Monday, April 19, 2010

Time for YBFF to Go Home

I am having a hard time falling in love with the new christian value of "love" - or at least what it appears to have become.

Case in my rather blunt point: I asked a group of kids the other day what they thought it meant to love God.

Now, that is not as weird as it sounds. We have my youngest boys football friends (hereby referred to as the YBFF) over often to play X-box and to stink up my living room.

The YBFF quickly gave me a laundry list of things not to do – as close to a laundry list as they have ever voluntarily been - being teen boys and all. And they were fast about responding because I would not plug the Internet back in until I got an answer.

Don't swear, don't drink, don't smoke, don't have sex, don't make fun of people. This is a good listing of stuff not to do. As a collection of "nos", it is a substantial presentation.

So..., here we are sitting around... not doing stuff. Right On! Heaven Bound!

There are two problems as I see it - if we automatically ignore the YBFF's socks. First, we have taken a decidedly positive activity, a pro-active approach and somehow flipped it into a giant negative. Didn't "christian love" ever mean to actually do anything? I used to think so. Back when I was young and smelly.

And two; is the popular road to heaven these days postered with luscious billboards depicting activities in which we can't engage? Being a Mormon (and a homosexual) I understand the principal of self denial. I am truly coming to understand it's wisdom. But denying ones self is not the end. It's not even that our increased ability to not-do is helping someone else, or that, by virtue of the fact that we are not doing anything, someone else will profit in any way. The idea, to my understanding, has never been to save up on stuff we're not doing in order to help anyone else. Just to deny for the sake of denial is, as so well put by the YBFF, really dumb.

And, yes, by the way. The path is postered with stuff we cant do. Especially in Europe.

To not have. This is not the Christianity of my understanding.

By the same token, downplaying the concept of self denial in the world of Mormondom is naive. It's here, and rightly so. A religion that does not require some sort of sacrifice is a club. But somehow, in our minds, repression or lack of obsession it has become the end-all.

So I asked my son's friends on an X-box break of my own making what they thought we are supposed to do.

Go to church. Pause. Not see R rated movies. And we're back to the do-not-do list.

We have come to equate our own enjoyment as unchristian-like behavior. And yet, "Man is that he might have joy...". There is virtue in finding the middle ground, the path through one and to the other. There is wisdom in the right combination of doing and not doing.

Grandma said that if there is a smile on their face they have to be doing something wrong. Even as a parent I look for the laughter level as an indicator that I might need to stop reading the paper and supervise. They are having too much fun. Something must be wrong. OK, poor example. With the YBFF its time to pull the plug if it gets too noisy...or too quiet.

Better off sitting in the middle of the room and playing X-box with the boys. At least I'm doing something.


  1. So, what if I am gay and do everything else right? Do we get graded on the curve?

  2. I think you've touched on an real cultural issue in the church.

    In working with the youth, I've noticed that they are very intent on making sure they avoid doing the things that God doesn't want them to do.

    But, finding out what God *does* want them, personally, to do seems to be more of a foreign concept.

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  4. My decidedly non-religious 15 year old son is my best example of Christlike behavior. Granted, I am what many would characterize as a very permissive parent and the the do-not-do list is probably much shorter for him than it is for your YBFFs. However, I have seen him stand up to friends who use the word gay disparagingly... specifically told a friend that it wasn't cool to say, "If you like that movie you must be gay". Jacob replied, "Hey man that's not cool. And if you aren't comfortable with that, it's your problem." He helped an opposing player during a rugby game with water and a hand up, "Because mom, that's what you do." He acts in kindness, and mostly, accepts people for where they are. He even told me once that it made him uncomfortable that I was so critical of George W. Bush, "He's probably a good dad." He doesn't see the do-not-list, and always looks for the good in people. He is often the bridge between his Mormon friends and his non-Mormon friends because even now he sees that they have more in common than not.

  5. I think that, all too often, we forget to ask what Jesus would make of these lists. He was, in fact, pretty clear: those who miss the forest for the trees (making lists of "do's" and "don't's", and following them scrupulously) are "hypocrites" and "empty tombs". It's not about what we do, or don't do, but the spirit in which we do it. Like the author of 1 John points out, God is love; "we love because he first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God', yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:19--21).

    Our Brothers and Sisters aren't just the people we like, or agree with; loving each other means embracing people we're afraid of, or don't understand, just as much as it means loving our friends. Any list we create, I think, should be the incidental product of our purpose: to follow the Golden Rule.