Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sister Wives: What I respect and what inspires me about this polygamist family's life.

I find that blogging my thoughts is the backup to my discussions in real life.  Often times I have a discourse with a person and because I am not that prepared to explain myself, my thoughts and reasoning don't get across as I would like them to .  This next post is such a blog...

There is a reality television show that just started into its second season.  Sister wives has caught my attention.  It is aired on TLC Sunday night.  For those of you who haven't seen the show, I will give you a brief synopsis. 

Sister wives features the life of a fundamentalist Mormon family in Utah.

Kody Brown is the husband of four wives and the dad to sixteen children.  Three of his wives: Meri, Janelle and Christine have lived with him for 15-20 years.  Robyn just joined the family with her children last year.  Sister wives, like most reality TV shows brings cameras into their day to day lives. 

Kody is only legally married to his first wife Meri.  They were married in a civil union, where as his other "wives" were only married to him in a religious ceremony, not legally binding by the state of Utah.  They all live in on house split into three apartments:  one apartment for Meri, Janelle and Christine.  Robyn, the fourth addition to the family, lives in a house down the street for now. All women have their own private living quarters, but they share the family responsibilities and operate much like a whole more than a divided unit.

Before you continue with the blog... read this article that was published by the Karney Law Firm in October of 2010. 

"Sister Wives: Will reality show stars face prosecution for polygamy in Utah"

Polygamy was outlawed in the late 19th century across America.  Due to the immense persecution, the LDS church changed their doctrine, not allowing polygamy.  As a result, the persecution stopped and Utah was admitted into the American union as a state.  This seems all well and good to most people, but there were factions of the LDS church that wanted to maintain their fundamental beliefs.  To this day, (known as the Fundamental Latter Day Saints - FLDS ) there are many that still practice polygamy. 

Most don't realize the significance of doctrinal change.  Mormons belief in polygamy was not something established to create chaos while they lived on Earth.  It was to required because of their religious belief that they would continue their celestial marriages in the after life, after they have become gods and goddesses, and populate their own planet with spirit children. This is a fact that not many Mormons will fess up to right away.  This required them to start their journey to their celestial purpose with large families on earth.  In the late 1800's, because of the persecution, the LDS church was "forced" to change a very significant doctrine to "maintain the peace" and keep themselves from imprisonment. 

There is the overview.  I want to explain what I find so fascinating and inspirational about the Brown's story. 

1. They have chosen in the midst of persecution to stick to their beliefs.  For this, I have a great deal of  respect for them.

Okay... isn't this reminiscent of the early Christians.  They had their convictions and the state they lived in didn't condone their belief systems and opted to persecute them to death.  Many died because they wouldn't give up their faith.  Even today in many parts of the world, there are people who must endure inhumane torture because their faith and faith practices are illegal.  Daniel was thrown into the Lion's den for praying.  He knew that praying had it's consequence.  Yet he still prayed. 

I don't have much respect for the Mormon  belief system.  After researching their doctrine, I found that over the course of time, it changed often and significantly.  There seemed to be new revelations emerging every time they faced opposition from government or people.  Nothing seemed to be sacred. 

What I do respect is when I see people sticking to what they believe even when it will land them in prison and remove them from their family.  I am sure that is what I was taught about the fundamental belief system of Christianity. 

2.  There is a team mentality among the four women. I have respect for this. 

There are four women and sixteen children.  I am amazed at how little jealousy their is.  There is some and at times it creeps into the conversations. Especially since Robin came on board.  It was a tough adjustment for the other three women who had lived together for 16 years.  Still they embraced her like a sister coming into the family.  These women are best friends.  They value of each other in a way I can't understand .  I think that is why I watch the show.  It is not because of Kody and what he contributes to the mix.  I am enamoured by these women and the relationship they have for each other.  

 I am possessive of my husband's affections, and I am the only woman in his life.  I couldn't bear to imagine sharing him with another woman.  These women have the same emotions and feelings as I do. I wonder at times how they share their husband and live at peace with that decision. Then I realized something.  I am not so unlike them.  I have to share my husband with his work and with his music and with his other friends.  I must be at peace with that as well.  I have learned the value of my female friends and my family and work to maintain the closeness of those relationships.  It was easier to do as a single woman.  Now that I am married, I want to be with my husband.  But he is one man and has many responsibilities.  I am not the only woman that would understand this picture.   

3.  I respect their openness.  I respect their willingness to invite the world into their homes at great risk to that home.

I like watching some reality TV.  I enjoy Extreme Home Makeover, Dragon's Den and Fear Factor.  I watched American Idol, Trading Spaces and Survivor when I lived in Calgary with my former roommate.  I followed Miami Ink when it was running.  I don't have any tattoos, but the show and it's stories interested me. I have peeked in at other shows and enjoyed the banter that goes on.  My hubby likes watching Mike Holmes, Ice Road Truckers and Pawn Stars.  All these shows don't have much in common. Maybe an overwhelming percentage of the people on reality TV are in it for the exposure.  It seems that a quite a few "out of the limelight" superstars are inviting people into their homes as an attempt to gain some exposure for their fading careers. Gene Simmons, Tanya Tucker and David Hasselhoff  have all had the cameras in their homes.

Sister Wives is the first show that I have watched that poses a legal risk to the people on the show.  I wonder if the stars of Little People, Big World would be so eager to expose themselves on national television if there was a risk of persecution for being short.  I highly doubt there is.  Over and over, the five main characters have expressed that it is better to be open about who they are than to remain in hiding.  Hiding would do more damage to the identity of their children in the long run, than the risk of prosecution and imprisonment. 

Wow!  Most of us have been raised in a culture that encouraged us to hide our identity, if it didn't meet the approval of others around us.  There are many issues that have attached stigmas to them.  Nothing inherently dangerous, but shunned by the public none the less.  The Browns have chosen to not to hide.  This is something I admire and wish to pursue in my own life.  I want to be real.  I want to show people what really matters to Ruby Neumann.  Even if they don't agree with my thoughts and ideologies.  I want to be okay with being different.  I want to know that who I am and what I believe is important, too. 

4. They don't want to be judged.  Who wants to be judged.  I admire people who take a stand against judgement. 

  Judgment.  This seems inevitable in most circles.  I think it is part of our human nature to define people according to our standards.  No one is immune to it, everyone does it to some degree and everyone hates it when it done to them. I guess I could offend someone by being all inclusive.  It just appears that way.  Wasn't it Paul that wrote somewhere in his letters that "We have ALL fallen short..." 

What if it works for them... even if it doesn't work for me?  No one is getting hurt, except maybe my pride. 

Tolerance may just be the solution to this disease of judgement.  I remember the stories I would listen to when I watched Miami Ink.  At first I thought people crazy for permanently attaching body art to their skin.  As I watched the show, I saw stories unfold.  People grieving, people celebrating, people expressing themselves.  It wasn't my choice of expression, celebration or way of grieving; it was theirs.  Now instead of casting judgment on someone because of their tattoos... I find out their story.  What are they trying to express?  How difficult is that once we get past the judgement factor. 

Same thing applies to the members of the Brown family.  What if they are not hurting anyone by their lifestyle?  What if their choice offends only because of a lack of tolerance and a lack of understanding?  

There you have it.  I know that a lot of people are appalled at the show.  I would like to think that if I can watch Miami Ink without getting a tattoo or even wishing for one, I can watch Sister Wives and not support the idea of polygamy.  There is much wisdom to be gained in opening up your mind to discussions and conversations that you may not agree with.  There doesn't have to be a risk to self in such an adventure.  I am influenced by many things, but in the end, it is my decision and my freedom to choose who I am and what I believe.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Transition and the Journey 7: Where does Scripture fit in?

(March 13, 2011 .... Sunday morning)

Me:  Good morning!

Myself:  Good morning!

Me:  Is "I" joining us this morning?

Myself:  Don't think so.  I think our Third Dimension hasn't awoke yet. 

Me:  Oh that feeling.  Part of me is awake, but the rest is still in bed. 

Myself:  No worries.  We can still continue the conversation from yesterday. 

Me:  Where do you want to take it today?

Myself:  I do want to clear something up that "I" failed to conclude in the conversation from yesterday.  It is not up to us to save anyone - spiritually speaking.  We must know the difference between what is our "mission" and what is the Holy Spirit's "passion". 

Me: If that is the case.  If someone else's salvation is really not our job to accomplish, then that should release the fear in people that we were talking about yesterday. 

Myself:  It should, but it doesn't. All I know if that I can't do anything to change anyone's belief.  Some days I don't even know what my job is...

"I have other sheep that are not in this flock, and I must bring them home also.  They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd."

 A Jesus quote from John 10:18... seems pretty straight forward to me. 

Me:  As for our job... maybe it has something to do with being a friend... without an agenda. 
Myself:  My thoughts exactly!!

I:  Good morning!

Me: Where were you?

I:  Eating breakfast.

Myself:  That would explain why I wasn't fully here.

Me:  We are all here now, shall we continue.

I:  I read something this morning that I would like to share.

Me: Okay, share away.

I:  I know it has been awhile since I have opened the book.  But I opened it today and found a real nifty gem of inspiration.

Myself:  Kind of like the one from John that we just talked about.

I:  Something like that.  I think I finally get the part about reading the book like a love letter instead of an owner's manual. Something I heard somewhere.  I was told for years that to live as a "Christian", one of the things you had to do was read the Bible every day.  The book was life and to have life, you had to read the book.    

Me:  Go on.

I:  I read because I had to, to do otherwise would jeopardize my spiritual health.  It was an owner's manual to operating my faith.  "The Word of God"  I was trained to profess and believe. 

Myself: Most people call the Bible the Word of God. 

I:  Most people, but not the Bible itself.  The Bible never refers to itself as the Word of God.  The
Bible only refers to Jesus as the Word of God. 

Me"In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." 
John 1 vs 1.  Most believers have that one memorized.

Myself:  They have it memorized, but do they believe it.  I think the "most" we are referring to  have replaced Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life... with the book.

I: Not far off.  That is why I was so blown away by what I read this morning.  It was right there in John 5.  I have heard it mentioned on the God Journey podcast, but this morning was the first time it really stuck out for me in the words themselves.  A genuine quote from Jesus... There is a lot there, but this is what stood out for me today.

"But I have proof about myself that is greater than that of John. The things I do, which are the things my Father gave me to do, prove that my Father sent me. And the Father himself who sent me has given proof about me."

Myself:  I like where this is going. The Father and the Son are each other's proof.  We live in a world that is trying to prove God and the existence of God.  It seems from this quote that God can prove himself to the world. 

I: My thoughts exactly! But I am not done yet.

"... You never heard his voice or seen what he looks like. His teaching does not live in you, because you don't believe in the One the Father sent."

Me: Did you know that Jesus is talking to the guys that read their scriptures every day.  Read their Bible every day.  These are Scribes and the Pharisees he is talking to.  The Scribes are they boys who rewrote and rewrote the Scriptures. 

I:  I know.  There is more...

"You carefully study the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. They do in fact tell about me, but you refuse to come to me to have life."

Myself:  Wow! That is a mouthful.

Me:  That totally sums up everything Jesus was trying to say to the Pharisees of his day -- the dudes in their long robes and tassels and bible verses tied to their heads.

I:  I think Jesus gives Scripture it's place of importance here.  It is the story, not the Life.  Jesus is the Life.  Jesus is the Word. 

Me:  Isn't that what we are struggling with right now? The place of Scripture in our life?

Myself:  I think part of the struggle in letting go of our religious expectations, is letting go of what was deemed essential by the rules of religion and finding out what IS essential to our relationship with Jesus.

Me:  The Way, The Truth and The Life.

I: Exactly.

Me: Do we know what that is yet?

Myself:  I am not sure. I think we are learning, though.

I:  We have chosen to let go of a lot.

Me:  Will we ever get it back?

Myself:  After sitting in that funeral yesterday, seeing what it looked like to be addicted to ritual,  I sure hope not.  But I really want the real thing.  I really want the beauty of the relationship with the Father, with Jesus and with the Holy Spirit that is often preached, but so seldom practiced. I want something real and I don't know what it looks like.

Me:  Thus the Journey part of this blog series.  It is a journey.  The transition is painful and joyful in the same breath. 

I:  Are we going to continue with the Evangelism Agenda conversation next time? 

Me:  Will  you be here to converse with us? 

Myself:  It was you who brought the topic up.  Wouldn't be right to do it without you. 

I:  I think I can drop in.  Let me know when you need me.

Me:  We need you.  We always need you

Myself:  You are our Third Dimension!

I:  Okay.  I am in.  I would like to talk about our personal experience with the Evangelism Agenda.  No sense pointing fingers anywhere else when we can't fess up to our own part in this epidemic. 

Me:  Til' next time, shall we?

Myself:  Til' next time.

The Transition and the Journey 6 - The Evangelism Agenda part 1

(March 12, 2011... Saturday morning)

Me: Good Morning!

Myself: And it is... I think so.  Still in bed.  I have been told the sun is shining.

Me:  So what is on the agenda today?

Myself:  I was hoping you would know that too.

Me: I do, shall we enlighten the rest? That is why we are do thing... right?

 I: Can I come too?

Myself:  Hey... our Third Dimension is joining our conversation today!

I:  What are we talking about today?

Me:  We haven't picked a topic yet. Any suggestions?

Myself:  Something juicy.. I am in for juice today.

I:  Well, I liked our discussion with Sandra last night.  Why don't we talk about agendas.  It was an interesting point we made...

Me:  About agendas in relationships...

Myself:  Especially in relating to people outside our realm of belief and faith. 

I:  Exactly!  I was trying to get the point across that in the "church"  there is so much pressure to incorporate the evangelism agenda into every relationship we have with non believers. 

Me:  Can you elaborate on "The Evangelism Agenda".   Sounds like a JW or Mormon thing.

I:  Oh, it is much more that that.  It is in every interaction a "Christian" has with someone that is not a "Christian". 

Myself:  Kind of like hidden motives. 

I:  Exactly!  There is a pressure from the people in our circles and even within ourselves to convert everyone we come in contact with.  From a very young age, most "Christian" have been programmed to accept the responsibility to convert everyone and everything they lay their eyes on. 

Me: Why is that?

I: I would hazard a guess that fear has something to do with it.  Most have been fed the fear of Hell for a long time.  "We are responsible for every living soul out there.  It is our duty to free them from the fires of Hell and escort them into the Pearly Gates of Heaven."  What a load of...

Myself:  Can we put this on hold for now... There is a truck to clean, a breakfast to eat and a funeral to attend.  And might I remind you that we are still in bed!!!

Me:  Okay.  Okay... Computer off...

( to be continued...)