Saturday, August 6, 2016

Faith: What I Believe Right Now

NOTE: References to "Church" below refer to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

DISCLAIMER: What I have written below represents my thinking at this point in time. I ask that you respect my right to change my thoughts, beliefs, and opinions at any time, as I go on learning and seeking for greater understanding.

One of my issues is the problem of binary or black-and-white thinking. It seems to me that the Christian scriptures themselves (Book of Mormon included) teach and promote this kind of thinking, which leads people to constantly judge or categorize the world and those around them as "good" or "bad," "righteous" or "sinful," "faithful" or not living up to their covenants.

My current perception of reality is not so conveniently simplistic. There are gay parents who love and sacrifice for their children and for each other, much more than some heterosexual parents do. There are people who become disenchanted with the Church, leave, and go on being honest, caring, decent people who contribute much to the world and to their communities. Some sick people in the Church receive priesthood blessings, and are not miraculously healed; some sick people of other faiths miraculously get better. And finally, the reverse of all these statements is also sometimes the case.

I guess that's where I am at: in an "I don't know" stage. I want to believe there is a God. If there is, he is certainly hidden as Isaiah 45:15 says. I want to believe in a God or power in the universe that loves us, and has sent us here to have experiences that help us grow. Sometimes there seem to be miraculous interventions in our lives from a higher power, but they are exceptional, uncommon, and personal, and can often be viewed or interpreted in a number of different ways. No religion can claim a monopoly on such experiences; they are present in all faiths and among all people and nations.

I believe in goodness, in loving, serving, supporting, encouraging, and respecting each other. I believe in forgiveness and compassion, for others and for ourselves. I believe in helping those who are marginalized and struggling; but I also believe that to completely remove their struggles from them, removes an important opportunity for growth in their lives.

I join with all organizations who value the special importance of families - all kinds of families. I believe in the special commitment and sacrifice that should exist between spouses, and towards their children. The family truly is the building block of civilization.

I believe that diversity must not only be tolerated but embraced and sought-after. If, out of fear of what is different, we lash out against or suppress that which we do not understand, or which makes us uncomfortable, or with which we are not familiar, we will trap ourselves inside a filter bubble that will cut ourselves off from others, and perhaps cause us to alienate or persecute them.

I believe that the powers of the Universe respect, notice, and reward work, dedication, and sacrifice. I believe that people should devote themselves to and work for what they love, believe in, and are passionate about. Balance and centeredness are also important. Leaders and organizations who inspire or persuade their followers into making great sacrifices and living with devotion to their precepts can accomplish amazing things, as well as terrible, atrocious things.

We need more leaders with integrity. We need to find and uphold people in our nation and our communities who care and who respect principles of liberty, responsibility, and compromise; who are apt to teach and empower rather than to use hostility, promises, and fear-mongering to gain power. And we need also to avoid worshiping these leaders, or setting them up as something other than they are: imperfect people just trying to do what they think is best, given the knowledge, understanding, and background they have at the time.

There are very real problems in our world today. I'm not sure that the best way to solve them is to store up a year's supply of food and wait for Jesus to come fix everything. There are amazing, brilliant, charismatic, gifted, and caring people in the world (actually, every one of us to some degree). We don't all agree on which problems are the most pressing, or how each problem should be addressed, but three things change the world: 1) the freedom, opportunity, and environment to express our views, 2) the responsibility and willingness to listen to and consider others' views without villianizing them, 3) the critical mass of consensus that, when reached, effects the change.

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