nothing to do. I decided on a whim to check out my ward this Sunday (as I had inadvertently attended a different ward two weeks ago).
After quickly showering and some VERY un-Christ-like driving, I reached the church with about 8 minutes to spare. As I got closer and closer to church, I thought I should stop honking and swerving around people just in case someone saw me pull into the church parking lot. Once there, I opened the program and saw mostly white space; I remembered with a sinking feeling that this week was testimony meeting because of General Conference. Well, at least it would probably be more interesting than a High Council talk.
The bishop, who seemed like a genuinely nice guy, ended up giving the only cringe-worthy testimony. He started out paying respects to the pope, and then told us how there are 110 million Catholics in the United States and how we are only a fraction of that. Thanks, bish! Now I'm depressed. (This didn't sound right to me, so I checked the Almanac when I got home; there are actually only 63 million Catholics in the U.S.) Then he started talking about how the Catholic and Mormon churches were the only ones standing up on issues like abortion and "marriage between a man and a woman" and women in the priesthood. I started fidgeting with my collar. He said he was watching a news program where a Catholic cardinal was being interviewed and he was asked if the Catholics could withstand social pressures to admit women to the priesthood. The cardinal apparently responded (according to the bishop's summary) that Christ taught the Golden rule and should we change that too? What? That makes no sense, and is more than a little offensive in my opinion.
The bishop also mentioned that the LDS scouts in Canada may have to end their affiliation with the Boy Scouts of Canada because of the homosexuality issue. Well, banning homosexuals didn't seem to help the American Boy Scouts with that creep who just plead guilty last week.

Maybe I'm out of touch, but I don't think politics should have a place at the pulpit, and especially not during fast and testimony meeting. The Bishop's testimony seemed to confirm something I suspected last week: some Mormons are enamored with John Paul II because of his extremely conservative political positions. As the bishop extolled the goodness of the pope's political views, I couldn't help thinking that condemning birth control was probably his most famous. Fortunately, our church don't share such a reactionary worldview, but it seemed like the bishop was trying to gloss over the differences between our churches.
Some people are so eager to embrace their political allies, that they overlook some disturbing facts. If you want to adopt reactionary Catholic political views, fine, but don't ask me to join you from the pulpit.

I managed to leave the meeting without speaking to anyone, and as I walked to my car, I noticed a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker on a car in the parking lot. I strongly dislike both Kerry and Edwards, but somehow this bumper sticker gave me hope.


Anonymous said...

What are you hoping for? Why are you going to church?

Also, you usually have to discount what people say over the pulpit - they're usually just trying to impress everyone else with their quick wit and insights.

NFlanders said...

To be perfectly honest, I don't know what I am going to church for. I had a free hour on Sunday, and I thought, why not? I fully realize that I'm not exactly the target audience for the Sunday talks.

I do know what I don't want though. I don't really want to be told what to think about political issues that aren't based in church doctrine.
I think faithful members (which, again, I'm not) can honestly disagree about politics and we should be more careful about what's preached from the pulpit.

If it had been anyone other than the Bishop, I wouldn't have put too much stock in it.

Anonymous said...

I agree that faithful members should be allowed to disagree with each other over political issues. Unfortunately, this is not the reality. Political issues are tied up in social and religious issues, and most people don't understand how to separate them effectively, so they just follow conventional Mormon behavior.

As to your point about going to church, maybe you're going for entertainment and for new material for your blog. I usually go because my family makes me go, so I'm not casting judgment here on your motives.

However, I bet that some people sitting next to you in church are not there because they are true believers, but because they can't get out of it going without causing a lot of trouble in their lives. So, I bet some of the people listening to that bishop's talk were rolling their eyes along with you (at least inwardly).

NFlanders said...

I hope I am not just going for blog-able material. That would be kind of sad.
But it is true I have only gone since I started this blog, so maybe it's true.
But I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Hey - don't be sad about it if it's true. It's good to have different perspectives. I don't think you're mean spirited about it - you don't seem to have any particular agenda.

Not sure if this applies to you, but the church drives out a lot of the more reasonable, compassionate people, so the majority of the people in the church are right wing traditionalists. I wish more people would stay in the church like you, because then maybe we could take it over from the current crazies who are running it (with all due respect).

m said...

what bothered me the most were the few few times when people would include overtly political remarks when offering the opening/closing prayers in sacrament meeting. i still remember a lady saying when i was a kid "thank you for allowing ronald reagan to be re-elected." and a guy in my current ward prayed for god's blessing in helping get president bush re-elected.

NFlanders said...

Wow, m. Very inappropriate. It reminds me of a mission companion who in our district prayer asked God to help me be more obedient.
Good times.

Anonymous said...

What? Only an hour! Try SS/EQ, one can usually kickstart a good discussion - say something a bit liberal and watch the sparks fly...

Rusty said...

It's true that there are many things said that are inappropriate. But isn't that true no matter where you go, no matter what group you belong to? Yeah there are a lot of crazies in our Church, but to suggest that the Church drives out a lot of the normal, rational, reasonable people (and imply that the right-wing crazies all stay active) seems a bit loony. All sorts of people leave the Church. Just like all sorts of people join it. Yes, there are way too many right-wingers, but isn't that part of the challenge? Christ taught the wicked, not the righteous.

NFlanders said...

Good point, Rusty, but I think you have to admit life is probably harder for Saints of the liberal persuasion.
I didn't know there were Mormon liberals before I found By Common Consent.
The ironic thing is that, politically, I'm not all that liberal. But when it comes to Mormon issues I am probably on the far left of the scale.

Anonymous said...

Did the Bishop mention anything about the Pope's position on the death penalty? How about the war in Iraq and the "war on terror" in general? My guess is that he didn't.

Mike said...

I was going to ask the same thing as the last anonymous poster. I disagree with the Pope's stand on birth control, however I do respect the work he did.
He was consistent in his pro-life stance being anti-death penalty and fairly anti-war.

He was also somewhat left of center economically.

It does bother me when people are quick to embrace the possible political allies while ignoring everything else about them. Living in the (kind of) south I see this with Mormons lining up politically with the same ultra-conservative Christians who are writing anti-mormon material.

Eric said...

And I was just going to say what Anonymous and Mike said.

I don't think that, officially at least, the Catholic church has been particularly politically conservative. It's just that the abortion issue seems to trump everything else.