Why everyone is just as bad as we are. Or why I am in a quandry.
I recently moved to the capital region of New York state, an area known to be both crazy and dying. I also don’t have any friends, relatives or acquaintances here and the Mormon community is completely lacking in angst so I decided to find some other churchy groups to make friends. I found a protestant non-evangelical discussion group that meets every Wednesday in a bar (I am not opposed) to discuss topics posted on The Thoughtful Christian.
This last week, and my first time attending, we were slated to learn about Shi’ites and Sunnis, the differences, nuances, religious identities. I was excited because 1) I got to be around people 2) I only vaguely knew details about these parts of Islam and 3) I occasionally like beer.
The discussion leader said, ‘To start out and maybe better understand the differences between Shi’ites and Sunnis, maybe we should talk about the Catholics and Protestants.’ The group of 10 or so began reeming Catholics. The Catholics were bad because of trans-substantiation. Because they didn’t allow real access to God, you had to go through a priest. Because of this and that. I raised my eyebrows and my boyfriend smiled. Angry Amri was coming out. Were they going to say because the Catholic Church is the great and abominable church spoken of in Revelation? Were they going to call it a whore?
Then they congratulated themselves for being what the Catholics weren’t. They didn’t believe in the literal transformation of the eucharist, they had much more direct access to God. They weren’t whores. They were Protestants. I couldn’t say anything because well, I was new, and I have no friends but I shook my head. No, no, no, I thought, don’t you know that I just wrote a post on a Mormon blog that said Mormons are lame because they feel good about themselves by seeing what’s different in other churches? That we are what you are not? You can’t do this, I thought, I was trying to give you a little credit! You were my last hope!
This discussion continued awhile when finally the leader suggested we actually talk about the Shi’ites and Sunnis. It turned out not to be very in-depth, four pages of text with everyone pulling out (of their butts and/or NPR/Fox News) something or other they’d heard about Shi’ites or Sunnis or Muslims. One man said ‘I heard that Shi’ites (or maybe the Sunnis?) have such intense learning of the Koran that they don’t even learn basics in school, they just chant texts from the Koran. It’s like they’re brainwashed.’
Another lady chimed in, ‘they are brainwashed! They believe all this stuff without even thinking about it!’ and then she said something about oppression and burkas. And suicide bombers.
I couldn’t take it any more. ‘Hold on,’ I said. ‘They’re not brainwashed, it’s just an expression of their religion and we all have different ways of learning religious texts and I’m sure they still learn math and science and reading while they’re learning the Koran.’ We gently argued, we are Christians, for a bit when finally someone said ‘point taken they’re not brainwashed.’
Point taken? Point taken? Here we are supposed to be learning about other religions to produce tolerance and understanding and you say point taken? Harumph. I then suggested that next time we bring an actual Muslim so we could touch one and I pretended to pet someone. They said it was an excellent idea.
So I recant my gripe against Mormons. I just didn’t know. I didn’t know we were just like everyone else. I still think it bugs God but now I think the Mormons bug him, the Protestants meeting in bars bug him and anyone else who feels good about themselves by being what others are not. We all bug him.
Let us pray for forgiveness.
And I’ll probably still go tonight because I need friends. Beggars can’t be choosers.