Ichiban Recant or

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.


  1. Is there a synagoguge anywhere in the area? If you’re lucky, maybe you can find a group that discusses the Torah reading assignment of the week (parshat shavuah). Depending on who is involved, it could be very rewarding. Honestly, I’d expect it to be more scripture-oriented and rewarding than the discussion group you are already talking about.

    But that shows a bias on my part, doesn’t it?

  2. Argh… I know how to spell synagogue.

  3. “We all bug him”

    God’s too good to be bugged by us loonies. I think he just sees that we’re all crazy and either shakes his head in laughter or cries (a la Enoch).

  4. Amri,

    It sounds like you did force them to back down, a little. And what does this go to show?

    That they’re not as Ichiban as we are. In fact, they’re really just wannabe Ichibans. We’re still number one. Our Ichiban-ness can kick their Ichiban-ness’s ass, any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    I would keep looking, Amri. That group doesn’t sound like it has much potential for enlightened discussion.

  6. D. Fletcher says:

    Amri, you’re in Albany? Will you ever come down to NYC to visit?

  7. danithew, I like Jews. I will try them out. That is a good idea. I know they have Jewish Bingo here. Maybe that?

    Steve, a la OT you must believe we bug him. C’mon now. Even just a little? We bug him, admit it.

    Kaimi, again you are right, your Ichibanness. Shite. (not shi’ite)

    Kevin, I will keep looking. Mostly I just need friends and I like talking religion. Surprisingly bars are the hip thing these days I found another theology discussion group at another bar that I’ll try this Monday. It’s called Theology at the Taproom. I have a friend in DC who goes to a group called Drinking with Jesus. PS Kevin, my boyfriend and my brother have MAJOR mancrushes on you. Just FYI.

    D. I regularly go to NYC. Let me visit you!

  8. enlightened says:

    I am just glad we bloggernaclites don’t do any of those nasty things. We are much better and truer to the Savior than those nasty people.

  9. I went to a Protestant Bible study for years (with a brief break for a couple of weeks when they threw me out) and had great experiences, though a Jewish study of Torah can be even better.

    Wish you luck.

  10. Amri, go ahead, throw the OT in my face….

  11. Amri, if there’s a group that gets together for parshat shavua, it will probably be on Monday or Tuesday nights.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    I understand there’s a pretty hopping LDS scene in NYC, so absolutely start with D. and he can point you in the right direction from there. They might not be right there with you in Albany, but you’ll have plenty of friends in no time.

  13. I don’t understand why you need friends. I think life is great without any.

  14. I study with the evangelicals at work.

    They all think that the catholic church is the church of the devil, That the LDS are going to hell….

    Surpisingly though they seem to love and respect Jews

  15. MikeInWeHo says:

    How did you present yourself to this group? Did you tell them you are LDS? Would be curious to hear how they respond to that.

    And D. Fletcher…I go to NYC often as well but nobody extends me an invite. : )

    Hi bbell. Why do you study with the evangelicals? Is this some crypto-missionary endeavor or an exercise in spiritual masochism? Not surprised they love and respect Jews, but have you asked them how the Jews fit into their end-time scenarios? That might shed some like on the apparent discrepancy.

  16. Amri, nice post!

    I wonder if there’s an inverse ichiban-ness that we can sometimes fall into? We like to think of ourselves (as members of the Mormon community certainly, although perhaps in many other communities as well) as unique — so the things we like about ourselves are the best, and we can, as you have incisively pointed out in this and your last post, congratulate ourselves for being better than others on those things. But, by the same logic, the things we don’t like about ourselves are the worst, and we maybe spend a lot of time whipping ourselves for not being as good as some underspecified “everybody else.”

    Your discussion of other religious people’s self-praise suggests, as you note, that we Mormons aren’t the worst on that score. We are just — perhaps like many others — bad. Is the same true with respect to some of the other things we worry about?

  17. Hey Mike,

    I study with them cause its fun and they feed me pizza at lunchtime. 50% know I am LDS

    I really do not have an agenda and have learned a few things.

    In many respects I kind of blow their minds on pre-existence and resurrection issues.

    One of the guys though is weird and seriously shoots crows with a pellet gun in his backyard becuse of something Jesus mentions in Matthew and in revelations. He dropped that tidbit today and everybody was like HUH?

    They have the same basic understanding as we do that when Jesus returns the Jews will recognize him as the Messiah and feel sorry for not recognizing him earlier. They are all pro Isreal and often even attend Passover/yom kippor events at local Jewish congregations

  18. Christian Zionism. It’s pretty common. Drives a lot of Muslims crazy.

  19. If you’re going to mix Ichiban with another language, such as “Ichiban-ness”, it has to be with a non-English language. I’d suggest “Ichibankeit”. It avoids the difficulty of the double “n”.

    Truman said if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. I believe that the Albany analogue is a cow. I’d get a Jersey. They’re cute, and they give milk that is super rich in butter fat. Mmmmm, good!

  20. Don’t they grow really good apples up there in Albany?

    Fresh cider. Apple pie. That’s what it’s about.

  21. Amri,
    I’m wondering why this Protestant Ichibanness is such a suprise to you. After all they are protestants. Is not their whole existance reliant upon what the catholic church doesn’t have? Isn’t this the war of words tha Joseph describes during great dilemma? Fighting amongst the different sects, pastors preaching what the other sects did’nt have? Sure, we can ichibans sometime but they invented it.

  22. during his great dilemma

    we can be ichibans


  23. Amri – look around and see if you can find a chapter of the Jewish Cultural Society – it is a quasi-religious Jewish group with a tradition if engaging in intellectual discussions. However, they also can be extreme leftists when it comes to political issues.

  24. MikeInWeHo says:

    re:17, 18 So the Evangelicals kind of grandfather in the Jews when it comes to salvation, eh? Interesting. It’s like they give one group a second chance, while the rest of us (both you AND me, bbell!) are going to hell. Yikes. Somehow I’m not losing sleep over their “…or else” view of the message of Christ, though.

  25. It’s great to hear that you had such a positive experience with one of our study guides from TheThoughtfulChristian.com. As you pointed out The Thoughtful Christian is committed to providing resources that seek to help Christians wrestle with difficult questions by stimulating informed conversation and reflection about living faithfully in a complex world. We are ecumenical with writers from a variety of denominational affiliations and experiential backgrounds. It is our goal to help Christians from a wide variety of perspectives find resources to help them understand, share, and practice their faith. If your interested in more conversations and reflections check out our blog at http://thethoughtfulchristian.blogspot.com/

    Thanks, Andrew

  26. None of them know I”m Mormon. In fact, Mormonism makes it as a study topic with only two other religions (Judaism and Islam) on this site The Thoughtful Christian, which isn’t bad. If I mixed the fact that I was Mormon in then we’d talk about that and not Shi’ites and Sunnis which we were supposed to talk about.

    A cow sounds good, but where could I keep it? Community garden?
    The apples here are amazing. Sometimes it’s the best thing that happens to me all day.
    And with Protestants thinking they’re number one? It surprises a little because there’s less of the identity that they are the one and only true church. Some groups have that–Islam, Catholics, us, Church of Christ, JWs, and while it bugs me I get why we have this Ichiban thing going. But protestants, they’re like well, if you’re not Catholic then yer probably okay. Which could potentially rank them anywhere in the top 20 or so? Anyway.

    PS last night I went again: thumbs down. Maybe it turns out that beer and Jesus just don’t mix. Heh.

  27. Andrew, buddy,
    I am not getting the vibe that you actually read amri’s post. Just sayin’

  28. Maybe it turns out that beer and Jesus just don’t mix. Heh.

    Maybe you should try wine?
    I’d say don’t give up on the bars, I’ve been surprised by discussions that take place over a pint.

  29. Amri, as I recall Jesus made wine, not beer. You may want to reconsider libations. What about a charity/NGO? They’ll also ichiban the dang conservatives, but maybe they won’t muddy the waters in which you see Jesus’s reflection. Or a running club or somebody headed to the Adirondacks?

    Or come visit us. We’re your kind of ichibaners (I hope).

%d bloggers like this: