Yesterday, hundreds of people attended the funeral for our dear friend’s baby girl. My eyes teared, my heart broke, and my mind spun throughout the entirety of the overly religious, hours-long service. Three poignant observations I’ll share with you over the next 3 days:
1. Contrary to its claim, Religion excludes community; it doesn’t create it:
As I’ve mentioned, the baby’s father has been my husband’s best friend for years and years. Let’s call him Gavin. They grew up together, shared their teen years together, questioned theology and pondered philosophical ideas together. They were friends for life, and widely regarded as the future leaders of the church. I can’t overemphasize the depth of their friendship. But now that Silver no longer believes the way they do, the relationship has been severed. And not just with Gavin, but with everyone in his community. Most (almost all) of these relationships have been severed intentionally. Silver is poison and must be ostracized for everyone’s own good. But with his best friend? Gavin has never abandoned Silver on purpose. But the chasm between them remains. Why?
Silver comes from a very rare community of Mormon fundamentalists. This group has a number of significant differences from the LDS church, most notably of which is the practice of plural marriage, or polygamy. As Gavin spoke at the pulpit during the funeral service, shaking with the passion of a father who lost his only daughter. “Why do we do what we do??” He begged the congregation, referring to their unconventional way of life. He had mentioned a moment earlier that he and his wife had 51 siblings between them. Polygamy makes for very large families and even larger extended families. He then asked “How many of you are my family?” A sea of hands arose. Mine was the only hand who remained down within my visual field. Silver raised his hand of course, he and Gavin are second cousins once removed, but that’s not what makes them family. Years of shared experiences and intimacy made them as close as brothers once. But the feeling is no longer mutual, because when the family and dear friends arose to pray over the casket, Silver was not asked to join them.
He is no longer considered the family that matters. He will not be joining them in the Celestial Kingdom, the highest of heavens, upon death. Gavin didn’t do this — his beliefs did.
Churches of various denominations advertise to the public for guests to join them in order to be a part of a loving community, a new family. But what they don’t say is that one must convert in order to be a part of that family. Not because the people of that religion are selfish — in fact, some of the individuals try their best to be as open-armed and open-hearted to “outsiders” as possible. But religion forces boundaries on who is and who isn’t part of an eternal family. There is no willpower that brings someone into the fold that religion says isn’t.
Silver will never be asked to join his dearest friends and family for their most sacred moments in times of tragedy or in times of celebration. Only, only because religion has told them he is not worthy to do so.
Eff religion and the pain it creates by dividing peoples, by separating loved ones, and for not allowing my husband to participate in the mourning of his best friend’s baby girl alongside him.