One of the primary goals of any church is to convince its members that the manner (and what) they worship isn't every bit as strange as other people's ways of worship.
A great way to test whether this goal is being accomplished is to visit another church. If you're Mormon, I don't mean another LDS ward. I mean a whole other church.
A Mormon visiting another LDS ward is like moving from one McDonald's to the next. The menu and pricing are identical. Only the faces change and around here that's not saying much.
Any of the religious ordinances performed in those other LDS ward meetings will be identical as well. Sacrament, baptism, confirmation, prayer they're all the same. It's normal and also the basis for passing judgment.
A couple of years ago, some friends and I attended the Christian baptism of a close friend. It was not normal.
During the worship or praise ceremony of the meeting, several members of the congregation raised their hands and began swaying to the music, which was annoyingly loud.
I'm not suggesting this was wrong, only that it wasn't what I was used to.
As a Mormon, I was more accustomed to hymns of a low moaning sort, like badly wounded zombies set to music.
Afterward, while we were eating lunch, a couple of fellow Mormons were having a little mindless fun disparaging the Christian "get down" form of worship.
They were imitating what we'd seen by raising their hands and singing The Doobie Brothers' "Jesus Is Just Alright With Me," when another member of our group, who was not LDS, cut in.
Jack: "How come you guys eat Jesus?
Us: "What? We don't eat Jesus."
"Sure you do. I've been to Mormon meetings. You pass around a tray with bits of your god on it and then you eat him. And you pretend to drink his blood. I've seen you do it."
He had a point. If we were going to be completely fair, waving hands while singing rock 'n' roll songs about God seemed a bit tame compared with worshipping through spiritual cannibalism.
Shocked and a little angry, several in the group tried to explain the concept of the sacrament to Jack, who clearly didn't understand the sacred symbolism on which the holy ordinance is based.
Jack cut them off and suggested that maybe they weren't getting the symbolism of Christians raising their hands when they sang, and he'd appreciate it a lot of if they'd just shut the #%$@ up about it until they got a handle on irony.
It was a good lesson. There's serious paradox in people who worship "strange" things in "strange" ways thinking that everyone else is behaving oddly.
I was struck again by this irony the other day while watching an online debate on evolution. According to the creationist, nothing could be more ridiculous than someone believing that life evolved naturally.
Unless of course it's someone believing the Earth is only 7,000 years old and was created by a god who eventually got mad enough to drown everyone in it before allowing himself to be executed by the survivors.
Yeah, I know, it sounds crazy. It always does whenever you look at yourself the same way you've been looking at everyone else.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.
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