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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Everyone Bring Your Sewing Machine: Inclusiveness and Christlike Love

Whenever an active Mormon gets called to a local leadership position, all the Members that are inactive become their responsibility. If you ask why someone is inactive the response usually amounts to some variant of "They got offended," "They got their feelings hurt," or the equivalent.

The remedy is always the same. They are invited to come back to Church.

This is simplistic. It's also extremely convenient for active members. The entire problem is placed squarely on the shoulders of the inactive member. No leader or member has to face the painful questions of whether he or she played a part in driving the person away.

I never thought I would be placed in the category of offended inactives until it happened to me. My perspective has changed. I discussed this issue with one of my stake presidents once. I told him that I no longer accept the standard explanation. My questions now consist of: Okay, but what happened to them? What was done to them? He agreed with me.

People are imperfect and shabby treatment by us can make people uncomfortable at Church. If a Church leader does not keep a trusted confidence, for example, this could also result in someone going inactive. Obviously it is difficult for people to attend Church if they do not trust or respect a local Church leader. Other slights, real or imagined, can occur. What we "intend" is not as important as how it can be perceived or will be perceived.

If someone is completely ignored during the entire three hour block on Sunday is it wholly their problem if they go inactive? If they are alienated or ignored in Sunday School is it wholly their problem if they go inactive? If they are alienated or ignored in Priesthood, Relief Society, social activities, etc., is it wholly their problem if they go inactive? I don't think so.

My name isn't common. But, I did encounter another "Krista" in one of my wards. This was a bit unnerving for me especially when leadership was always referring to "Krista" but never referring to me. I felt a bit alienated since they never distinguished between us. Both of us were active and both of us had earned Ph.D.'s. It was eerie.

Often the most serious alienation problems occur because of long time members having lived in one place their whole lives. They often don't embrace new members of the unit as they should because they don't know what it's like being new. Sunday meetings tend to be reasonably inclusive but social activities are where the cliques emerge.

In one unit, my husband and I stopped going to pot luck meals. No one would talk to us and no one would eat our food (It was Fudge Muffins! See recipe below). It was pointless. This did not affect our testimonies or our activity levels but this could be devastating to weak or new members.

We all bear responsibility for helping people attend Church and Church activities. Sometimes people are not particularly pleasant to interact with. We may find them obnoxious or lacking in personal hygiene. Jesus Christ would not snub them and neither should we. In fact, we should bend over backwards to be inclusive no matter who or what they are.

People may feel alienated if they aren't asked to contribute a casserole or help with a large project. I once chastised a leader because I wasn't asked to bring MY sewing machine to a sewing activity. Dumbfounded, the leader asked me, "Do YOU have a sewing machine?" I responded "Of course." She had simply made an unwarranted assumption about me

People may surprise us with their interests and skills. My roommate and I visit-taught an inactive sister once. We were warned that her domicile had a creepy atmosphere, possibly Satanic. Her home was dominated by black with unusual items in it. Her outfits were nothing short of bizarre.

We were able to build a good relationship with her and we cautiously invited her to some young adult social activities. She declined. Finally, we asked her if there was something she wanted to attend. Her answer floored us both, "Homemaking." You want to go to HOMEMAKING?!? We both about lost our teeth. The explanation was simple. This is where all her bizarre outfits and unique home decor came from. She MADE them.

Often, young people are not treated as full members. When I got back to my home ward after being at college in a student ward for a year, one of the sisters said to me, "Oh, it's so nice that you could visit us in Relief Society." I thought to myself, "Visit Relief Society. I've been a full member of Relief Society and in a fully functioning Relief Society for over a year, what do you mean by 'visit'?"


We should not allow people an easy exit from Relief Society. We should make it hard to exit by at least making them climb over ten sisters to get out. This could be said of all Church entities and activities.


If reactivation efforts emphasized showing Christlike love and concern for people they might be more fruitful. Or, we can just continue blaming them entirely for their inactivity. . . 


Fudge Muffins


Melt:
4 squares (ounces) semi-sweet chocolate
2 sticks (1 cup) butter


Add:
1 3/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt
4 eggs, one at a time; blend after each
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour (1 1/2 cup in high altitudes)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional). I prefer walnuts


Bake in foil cupcake tins (about 2/3's full) at 325 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Yield: 24.


Slaughter anyone who calls them "brownies" or "fudge brownies" or something similar. These are substantially richer than brownies. They are pure decadence. You have to repent after eating them.

1 comment:

  1. Good post.

    I found this while thinking about something that happened at work yesterday with a young LDS lady that I hired as a temp this week. The first day, during lunch, I mentioned something about my father's collection of books about the Mormon Church. She asked if I was LDS. I told her that I had been raised that way, but was not involved as much anymore.

    Yesterday, when I stepped away from the office for a few minutes, she asked another young lady in her 30's "why is he inactive?" Her response was "because of THAT." She recognized that:

    a) no matter what the answer is, the conclusion (by her definition, anyway) is that I am in the wrong.

    Let me emphasize that no matter what the answer is, the conclusion is the same. If she had said "he was abused by a General Authority from the ages of 4 to 34", somehow I would still be in the wrong for not reacting differently, etc. (Note: the example is invented and intentionally extreme, but not intended to be offensive).

    b) there are no obvious valid reasons why someone who has made no effort to know or care for me would ask that question. My response would have been "you know? I find that discussing the most delicate, intimate, and vulnerable parts of my spiritual feelings is something I prefer to do with people who have demonstrated that they will treat those feelings carefully, and not just bystanders with idle curiosity or rubberneckers who want to know only so they can judge me as still being in the wrong."

    It is, an as aside, unprofessional, irrelevant to our workflow, and a sign of poor judgment in choosing the appropriate forum to discuss or not discuss various subjects. I could not dare take a young lady such as that to a lunch meeting with a judge or senator, for example, as I would hate for her to start talking about nonsense like "that one funny youtube video with the burping dog".

    The girl who responded discussed this with me later in the context of whether or not to hire this girl permanently. There is no chance she would be hired, though not because of the question per se. It would be because I need employees that take a moment to think about whether what they do is appropriate to the venue, timing, etc.

    The funny thing is that I have no issue with discussing my reasons for not being as involved with the Church as i once was. I was not personally offended by the question; the result would be the same for asking why someone in the office got a divorce or some other irrelevant and prying question into someone's personal affairs.

    I chalk the whole thing up to personal immaturity. That said, I see it a lot. I have no problem at all with attending Church meetings and happily do so when visiting my parents or siblings.

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