17 March 2014

Others! Others!

Disclaimer: I am a Mormon.  This is a post about current Mormon cultural issues and so may or may not make sense to those of you outside that circle.  I have other less culture specific posts in the works, never you fear.

I love Lost

I love the mess of characters.  I love the symbolism and the drama.  I love the way I never knew what was going to come next.  When someone like me who is notoriously good at predicting stories (almost to the point of annoyance) finds something that takes me by surprise, I'm always tickled.  I love how much I loved the characters - all of them (except maybe Michael, that dork).  I love how all the mysteries and mythology of the island really didn't matter in the end because the people mattered more.

On the off chance that you haven't seen the show, one of the primary story lines in the early part of the series revolves around the "Others".  After our initial group of castaways lands on the island when their plane mysteriously splits in two, they set up camp and try to do what they can to survive while they wait for rescue.  As they explore their new surroundings, they learn of a group on the island known as the "Others" who are highly dangerous.

As the two groups converge, our initial information about this group of "Others" seems to be pretty accurate.  They kidnap a pregnant girl and a child, for example.  Not exactly a happy "welcome to the island" pot luck.  Clearly, the "Others" are the bad guys in the story.

But then the show gradually lets you in on the real story of who these "Others" are - primarily a group of families and scientists who have been living on the island for quite some time.  They have book clubs.  They have a school.  They may have some rather icky issues with their current leadership, but on the whole, you find that the plane-crash group and the "Other" group have quite a bit in common.  They have similar fears (black smoke monster).  They eat the same food (thank you, Darma Initiative.)  They have similar goals (to protect themselves, to protect the island, to get off the island.)  As the story progresses, the lines between who is part of which group blur: if they're going to make any progress in either safety or escape - they have to work together.

It's no accident that this group is initially called "Others".  The world of Lost was designed to represent a kind of American mythology - and we Americans are no stranger to fear of Other-ness.  We start with the Native Americans, we move on to slavery and various groups of immigrants.  We go to the Japanese, back to the black population, move towards Islam. . . it's easy to put up a wall between our experience and the experience of them.

I bring this up because of the increasing dialogue in my corner of the world, particularly on issues relating to gay rights and the rights of women.  Today, for example, the LDS Church released a statement stating that they would again deny women entrance to an all male meeting that will be held in a few weeks.  Although I do have some concerns and questions about the role that women play in the LDS Church, I don't agree with the movement discussed in this article.  But whether or not I agree with it does little to excuse the vicious commenting that often happens on articles like these.  Take for instance, the following comment from "Fitness Freak" on the above linked article (all errors sic.):

Religion doesn't work the same as politics. Not everybody gets a say. In the case of the L.D.S. church, just ONE person does that. Its' NOT a democracy! (which is a GOOD thing, BTW) Maybe the women who (apparentally)don't like those rules should form their own church. Thats' whats great about our country - ANYONE can form their own church. Frankly, I have to wonder if they just do it for attention?? 

Or this one from Kelly WSmith: 

I think it is interesting that they don't want to be limited to the Free Speech zones, where the "apostates" protest against the church, as they claim, "We are members, not apostates". 

Hello? You are speaking against the church, that qualifies you as an apostate. These people need to wake up as to what they are really doing here.

This really isn't the time or place for me to go into all the nitty gritty details of what I think about the Ordain Women movement (which I do have some concerns about).  What I really want to say here is this: 

Like the two groups on Lost, it is easy - so easy - to set up walls between us and them.  Those reprobates.  Those Democrats!.  (Those Republicans!)  Those apostates who aren't happy with _____.  Those rebels who support _________.  How dare they!  They should just leave.  They are not one of us.  Disagreement is apostasy!

But when we step back from what we don't agree with, what we don't understand, what we don't personally struggle with, we recognize that aside from some differences in experience, those others are more like us than we think.  They are parts of families.  They are homemakers, businessmen, educators, artists, craftsmen.  They are sinners trying to do a little better every day.  They are students in the great school of life, just like everyone else around them.  Perhaps they struggle in areas that you do not, perhaps they question where you don't - but that does not make them wrong or sinful.  Just different.  Their path is different.  That's not wrong.  That's everywhere.

We have got to stop dismissing what we don't personally feel or see or want as evil.  I believe very strongly in the power of personal revelation.  I believe that it is totally possible for God to tell one person to vote Democrat and another Republican.  I believe that it is totally possible for God to tell one family not to watch a movie and another family to watch that same movie.  I believe that it is just as possible that God has led these women for one reason or another to protest or agitate or whatever other word you want to use to describe what they are doing on April 5th.  These women are not the Other.  They are ours.  They are our neighbors and our friends, our grandmothers, our daughters, our nieces, our aunts.  They are our husbands and fathers and sons too, by the way.  And they don't just come in the form of the group gathering on the 5th.  They come in the form of anyone who has doubts or fears or questions about their faith and are unsure of where to even begin to get the help they need (probably because the normal channels have, for whatever reason, been less than helpful for them.)  It is not our calling to judge others, but to love them.  It is unkind to dismiss trials and doubts with flippancy.  ("Well, I've never felt that way" or "I don't need more responsibility!" or "Why don't we get cushioned seats, then?!")

If Zion is ever to become one heart and one mind, I'm telling you right now that it will not look like a group of people who all receive the exact same answers all the time.  It will not be a group of people with identical paths and identical worries and identical questions.  It gives me physical pain to see so many comments on so many discussion boards demanding that these women leave the church if they hate it so much.  Declaring that clearly their revelation has been false.  How dared anyone make that judgment on another?  Note that even Satan was not cast out of heaven for presenting his plan.  It was only when he rebelled against the plan that God had accepted that he was asked to leave.   Maybe some of those supporting gay rights issues and women's rights issues are in an outward rebellion against the church.  But for those that aren't , for those who will ask for entry to a meeting and then calmly leave when they are denied entry - who are we to tell them that they are not allowed to play in the sandbox?  Is it not true that Christ suffered for their pain and therefore legitimized it, even if you don't personally understand or experience it?

God does not banish the Other, because there are no Others in the Kingdom of God.  And when God has a child that struggles, He says, as he does to all of us, "Come, learn of me" because he is the master teacher.  And maybe, just maybe, we all have some learning to do.


KateH said...

Oh yes, exactly. Thank you, Joni. No matter what my opinions are on the actual issues, it just hurts me to see so much judgment without any attempt at compassion being thrown about. It feel like there is a lot of not listening going on and that just kills me. Thanks for articulating all of this so beautifully. Also, Lost is the bomb. And I love you. :)

Joni said...

Love you too, dear Kate :). Now go have a baby!

The Spring into Summer Challenge said...

This. I love it so much. Thank you for writing it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. It's perfect.

elliespen said...

I agree. I blogged my thoughts about this kind of thing a while back: http://thescritchynib.blogspot.com/2012/12/thoughts-that-really-arent-about-pants.html

I just don't get why we are so eager at times to chase people away.