February 7, 2010

My Sermon: Gifts of the Spirit

Posted in Christianity, faith and doubt, Mormonism tagged , , , at 6:18 am by Gaia

Last Sunday I gave a sermon in my Mormon congregation. One of the kind of nice things about Mormonism is that there is no clerical class. Lay people run everything, which means that we all — men and women — take turns giving the sermons. Most Mormons do this once every three years or so.

My topic was gifts of the spirit, and I saw it as a chance to talk progressively about Jesus, the divinity within us all, and diversity leading to unity. I gave this talk to about 350 Mormons, and it was very well received, despite my mentioning of my complex relationship with the Church.

Here are some excerpts:

…{Paul tells the Corinthians that} Just as the body needs various limbs and members, so the church needs people with different spiritual gifts, with each person making her own contribution to the welfare of the whole.

When I read these verses, I see Paul telling us that diversity contributes to unity. We all may have different gifts, some people may be strong and others may be weak, but when one of us suffers, no matter how unimportant that person may seem, the whole body of the Christ suffers. We are to care for one another, no matter our differences.

This idea of diversity contributing to unity is meaningful for me personally. I’m not someone who always feels like I fit easily into standard Mormon molds. I have a somewhat complicated relationship to the church, a relationship characterized by faith and doubt and hope and despair. But despite all my weaknesses and all my quirks, I love the idea that there’s a place for me within the body of Christ. That I have something special, something unique to offer. And that when I suffer, in some way, to some degree, my community suffers as well. Because I’m important. Every single one of us is important, Paul tells us. I find that touching.

And later on in my talk:

My own mother is a person who has a divine ability to care. When my father died when I was a baby, she wanted nothing more than to return back to her home town, so she could be near her parents and sister. But she stayed in Southern California because my brother and I were the only grandchildren on my father’s side. After losing their son, she couldn’t bear to move away and take me and my brother away from my father’s parents. So she stayed. For 25 years she stayed, looking after them in their old age until their death. I’ll never forget when Grandpa was in the hospital nearing the end of his life. The nurse came in and announced my mom, saying, Your daughter-in-law is here!. With tears in his eyes Grandpa said, No. My daughter.  This is my daughter,” as he took her hand. He and Grandma had come a long way. As a Presbyterian family, they had initially been a bit worried about their son marrying a Mormon woman. But by the end of their lives, they certainly could see my mom’s gift for loyalty, and loving and caring, and they adored her for it.

And the very end:

I’ve always loved that Hindu greeting Namaste, which means “The divine in me honors the divine in you.” It cuts to the chase. It goes to the heart of who we are – divine children of Heavenly Parents, working together in this constant process of becoming holy. 

January 28, 2010

Thoughts on being a Non-Initiate

Posted in Christianity, faith and doubt, God, interfaith experiences, Mormonism, Relationships, religion, school and academics, Spirituality tagged , , , , , at 6:09 am by Eostre

I am taking a class this semester on the Literature of Mormon Women. It is a great topic, and I am really excited about it. There is one thing that has me a little apprehensive, though. I am the only non-Mormon in the class. I know, this shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is really a strange situation, for multiple reasons.

First, the obvious, it is weird being the only one in the class who isn’t an initiate. I don’t know the lingo, I don’t recognize most of the names, and I didn’t know before last week that the Temple and the Tabernacle were two different buildings. I am on the outside looking in. I have studied Mormonism, but that is very different from actually being a Mormon. Sure, I can name the four canonical texts, but I don’t use them for my devotions. All the knowledge in the world isn’t enough to bridge that gap.

The second, and less obvious reason, is that I have not been in a really religious environment for almost two years. My faith since coming to Claremont has been largely a private thing, I haven’t participated in any faith-based communion for a while, mostly on purpose. Going to this class I have been struck by how far I have gone from when I was comfortable in an insular religious environment. It doesn’t matter that this doesn’t happen to be my religion, the attitudes are strikingly similar even though the trappings aren’t. There is a certain way that religious people speak, think, and act, that I have been away from for a long time. If you are (or have been) religious in America I am sure you know what I mean. There is an insularity, an us and them mentality, that I had forgotten about.

This is challenging me in completely unexpected ways. I expected the discomfort of being the only non-Mormon in a class, but I did not expect the vertigo that I experience when I walk through that door and into a world that I don’t think I belong in any more. That religious life and mindset just doesn’t fit comfortably anymore. It’s like trying to jam my feet into shoes I outgrew a year ago.

The semester has only just started, but I can tell that this is going to be a huge personal challenge. Can I re-enter that world? Do I want to?

January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson Strikes Again

Posted in Anti-Christian Message, Christianity, God, Jesus, religion, Suffering, Theodicy, Victim Blaming tagged , , , at 11:11 pm by Gina Messina

Like the rest of the world, I have been stunned and deeply saddened by this incredible tragedy that has struck Haiti.  In the wake of such devastation, I have wondered why such awful tragedies occur, why so many had to lose their lives in such a tragic manner.  That being said, I refuse to think that God had any role in creating such suffering.  Why is it that when such terrible things occur some feel it necessary to justify the devastation by blaming the victim?  This is exactly what Pat Robertson has done.  In wake of such tragedy, he felt it necessary to go on national television and claim that the people of Haiti are “cursed,” made a “pact to the devil,” and that they must “make a great turning towards God.”   What he succeeded in doing with such hateful statements is further perpetuate intolerance and the myth of superiority while slandering the Christian message.

Pat Robertson calls himself a Christian.  He preaches to millions and many hang on his every word with the belief that Robertson will lead them directly to a life of eternity with their Lord.  However, Robertson’s message of hate clearly demonstrates that what he preaches is not a Christian message.  In fact, Pat Robertson has completely missed the boat and is teaching a message that utterly conflicts with that of Jesus. 

Robertson is not calling for his parishioners to love their neighbors.  Instead he focuses on labeling those he finds fault with and claims them responsible for tragedy in the world.  He warned his 700 Club viewers that “Many of those people involved with Adolf Hitler were Satanists. Many of them were homosexuals. The two seem to go together.”[1]  Robertson also called for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, stated that 9/11 occurred as a punishment from God because of legalized abortion in America, and that Hurricane Katrina was a direct result of New Orleans being a sinful city.  Now with his message about the earthquake in Haiti, Robertson has linked every Haitian to devil worship and deserving of their suffering.  How is this a Christian message?

Although Robertson represents himself as a Christian he apparently is unfamiliar with Jesus’ message of love your neighbor.  Evidently he has not read Jesus’ call to not judge others.  It seems that the Beatitudes are unknown to him, yet Pat Robertson has made himself the face of Christianity in America.  What I wonder is why is anyone standing for this? Why do so many listen to his non-Christian message?  Why do we continue to allow him to preach, air his television show, and act as commentator? At what point will Pat Robertson be held accountable for spreading such hate?

See video of Robertson on Haiti as well as the Haitian ambassador’s response at the following link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/13/pat-robertson-haiti-curse_n_422099.html


[1] Bob Moser. Anti-gay religious crusaders claim homosexuals helped mastermind the Holocaust.”

January 5, 2010

Mary Daly: Radical Elemental Feminist and Sinner

Posted in Christianity, feminist theology, Patriarchy, Women in Religion tagged , , , , at 11:16 pm by Gina Messina

I was greatly saddened Sunday evening, January 3, 2010 when I received an email stating that Feminist Theologian Mary Daly had passed away that morning at the age of 81.  As a doctoral student in Women Studies in Religion, I have been greatly influenced by the work of Daly.  I can still remember the first time I read a piece of her work.  It was during my undergraduate career at Cleveland State University in a course entitled Women and Religion.  I was immediately impacted and wanted to know more about this bold, strong and courageous woman.  Shortly thereafter I applied to a graduate program in Religious Studies and became better acquainted with Daly’s work. 

While I must admit that I am troubled by some of Daly’s claims and disagree with some of her contentions, I have also been significantly influenced by her foundational work in feminist theology, her demand for women’s liberation and Spinning of new tales and new ideas.  Daly called for women to have the courage to be, to experience a new fall out of patriarchal systems and into a new being that allows women to discover their capabilities, the dynamic power women possess within themselves. 

According to Mary E. Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), “Her contributions to feminist theology, philosophy, and theory were many, unique, and if I may say so, world-changing. She created intellectual space; she set the bar high. Even those who disagreed with her are in her debt for the challenges she offered…She always advised women to throw our lives as far as they would go. I can say without fear of exaggeration that she lived that way herself.”[1]

While I never had the opportunity to meet Mary Daly, I have no doubt been inspired by her brilliance, courage, wit, and spirit.  My feminist and theological views have been shaped through her influence. I have been able to spiral into freedom and rename and reclaim my own experiences; I have found my own creative power.  Thank you for having the courage to sin big Mary Daly. 

“There are and will be those who think I have gone overboard. Let them rest assured that this assessment is correct, probably beyond their wildest imagination, and that I will continue to do so.” – Mary Daly

 


[1] Feminist Studies in Religion Bulletin January 3, 2010.