Part 4 of 4
[continued from above]
Despite all the bad stuff I've said about the church, I'll still gladly agree that the church does much that is wonderful and good. If ever a natural disaster such as a hurricane devastates a city, the church will supply some of the first volunteers to help with the clean-up, rescuing of disaster site victims, and re-building. The church teaches its members to believe in some weird stuff that I don't approve of, but it also teaches its members to be kind and giving and polite and there's nothing wrong with those things. It has built fantastic temples (I love awesome architecture) and thus beautified the ground on which they stand. It has helped people kick drug addictions, helped the old, sick, and feeble, and transformed hard-core street gang criminals into peaceful, loving disciples of Christ. I am grateful it has done (and continues to do) these things.
I'm even grateful for the path the church set before me. I didn't always understand why I was following it, and sometimes I thought I'd made a terrible mistake by continuing to follow it. But ultimately, it's that path that led me (as a missionary) to Michigan where I met the beautiful woman with whom I'd share 26 years of marriage, to Detroit where I met some of the people I've most loved and admired, and from Utah (as a returned missionary) back to Michigan to live with my wife in her home, thence to become a piano teacher in Mt. Clemens and thence to also become an organist and choir accompanist for a Lutheran church in New Baltimore, and that's where I met the two people who today are my brother-husband and my lady-lover in a poly-fi V. Without the church, I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't have met the wonderful, beautiful people I've met. I wouldn't have the friends I now have. So even if much of it was serendipity at work, I still can't deny that I owe the church a debt I could never repay.
When I left the church, I left in a state of bitterness, anger, and a determination never to forget or forgive. I can't claim to have gotten over all of that, but I feel that I've gotten over most of it. Today I remain separate from the church simply because the church and I aren't a compatible match. Our beliefs are too divergent to allow us to live together in peace. It wouldn't be good for me to return to the church, and it wouldn't be good for the church either. I'm grateful for the single trail I and the church hiked on together for so many years, but now we've passed a fork in the trail. The church took the fork to the right; I took the fork to the left.
I don't blame the church for having a "brainwashing culture." That's just what happens when one generation passes its memes onto the next generation. My parents didn't mean to screw me up by indoctrinating me with their beliefs. They honestly wanted the best for me; namely, eternal marriage and glory in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. What decent parent would want their child to have anything less? and could my parents, in turn, if they wanted to, blame their parents? No, and for exactly the same reason. A devoted Christian father and mother always want their children to inherit Heaven and companionship with God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit, and nothing less. You know how they say it's the thought that counts? Well, I appreciate the thought my parents had in the gift they tried to give me. It saddens me to have rejected that gift. I know my parents must fear for my soul, but I appreciate the respect they've shown for my chosen path in life (even though they don't know about the poly part).
I suppose you'll accuse me of trying to spoonfeed you a feel-good story so that you'll believe me without the requisite evidence. Alas, the best evidence I can offer is the knowledge that I have of the church and its culture -- its Utahn (and Michiganian) cultures at any rate. I don't know much about the church's Oregonian culture, though coincidentally my wife was born in Oregon and is now buried in the sleepy little town that was her birthplace.
If I could, I'd take you with me in a time machine so you could see all the good things I'd experienced in the church. I wouldn't even want to show you the bad stuff. I'd like you to believe me, but I don't demand it. I respect your right to accuse me of lying, and don't begrudge you making the accusation public. Each person will have to decide for themselves whether they think I'm telling the truth, I suppose. Maybe I'm just a really slick liar and that's why so many people take my story for granted? I am surprised, though, that you're so suspicious toward me about this. It's an accusation I didn't see coming, so color me clueless I guess.
In a way, though, none of that matters now. Some may believe I've personally met a bunch of black people; others may not believe. But what matters right now is that I start learning whatever I can about minority cultures, from the people who belong to those cultures. I believe I've met some such people here on this forum, and that makes me happy. It's a start. We can all agree to start from here, can't we? regardless of what was or wasn't reality in the past. It's an imperfect world, so I, at least, am willing to settle for that.
Don't know that it matters, but, for the record: I solemnly promise that I only have one account on this site, and that I am the only person who posts using that account. In a word: Kevin = kdt26417 and kdt26417 = Kevin. It's exactly that simple, and not one bit more complicated. There's no conspiracy here that I'm aware of.
There is one final thought. Kind of along the lines of, I don't *really* *know* anything. For all I know, I could be just a brain in a vat. In a similar fashion, I suppose it's possible that all my memories of my past are false memories. Maybe it's stuff I think happened, but it really didn't happen. [shrug] Who knows.
Reminds me a bit of Blade Runner, where the one secretary had pictures of herself as a child, a full-length memory of her childhood, and stuff like taking piano lessons, which is how she could explain her ability to play the piano. And yet, the truth was, she was just a replicant. Created maybe a couple of years ago, implanted with false memories, coincidental knowledge, and fabricated photos to complete the illusion that she was a human being. It's sobering to imagine what she must have felt like when she realized that truth.
Or like the early scene in the Matrix, where Thomas Anderson (a.k.a. Neo) is offered a red and a blue pill. The blue pill will restore him to his apparent reality, a regular old city in which he has a nine-to-five cubicle job and hacks on the side. But he chooses to take the red pill, in order to get a glimpse of true reality. Once he's swallowed that pill, he soon discovers that his whole life has actually been an illusion, while his atrophied body has been wasting away in a glass shell, wired up so he could serve as a battery to the computers and robots that control the real world. In less than a minute's time, Neo's "real life" as Thomas Anderson has disappeared and Neo has become the real person who he is.
Fascinating movies, well worth the watching, and refreshingly thought-provoking. But we still have to decide what we're going to try to do in the world we seem to live in, even if we know we might find out that this world is entirely illusionary. Are moral/ethical principles nullified by a state of non-reality? I personally say no. We're always obligated to do the best we can with whatever reality we have as we understand it.
Now I apologize for giving offense, but if I believe (X) and (Y) has happened to me, then I consider it okay to work from that belief and post it here as the honest memory I have of the past in my brain as I know it. I hope you won't begrudge me that much freedom.
I guess the big question is: Did I just derail this thread? Allow me to suggest that the answer is no: Reason being, we're talking about cultural issues, and even if the focus shifts from black culture to church culture, it's still on-topic in that sense. Still ... we are getting off on an awfully big tangent here. Sorry about that.
Love means never having to say, "Put down that meat cleaver!"