Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Of Bakers, Florists, Photographers, Of Organists and King

by Janice Graham

Don't know if you caught the nod to Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter . . of shoes and ships and sealing wax, etc." there in our title. The whole world seems to have followed a white rabbit into a dark Wonderland.

Here's the deal. We presume everyone has heard about the baker, the florist, and the photographer who declined to service gay wedding celebrations. Well, how about a church organist? That would be me.

The baker, the florist, and the photographer are being punished. Businesses have closed down. I heard on the news that the florist may even lose her house. But she says she's willing to endure persecution and financial ruin for her religious and moral convictions for the sake of her children and grandchildren.

Now, incredibly, my church at the top, has gone pro-gay. Don't think so? It has officially given money to a gay activist organization run by proud and practicing sodomites. (As far as I know it hasn't given money to organizations like the Family Research Council.) It orchestrated and pushed through a Utah bill with special protections for individuals who are extremely public about pushing all things LGBTQI+ on everybody, when it could have supported a bill like Indiana's which protects individual religious freedom. It agreed to allow openly "gay" boys into its Boy Scout troops. It changed its university honor code to allow open homosexuality and the advocacy of.

I could go on but those are just some of the things we know about. And if we know plenty, there are probably many more.
These changes in the church have caused quite a bit of reflection. Here I am a lifelong member, a conservative grandma who plays the organ in her church meetings. I have strong, informed, Biblical beliefs about sexual morality. I've been paying attention. I know that sexual sins too disgusting to be described in polite society have now been given new names and become celebrated. I know that whatever you call it, however you falsely characterize it, all things LGBTQI+ both in principle and in practice are wrong and hurtful. I don't care how popular or strong this modern movement is or how many people are doing it or how many of my own relatives, friends, or leaders are giving in to it, celebrating it, or involved in it. Nothing can change its physical and spiritual harmfulness. Christ, the author of all truth and goodness and morality, is my King, just as he is the baker's, the florist's, and the photographer's. I am also a member of a formerly extremely conservative church that has lately been "evolving" into something quite different: "understanding, inclusive, nondiscriminatory" when it comes to these sexual sins. In other words, the opposite of conservative, on this and other important issues. Down the rabbit hole.

My church is also very demanding. We're constantly being reminded of our many family and church responsibilities. One is that in order to enter our most sacred houses of worship, we have to do certain things which are monitored at periodic interviews where we must answer certain questions. One of those concerns our full loyalty to the current leaders. This is obviously now a problem for people like me who value everlasting truth. Another is asking whether we pay a certain amount of money (tithes) to the Church. Others ask whether we wear the special underwear, regularly attend church meetings, and refrain from alcohol, smoking, tea and coffee. No, no Starbucks for us. If we do not pass this interview we cannot enter our temples where, among other things, family members' marriage ceremonies are performed.

But there's more. To be considered an active member I also feel required to serve in the church in several ways. Currently, one of those services I perform is that of organist, a position I put a good amount of time, money, and effort into. I took lessons, go to workshops, purchased the special shoes and lots of music, and go to the chapel and practice often, even everyday if the hymns I have to play are extra difficult. Then with ice-cold hands and a prayer in my heart I perform, playing prelude and postlude and accompanying the hymn singing for worship services, hoping I won't make any bad mistakes that would detract from the spirit of the meeting. This is actually quite stressful and takes a lot out of me, but I'm hoping it will get easier with time and experience. 

And there are more things. Baby blessings, baptisms, missions, conferences, education, family history, temple work, family traditions, service projects, all of which are suddenly compromised. They all have to do with a church which now inexplicably supports things I know to be wrong.    

Strange, as an active fifth-generation member of this church I never thought about any of this very much until recently. I don't think any of us do. All in all, completely apart from working on my own inward religiousity/relationship with Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, belonging to this church is quite complicated and all-encompassing, and now quite troubling. If in my personal life and church activity I do not do all of the exteriors mentioned above, and much more, I will most likely be discussed in private meetings, singled out as "less active" or "inactive," made a project of, and perhaps be called in to a leader's office and pressured, questioned, lectured, or chastised. Worst of all, I could be refused entrance into the aforementioned temples, which translates into being estranged on something very important from my own family. As the red queen said, "Off with her head!"

 I don't know if any non-churchgoer can understand how such an institution is not just a huge part of our lives, but everyday life itself. We personally do lots of stuff our church says to do and not do---every single day. Good things, yes, but our actual religion seems to be quite another thing. In other words, one can go through all the many external performances, feel a lot of emotions, interact with a lot of other people, participate in all the trappings, but have no truly religious beliefs or convictions at all. I know because I used to be that way. It was in mid-life that I finally did my spiritual homework. But that's another story, like Through the Looking Glass. 

Here comes the question: Is not this organist suddenly put into the same boat as the florist, the baker, the wedding photo maker, albeit not quite as directly? Against my deep moral and religious convictions I am being intimidated or compelled to participate in and give precious resources to an entity that now quite suddenly and publicly supports and celebrates things I believe and know to be wrong and harmful. And if I don't get into step I'll be persecuted and punished in ways that are extremely hurtful to me.

My church has lots of truth, but apparently has adopted some of the current world's lies as well which are now being imposed on people like me. These lies and the pressure to accept them are rapidly gathering strength and power. They will no doubt expand within the church. As someone said, that which is encouraged will increase. Looks like my unalienable right to follow my King and live and worship according to the dictates of my conscience (see the U.S. Constitution) is being infringed upon as I participate within my own church. When will I wake up from this bad dream?

And yet it's a chance to turn to Christ. We're supposed to rejoice in the chance to be persecuted for his sake. It's a hard doctrine not for the faint of heart. God help us.

No comments: