Thursday, November 14, 2013

Learning from the "Other"

There they are.

They may wave a rainbow flag.  They may wear heavy eyeliner, dark make-up, and black clothes.  Maybe they sit quietly to themselves, read books, and wear nose piercings.  Maybe they smoke or drink beer.  They may not be mormon or they may have not been to church in years.

Who are they?

Sometimes we may think of them as the other.  We may not see them as children of our heavenly father but some sort of other species all together.  We may love them but from afar.  Many times we are afraid of them, whoever "they" are.

I'm guilty as anyone as judging others outside of our cultural comfort zone.  Even with my views that I feel challenge the mormon culture social norms, I'll still be afraid of others.  I'll be afraid of being hurt by their opinions and lose myself to inactivity.

I did something different this week.

I thought, "I know where I stand on things.  Would it really hurt to get someone else's perspective?  Am I really afraid of being corrupted?  Isn't to love someone to know them?"

So I read two articles this week.  One was a blog post by a gay gentlemen and the other was a blog post on a male feminist ally.  I was afraid of what I would read even with the confidence I had in my stand in my own opinions.  Funny enough, I actually learned something.  And you want to know what?  I did come to have a feeling of love for these authors just by stepping out of my comfort zone.

I didn't agree with everything I read but I found a lot of common ground with these authors.  The gay author, more or less, argued and warned against codependency in family relationships--especially in romantic ones.  I thought this was actually a great thing to talk about since it is rampant in our society.  The feminist ally talked about things that can be done to become an ally to women.  He talked about great stuff like not objectifying women.  I was afraid that we wouldn't agree on views of masculinity but I found that he had many of the same views that I did.

I learned from someone else's opinion.  I didn't really change my own opinions.  If anything, I actually felt like I was strengthened in them.  I saw how valuable a different perspective was and then I realized how valuable my opinion is.

When Joe and I started this blog 20 months ago, I didn't know what it was going to be about.  I knew I wanted to talk about the silly geeky thoughts I had during Sunday School.  I knew I wanted to talk about geek culture and mormons in geek culture.  As I've written posts for this blog I've come to see how passionate I am about Mormon culture as well.

The LDS culture is very xenophobic.  I don't think we even realize it.  We place such a huge emphasis on the family and we are all about protecting the family.  The thing about this is that fear is a huge part of it.  We are so afraid of anything outside of our bubble that it prevents us from doing missionary work and even living commandments.  Yes, we need resiliency to be faithful but we would be missing out on learning so much if we didn't step outside of that comfortable bubble we've come accustomed to.

This goes both ways too.  Many less active or inactive brothers and sisters still have a very strong relationship to the savior and testimony.  They may have been hurt before and left the church not so much because of the doctrine but because of the culture.  They may be afraid to come back to church because they don't want to be hurt again.  For many of these brothers and sisters, their emotional wounds can go very deep and be very traumatic.  They need our support and love even if they don't come back to church.

Think of the sons of Mosiah.  They went on a mission to the Lamanites.  The Lamanite people had a culture vastly different from the Nephites and had developed a new religion.  If they had always thought of the Lamanites as the "other" they would have never gone to their countries to preach the gospel.  The sons of Mosiah took a very dangerous risk but because they did, thousands came to the gospel.

There may be gays that support gay marriage.  There may be feminists that support safe sex to be taught in schools in addition to abstinence.  There may be a democrat in your ward.  (Gasp!)  But these children of God are not some other species.  They are your brothers and sisters.  Hear them out.  Listen to what they have to say.  Have lunch with them.  Invite them to a game night.  Get to know them and you will love them.

"But Stephen, what about our children?!" some of you may say.  Exactly!  What about our children.  Do we want to raise them to be bigots and make fun of anything different?  Do we want to raise them to be swayed with anything new and to be seduced by wicked traditions and lack resiliency in the outside world?  My cousins were raised in New York City.  They are some of the most loving and accepting individuals I know.  I've trusted them with knowledge about myself before telling the rest of my family.

My younger sister and brother didn't have many rules growing up.  In some ways it made me a little undisciplined but it also showed me that my parents truly trusted me.  They taught us correct principles and we governed ourselves.  It's a scary thought to expose our children to environments and peoples that seem strange to us.  To me, it is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children and I'm thankful for this gift given to me by my parents.

Let me conclude by saying that I'm thankful to have different people in my life.  I see these beautifully imperfect souls who remind me of my own humanity.  They humble me with much I don't know and have given me a gift to serve them with the knowledge I can share.


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