Monday, August 19, 2013

Unity and Worldview -- 1 Corinthians 12: 14-19

"For the body is not one member, but many.
If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
And if they were all one member, where were the body?" (1 Cor 12: 14-19)

 In a lesson on unity yesterday in elders' quorum, we talked about this passage. The high council member who was teaching used it to make a good point: being unified does not mean we need to be the same. Different people contribute to the work of God in different ways. And we should respect that.

I completely agree with him, but I'm not sure our discussion did justice to just how difficult it is to respect a different member of the body of Christ. Our whole ideas about discipleship are so shaped by our own talents and roles it's difficult sometimes to realize that other people's very different attitudes and behaviors might also have an equal place in the kingdom. 

Let's talk first about a foot. What role does a foot play in the body? It helps it move from one place to another. What makes a foot good at its role? It should be reliable, strong, and consistent. It should take direction well. A good foot makes subtle modifications to maintain balance, but largely stays the course once in motion.

Let's talk next about an ear. What role does an ear play in the body? It helps gather and process certain types of information from the outside world so the body can remain oriented within its surroundings. What makes an ear good at its role? It should be open and attentive to many different sources. It should be able to pass on what it gathers. A good ear should be patient and non-judgmental. 

Odds are, good feet and good ears drive each other crazy.

From the perspective and values of a foot in the body of Christ, an ear must seem so lazy and distracted. "Why can't you be more focused?" the foot might say, "Why can't you just do what you're told like a good Latter-day Saint?"

But the foot seems just as crazy to the ear. "Can't you sit still even for a moment?" the ear might say. "Can't you be more flexible--even the hand is flexible!"

And so it is that the ear offends the foot and the foot offends the ear. And perhaps, through their mutual offense, both foot and ear become disaffected with the body as a whole.

"The body of Christ is basically a cult," the ear might say. "Just a bunch of feet obsessed with obedience."

"I don't see much point in going to church," the foot might say, "all they do is talk and talk--what's the point?"

We can be unified across our differences. But in order to do so, we need to work hard to appreciate people on their own terms. We need to understand that some of their most frustrating behaviors may be closely intertwined with their greatest strengths. And we need to stop expecting others to speak the language of values we know best, or taking offense when their advice reflects their perspective rather than ours.

I like to think about things a lot, but I owe a lot to people who act more quickly than I do. I enjoy nuance, but I owe a lot to people who can bring out a little more of the black and white in some of my favorite shades of grey.

May God bless me to stay grounded in my gratitude for such people. May God bless the earth through the gifts he gave them and not me. And may God give them the grace to let me do work their virtues cannot qualify them for, to reach people they might never reach. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

August Insanity--Kira's Bracket

On the Mormon Lit Blitz Facebook group, we're currently running a bracket challenge called "August Insanity." Basically, we've pitted sixteen works of Mormon Lit against each other in a fight for glory, which I've described here. (Sidenote: I swear it is pure coincidence that both urls I've linked to so far end in 666.)

Anyway, I just gave my nine-year-old daughter brief plot synopses of each work and she just filled out her bracket:

For the first round, I also wrote down her justifications for each first round choice:

Folk of the Fringe is one of my favorite books, but Tennis Shoes wins easily for Kira “because it’s my cousin’s book, and he’s one of my favorite cousins.”

A brief plot synopsis of Bound on Earth impresses Kira “because I think you can, like, learn lessons from there.”

She has a tougher time with the next match but chooses Hooligan over Charly: “I like the idea of Charly, but she dies.”

Though she's intrigued by Jesus appearing to someone in the form of a cowboy, she chooses Byuck “because Byuck has one of my favorite college schools because my parents teach there.”

When I mistakenly tell her that Death of a Disco Dancer is about a boy whose grandmother's ghost comes to visit him, she leans toward it. But when we look up a synopsis and discover the grandmother is (disappointingly) still alive, she switches sides and chooses Saturday’s Warrior “because it’s like an eternal family. And I like eternal families.”

She goes for Added Upon “because the other one sounds kind of spooky.” Sorry, Luisa!

And then comes the bombshell. Her initial enthusiasm at seeing my book on the list is quickly dwarfed by the excitement of finding out its opponent is by Mel Larson! After a plot synopsis of
Martyrs’ Crossing, I have to come to terms with elimination in the first round on my own daughter's bracket. Why? Why Martyrs' Crossing?  “Because it’s by one of my daddy’s favorite friends and it sounds interesting because they are spirits and stuff," she says. "And I like the other one my dad wrote, too.” Thanks, Kira.

In another surprise, she chooses A Short Stay in Hell over her ancestor's classic dialogue, “because it has a library and I like to read.”

After the first round, she doesn't seem to do much head-to-head comparison of the books. Her cousin's coolness outweighs learning lessons in the second round and her parents' workplace in the semi-final.

But even the aura of coolness around Tennis Shoes leave it short of victory. Kira picks A Short Stay in Hell to win it all "'cause the guy is stuck in a library!"

Guess I can't be too upset about my own book going down in the first round when her bracket ends with such a lovely justification.

Good luck to all the competitors in the real tournament--and congratulations to Steven Peck for making it to the top of my daughter's bracket. 


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