I’m less likely to discuss my beliefs about religion today than I was ten or twenty years ago. That sounds odd because, as I’ve written before, I served in Germany as a missionary for two years where I spent twelve hours a day attempting to convert Germans to my religion.
Looking back on those two years, it’s clear that I gained a lot more than I gave to the German people. I learned to speak up for my beliefs and my country. I learned to read a map, enjoy new foods and speak a foreign language that would later help me through college.
It also helped me realize that beliefs are uniquely personal, and I don’t believe I could return and speak to them in that arrogant tone only a 20 year old with two quarters of college could pull off.
This comes at a time when the media is taking a close look at Mitt Romney’s membership in the LDS church as well as a national “I’m a Mormon” campaign that’s made its way onto TV.
What makes me feel uncomfortable and less likely to discuss my beliefs are the words I read on Facebook and Twitter from members whom I’m unable to relate to. Many use Facebook to not only disagree with President Obama but to craft lengthy rants about why he’s the anti-Christ.
My parents taught me to respect the President of the United States even if I didn’t agree with all his polices. I was taught that the office of the President should be respected, and I still believe that today. But when I hear such vitriolic nonsense about President Obama while attending church it makes me step back and rethink my involvement with these people.
I want to be clear that the leaders of my church do not condone this behavior. In fact, around election time, they remind the members that they do no endorse a political party. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’ll find far more members who consider themselves Republican than Democrat. During the 2008 presidential election, a friend wanted the LDS church to officially back John McCain. I’m sure he wasn’t alone.
So much for the separation of church and state.
I don’t mind that my political beliefs don’t sync up with most of my fellow Mormons. But I’m having a more difficult time listening and reading about how many of them despise our current President and any policy or positions he’s taken. Many spout off their hatred for any socialist program such as health care reform that will result in health coverage for more Americans.
What many of my fellow Mormons forget is that our church has an impressive welfare program to help its members through difficult times. Members also donate “fast offerings” that go to help those in need at the local level. Many of our lessons teach us about the benefits of giving service in our community, and to search out and assist those in need. But these teachings stand in stark contrast to the “everyone man for himself” philosophy portrayed by some of my fellow members.
It’s all beginning to feel like a zero sum game: if we’re right then you’re wrong in not only your religious but also your political affiliations. Is there room for those of us with more moderate political views in a sea full of strong conservative members?
I guess what it comes down to is that I no longer want to be lumped in with these people because we happen to belong to the same church. I don’t share their hate for the President nor do I believe President Obama is evil, or that women need me to make choices for them, or that those on unemployment or welfare are lazy bums feeding off the system.
Not all Mormons will automatically be voting for Romney come November, nor do all of us worship Glenn Beck or base our political views by what we hear on Fox News.
But what I really hope is that all the hate fades away.