Monday, August 21, 2006

Sometimes you wonder if you're doing the right thing, then God sends you a sign and everything is clear again

My family recently received an invitation to a wedding reception. The sister of one of my brother's childhood friends is getting married, and though the ceremony is occurring in Washington, they made the gesture of sending us an invitation. Nice enough, by most standards I suppose, and yet I have it in me to be offended. For you see, there's a reason why the invitation is to the reception alone.

The people in question are Mormons, and the unelect are not permitted to sully the actual sacrament with their presence. As if that weren't offensive enough, they then expect others to happily attend a celebration of a union inaugurated in, if not quite defined by, the exclusion of otherwise valued friends and associates on the basis of religion. For my own part, I think it represents a particular lack of shame to slap people in the face and then invite them in for booze and a buffet so they can toast to your good health.

Although I am ever aware of my good fortune to have reached such a state, these occurrences make me feel even better about my atheism. I should not like to turn this post into a polemic against Mormonism or religion in general (topics for another time), and I deny nobody their right to choose their own associations along such lines as they may feel prudent.

Even so, I can't help but feel at every turn the vindication of compassionate reason. The test should rely on the humanity of a person's beliefs, not their form. A test the high-minded monothiesms seem to fail in proportion to their ability to influence social policy.

When someone's religion or politics offend me, they do so not because they use unleavened bread in the Eucharist or because they think Ann Coulter actually represents someone with the semblance of intelligence and respectability. The manner in which people choose to believe, although it often expresses itself in ways I personally find curious or amusing, is in the end irrelevant. It's what you do with those beliefs.

If you use them to abuse or degrade others, that's when I object. When, as is so often the case, they allow the expression of vile and hateful sentiments cloaked within the auspice of true revelation, it is not merely proper but right and even necessary that they are challenged. In a just world, they will not stand such scrutiny. In ours, it remains to be seen.

14 comments:

Spacecake said...

Indeed.

Erin said...

Mormons don't believe in alcohol, so there wouldn't be any booze at the reception anyway.

Laura said...

I've never heard of someone just being invited to the reception. If I didn't want them to come to the wedding, I don't think I'd invite them to the reception either. It seems kind of impolite.

Alpha-D said...

It's strange that all my life I've always attended Roman-Catholic events and in time it made me run away from the religion. As a kid I used to be a huge believer in the Roman-Catholic way; I was right, my family was right, and anybody who disagreed was going to burn in hell.

Actually at the age of 13, I was kicked out of a summercamp run by nuns and a priest. They themselves did not say they were judging me, but talked to me only as if "God was watching my sins."

My sins of course being, not falling asleep on time and listening to Eminem.

I got sick and tired of it and I don't think I have really prayed too much since.

However this year was my snapping point, I was a camp counselor at a summer sports camp and the camp owner, who I've known for years had gotten very angry at the fact that gay people exist. First speech he gave to all the campers was how gay marriage was wrong.

He stood up on a chair and yelled across the hall "Don't believe in gay marriage, no matter what anybody tells you."

And why? Cause it's a sin against god.

First thought of mine was... I really feel sorry for any kids that might be gay in the room. There were a ton of 13-16 year olds that could have already decided.

Second thought was: This is SPORTS CAMP. Why is he bringing religion into this?

I'm just sick and tired of people using God as an excuse to cast down others. They say "Only God can judge." Yet, as you pointed out, they can exclude anybody who doesn't believe the same thing. If god (lowercase 'g' here) is the one 'ultimate judge' as they are lead to believe. Then worry about yourselves and don't be afraid to sit beside that homo. It's not contagious.

Guruh Roy said...

I think you got a point here. Just like what my friend said-" Do you know what i found when i was in prayer??? I found that i'm talking to myself!".

csmc said...

I really agree with the sentiment of the post (in prayer we are talking to ourselves). I am a firm agnostic (I don't expect to figure out truly if there is a higher being or not) and have been taught as a Jew to live in the moment as best I can. Trying to just be a good person and bring happiness to earth... Part of that is treating others as I want to be treated.

I don't know what I would have done in either your situation or the wedding couple's place. I can see how it is a slap in the face... but on the other hand if they truly believe this is what their faith dictates isn't it a stab an inclusivity to be invited to the party?

unless of course they just want the gifts. In which case they are just greedy. And undeserving of your love. Jerks.

:)

_LadyP_ said...

It's very common here, in fact probably the norm, to invite only family and a few close friends to the wedding ceremony and then everyone else you want to celebrate with you to the reception.

I am spiritual but not religious and I do tend to have a bit of a rant about religion at times.

My opinion is that religion is all well and fine when practised by the individual as long as it isn't forced upon those who are not of those beliefs. I would rather not be invited to a wedding ceremony but be invited to the non-religious celebration than be invited and feel very akward standing in a church singing hymns or an equivalent that I thought were a load of brain washing non-sense.

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MathiasTCK said...

I've decided that religion can be treated as a subset of meme theory. There might not be a god of war, but there is a powerful self perpetuating war meme, etc.

Molly said...

It does seem rather hypocritical to invite someone to the reception and not the actual ceremony itself. What's the point?

Religion does have a way of creating silly little rules of exclusion.

Prodigy-Maestro said...

That was VERY well said, Lepercolony, and I really love the part where you say "the test should rely on the humanity of a person's beliefs, not their form".

But about religion, since there are many comments here on it, I find it extremely hard to remain a Christian at times. I mean, I believe that homosexuality(though not all cases) is biological but tell that to Christian friends and associates and they go into "God hates. . ." mode.

But I digress. . . it would be good to go to the reception to question why you weren't invited to the actual wedding, just to see if that were the least bit uncomfortable with expaining their actions. But then again, it's a reception. . .

SKY said...

It seems to me that by extending the reception invitation, they meant to be inclusive not exclusive. There is not much they can do to change firm religious rules.

LeperColony said...

Oh, I have no doubt that this invitation represents, on their part, some effort of inclusion. But that's the real insult.

To make the matter more clear, imagine instead of 2006 that the year was 1956. Instead of Washington, the wedding was going to happen in Alabama. And rather than religion, the division is racial.

That a black family would is invited even to the reception of a white wedding would be, from a certain point of view, courageous. And yet, the reality is that the gesture of tolerance disguises what is an injustice of unspeakable dimensions.

MathiasTCK said...

The Mormons get away with it partly because they are perceived to be a minority. However IIRC they are the fastest growing religion in the world. They are also one of the largest supporters of: The Boy Scouts, The Republican party, and other large powerful main stream US institutions.

I heard an NPR article on Utah. Apparently it is the reddest state of all. It's where Bush goes to make relatively public speaches. The mayor of the town he went to speak at wasn't too pleased though. It appears he also invited some of Bush's opponents, and spoke against at the resulting rally.