I was recently reminded of a faith encounter i had a number of years ago. When I was a sophomore in high school, my grandfather took the whole family skiing in Utah for Christmas. Being a Texas girl, that happened to be my first "White Christmas." Since I had never skied before, I needed some sort of instruction. We discovered that there was a Mormon group in Park City that offered free private ski lessons to the handicapped. So taking full advantage of their missional outreach program, I signed up.
My ski instructor was a young college age woman who obviously thought that getting to ski all the time was a great way to fulfill her mission requirement (sounds good to me). She reminded me of most of the zealous Christian youth I knew - excited about her faith, convinced of exclusive rightness of her religion, and generally ignorant about what she actually believed. In our ski lift conversations it became obvious that she wasn't a really intellectually aware. After discovering I was from Texas she asked me if there were actually cities in Texas and if everyone rode a horse to school. After assuring her that we do drive cars, she asked what books I like to read. I happened to be reading Thomas More's Utopia
for fun over break and started telling her about it. I made the mistake of mentioning the commentary I had read that claimed that the book influenced the founding of Mormonism. She took issue with that, serious issue. God gave them their faith, no human book could ever have influenced it. I was wrong, faith is from God not man. I dropped the conversation and we got back to my pathetic attempts to ski.
Looking back I know that I would have had the same reaction if someone had told me then that there was more of Plato than Patriarchs in my faith. I came from the camp that our 20th century versions of Christianity were the way the faith always had been and always should be practiced (not that such was always explicitly taught, just that the alternatives were never mentioned). To concede cultural influences would signify change over time. I've since gone through the process of accepting the subjective nature of interpretation, the necessity for faith, and the cultural influences on my faith. Such things no longer herald the advents of the immanent destruction of my faith's foundation, but instead are fascinating avenues to be explored as I dig deeper into what I believe. But it scares some people to death. They react like the Mormon girl of the ski lift - denial and dismissal (and sometimes ridicule). It makes for difficult conversation. Not that I am any "better," I just react differently at this point in my life.
Labels: Reflections, Theology