Within a few hours of me writing this reflection (Wed. afternoon) the first of the 2012 Presidential debates will be underway. I don’t know about you, but I find these debates extremely riveting. I plan for them in my calendar of events as I might plan for a Superbowl or Ryder Cup competition. I am always intrigued by American politics. Who will come out on top? Who will trap whom in a vice of contradiction, a phrase that alienates the population, a gaf, a blunder, a poor, ultimately, devastating choice of words? Mostly those who are interested in actual policy details and getting to the heart of the future of US foreign policy, alternative energy, and a whole host of issues, will seek for clarity, insight, to help them make a vote which they believe will count.
One issue continues to be a stumbling block for many Americans – Mit Romney is Mormon. It has been an expressed problem for Conservative Evangelicals in the U.S., as well as Progressive Liberals. Fears of what a Mormon President might do in leading the nation persist, I would argue not unlike the fears mongred during the campaign between Nixon and Kennedy in the 60’s, Kennedy being a devout Roman Catholic. Romney would state the matter as such – I am a candidate for President who just happens to be Mormon. Perhaps Kennedy would have stated the matter similarly.
On Tuesday Miho and I had the unique privilege and opportunity to take a tour through the latest Mormon Temple to be built in Alberta, in Northwest Calgary in the community of Royal Oak. A Mormon friend set it up for us. We were touched by the genuine, effusive kindness shown us by everyone. We were impressed with the Temple and its special rooms, all ornately decorated, all with particular spiritual meaning. It was a pleasant hour. As I parted ways with our Mormon friend I wondered why for so many decades, centuries even, the traditional Christian denominations, en mass, had condemned the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. When I was young I was taught that Mormons were members of a cult, were to be avoided at all costs, were dangerous! Yet, as I age I now question those harsh judgements. I’m well aware of some of the more unusual beliefs of Mormons, all of them, and of course their fairly harsh judgment placed on we of other traditions, generally speaking. Nonetheless, these people have discerned their own tradition, “religion”, and should we not engage with them as we might engage with those of Buddhist faith, or Hindu, or Zoroastrian faith, or Roman Catholics? With respect, with tolerance, with a desire to see where our variant traditions converge, what essential values and beliefs we share?
In about a month’s time the annual inter-church community Advent Carol Service will be organized and presented. Not sure which church will host it – Rundle UC hosted last year. Would it not be a radical expression of God’s expansive grace, revealed in the Christ-Child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, to invite the Mormon community in Banff to be a part of this special Service? They’re a tiny little church, maybe 30 people on a Sunday, much like the rest of our local churches in Banff. In the name of tolerance that may push us out of our comfort zones, but in the name of Jesus who welcomed and sought all types to be a part of his kingdom of God adventure, ought we not take a visible, radical stand for inter-church dialogue and the expansiveness of God’s love, by pushing for this inclusion of our Mormon friends?
I leave it to you, for I will, by then, be out of the loop. But what an opportunity! What a Blessing! What an Advent celebration it could be!
God of Life, of Grace, and Peace, we believe that all are made in your image so that in some sense each one is sacred, holy, cherished. By your Spirit lead us as we discern not only how to love and serve you but also our neighbours, those with whom we may share faith, and those whose beliefs differ from our own. In whatever we do, in whatever we say or think, may the Spirit of Christ and his Way instruct our ways. Amen.