Sunday, December 9, 2012

How can you keep faith in a religion that has perpetrated so much prejudice and evil in the world?

I am a Christian.

Like the early fathers of the church, I, too, “...believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father....” (from the Nicene Creed). I take tremendous comfort and even find joy in this belief. It is part of my core and an inseparable component of my being.

Despite being a Christian, I struggle to apply Christian principles and values as I face the challenges of life. I readily acknowledge that because of my own humanity, I fall far short of Christ’s admonition and example.

My shortcomings, however, have no bearing on the truth of what I believe, only on my debt to him in whom I rest my belief.

Last month I had dinner with my brother and his family. My brother left the Church some twenty years ago and at the same time left his Christian conviction and faith in God. His children, as many generally do, followed their father.

As we sat enjoying the meal, one of my nephews was surprised to learn that despite having come out, I still maintained a firm commitment to Christ, if a somewhat unorthodox one. “How can you keep faith in a doctrine,” he asked, “that has perpetrated such prejudice and evil on the earth, especially one that has such visceral hatred of homosexuals?”

I was surprised by his question, but even more taken back by the tenor and tone in which the question was asked. It was obvious that he viewed Mormonism specifically and Christianity in general as a plague that undermines civil society and is a singular cause of injustice and misery.

His question and attitude saddened me. It was easy to see that he was entirely unaware of the contributions Christianity has made to make our country the beacon to the world that it is. From support for the poor to women’s suffrage to health care to worker’s rights to ending racial discrimination, Christian people because of their faith have been at the forefront of the fight to secure justice and equal protection under the law.

My nephew and many in his generation only see Christianity and especially Mormonism as a mechanism of control, coercion and oppression. When they think of Christians at all, they think of autocrats, pedophiles, homophobes, and scam artists.

The truth of the matter is that the Church, because it is led by men, is inherently flawed just as man is flawed. The teachings of Christ are often twisted and perverted. As the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith, “…it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority…they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39).

What many fail to appreciate is that the quality of a particular Christian believer is in no way a measure of the truthfulness of the Christian message. We all fall short and always will.

The beauty of Mormonism in particular and Christianity in general is the belief that despite our flaws, we are children of God. We can be better and do better and that through love and sacrifice, we have made and will continue to make the world better as well. This belief despite differences in dogma or doctrine is the power that makes Christianity a singular force for good in our country and the world.

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