Chelsea Shields: How I’m working for change inside my church-3

So criticism and hostility doesn’t work, and I didn’t listen to these arguments. When I hear these arguments, I still continue to bristle, because I have family and friends. These are my people, and I’m the first to defend them, but the struggle is real. How do we respect someone’s religious beliefs while still holding them accountable for the harm or damage that those beliefs may cause others? It’s a tough question. I still don’t have a perfect answer. My parents and I have been walking on this tightrope for the last decade. They’re intelligent people. They’re lovely people. And let me try to help you understand their perspective. In Mormonism, we believe that after you die, if you keep all the rules and you follow all the rituals, you can be together as a family again. And to my parents, me doing something as simple as having a sleeveless top right now, showing my shoulders, that makes me unworthy. I won’t be with my family in the eternities. But even more, I had a brother die in a tragic accident at 15, and something as simple as this means we won’t be together as a family. And to my parents, they cannot understand why something as simple as fashion or women’s rights would prevent me from seeing my brother again. And that’s the mindset that we’re dealing with, and criticism does not change that. And so my parents and I have been walking this tightrope, explaining our sides, respecting one another, but actually invalidating each other’s very basic beliefs by the way we live our lives, and it’s been difficult. The way that we’ve been able to do that is to get past those defensive shells and really see the soft inside of unbelief and belief and try to respect each other while still holding boundaries clear.

The other thing that the secular left and the atheists and the orthodox and the religious right, what they all don’t understand was why even care about religious activism? I cannot tell you the hundreds of people who have said, “If you don’t like religion, just leave.” Why would you try to change it? Because what is taught on the Sabbath leaks into our politics, our health policy, violence around the world. It leaks into education, military, fiscal decision-making. These laws get legally and culturally codified. In fact, my own religion has had an enormous effect on this nation. For example, during Prop 8, my church raised over 22 million dollars to fight same-sex marriage in California. Forty years ago, political historians will say, that if it wasn’t for the Mormon opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, we’d have an Equal Rights Amendment in our Constitution today. How many lives did that affect? And we can spend time fighting every single one of these little tiny laws and rules, or we can ask ourselves, why is gender inequality the default around the world? Why is that the assumption?


Om Namah Shivay

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