Within the teaching profession, there has been some dilemma over the “freedom of association” promised as an inclusion within the “right of assembly” from the First Amendment. For teachers, the right of association, that is, the right to associate with other persons of their choice without threat of punishment, is highly restricted. In fact, up until this decade, I think it would be pretty fair to say that teachers straight up did not have “freedom of association”. A teacher is considered a “role model” within a community, and can face a sudden, rapid state of unemployment for taking a stance against the given “standards of the community.”
Now, I am not up at this late hour to discuss the state of teachers…Maybe later (Teachers can be legally fired for being unmarried and pregnant! AHHH! …oh, sorry. I have injustice-hating Tourette’s syndrome).
I am up at this late hour to discuss the interesting dilemma of many Mormon Feminists, like me, who find themselves in a guilt trap.
Perhaps one of the hardest discoveries of Mormon Feminism, the part where the pain actually comes from, is the discovery that the principles and ideals we embrace are not so embraced within our institution. In a nutshell, while a fabulous coping mechanism is found in rolling our eyes at the “anti-feminist fear mongers”, the” benevolently misinformed self-righteous Darwin haters” and “prophet worshiping sheeple (sheep people)”, at the end of the day we have to realize that the Church as an institution created them (at least in part) and that the Church as an institution supports their existence (if not officially, deeply culturally)…and does not so support ours in like manner. In fact, throughout its history, the Institution has almost gone out of its way to rid itself of us. That’s hard to hear. It’s even harder to hear when you have invested your entire life into it, truly believed in it, and suddenly don’t recognize when it seems to lash out when you find legitimate fault with it.
This leaves us in a trap, for, if we believe that feminism is truly right, and that men are not inherently superior to women, then how is it possible to associate ourselves so strongly with a faith which seems, at times, to stand against the very principles we hold most precious.
I can not tell you how many long BYU nights I have walked and cried, sat and cried, and lied down and cried. There has been a pain in my heart, head, and heck…even my shoulders, for around a year now. There are days when I honestly feel that I am sinning, sinning by staying and supporting, and bearing my name on the records, and funding with a percentage of my profits, an institution which, under any other circumstances, I would conceivably spend my entire life fighting to destroy. I’m not kidding. I grew up with a deep conviction that I would become a leader of state, or a diplomat, and destroy the evil organizations of the world.
I feels almost like a cop, who trains her entire life to defeat a drug problem in a city, and then discovers that her sweet, kind, committed husband of twenty years is the town drug-lord. Now, what-are-ya-gunna-do?
The real question is “Is my association a sin?”
In a culture where role-models are prized and monitored, what am I if I desire to stand firmly by my beliefs? Am I guilty?
Guilty by Association?
I took it to prayer, pondering and all other forms of deep introspection, and I got to wondering about Jesus.
Now, I do not believe that Jesus was a chauvinist or a racist.
But I do know that Judaism in his time was. And hard-core at that. Reinterpret scripture what you will, attempt to make progressive within context what you will…Judaism was racist and chauvinist at the time Jesus walked the Earth, and if you give any credence to what he had to say about it, many of its religious scholars and thinkers were also hypocrites and liars pedaling at high speeds on an apparently short road to hell (Matt. 23: 33).
So if anyone knew, for certain, how messed up his people were, Jesus would have known.
And yet, we find that he associated himself with them, his entire life. Sure, at times he was table-turning (Matt 21:12), name-calling (pretty much all of Matt 23) mad, but he still associated himself with his people. I thought it noteworthy that even when speaking to the Samaritan Woman at the Well, a time when he really could have let loose (Those crazy Mormons! I tell ya, what a relief it is to get out of Provo! No wait…that’s me.) with a sympathetic audience who had almost as much right to be irked with the Jerusalem scene as he had, he actually stuck up for them a little bit- declaring to the Samaritan “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.”
Salvation is of the Jews? Really? The women-stoning, Samaritan-hating, money-changing ,hypocrites you’ve been calling out all this time? Really?
Even at the end of his mortal roam, he associated himself enough to be called “King of the Jews”. King? Come on now.
To put this in context, if you knew a group of people which had deep deep flaws, would you want to be labeled as their monarch?
I for one would not want to go down in History as…
Queen of the Taliban
Queen of the Right-wing Extremists
Queen of the Left-wing Extremists
Queen of the backbiting High School Clique everyone feared
Queen of the Mormons (which sounds like a title more fitting for the lovely head of our friend TAMN) (sorry, another parenthesis…but I couldn’t help but think of “Queen of the TAMNED”, which I thought funny…dang…it’s 1:12 AM…)
And yet Christ was King of the Jews.
I take what comfort I can in this, knowing that, at least for him, association with an organization he knew corrupt was not a sin. The sin would have been living in accordance with principles he knew he couldn’t support, but not from being a member of a group, and embracing those truths He found there. The life of Christ offered me a breakthrough my world of black and white, for a time, when my associations could only be all perfect, or nothing to do with me. We can still be a “generation of vipers” and yet salvation can still be of the Mormons. We can’t stay the same though. I don’t think that was ever part of our earthly deal.
This doesn’t stop the hurt and the midnight tears. I do not hold my comforts up to others and expect them to feel comforted any more than I would hold a sandwich up to a fish and expect it to eat it.
In fact, I say that as much good has come from separation in the pursuit of authenticity and ideals as has come from staying with hopes of being an influence for good. From a young age I have understood that the good in the world does not come from the church, but often in spite of it.