Wednesday, June 06, 2007,9:45 AM
Cultural Perspectives on Faith
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.

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posted by Julie at 9:45 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 6/06/2007 03:42:00 PM, Blogger Andrew

    I am a fairly recent transplant to Utah and it has been interesting to see my evangelical upbringing reflected in Mormonism. I had never been evangelized prior to coming out here. It can be a yucky feeling. You become aware that your only value is your potential conversion. I cringe as I see some of the cliche' attempts at moving the conversation toward mormonism. How often had I pulled such manuvers in trying to bring up my faith? As much as they want to be different from other churches, they are just one more voice in the "I have something you don't and wouldn't you like to be like me" game. I am suprised at the number of evangelicals out here that cannot see their own behaviors in Mormon evangelizing. In some cases they see it, but feel the difference is "that we are right".

    It has been a humbling experience to live in a culture that is dominated by a different faith; but so VERY educational. I must admit that I am not even sure how I would go about sharing my faith anymore.

  • At 6/07/2007 03:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I've come to feel okay when I meet someone who is "not like me" spiritually. Maybe it's peace with the belief that God will take care of it. Or maybe, I'm just lazy.

    I'd imagine Utah would be a trying place to be a Christian. Deceptively so.

  • At 6/07/2007 09:37:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    I had a friend who when he lived in Utah would get beat up on a regular basic because he was catholic. he also was forced to go to mandatory chapel in the public schools.

    Being an outsider really helps on get a perspective on how your faith is viewed by others. I don't think I got that back then at all. At first I thought it was an age thing, but there are a lot of people older than me who can't accept differences.

  • At 6/08/2007 06:57:00 AM, Blogger paul

    thanks julie - it is a good reminder of the enormous blindspots that I have - i like running into things like this to remind myself that i don't know everything and to help me be more humble about my beliefs...