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Guilt and Repentance

January 1, 2009

From the way certain blogs have read over the New Year’s time of year, you’d never imagine that a sizeable amount people in the world use the New Year’s as a time to celebrate. Instead of rejoicing and loosening, I have read too much about resolutions.

Resolutions…hmm…I never thought about it so much until now, but it seems that people are getting serious about this. And in the quest to write about resolutions (or write about the season in general), people have been getting plain morbid.

I guess it’s like the snow: for some it means a winter wonderland. For others, it signifies the recurring period of the year finalizing the death and decay of the earth.

…Ironic that I mentioned winter wonderlands, with talk of global warming from Chanson. Now of course, climate change can lead to freak temperature extremes of either way, but still…it’s all so morbid.

The brunt of this message wasn’t from that one, though. It was this long, involved (yet very good) post at By Common Consent by Russell Arben Fox. This guy is like, crazy smart, so I doubt I’ll be doing any toe-to-toe article analyses of any of his political or theological arguments any time soon (or ever, haha — I’m a bit afraid that he’ll see a trackback or something and utterly destroy me with superior arguments), but…from the repeated places on the Bloggernacle that I’ve run into him (and that’s really not quite right…it’s not “running into”…it’s more like I’m watching him walk hurriedly from a distance and I notice the peculiar hurried manner each time and feel some kind of concern…some kind of sympathy that I have no way of justifying), he seems…troubled? I don’t know; and I don’t necessarily want to presume.

His note at BCC made me think about how guilt plays such a huge role in things. I’ve heard people levy criticisms of religions by saying that they engineer guilt for their followers, and I had never seriously thought about whether the LDS church would do that. I mean, of course I hear and see the effects of guilt on Mormons from either doctrine or culture…and of course I’ve felt some of it before. It’s part of a lot of our deprogramming to get out of that frame of mind. But until now, I had never seen someone illustrate the peculiarities of guilt as is used in a “constructive” religious context.

I dunno. I don’t know where even to begin. To quote simple snippets and deconstruct seems blasphemous.

There was another, perhaps more quotable example of what I thought guilt might be. At Nine Moons, David wrote about how sometimes, we might say we are willing to do anything to get what we want, but many times, when we find out what we have to give up (as when Jesus told the man to give away all of his possessions to follow Him), we shrink at the thought. In the end, I don’t want to trivialize David’s concerns (really, guys, I’m not a terrible person!)…but he was concerned about his…reluctance to give up rated-R movies?

Now, I realize that there are just some terrible movies with some horrid content out there (and it’s not even tasteful or artistic — it’s like some directors just want to offend the senses)…but it appears to me that when we are fretting about rated-R movies (when that isn’t even a standard commandment — just a “guideline”), I sense a disconnect between reality and religion. (Before someone comments: of course, of course, we are trying to make such a disconnect — in the world but not of it, etc.,)

On Mormon Matters, Hawkgrrrl questioned if religion might devalue human life for a soul or an eternal perspective (protip: you can actually read some comments from our friend Russell here). When I think about guilt and repentence, and the knots it ties people into over the most arbitrary things…I wonder if there isn’t more to such a concept. Right before I was ready to publish this note, I read over at Feminist Mormon Housewives about pressure to have more children and, in a way, a sense of guilt over not necessarily wanting more. Why do we get people to rack their lives over such issues as these, when they should be happy and secure in their own decisions?


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  1. Honestly, I think a lot of us actually savor the guilt and would feel a little bereft without it.

  2. That’s…perplexing?

    I think 1) that people can naturally feel guilty about certain things without having artificial constructs of guilt placed over that (but then again, that raises the question — the “natural” guilt that people might feel could just be another artificial construct…just one placed by society at large instead of any smaller societal institution), so there’s not necessarily a reason to savor some kinds of guilt.

    Secondly, you can deprogram from guilt. You could find that you stop savoring it, I think.

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