An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Judging’

Aged to Perfection

My younger brother introduced me to a collection of Ray Bradbury’s short stories back in the ‘60s and I became an instant fan. When I taught junior high English classes, of course I found Bradbury’s short stories in most anthologies. “There Will Come Soft Rains” about nature restoring cities where the people have been destroyed, presumably by nuclear warfare, was a special favorite.

I loved teaching ninth graders Bradbury’s dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451. It made its way onto the district’s approved list before the current fundamentalist trend sent the morality police checking books for blasphemous terms like, “Oh God!” Unlike the tacky YA novels currently approved by parent committees, Fahrenheit  encouraged my students to think.

Ray Bradbury died June 5 at age 91. The PBS NewsHour  showed clips of interviews with Bradbury. I enjoyed the interview from the ‘70s when Bradbury was a robust, middle-aged man. The recent interview, with Bradbury’s face and neck bloated from the effects of an age-impaired body, troubled me. His altered appearance reminded me that my own once firm body is losing the battle with gravity. Why would he let himself be filmed when he looked so bad?

Listening to Bradbury’s interview, I realized that although his body was impaired, his brain was not. He answered each question thoughtfully, giving insight into how and why he wrote. My more mushy brain had been focused on Bradbury’s puffy body rather than on the beauty of his spirit weathered by years of experience and wisdom.

I realized that what Bradbury had left—a brilliant mind and wisdom from a long lifetime of experiences—far outweighed a body surrendering to time’s ravages.

The human body does not age to perfection, but the human spirit can.

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Doing Good Is a Pleasure

In the “Articles of Religion” section of the The Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church (the curse of curiosity sends me ranging far and wide), I found the following statement: “Works done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ: neither do they make men meet to receive grace . . . for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.”

I rather doubt that many modern-day Episcopalians believe that non-believers in Christ commit something “in the nature of sin” when they do good works. Good works are good works no matter who does them. Personally, I can’t fathom a God who counts good works by non-believers as sin.

I don’t know if other denominations have similar statements restricting good works to believers, but many religious people tend to restrict goodness to members of their own faith.  This belief radically narrows the number of “good” people running around—and promotes the idea that those who are not with us must be against us. The fuss over allowing American Muslims to build a mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center is an example.

On a personal level, I feel marginalized by neighbors who judge me not for what I am or what I do, but for not attending church. Church attendance is equated with goodness in Mormon minds. Friendliness, service to neighbors, community service—none of this counts unless a person also warms  a bench on Sundays. But maybe they’re only trying to share. Maybe I should return the favor by asking why they don’t join me in community service and meditation classes.

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