Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Infinite Variety

Sixteen months after resigning my membership in the Mormon church, I continue to marvel at how my perspectives have changed and continue to change.  And it's not just the big theological things, on which my views have certainly changed.  It's the little things too.  Some possibly surprising.

Growing up in the Southern California Mormon Bubble, going to BYU, etc., one tends to spend countless hours in certain buildings and types of surroundings.  They end up coloring one's whole world view.  Endless hallways with carpeted floors and sometimes walls, generic classrooms, the same mass-produced art on countless white-painted cinderblock or plastered wallboard walls, imitation wood veneers.  It's all very comforting and consistent and bland.  Eventually one starts to subliminally assume that most of the world looks like that, especially in a church setting.

But now, having emerged from the bubble, somehow I'm noticing that most of the world doesn't look anything like that.  That probably sounds kind of stupid, because it's so obvious.  I'm not sure why, but somehow I just seem to be seeing the amazing variety of life and of human experience much more clearly now.  I guess that's because I've taken off those Mormon-colored judgmental lenses that were shoved onto my face when I was a tiny boy and which I was told were the only "true" and safe way to look at life.

But now, I go to church at St. Paul's, and I see the terrazo floors and the stone walls, not cheap carpet and faux wood grain formica, and I realize that the people who worship there in those surroundings have probably never set foot inside a bland, carpeted plain vanilla Mormon chapel in their lives and probably never will, yet they are just as Christian as the Mormons are--some probably more so.

I think of places I've visited in Salzburg, Seoul, Hong Kong, Edinburgh, some of them centuries and even millennia old.  Places with no carpet or correlated "inspirational" paintings.  Places that have never seen the footfall of a Mormon missionary and are unlikely to.  Totally untouched by everything that colored my whole world view growing up.

When I was inside the bubble, I tended to think of all those places as somehow deprived, even second-rate.  Because they had never come into contact with "the gospel."  It's embarrassing now to realize what an arrogant judgmental bastard I was when fueled by the benign bigotry of assumed spiritual aristocracy.  Eventually, I somehow thought, every place in the world where "the gospel" spread would come to look like my neighborhood in Southern California or in Utah.  I don't know where that idea came from; maybe from the fact that everywhere I'd seen "the gospel" permeate, well, they all did end up looking basically the same.  So I just extrapolated and assumed it would slowly happen everywhere.

Now I say OMG no way, God forbid that should ever happen.  I'm ashamed at the narrowness of mind I used to have.  I know some of my formerly Mormon friends are now firmly agnostic and bordering on atheist.  But I still retain the basics of my Christian faith.  And so I realize now that if God really did create the whole earth, and the scriptures are right to say that He loves all of his creation equally, then there is no reason to think the whole world will one day look like Utah County.  How horribly bland and boring that would be.

I hope the world will stay just as it is: an endlessly fascinating mosaic of innumerable variations in cultures, lives, choices, arts, music, right down to the little tiny details like what people put on their floors.  I can never hope to experience or learn even a small part of this infinite variety during my life, but having escaped the Mormon bubble, I find myself hungry and thirsty to experience as much of it as possible.  So ironic that the Mormons preach about the need to be "born again," yet it's only after I left that church that I really felt born again in every way.  A new heart, new courage, new confidence, a new way of seeing the world and every fascinating detail in it. 

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