Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Dominant Culture

I get a lot of questions about the dominant religion out here from friends and family. One of them is about drinking coffee. Is it really true that the Church of Latter Day Saints bans coffee and is it because of the caffeine? If that’s the case, why do they drink Coke, etc.? Well, I actually did talk to someone of the faith recently about this and they read to me from the Word of Wisdom which is foundation text. It mentions not to drink hot drinks. They went on to explain that leaders have interpreted this as coffee and tea, but what about hot chocolate? Some say that’s bad too, others partake. Some do interpret this as a problem with caffeine and think anything with caffeine is bad. So did I walk out of the conversation with a clear understanding? My understanding was that someone has taken a phrase and applied their own definitions.

I recently went to see a nurse practitioner and when she came into the room after the first two sentences she used the word “bullshit”. I remember thinking to myself that okay, she’s not a member of the LDS church. Later I thought to myself, why am I always looking for that confirmation or denial of religion here? I’ve never done that anywhere else I’ve lived. First, the Mormon religion is also an all-encompassing culture. I think it’s because with that culture comes views on the world that I don’t necessarily agree with so I’m always thinking then about what I’m going to say, not that I look to offend. As far as I know I don’t offend people automatically with crude behavior. But also I think I also brace myself for them offending me believe it or not and how I’m going to react to that.

She did tell me having raised two daughters in this part of the world and not being members of the church that her daughters really started feeling like outsiders when they hit 11th and 12th grades because all of the girls they knew started talking about marriage. A hasn’t mentioned anything about feeling different and seems oblivious to whether she is in the minority at school. She did go to study at a friend’s house where there were eight children and she came home saying she’d never been in a house that big and asked me how would you keep up with everyone in a family that size. A’s best friend here is not Mormon and also an only child and grew up here. I asked her if she has ever felt like the odd man out and she said that the church kids have such scheduled lives throughout the week that many times they aren’t free to go places or do things which has been difficult.

It brought to mind the one family we knew growing up that had ten kids. Yes, Catholics can also breed like mad too! I remember going to spend the night at their house once and at age 8 a few things stuck out in my mind. Number one was the absolute chaos of it all. When the front door opened and I was greeted by my friend, number seven in the family, in the background her youngest sibling went riding past on one of their two great danes. I have to admit it scared me a little. I’d never seen so much laundry, I’d never walked into bedrooms with walls with drawings on them, or seen kids have so much freedom. There had been a mutiny and the kids had won. The other thing that struck me was how tired their mother looked. Of course when I look at the family pictures at work of the big families no sign of chaos is visible. Perfection seems to be the only image allowed. Of course being a pessimist my mind goes to the strange trying to figure out what perversions lie behind the perfection.

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