Friday, March 14, 2014

Person vs. Product; Ritual vs. Relationship

He was so cute. I was pulling out of my parking spot at the grocery store the other day, and I saw a young father carrying his little boy toward their car.*

“Bye,” I heard in a young clear voice. I turned and saw the little boy waving at me, smiling from ear to ear. “Bye,” he exuberantly called. “Bye!” I smiled and waved back. So cute. My own children have done the same thing – waved at total strangers, pure joy on their face, not realizing that their parents would never dream of doing such a thing.

As I turned and saw the man and his son in my rear view mirror, other thoughts came unbidden into my mind. I thought about this beautiful little boy and the hopes and aspirations of his father for him and I wondered – what if this little boy turns out to be gay? How would his father feel about that?  Would the beautiful exuberance I had just witnessed be someday crushed? Would this boy be rejected by his parents?

These thoughts quickly brought others to mind. Assuming this young father to be LDS, I wondered how this little boy would be raised. I wondered if the boy would be raised to go to Primary, to learn the words to “I Hope They Call Me On a Mission,” and “Army of Helaman”; to be a Cub Scout; to be a worthy deacon; to aspire to someday serve a mission; to be taught to believe that being a faithful Church member who “keeps the commandments” and “follows the prophet” represents the summum bonum of life, i.e., the highest good, the singular and most ultimate end which human beings ought to pursue.

I thought how this boy’s parents might sincerely believe that their job in life is to mold and shape this boy, to groom and prepare him for his mission in life, to – as it were – produce a young man who would fulfill all of their dreams as faithful parents in Zion. I wondered if they might teach him – as I once did with my own children – to pray that Heavenly Father would bless him with an opportunity to serve a mission, to get married in the temple to a noble and true companion and to then raise up his own children in light and truth.

My thoughts then came back to my original question: What if this boy is gay? For that matter, what if he’s not? How would this boy’s imagined life be different if, rather than looking at him as a “product” to be “produced,” he was looked upon by his parents as a unique person who had been brought into their lives to be loved and nurtured? To be discovered rather than molded? Whose individuality, mind, heart and spirit would be allowed to blossom and grow? Who would be valued as a person, rather than a product? Who would be loved for who he is, rather than for what he is?

The summum bonum of a Mormon (or any other) parent: Is it to love unconditionally – as God does – or to teach a child from an early age that acceptance and love is conditional upon obedience and conformity? To put it another way, is it to view their child as a person, or as a product?

On a related point, I also pondered, as I had on many occasions, the rituals in the Mormon Church that purport to "seal" children to their parents. As I contemplated resigning my membership in the LDS Church in August 2011, I wondered what effect my resignation would have on these ordinances. I also felt the bonds of the faith I had always had in the temple, and I felt anxious about "breaking" those bonds.

But then, almost immediately, I realized that I was still giving credence to a belief system in which I had lost faith. How deep the roots had sunk in a system that had taught me that my relationships with my children were dependent on rituals, rather than on strong, true and authentic emotions and experiences!

I pondered how I had bought into this system, which encouraged me to subject my relationship with my children to its demands, that taught me to constantly judge my children and myself, that “ritualized” my relationships with them.

How different things would be, I mused, if my had religion emphasized that what “sealed” me to my children were not rituals in a building, but rather feelings of love and acceptance, of validation and caring, of tenderness and devotion.

I did resign my membership in November 2011. From that point, and ever since, I have vowed to seek to love my children all the more purely, without regard to the goals of any organization, not as means to an eternal end, but for the glorious persons whom they are and for the sheer humanity of doing so.  

* This post is based on two posts that were originally published on my Invictus Pilgrim blog (now closed) in August 2011.

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