There is a common thread that runs through the holiday season like a draw string on a purse bringing us all together for a common good. Belief in Christ or worshiping Him have never been a prerequisites for participating in Christmas. There is no 10 question interview that pre-qualifies you to light a tree, send Christmas cards or buy presents. If you don’t believe in Christ or have friends who don’t believe you can even buy Christmas cards that say “Happy Holidays” and avoid the whole religious aspect to it. No one will ask you if you believe that Jesus was the son of God. Do you believe in God? Do you believe Jesus healed the sick and performed all manner of miracles? Do you believe he died for your sins? When was the last time you entered a church to worship him?
There are pockets of people who get upset at the nonbelievers who piggy back on the holiday celebration. Heaven forbid an atheist donate time or money to feed the hungry or provide warm clothing and gifts to total strangers at Christmas time. And what could the atheist possibly be thinking helping the economy by giving gifts during a holiday they don’t believe in? Fortunately believing in Christ has never been a prerequisite for “Peace on earth, good will toward men”.
For the believing crowd there are aspects to the holiday that simply get ignored. The fact that we are celebrating the birth of Christ at the wrong time of year doesn’t matter. So what if he is the Son of God, a matter which if true demands our respect and reverence, but we’ll decide when to celebrate his birthday. The fact that Christ wrote nothing down as far as giving us firsthand accounts of what actually happened during his life we look away from, it’s easier to believe it’s all in God’s hands than to question the accuracy of stories recorded decades after the subject has died. It can be easy to ignore the fact that while we huddle around a fire with family looking at a tree full of gifts underneath it, others are going without, hating the day for reminding them of what they don’t have. I guess you could echo the sentiment that “Some things that are true are not very useful” when it comes to Christmas.
The fact is this is one flawed holiday if our focus is to be on birth of the son of God. And yet I think that is one of the most endearing aspects of it. We are all flawed, Christian, atheist, wiccan, deist, doesn’t matter, we all come to the holiday table with issues, and whether he was the Son of God or not, no one acknowledged mans ability to perpetually miss the mark more than Jesus Christ.
Pepper spraying your “neighbor” in order to get the gift you want from Wal-Mart is a great example of one overzealous birthday party-goer not only missing the mark but not even having her eye on the mark. Where else is the spirit of forgiveness and acceptance needed more than during the holidays?
For whatever reason young adults decide that Christmas is a great time to drop a bombshell over dinner. Mom and dad, I’m gay. Mom and dad, I flunked out of school. Yes I know it was only a community college but look at the money I saved you flunking out of there rather than Harvard. Mom, dad, I won’t be going on a mission for the church I have been having sex with my girlfriend for the past year and I love her. And she is pregnant.
And it’s not just the youth; parents have dropped a few of their own bombshells over the years. Kids your mother and I have decided to divorce. Kids, your father has moved out and he will tell you why. Kids, we have lost everything and need to move in with one of you. All of this sounds like a horrible Christmas but what better way to celebrate the birth of Christ; flawed, and in need of Christ like qualities such as acceptance and forgiveness and above all the charitable act of offering someone unconditional love.
The holiday is all about whatever we decide as individuals it’s about. The spirit of selflessness, charitable giving, introspection, forgiveness, compassion… may all be Christ like qualities but they don’t require a belief in Christ. And if the season brings out those qualities in believers as well as nonbelievers than we all win. Even the woman with the pepper spray would probably find a place at the table after being asked to leave her weapons at the door. The question is, who would Christ exclude from this party? I believe there are chairs for the believers the non believers and for all of those who really don’t give the significance of the event much thought at all they just showed up because they heard there was a party.
If you have ever lived inside the faith, you know it’s true.
For an active Mormon, the local ward bishop holds a great deal of influence in your life. In many ways the bishop becomes part authority figure, part parent, and part friend. A bishop is even referred to as “the father of the ward” in Primary songs:
The father of our ward
Tends with loving care
Each member’s needs
With kindly deeds
Our bishop’s always there.
Children's Songbook, p. 209
Sometimes this is a good thing. The bishop can become an integral part of the lives of his ward members.
But sometimes it can be a bad thing.
With that influence and authority comes a lot of power.
In her memoir Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story, author Ingrid Ricks describes the abusive step-father that made her home life a living hell for the few years he was married to her mother. His abuse was enabled and even sanctioned by the local bishop.
She writes about how the bishop scolded her older sister Connie and herself for “causing problems at home” despite the obvious abuse noticed by other ward members. During the meeting the bishop went on to tell Ingrid and her sister that they had no right to love their father any longer.
He continued his verbal lashing. “You girls are lucky your mom found Earl, and you need to start loving and respecting him. After everything your dad’s done, you don’t even have the right to love him.”
Later in the book, Ingrid describes another bishop who told her he would have chosen differently than the first bishop.
By design bishops are considered “judges in Israel” and hold strong ties with the members of their ward. But just as there are stories of those bishops abusing their power, there are also cases of some amazing men who serve as bishops.
So I thought maybe it would be nice to talk about that for a minute.
Very early in my marriage I was haunted by memories of some not so great stuff in my childhood. I was confused and torn by the knowledge of what had happened. During a temple recommend interview I hedged on the question “Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Lord's house and participate in temple ordinances?”
It must have been all over my face. Somehow the bishop knew and without asking any prying questions he quickly pulled out of me what I had been concerned over. I was wondering about the abuse in my past and whether it made a difference to the Lord.
I will never forget that bishop, who squared his shoulders and looked at me full on. Normally he was a tall and gruff military type of man. Few questioned him, though I never remember him making demands in his office as a bishop. He really didn’t have to. With his eyes kind, his voice was firm. “I command you from this moment on never to hold yourself responsible or to blame for the abuse perpetrated on you as a little girl.”
I saw tears in his eyes as we concluded the interview. He hugged me tightly and I felt the love and support of a father freeing me from the needless guilt I felt over something that had occurred while I was still in elementary school.
Over the years I have witnessed the capacity to serve and bless the lives of ward members by bishops who love their congregations. Two separate bishops and one branch president allowed my father, who was never a member of the church, stand behind the circle when each of my three children were blessed in a place of honor. He did not hold the priesthood, but he was given a special place that made him a part of the ritual naming and blessing of his grandchildren. Even to the dismay of some of the ward’s loudest clucking tongues these leaders saw to it my request was granted.
I love those men to this day for that.
All over the world there are LDS bishops who work more on the service side of their callings than they focus on the preside part.
Recently an LDS bishop came to the attention of the world when he spoke openly in support of the LGBT members of the Church. In early November Bishop Kevin Kloosterman spoke at the Circling the Wagons Conference held in Salt Lake City, Utah. Kloosterman told the large gathering of people that he was “sorry” for the wounds suffered by gay and lesbian members of the Church.
“…if you leave here not remembering anything I have to say, remember this: I’m sorry. Deeply, deeply sorry,” Kloosterman said. He called the wounds that gays and lesbians had received from others in the Church an atrocity.
I love this bishop.
I tend to think that Bishop Kloosterman is one of a kind, but I hope he just might become a bit of a trendsetter.
I want to express my gratitude toward the good bishops I have had in my own life, and the many who serve in the office across the globe. Thank you, those of you who love your wards as if they were your own families. Thank you for serving in your office with humility and a servant’s heart.
who we are
Welcome to The Peacewriter.
We all want to belong somewhere, to someone. It is a basic human need.
If you have ever experienced a period of doubt or questioned your beliefs in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you know that this is not a minor thing. It is tantamount to a crisis, and one that can be life altering.
Lose your testimony, and you stand to lose everything that matters.
There are those who exist on the fringes of the Church, who feel disenfranchised, even unwanted. If you are single, gay or lesbian, feminist, atheist, or uncorrelated, it can be tough to feel like a part of the community. You may feel that you do not belong.
You belong here.
If you have ever loved someone who endured a faith crisis, you know that there are a lot of gray areas. Uncertainty is the dominant force; black and white become moot points.Those who have walked the same path share a common bond, understood by few who have not traveled the same road.
This is the place to share common experiences, to find a voice, to be heard. This is the place to seek after peace, and to find it in the common ties we share.
This is The Peacewriter.
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