I know I’m not the only apostate who was surprised by how bright, interesting, pleasant and wonderful the world appeared the second I took a non-religious look at it.
Suddenly the world was no longer a “temptation” with the next personal “fall” right around the next corner. There was no longer darkness, only light.
But the odd part is that I had never previously thought that I had considered the world as such a scary place. I appreciated God’s creation, both the roses and the thorns. I saw the potential in my fellow human beings for goodness… It’s only in retrospect that I was able to recognize the essential element of my religious perspective on life, the world and humanity.
It was darkness.
As I have recently taken up listening to Hymns sung by the Mormon Tab I have been rather dismayed by a common thread in most of the lyrics. It is essentially, “Everything is bleak and dark, but God supplies the light.” Take even one of the more upbeat hymns:
The Day Dawn is Breaking
The Day dawn is breaking,
The world is awaking,
The clouds of night’s darkness are fleeing away.
The worldwide commotion from ocean to ocean,
Now heralds the time of the beautiful day
The lyricists and performers of these songs are coming from a place of darkness and fear. It’s that base of negativity that is essential for the accompanying hope that I used to recognize in Mormon hymns and teachings.
Without fear, the world and indeed life itself don’t need any saving or redeeming.
This sort of need for the darkness is certainly a pattern within religions, Mormonism especially; they create an imaginary problem (or at least exaggerate a small reality) and then set themselves up as the solution, the savior. And that sort of pattern trickles down all the way to the individual and to their loving relationships.
Lead Kindly Light
Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,Lead thou me on;The Night is dark, and I am far from home;Lead thou me on
For example, my parent’s relationship was pretty good all things considered. Of course I don’t know ALL the details but of what I do know, their greatest problem was my Dad’s lackadaisical Mormonness contrasted with my Mom’s uber-Mormonness. The church set up the problem. She needed a worthy faithful priesthood holder. My Dad is a good guy but didn’t pay his 10% tithing consistently and so he was deemed unworthy (and therefore was barred from most of his children’s weddings). He couldn’t be religious enough in her eyes. But take the church out of the equation and they were two people who liked each other, complemented each other and could probably manage their challenges.
I saw the exact same issue play out in my ex-in-laws. They actually divorced at one point because he wasn’t Mormon. She had been inactive herself when they first married after she got pregnant. But over the years the guilt and the Mormon obsession over marrying in the temple ate at her until she filed for divorce. A year later they remarried under some apparent agreement that he eternally keep his mouth shut about religion while she and the kids can shamelessly spout off about faithfulness, worthiness and eternal marriage whenever they want. Again, remove the church from the equation and they are two people who are incredibly well-matched for one another.
The church creates the problem. Then, when the women are beating themselves up for not having married up enough, the church teaches them that they (and their fabricated God) are the one that can comfort them in their pain and time of need.
Abide with Me
Abide with me!
Fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens.
Lord, with me abide!
The deeper the darkness the more you need The Lord, Heavenly Father, God, The church, the temple, and a prophet. Without it, however, humans do remarkably well on their own.
This is why I bristle at my kids being taught that they are in a precarious world that they need to cry out and sing:
Teach Me to Walk in the Light
Teach me to walk in the light of his love;
Teach me to pray to my father above;
Teach me to know of the things that are right;
Teach me, teach me to walk in the light.
It sounds like the kids are subtly being told they are surrounded by darkness and need to carefully navigate the world; but only God and righteous parents can help.
The truth is that light and happiness come from within. It’s not out there. Light is here and now…maybe the kids just need to learn to harness it and exploit it properly…but that it comes from a place of strength and courage, not from a place of fear and darkness. That only sets us up to never be good enough, never “in the light” enough, and never perfect enough. The light is never bright enough; if there’s only dim light it’s not good enough:
More Holiness Give Me
More Holiness give me,
More strivings within,
More patience in suffering,
More sorrow for sin
So when God gives you more, is it ever enough? No.
In fact it’s that fear of the dim light or unworthiness that keeps so many of our loved ones in the religion of their birth. If instead of the default perspective being darkness it were seen as goodness and light, our children would have a greater source of strength in their surroundings and hope in the present.
If our children could love and appreciate the nuances and variations in the dim light they wouldn’t need the lowly imploring that these hymns and teachings encourage.
Does the darkness exist? Of course!
Darkness is not wickedness, but that which we don’t know or understand. Start off in the light with the things we do know and understand and then we can go exploring in the darkness using our own self-generated light as guides.