looking outward

There's been a lot of discussion in the wake of potential Mormon activist excommunications. There are those that defend Kate Kelly and John Dehlin, and there are those that defend the LDS church.  And then there are the few that abstain from defending, advocating both love and faith without judgement.  In my eagerness to have a well-crafted opinion on everything, sometimes I forget that it's not my place.  As my cousin pointed out, we can't possibly know the nuances of the situation.  We should not forget that this is a story about individuals, albeit in the context of various causes.  It makes me wonder if a variant of the Ring Theory of Kvetching needs to be applied here.

Complaint, judgement, discussion, and action all have their places, but it's hard to define their boundaries.  In the church context, they help us work toward things like gender equality and finding a place for alternative families.  But, I must remind myself: these are not the biggest issues in the world, nor in the church.  In some ways they're indulgent. They're centered around my feelings and experiences.  It's easy to see what's wrong and suggest changes: I'm proposing changes to my world to make life better for me and people like me.

We need to work on the things close to home in order to be more functional people.  If I'm struggling with mental health issues, I may not be able to focus on my family's needs.  If my family is having problems, I'm probably not going to prioritize my community.  If I don't have a strong support network, I may not be able to think about global issues. That's normal.  Certainly we must take time to heal and strengthen ourselves, our families, and our communities at each stage before we can look outward, but that should be our goal; we should try to move our thoughts and actions to be as far out on the ring of influence as possible.

I'm lucky enough to feel that there are people out there that need the time and attention much more than I do. That doesn't mean that the gender and social issues that impact me aren't important—they certainly are—but it does mean that I should probably spend proportionally less time and effort on them.  For instance, instead of talking about gender policies in the church, we could discuss how to make sure that all the children of the church are well-nourished.  Or we could move past the church to talk about how many people need to be dewormed.

It's harder to fuel discussion about these things because it's further from home.  What can I possibly say that's helpful?  Many people have the perspective that they can just give money as they feel motivated and then go back to talking about their own hot issues.  (Or they waste money on inefficient service projects to feel good.)  But what if we put as much time and effort into these issues as we have to ordaining women?  What is the church going to say?  No, we can't.  We need to build malls and support legislation on traditional marriage.  Probably not; I think they would actually listen, and it'd be really nice for the Relief Society to live up to its name more fully.

I'm blessed right now with a phase of life where I can look outward.  I don't expect everyone to be there, and I certainly won't be able to stay there continually, but I think everyone should want to be there.  I gave a talk at church recently that ended with the following idea.
Es fácil pasarse el tiempo trabajando en las cosas pequeñas, pero eso es como recoger granos de arena una a una para despejar el camino. Les recomiendo que en vez de eso, encuentren el obstáculo más grande [...] y deshágase de él.
Roughly translated: It's easy to spend our time working on the little things, but that's like picking up grains of sand one by one to clear the road. I recommend that instead, we find the biggest obstacle and dispose of it.  There, I was talking about becoming a better person, but it applies to activism as well.  This means thinking beyond ourselves, and thinking beyond the church.

So, what's the biggest obstacle on the road to a better world?

1 comment:

Bill Barlow said...

This crisis has exposed a problem in the Church. Not a problem of gender equality or rights for gays, but of direction. We get caught up in these matters that are only marginally important looking at the entire Church doctrine because we have forgotten our true and ultimate purpose: building Zion. If we focused on that, we would be devoting much more time and energy to relieving the poor and the afflicted. In the process of consecrating ourselves to help others, the differences in questions about ordaining women will fade in importance.