Today I had a conversation with my mother-in-law which started off being a discussion planning a family event and then turned into an Obama bashing and decry of how America is being turned from its Christian values during his term in office. My MIL is now what I would consider to be a conservative evangelical Christian – something that she did not use to be. During all the years I have known her she was a professed Christian, but not a member of any church. Upon retiring she joined the church and has since become rather active in expressing her beliefs. She has changed quite a lot since joining the church, and not for the better. Her views have grown increasing more elitist, bigoted, homophobic and political. She complained to me that “people” think that she is wrong. She chalks opposing views as being disrespectful toward an inability to reason because of her age rather than her religious views, because she has become convinced that her religious views are correct and inerrant. All though she didn’t say who the “people” are, I know that she is talking about my nieces and nephews. One who is gay, one who has an interracial child and one who professes to be an agnostic. Even though I have never told her that she is wrong, I think she probably counts me in the group of “people”, since although I haven’t specifically discussed with her my alternate spiritual views, they probably come across in my responses when I converse with her.
I’ve spent some time this afternoon thinking about the difference in her practice of Christianity and that of my own mother. I tend to think of my mother as a “heart-felt” Christian and my MIL as a “head-thought” Christian. On the surface it may seem as if I am biased toward my mother, but the difference between them and how they approach their Christian beliefs is notably different. My mother disagrees with much of the policy administered by the Obama administration, but she doesn’t bash him. She believes the bible is against homosexuality, but she is not spiteful and mean in her words and attitudes toward homosexuals. She believes that the bible teaches against interracial marriage but she never expresses a disregard or condemnation toward those who have transgressed her beliefs and treats them with as much consideration and respect as she would anyone else. As I have thought about this I have realized that there is one thing prominently different between them that once was the same. My mother does not attend church regularly and is not a devoted church member. A few years ago my MIL was also someone who didn’t attend church regularly and was not a devoted church member, and when that was the case she was more like my mother in her interactions with others.
It is not my intent to make a case that the church corrupts and brainwashes it members even though it is easy for me to think that way given the differences in my mother and MIL. I think what I am really contemplating is how like-minds breed more like-minds. My mother as someone who does not attend church regularly does not belong to a group which influences her therefore her heart guides her actions more than the group consensus. Since joining the church my MIL has seemingly become someone heavily influenced by the mindset of the church and her actions seem more governed by the will of the church than her previous nature.
Thinking along this line has given more credibility to my position that spirituality should be an individual quest and not directed from the pulpit by another flawed human being who may, likely as not, be prone to inject his own personal perspectives on lifestyle and government into what he teaches as the will of God.