Monday, January 29, 2018

We did a dirty thing. We prayed at her wedding.

Bride and groom cake topper. Image source.
Back when I was in college, 2 of my friends- let's call them Angela and Adam- got married. I was there at their wedding, tagging along with another couple, let's call them Harvey and Helen.

Here's what you have to know: This was back when I was a Real True Christian. I was a leader in our campus Christian group, and Harvey and Helen were leaders too. The three of us were good evangelicals who believed the correct things, went to the correct kind of church, and worked really hard at the things that good Christians are supposed to do.

Angela was a Mormon. I had never met any Mormons before, but I knew the correct Christian teaching on it: It's a cult, it's evil, it's not Christian at all, haha let's make fun of Joseph Smith and his magic glasses. (You see, they are not real Christians because they don't use the correct jargon when talking about the Trinity, or something like that.) But then I met Angela, and she said Mormons are Christians.

I was all about evangelism back then- I loved to talk to anyone and everyone about religion. And as I talked with Angela about Christianity, it seemed like she basically believed the same stuff I did. About Jesus, about having a relationship with God... She didn't drink coffee or wear shirts that showed her shoulders, and she often said she was a "daughter of God" which isn't exactly the language my church would have used- but those were just superficial things. It seemed to me like the deeper, more important beliefs- the way she prayed, the way she related to God in general- were more or less the same as me.

I asked other Christians (including Harvey and Helen) about Mormonism. They told me all sorts of bizarre beliefs that Mormons supposedly had- apparently after you die, you become a god and control your own planet and have a bunch of wives, or something. I took this information and went back and asked Angela's Mormon missionary friends about it. Kind of as a way to prove they were wrong and I was right... but my heart wasn't really in it. Sure, maybe they have some weird little beliefs, but did that really matter? They really seemed to be committed to God in pretty much the same way I was.

I didn't know what to think. The correct Christian belief was that Mormonism is a cult and they are not Christians- the other student leaders reminded me of this. I knew it was the "right answer" that a good Christian like me should believe. But Angela was my friend, and she said she was a Christian, and she seemed pretty Christian to me. Eventually, I believed her.

Then she started dating Adam, who wasn't religious. I was immediately negative about it- he was going to be a bad influence, he was going to make her faith weaker, it's bad to be unequally yoked, you know, the standard Christian responses to the idea of dating a non-Christian. Eventually, though, Adam did become a Christian- specifically, he became a Mormon. I was negative about that too- was his faith really genuine, or was it based on his feelings for Angela instead of his relationship with Jesus?

(Please note that Adam never showed any signs of being a bad person or treating Angela badly. My one and only objection to their relationship was that he might not be committed to Jesus enough. Because in the ideology I followed, that's all that mattered. I didn't learn anything about healthy relationships or how to recognize red flags.)

And I told Angela this. I told her I didn't think it was a good idea to date a non-Christian. I remember at some point after Adam became a Christian, I somehow got into a conversation with the two of them about how I didn't approve of their relationship. They didn't seem to share my concern; they said everything was fine. And now I regret what I said, I regret the way I judged other people's personal lives- but that was what I was taught to do, as a good Christian.

Angela told me about how they were making plans for the future, how she decided to change her major so she could graduate earlier and then they would get married. I was carefully neutral in my response. I cared about her as a friend, but I didn't want to ever give the impression that I had any positive feelings about her dating Adam. You know, "hate the sin, love the sinner." When they got engaged, I was also carefully neutral. Saying things like "Wow!" or "That's a big deal!" or even "That's exciting!" but nothing that meant I thought their relationship was a good thing.

So anyway, I ended up at their wedding, along with Harvey and Helen.

And we did a very bad thing.

After we had eaten dinner and danced a little bit, the three of us were just sitting around, and we decided to pray for Angela and Adam. I can't remember any details about who prayed for what- except this one: Helen prayed that someday, Angela and Adam would find Jesus.

Wow, I feel dirty just thinking about that. I was there, I was part of that prayer, ugh, what a dirty thing to pray. Basically, Helen was saying, "God, you and I both know that Mormons aren't real Christians. I hope someday you help Angela and Adam realize that they're wrong and I'm right." Such a nasty nasty prayer. What a low and dirty thing- to claim that Angela and Adam didn't know Jesus, and more than that, to fold your hands and bow your head and come right into the presence of God and say it.

I would never have prayed something like that. I knew it was the "right answer", I knew that as a good Christian, I was supposed to believe Mormons aren't Christians. But I didn't really believe it. I knew Angela. She was a Christian. I had tried to believe the "right answer", I had tried to find huge problems with her beliefs, but I couldn't. All the differences were about superficial things, it seemed. At the time though, it wouldn't have occurred to me to question any of the "correct Christian beliefs"... I guess I basically believed Angela and Adam were Christians, but I wasn't confident enough to say it out loud.

But there was Helen, so totally confident that Angela and Adam weren't Christians- and that God agreed with her that Angela and Adam weren't Christians. It makes me sick.

We did a very bad thing. We prayed at their wedding.

Actually, I do remember one good thing I did at their wedding: I decided not to be negative about their relationship anymore, to stop judging them. I found Angela and told her, "I'm so happy for you guys, you look so happy together!" That was the first time I ever said anything good about their relationship, the first time I ever hinted that maybe it was a good thing that they were together. I decided it wasn't my job to police people's relationships and tell them whether I approved or not. I decided to just accept reality- that they are married and that they're happy and this is a good thing.

I'm telling this story to show you this is what we did, as good Christians. This is what I thought was normal. Judging my friend's relationship choices because her boyfriend wasn't the "right" religion. Insisting that someone's not a real Christian, even when they tell you they're Christian, even when they regularly attend church and bible study, even when they pray, even when they tell you all about their relationship with God. Because we know other people's lives better than they know themselves. And talking to God as if it's obvious that God agrees we're right and they're wrong. Nasty, nasty prayers.

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