Read the Bible. Be culturally literate.
As I’ve written before, my experiences in Mormonism has partially defined who I am today, so I respect that influence. I don’t want my money back, so to speak (although I read that figuratively…I wonder about the tithing aspect of such a phrase). In discussion with others, I often take a position that I’d rather be misunderstood, though. Even if the church has led me through some internal rough spots that I’ve become stronger for enduring, I usually take the position that I would rather not have other suffer these particular rough spots for the same benefits.
But I’m conflicted. Because in my life, when I see certain people who are “free” of the cultural Mormonism, so to speak, I wish they weren’t. I don’t mean that in some malicious sense; I don’t wish for these individuals to experience Mormonism precisely so that they can potentially face a crisis of going against themselves for the expectations of their community. Rather, I admit that I ultimately would like to be able to communicate with these people on common ground.
I won’t be specific, because these people are pretty close to me, but I think they are close enough to care about their education and upbringing without sounding like a creeper. And under normal circumstances, they would have grown up rather similarly to my brother and me…going to church every Sunday, being expected to be valiant young men and women, etc.,
But, for whatever reason, they did not. They managed to avoid it all. I doubt they’ve gone to church more than 15 times in their lives. I’ve heard some explanation for it, and I guess I can see why things turned out the way they did, but still…I lament that as time progresses, this will be an issue where we never see eye-to-eye, because they don’t have the shared background.
It is actually quite comical, and a bit embarrassing. Now, I realize that they are almost culturally illiterate. But not only are they illiterate to my Mormon subculture, but they are illiterate to the general Christian part of American culture in general (I acknowledge that I’m pretty illiterate to other parts of American culture…that’s what living overseas for part of your childhood will do to you). I guess I should be cheering for separation of church and state and all that jazz, but I can’t deny that, say, the Bible, and understanding of basic Christian doctrines are incorporated into American culture (I mean, even take something silly, like 4chan’s anon. “…we are legion”? There’s richness in that.)
I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be too harsh on these individuals. They are 13 and 11! I definitely wasn’t very well versed in anything about religion then, but at least I knew that Jonah wasn’t swallowed by the whale/big fish because he refused to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I may be giving my teenage or pre-teen self too much credit, but if I had to guess which testament was “about” Jesus, I’m pretty sure I would guess the New one. I mean, seriously…that one’s 50-50.
And I’m not even saying that I’m an expert at Christianity. I still am pretty patchy as to the Old Testament (other than the collective lessons I’ve had throughout my church history…somehow, I don’t think that has exposed me to the entire testament.)
This has interestingly put me in the unique situation, when I’ve talked to these individuals, of trying to teach them Bible stories, when I don’t even believe in these stories (will we move on to Book of Mormon stories? Who knows?) I don’t teach it as the church would, of course. In fact, I don’t really teach it…just assign it as reading material and let them decide what they will do.
Isn’t that ultimately funny? I guess in order not to be a hypocrite, I have to speak for Santa and whatnot.
I don’t think it will reach through. After all, as I said, when I was 11 or 13? I most certainly didn’t care. I don’t think looking up to some older “cool” role model would’ve helped that one. (Another reason I would dislike teaching younger children. I would keep thinking about when I was that age [and definitely did not care about 90% of what I was learning] and then I would become depressed about the uselessness of my endeavor.)