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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

IF/THEN paradigm of religion

I have to write a few drivel posts in between my religious, spiritual posts. Gotta keep it light and interesting. Yet, it's true that I have a lot churning in my spiritual mind. There are so many reasons why I stay religious--and particularly in my specific religion--and there are so many things that get me thinking/questioning.


I have been thinking a lot lately about the if/then ideology so prevalent in religiosity. IF you follow the commandments, THEN you are blessed. IF you look at the brass serpent on the rod, THEN you will be saved from death. IF you pay your tithing, THEN you will be favored with temporal and spiritual blessings. IF you follow the way of your church, THEN (and only then) will you reach heaven.

Except. When it doesn't work out that way. Which is often. 

Religious people sometimes accredit all of their blessings to God and living righteously. Sports figures thank God for helping them win a game. Cancer survivors thank God for saving them, or leading them to that certain doctor, inevitably curing them. Accident victims ascribe their recoveries to prayer, living faithfully, and God's will.

I am in no way being frivolous with my remarks. I do believe in a God who cares very much for His children (you and me and everyone else here) and is willing to bless us. It is just that the way we view "blessings" skews our faith. IF we are righteous, THEN we are blessed. IF we are not given an answer or an immediate blessing, THEN God's wisdom has prevailed.

It's such a secular understanding of a divine principle of God's blessings. We thank God in our prayers for our extremely comfortable homes, perhaps not considering that there are far more righteous people living in far less favorable circumstances. It can become a very egocentric "faith" principle. IF I am following my religion's precepts, THEN I will have health, ease, a nice home, work, family, happiness, and... oh yeah, eternal life. It's all about ME being given a perfect life because I am obviously super righteous.

Which would make sense if there weren't really good people dying, getting disease, making meager salaries, being abused, and having accidents. People who are more righteous and Christlike than us. So we say that it is God's will and wisdom that has made it so. We glorify ourselves (and the Priesthood) when we are healed/blessed, but absolve God and ourselves if it doesn't turn out the way we had hoped.

IF we are not healed, THEN we must not be righteous enough or asking correctly (D&C 46: 30-32). IF we are not being blessed financially, THEN we might not be paying enough tithing or fasting or... ! IF we are struggling, THEN we must have past sins for which we have not sought forgiveness.

IF we have questions or concerns, THEN we are not truly faithful.

Except. When it doesn't work out that way. Which is often.

I think we are getting it all wrong. The point of showing gratitude to an all-loving, omniscient, omnipresent God is to simply be grateful. Every single thing in this world is a blessing. Every breath of air, every day that the sun rises, every smile, every season and every person. The fact that you can move your hand to scroll down this long post is a blessing, let alone the fact that you can access the internet on an amazing computer machine or incredible phone (and probably in a comfortable home, no less).  I realize that the scriptures are rife with IF/THEN ideologies. But maybe if we stop trying to see the THENs, and instead see them always and try to be kind and loving ANYWAY, perhaps our faith will grow in God. We will see His hand everywhere and not do good BECAUSE MAYBE THEN, but just because.

Perhaps if the IF were replaced with just DO and the THEN were replaced with BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD, there would be less need for us to find a temporal and physical reason for being obedient and loving. There would be less comparisons and maybe less pride. Maybe. If we saw all things as a gift from God and hard work and sometimes old fashioned LUCK, maybe it wouldn't be so bad when we realize that our kid just had bad luck on the trampoline and broke his femur. Or that the economy blows and that's why you're making less money. Or that you're sick. All of your life's breaths have been a gift from God. Thank Him. Don't blame Him for the occasional bad luck and don't credit your righteousness for your good luck. 

DO be kind to your neighbors, BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD.
DO pay your tithing, BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD.
DO remain faithful to your spouse, BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD.
DO try to figure out your questions, BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD.

Or do all of these things because you are a good person. Because you are. And you know that you feel like an even better person when you follow the golden rule. You're happier, even when life sucks a bit. Stop looking for the THEN. Stop promoting faith rumors. Stop comparing your blessings. 

Do you feel your faith grow when people share faith-promoting stories/rumors? Do you tend to compare blessings? What are your thoughts?

3 wise comments:

Jodiane said...

I loved this post. So spot on. I have such a hard time with comparisons in the one area I am lacking, well two (a spouse and children). I hate playing this game. I used to go to Temple and in meditation try to make deals with GOD. I would say things like, "Ok God I am gonna stop making out, and spend more time on my Sunday School lesson and Stop listening to Power 92 (those were my big vices back then) and then YOU can give me my perfect husband. Before you laugh, of course I thought that way. Our whole faith structure is based on If-Then bargains/deals. The temple ceremony has all those If-thens as well. I remember the 'chewed gum' analogy to virtue, "If you keep yourself clean, then men will want you and God will make all your dreams come true. At 16 years old, I would say, "No, you keep yourself clean because you love GOD". I got it back then, that the If-Then was all wrong. The great prophetess I was back then thought, "What if no one marries you, and the deal doesn't work, then what?...if you make your choices because you love GOD, not because you expect a blessing, it works out better for everyone, and you won't hold that resentment for debts unpaid. Same thing with the Spanish Missionary Discussion on Tithing. The exact translation was, "We pay our tithing to get blessings from the LORD." I always wanted to teach it as, "We pay our tithes because we love the Lord." Also, both my parent's survived cancer. My mom had breast cancer, at the same time as her younger sister. Her sister died within 6 months of finding the cancer, my mom is still here 15 years later. I remember thinking, I hope no one says, "Oh prayers work Diane, look how the Lord blessed you" while we and others prayed just as hard for my Aunt. I guess I just really like this post. I am hoping that I get luckier in love, luckier in finance and continue to make good choices, out of my love for good and for GOD.

Liz said...

Please turn this into an article and submit it to the Ensign. It needs a wide audience.

Amanda said...

LOve this B!!