Wenet the Swift One – and other Hare Deities

Copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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To the ancient Egyptians God/dess permeated everything. There was no living being that was not in correspondence with at least one deity and everything and everyone was interrelated through deities. There was one divine source but a plethora of Gods and Goddesses, these deities were the building blocks of life.

In early times the cult of (the God) Toth knew four main creator deities, two with frog-heads and two with serpent-heads. Today we do not know how this came about exactly, but one of the serpent-deities was later turned into a hare Goddess, Wenet, meaning “The Swift One”.

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Wenet’s male counterpart, sometimes interpreted as companion, was Osiris in the guise of  hare-headed “Un-Nefer”,  meaning “Beautiful Renewal”. As Un-Nefer he was sacrificed to the river Nile every year, in order to facilitate the renewal of land and crops. (The latter bearing similarity to the Norse Goddess Eostre from which our modern/Christianized “Easter” as well as the “Easter Bunny” derived.) The hieroglyph “Wn” (=Wen) itself stands for the essence of life – it depicts a hare over flowing water.

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Unsurprisingly, Wenet was believed to bear restorative and regenerative magical qualities, she was a symbol of renewal, fertility, protection (against “overwhelming” powers), as well as a symbol of swiftness of movement and mind.
But that is not all. She is also the Goddess of the Otherworld as “The Book of Toth” (Toth, amongst other things, is also the God of the judgment of the dead.) asserts, and there are scrolls on which she is depicted guarding the Underworld’s entrance. In that particular role, her title is “Lady of the Hour”. Coffin texts often speak of Wenet as the one granting the souls a “scepter” on the journey to their new (after)life, most likely standing for authority, as well as “firmness of the head”, possibly meaning strength.

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Hares or Hare-Deities in general were the archetypal symbols of femininity, associated with the lunar cycle, fertility, longevity, and rebirth. But in every culture they are also ambiguous, paradox if not downright contradictory. They are feminine but also androgynous, cowardly and courageous, of rampant sexuality and virginal purity. (See Virgin Mary example below) The Hare is also the messenger of the Great Mother Goddess, carrying Mother Moon’s messages to her children at night (Yoruba, Egypt, etc.) Hares are also often known as ambivalent trickster deities in Asia and Native American Tribes (like Algonquin/Ojibwe/Winnebago/Menoimini/Ottawa God Nanabozho). There are many folk tales in which they are pitted against creatures much larger, stronger and mightier than them, but the hare perseveres every time, even if sometimes by questionable or borderline immoral means.

The hare and Hare-Deities in other cultures:

Mother Hare

Menabosho is an Algonquin spirit or God of the dead.

Eostre/Ostara is the Celtic/Norse Goddess of renewal, spring, fertility and rebirth.

487428_495872893783530_770232264_nFreya, despite her Fylgjas being cats is also often linked to hares. Probably due to her being a Vanic Goddess.

Both Artemis’ as well as Aphrodite’s sacred animal is the hare (amongst others).

Depictions of the Virgin Mary with a hare at her feet symbolize the triumph of the spirit over flesh, or basically: life over death.

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(Well…on this one she’s petting a hare, whatever that means…why Mary, you bad girl, you…)

Before Odin replaced our individual Germanic tribal High Gods and Goddesses, (Frau) Holle/Hulda was the leader of the Wild Hunt, a large group of hares bearing torches illuminating her way.

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Hares and Rabbits in (children’s) literature:

Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit (in Alice in Wonderland)
Richard Adams’ Watership Down

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Second impressions from the mosque

Copyrighted by Penny Rebel, 2012. Do not republish or quote from without contacting author.

There seems to have been some kind of misunderstanding amongst those who actually read my 5-pages long experience.
While it was first impressions at THIS mosque, it wasn’t my first time AT one.  For everyone who accused me of bigotry and not having read the Quran. You are wrong again. I have not just read but studied the Quran. Home alone as well as with others interested in religious science, many of them coming from Muslim backgrounds.

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It’s funny how the only religion that ever caused difficulty within our family was indeed the Islam. Not the Catholic, otherwise Christian, Jewish members of our family. Let alone the Buddhists and Pagans in our family. My uncle was not a moderate, he wasn’t really a Muslim at all. He celebrated a few of the Iranian holidays like agnostics and even atheists celebrate Christmas, as a Western tradition or family holiday. He didn’t believe in the Quran and he was fed up enough with the Iranian regime that he had escaped it. His family, however, was different. They were Muslims alright. Portraying themselves as moderate while visiting us in our country, but not so moderate after all when confronted about their specific beliefs. Excusing terrorism, extremism and being Israel-haters. To those that cry for “coexistence” I hear you. And I agree. However, it is important to make a distinction between religion or spiritual paths and politicized warcults. Islam is such a warcult, cloaked as religion and founded by a pedophile. History attests to that.

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But! – Enough with this little introduction. Back to the Sunni mosque.
So today I came „better dressed“, long Abaya (traditional baggy kind of dress), Islamic overcoat, and perfectly tied hijab.
Sister Rhada, our Islam class teacher, along with the girls I’d already gotten to know last time, greeted me with hugs and kisses and I got a few more from complete strangers. Rhada asked around who would teach me the rest of the namaz (contact prayer), since I don’t remember all the words anymore, and just to see how they would react I asked whether I would be allowed to pray Shia style out of respect for my Iranian family. There was a slight pause and apparent discomfort on their behalf, but my request wasn’t officially denied. We’ll see what happens next Sunday when sister Sara, who volunteered, teaches me how to pray.
This class also included the praise of Muslim life in contrast to Western life which was made out to be sinful, the road to hell and infidels should be avoided if they couldn’t be converted. Fervent nodding at all of this.

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Sister Rhada also mentioned good deeds being key to Muslims, and not just the zakat but deeds that were voluntary and came from the heart. “But!” She remarked loudly, “These deeds only have worth if you are Muslim. Remember how the people in this country are crazy about Mother Theresa and such people? Well, that’s very nice she did good deeds, but she’s an infidel and will still burn in hell for all eternity.” She laughed insanely after that, shaking her head and everyone else chimed in. Oookay…
We were also taught about the “big devil” America, the evil Jews and that it was easy to call the “Mujahedeen” terrorists when they were really just “fighting back”. And on it went. I’d heard enough, but still decided to wait until this “class” was over. I had to admit they were being very clever about selling their extremism. Explaining it with personal tragic stories, calling it rebellion instead of extremism, freedom instead of oppression, speaking of how everyone in Islam was family, the advantages of the “Ummah”, love bombing the crap out of possible converts. Clever, clever, clever.

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At the end of the class one of the converts asked for donations for a sister from Bosnia who had been lured to Germany and had been forced to prostitute herself. (By who I never found out unfortunately.) I was not surprised, but still shocked when I heard her say,  „Well, unfortunately she doesn’t wear hijab, but maybe you would still like to donate, if not I understand though.“ I’ll leave this uncommented at this point.
Later, the same sister (one of the ones who’d told us about her conversion last time) approached me. I’d seen her look over at me and lurk in one corner of the room, fidgeting with her hijab, waiting for me to pass her. I liked her even less after today’s comment.
„You are sister Penny, aren’t you?“ she asked.
I nodded and asked her name in return. At this point I wasn’t even surprised anymore to hear that her (convert) name was Arabic. So much for culture taking over religion/spirituality.
She’d heard me ask Rhada and a few other Muslim-born women about the hijab.
I made a short remark about this in my last „blog“ or „inside report“, so I’ll try to keep the following short: I had made my case and quoted the Quran as best I could from memory about there possibly being no  duty to wear the headscarf but to dress modestly instead. The original word used in the Quran actually also translates to „curtain“ and the paragraph that hijab-supporters rest their case on is actually about male guests at the prophet’s house. His wives were encouraged to „draw a curtain“ between the guests and themselves in order to be left alone and not get hit on. (Which was common at that time apparently; I read in another book that just like in many cultures all across Arabia it was custom to lend your wife to guests and that Muhammad did not want to share his wives, child brides and prisoners of war with other men.)

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For reference: the suras I’m referring to are 24:31-32, 33:59, 24:60. The word zeenah in Arabic was actually not natural beauty (physical/personal) but meant jewellery, make-up, etc. Interestingly in 7:31 the Quran speaks of the believers WEARING their zeenah to celebrate God. I highlighted the word „wearing“ to further argue my case that zeena does not mean hair or face, body or natural beauty.
Unsurprisingly, most women at the mosque disagreed. Many interpreted the word not to mean curtain or in that sense veil but really headscarf/abaya, even the word burqa was uttered. A very few of them said that the headscarf nowadays, especially in a non-Muslim country (is it?! I think Germany is becoming more and more Muslim, we have 3,000,000 born Muslims and thousands of converts every year, and Muslims openly called it “sexual” or “birth jihad”, too) was a symbol and a means of recognition amongst each other. One of them said, „When I go outside I don’t want to be hit on by non-Muslim men.“ Well, if it’s only non-Muslim men you don’t want to get hit on going back to your home country would of course be the logical alternative. In addition to that I can only attest to the fact that Western men generally do not hit on Muslim women in my country. Why? Simple. Out of fear of their male relatives and physical harm.

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I thought about this some more just now, especially since some rogue Middle Eastern looking guy whistled and winked at me on the subway when I was going back home today, (I was wearing hijab of course, coming from the mosque). So the head scarf doesn’t seem to do ANYTHING at all in that regard. (On a side note: I googled the issue and apparently there are indeed surveys/statistics by several universities proving me right, in addition to rape statistics of Muslim countries where women veil themselves.)
Back to the convert sister approaching me when I was still in the classroom: She asked me if I wanted to have a cup of tea with her and we went to “Kabul” restaurant across the street. It was interesting for me to notice how much more „involved“ the waiter seemed. Was it paranoia, I asked myself honestly, some sort of prejudice that „they“ all stick together? But then I’d never had the waiter/s at that restaurant stop to chit-chat and laugh, definitely not call me sister, or slightly bow every time he refilled our drinks or brought more Baclava. He definitely was more attentive and more appreciative also. „He doesn’t even recognize me,“ I mused increduled. I’d come to this restaurant for about a year, simply because it was cheap and usually the buffet was really great.
„You know, there is a reason I wanted to talk to you today,“ Nuriyah said after half an hour of polite small talk. „I heard you ask all these questions about the head scarf and covering up in general. And I thought that my story might help you understand this from a very different perspective”.
I leaned back with my Dugh (better known as “Ayran”) and she started talking.
„I hope you don’t mind my brutal honesty. I realize this might scare or intimidate you, but I see no point in sugar-coating things. There is a particular reason I’ve been looking for God the way I did. Desperately. Looking for a love that wouldn’t hurt or cheat…looking for rules in a very confusing world – or life – that would just give me back some dignity and a sense…of…well…I dunno. Reason to go on maybe. But anyways.
I don’t mean to bother you with details, but let’s just say that my childhood was very violent. And that that was the reason I always felt like meat. Like an object. I’m sure you know where I’m coming from with this…
When I became a teenager I started sleeping around. I was looking for trouble, and I always found it. Or it found me, even when I wasn’t looking. I hated myself for living that way, but I didn’t know any other way. I wanted to be loved, but at the same time I was terrified. I guess I had to prove to myself with every „relationship“ or affair that there was no human love and that this was a way of toughening up. I thought at some point I would be okay living alone. I did pick the most terrible guys after all. I knew how to get them. Short skirts, do my hair…“ she laughed haughtily. „Guys are so easy. They are slaves to their urges, they are so weak, they really have to be protected from us.“ I couldn’t help but frown, luckily Nuriyah was still staring out into space, lost in memories.
„At the same time I was asking myself why God would ever allow bad things to happen. Why me, bla bla. You get the idea. I started reading the Bible, going to church. But I just didn’t feel it.
I remember sitting on the subway one day, years later, and looking around. I saw a woman enter at the current stop. She wore a head-scarf and a long coat with her abaya. And I noticed for the first time that no one paid her any attention. The guys on the subway weren’t checking her out. It was like she wasn’t even regarded as a sexual being. She was just a thing, but not like I was, a piece of meat-thing so to speak. That was just so…FASCINATING to me,“  Nuriyah exclaimed with vigor. „And I thought, if only I could be this invisible. If only I didn’t get greasy bastards checking me out, asking me out, thinking they could just do that to me… And I just got this very strong sense that I had found the solution to the problem”.

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I couldn’t help but interrupt, because while I felt for her harsh experiences as a child I know the kind of fanatic religious insanity this can cause. I’ve seen this in converts before and I’ve felt it myself, I just knew how to stop myself and not let fanaticism and fear take over.
„The problem.“ I stated, not askd. „The problem of men abusing children and women is…them not wearing a  headscarf?“ I tried to make myself sound a little friendlier, despite the obvious message of the latter question.
„Sister,“ she said softly, taking my hand into hers. My hand was ice-cold from the Dugh I held till a few seconds ago, but also just a little chilled from what she just insinuated. Hers are hot from her glass of chai. I can’t help but think, ‚Just like in reality. Hot and cold. I’ll never be on the same page with women like that.‘
„Sister, I know what this sounds like to Western ears. But look around you. We have become so desensitized to men ogling women or publicly hitting on them, even just touching them, no matter if it’s the famous slap on the ass or even „just“ touching someone’s arm. We are so lonely here without strong family values, that we will do anything to form some sort of bond, however superficial and wrong it is. We crave the attention and approval of others. Of men! Because that is the love we think we need and want. It is advertized everywhere, isn’t it? In the media? To get love you have to be sexy. Slim. Dress scantily. It is just another form of indoctrination. – ‘You are your body and nothing else.: And a means to destroy a society. Society is made up of families. Man, woman, children. Society is in fact, or should be, one big family. That is why we call each other brother and sister in Islam. We know that we are all one big family.

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Why do men cheat? Because they are slaves of their urges. For once. And also because women make it easy for them. Their wives do not know how wonderful it is to obey your husband because God made him superior, a protector, a nourisher. And because the other women aren’t taught how to protect their bodies and minds and souls anymores, so they end up mistresses. There are no girlfriends, they are all mistresses. The prophet, blessing and peace be upon him, was greatly concerned with women’s rights, you know!? He gave us the right to protect ourselves and also the men.“ She kept leaning forward, kneading my hand as she spoke, her eyes widening fanatically and smiling the brainwashed smile of a suicide bomber.
„Sister  Nuriyah“ I sigh heavily. „I understand how with your past and experiences you ended up in that kind of mindset. But even Rumi, a famous Persian poet of hundreds and hundreds of years ago wrote that if you cover something up, hide it away, make it unavailable the natural urge to see it will turn into obsession to uncover it, to possess it. And I agree. Men and women both have urges. Because the male urges are stronger WE are supposed to cover up in whole-body-condoms in order to protect them from themselves? That doesn’t make any sense and is not the conduct of responsible and self-aware adults. But alright, you want me to argue less than a “Westener” and more quranic. Then let me tell you that the Quran speaks of „modest clothing“ for BOTH sexes. I agree that is a good idea as in today’s world we rely way too much on outer appearances. On the other hand there is nothing modest about a woman wearing a sparkly hijab, diamond-covered bonnet underneath and skinny jeans with half a ton of make-up, bright-red lipstick included. I’ve seen some of the sisters in Little Orient when they weren’t attending mosque but were just out grocery shopping. The „goodies“ are all packed up, but the dress is meant to draw attention, it’s not modest and the only thing covered up is the hair and neck when they’re shaking their asses in their all too tight body-condoms.
There is no way around sexuality. God gave us this as a gift. It is what we make of it that is a problem, true. But what good does the strict separation of the sexes do? In most Arabic countries a man doesn’t have any contact to women on a personal basis except his mother and sisters, should he have any. Then he is expected to marry. Without knowing ANYTHING about women, how we work, what we like, how to treat or touch us. These are things a mother cannot teach you obviously, and as far as I know from friends, sex or talk of it absolutely is a taboo anyways. It is better to be honest and open about these urges and try to deal with them constructively. Oppressing them is psychologically as well as physically unhealthy. And it is far more dangerous to women, because if the accumulated urges and yearning take over no rational thought in the world can stop it anymore. Regular interaction, “the two sexes learning each other”, is important.
You speak of the hijab or Islamic clothing as the solution to the rape issue. I’m sorry for what you have had to endure, but that is offensive to every decent woman not covering herself up head to toe who got attacked by a man. I am definitely NOT a supporter of the rape theory which says that if the skirt was too short, if the hair was too shiny, if the smile was too tempting it’s the woman’s fault something happens. Or it was her fault simply because she is a woman. It should go without saying that you do NOT rape women, that walking down the street doesn’t equal “Take me now” and that NO means no.
Have you heard about the rapes in Afghanistan during the war? Women in burqa, let us not forget! Why the denial of rape crisis centers or domestic violence centers in Muslim countries? Qatar banned the idea, Dubai frowned upon it and doesn’t allow the issue or the first and only center to be mentioned in the media, in order not to „sully Islam.“ Islam condones violence and rape. Rape of children, of prisoners of war, of infidels”.

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I noticed that suddenly it was my hand that felt hot and sister Nuriyah’s that was rather cold and clammy. She swallowed hard, her face twitching, close to tears.
„Be that as it may…“ she stuttered, „I can only tell you why to me the hijab was a godsent.“
„But it wasn’t!” I threw my hands in the air in exasperation. „It was a man-sent! It is just another way of oppressing women, the physically weaker sex. They look at „us Western girls“ without it and think we are easy. Because that is what they are being taught, with the help of you converts. I know all those women who say they WANT to wear the hijab, that they are proud of it, that it is a feminist symbol. These women have no idea what feminism is. They know the liberal media and brainwashed majority of the population just needs to hear certain keywords and they will bow down repeating it like an invocation, defending the dumbest and most dangerous things. Like the hijab. I understand that you want to be or feel safe. Respectable. But I,“ and here I couldn’t take it anymore, the bonnet and head scarf just felt like a sweaty prison and I yanked them down and took a deep breath, „cannot support covering up one whole sex while the other gets to run around in muscle shirts and tight jeans with shaved chests, bling bling and porn sunglasses. That is simply hypocrisy. Women aren’t supposed to look appealing? Not to themselves either? Why not?! If menare that weak that they can’t control themselves it is the men that need help and altering, not us. Well, then maybe the emotionally weaker sex should start averting their eyes as is said in your Quran, eh”, I concluded. Nuriyah was very pale and very silent.
Look,“ I tried a more polite approach. „If a man stares at me I stare him down. Or I look away shaking my head. If he tries to talk to me I turn around and walk away. That should get the message across in most cases. I don’t need a head scarf for that
Nuriyah remained silent. She was staring down at the table. At some point she had let go of my hand.
The waiter approached, raising his eyebrow in surprise at me sitting there with my hijab down my neck and my hair all askew, face sweaty. I couldn’t help it. „Yo brother,“ I drawled in the broadest dialect of my hometown, leaning back on my chair, „how ‘bout some more tea, eh?“
He blinked, then nodded hectically to scramble away with a worried glance at his “sister” Nuriyah.
„I know you’re not completely wrong” she said finally. Her voice was thick with tears and I felt guilty about it. „But for me there was no other option anymore. Islam got me away from the drugs and the alcohol, the parties, the lonely nights, the not so lonely nights that gave me even lonelier days…“
I felt sorry for her and sorry for having spoken so honestly, then pulled myself together reminding myself that this was all about studying and phenomenologically bracketing. Nothing else.
When I had been in my teens I’d made the mistake of wanting to „help“ my study objects. And I got reeled into things I’d had no control over anymore. Converts were the worst, they were beyond reasoning. Only then did I notice that I never met a convert that didn’t have a tragic life story filled with loss, abuse or other.
We resumed to small-talk as the tea arrived. I carefully tried to avoid any kind of „heavy subject“. When we left KABUL it definitely felt like leaving a war zone. The irony was sort of tragic… We stood outside for a few seconds, awkwardness between us. „Where are you headed?“ I asked. She pointed to the left. „Ah, I’m going the other way.“ Callous lie. But I had to get some space to think. We exchanged quick, dutily hugs and each walked our separate ways. I turned into an alley, looked around, pulled out my mirror and pulled out my bright pink lipstick. I needed that now.  After having tried to live like a Muslim for weeks on end I had an incredible urge for a hot dog and some beer and made my way to the nearest vendor I knew. Taking the first bite I felt like shedding the oppressive rules and customs of Islam. I felt free again, my heart was lighter instantly and I never felt happier about living in a secular democracy.

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And to the fascists calling themselves liberals: STOP saying “It’s not all of them, the majority is moderate” – millions of victims throughout history and daily deaths, rapes, mutilations today disprove that. If you love Islam so much go live in a Muslim country and see how long you will last there. You want true tolerance? Petition for churches, synagogues or Pagan rights in Saudi Arabia.

http://www.faithfreedom.org/oped/sina51021.htm

http://freethoughtnation.com/why-is-islam-so-intolerant-and-violent/

First impressions from the Mosque

Copyrighted by Penny Rebel, 2012.

After my attempts to get in touch with the Iranian/Shia mosques had been unfruitful in the past I googled for a list of all the mosques in my hometown to try again. I was astounded and felt slightly uneasy at the amount of mosques present in my hometown alone. I found one in Little Orient close to the train station, which was a relief. It is a bad neighborhood nowadays and even with my hair covered my blue eyes and fair complexion would “give me away” as a German and I didn’t want to be amongst the many German girls that had been attacked due to their being “infidels”… Image I e-mailed the Imam and got a reply only a few hours later to come to Islam class at the mosque today. So I covered my head somewhat and went up there. I avoided directly looking at the guys flocking outside the mosque, and out of the corner of my eye saw they either politely ignored me or glanced at me and swiftly looked away again. The women I passed in the hall all smiled, greeting me with „Salam aleikum, sister“.  I took off my shoes (hoping they would still be there when I returned) and stood in the tiny hallway leading to the prayer room. I wondered whether I should have done Wudu, the ritual washing, before class and if it would be held in there. When another woman entered the hallway with her two kids I asked her whether she knew about the class. She told me she was the instructor, that the Imam was her brother and told me to follow her. „I’m sorry I didn’t ask you if you were new, you kinda looked like you belonged“, she told me. That stunned me a little, but as my slightly paranoid mind works I thought this might be just some flattery to „get me on board“. The carpeted room to the left of the prayer room had no chairs or benches. There were already a few other girls sitting on the floor, talking avidly. A few of them looked up at me as I passed them to find a spot in a corner and also greeted me with „Salam aleikum, sister“. I sat down, wondering how my once broken spine would handle two hours of class on the floor. Since sister Rhada was busy with her children I started looking around. The room filled up pretty quickly. There were girls in Abayas or long skirts and tunics mostly, some wore Khimars, some of them even long gloves and the Niqab (facial veil) that they slung back over their overhead Abayas once they entered. About 30 of the seventy women and girls looked German or „European“, and interestingly those were the ones that wore the most traditional dresses, being covered from head to toe in either black, brown or grey. The girls I guessed were in their late teens or early twenties wore fancy bones (boh-nays = headbands worn underneath the hijab, veil) and colorful hijabs, who they had each tied or arranged individually, just like Western women arrange their hair in various styles. Assessories like purses and jackets or coats (brands is the word, baby!) and cell phones/cell phone „jewelry“ were essential I noticed. I guess I’d never taken a closer look out of fear of being accused of „staring“ when I’d seen veiled women on the streets. I was the only one with make-up. The second thing I noticed was how many small children were running around. The women all looked at them like they were a revelation of some kind, and the children went around to get hugs, candy, and sit down on various girls‘ laps, just to get up a few moments later to play amongst each other. In every conversation I „overheard“ the frequent use of phrases such as „Subhan Allah“ „Insha’allah“, or when speaking of the prophet – „Salla lahu va lehi va salam“. It seemed a little bit like some kind of competition on who could throw in the most of those phrases to me. I was the only one sitting by myself, but soon a chubby girl with a silver headscarf, who’d been looking over at me a few times, came over and asked, „Salam sister, may I sit with you?“ When I got up to make some room she hugged me three times and introduced herself, then asked if I was new and if I was Muslim. A few other girls sitting around joined in the conversation, and I was amused at how they all seemed to *want* to misunderstand when I’d said repeatedly that my uncle and his family were from Iran. „Ohhh, Iraq!“ they exclaimed several times, „how fantastic!“ I thought it best not to correct that mistake, since I knew I was sitting in a Sunni mosque that might just not be too fond of my Shia family.

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(photos: Traditional infant mutilation during Shia Ashura-fest)

Sister Sara told me that Sister Rhada who was lecturing would gladly write down my e-mail address for the newsletter and that any questions I might have I could ask her after the lecture. She showed me her note pad of the previous lessons and she looked at me in surprise when she tried to explain a few things in detail that I already knew. I found the familiarity and regarding to each other as „sisters“ to be something very new to me. I can’t say I only had positive thoughts about it, though. Of course this kind of „love bombing“ is very appealing, especially to „newbies“ or possible „converts“ . On the other hand I wondered if it might be that this was not just an environment where people „cared about each other“ but „controlled each other“ as well. Of course that might just be prejudice. Might be. The lecture was about Al-Hassan, the prophet Fatima’s son. Sister Rhada told us that all the Kalifs we learn about in class had special positive traits that we would want to try and integrate into our own lives, to become a bit more like them who had served Allah the best. Al-Hassan was allegedly known for his clemency, mildness and generosity. I remember how mothers had hectically escaped church and also the Synagogue when their babies or small children had started wailing. Here, whatever woman was closest to the child would pick it up and cradle it or put it on her lap, comforting it. Interestingly, the ones to wail were the little boys. And often their sisters, hardly older than their brothers, came over to take them from the women’s lap and take care of them. Again: as many good as negative feelings and thoughts about this. I didn’t know how I felt about the little girls seeming so „trained“ to be the emotional „nurses“ of their brothers. As if sister Rhada had read my thoughts she began telling us about a Hadith which described how the prophet told his grandsons Al-Hassan and Al-Hossein how much he loved them, showed affection, even in public (which was revolutionary back in the day. Or well…not just back in the day, I guess.) She explained how important it was also for men to show affection to their sons, grandsons and also of course daughters and granddaughters without exception. „If we can’t give love we can’t accept love. And if we don’t give love to our children we condemn them to the same fate. That is how society is demolished. Love is key to everything.“ Since she had encouraged questions during the lecture I raised my arm and asked whether that was a statement including all of mankind or just Muslims. “Only Muslims” she replied. “We owe the infidels nothing”. Well, that was good to know, especially since I’d heard her talk about how hard it was living off of “this ridiculously small amount of welfare with 4 little children”. Welfare that infidels paid for.

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After 1 ½ hours the lecture ended and Sister Rhada asked how many new students there were today. Shyly, I raised my arm along with a very frightened looking German girl wearing a huge Khimar that seemed to swallow her completely. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was Polyester and how inconvenient the niqab and gloves would be in every day life. Image
Sister Rhada then asked how many converts there were today. 27 women raised their hand. „And how many of you found their way to Islam not because of a man, husband, but by themselves?“ 6 raised their hand. She then invited the sisters to tell their story. The first sister to speak told us how she’d met her Algerian husband, a Tuareg, on our annual Cultural Festival. He’d escaped his home during the civil war as he didn’t want to fight his Muslim brothers. She’d been impressed by his „forgiving nature“ and how patient he was with her when she had first refused to hear anything about Islam. The second sister had met her husband here as well. He was from Mali and wanted to introduce her to his family early on, so they went to Africa to get married in a rush. Her father in law said she would have to convert before becoming married, so she spoke the Shahada (credo) but didn’t start practicing Islam until months later. She’d only started wearing the veil a little less than a year ago. I asked her if her husband had demanded her to start wearing the hijab but she negated that. “I just feel better around him now that I do, but he had nothing to do with it.” Ah yah. Makes perfect sense. The third sister to speak was an 18-year old girl in a brown Khimar. She’d converted 4 years prior to that. She said she’d always liked head-scarves and the women in her neighborhood in traditional Islamic dress for as long as she could remember. When her Dad had married an Indonesian woman he converted, she was 12 then. She started crying when she told us how her father and her birth-mother had come to the mosque to celebrate her conversion with her. Her father had held her hand while they were both reciting the Shahada. She’d been crying so heavily she could hardly finish. And she was crying as she was telling this story as well. The only thing she managed to say was that she was so grateful for all the sisters and especially sister Rhada who’d taken so much time to talk to her about taking the veil, and she felt so much happier wearing it since October last despite having been “stubborn” about it before. One woman was Bosnian-Hungarian, raised in here in my country and hometown though. She’d married a Turkish man who hadn’t been religious at all. In fact she was the one to „re-convert“ her husband. In the end he hadn’t been religious enough for her so she divorced him. I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrows a little at that story, but I guess with the hijab down my forehead that wasn’t noticeable. Hopefully. Another girl spoke of how she’d had a hard childhood and she’d always felt like meat to men (…), she’d been into drugs and alcohol and parties and her life had been meaningless. Then she’d met a guy who’d introduced her to Islam and within weeks she’d been a believer and she’s started covering herself head to toe immediately. The sister who’d converted at age 14 raised her hand to ask if sisters wearing a niqab but showing part of their feet in ballerinas were actually committing a sin. Sister Rhada retorted that there were several opinions about this amongst alameen (Islamic scholars). Most said that everything should be covered except face and hands, some said just the eyes were alright to see. And she knew of one scholar (whose long Arabic name I unfortunately forgot as soon as I heard it) who said the feet were alright to show. „Let’s remember, sisters, just because we disagree with someone doesn’t mean we are right and they are wrong. Scholars are not at one with this question, so it is up to the individual what to choose, but even if we disagree to show our feet for ourselves, we may not judge sisters who do so.“ After the matter was „resolved“  sister Rhada said that since there were new „members“ present  she’d explain that after the lecture they were collecting. That was voluntary. There were three envelopes. One was for a Quran school in Mali, one for Palestine (I physically shuddered at the thought of what my Jewish family would think if I donated for the imaginary “Palestine” and to what cause that money would go in the end…I could hardly raise my hand and state that I support Israel, now could I…)

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and the last envelope was for another mosque in our home town that needed a new roof. Then one sister raised her arm and asked if we could say dua (petitionary prayer) for a sister who’d passed from cancer the night before. „On Lailat-al-Miraj?“ I burst out, and saw too many arms to count reach for me and hands patting me on my arms, shoulders and back assuringly. „Subhan Allahs“ were uttered and sister Sara delightedly exclaimed, „You know about that? You are destined to become a Muslim!“ Image
So we all turned to face the Qibla (direction of the Kaaba) and before sister Sara could tell me what to do opened both palms as another sister started saying a dua. Again everyone appeared impressed and asserted that I was born to become a “good Muslim woman”. I would have loved to tear off my hijab right then and there to tell them that one wasn’t “destined to become a Muslim” simply because one educated oneself about customs, prayers, holidays of that religio-political cult. As I always do when I study a new religion or cult I tried to feel the words, but mainly I felt what I always feel with anything dogmatic, organized and often monotheistic. Oppression, narrowness, God slipping away from me. I guess I must have been lost in thought, but suddenly everyone was getting up and leaving. My head was reeling from all the information. Sister Sara hugged me goodbye – three times of course – and said she was looking forward to seeing me again next Sunday. A few other girls waved, „Goodbye, sister Penny!“ I think that was the first time I noticed that all the converts had introduced themselves with Arabic names. I vaguely remembered hearing that most converts assume a new name. I’d once had a very heated discussion about this with a Muslim philosopher. My claim was that  converts were the worst religious people in general and especially Muslim converts. „Why do they think being a Muslim has anything to do with being an Arab?!“ I had exclaimed. „And then that ridiculous claim – ‚the language spoken in heaven is Arabic‘ – I’m begging you, this is the 21st century!“ I had talked myself into a sort of frenzy after he had dared call me an infidel headed straight to hell and how he could save me like he had saved so many Western whores if only I let him. „Why all the Arabic exclamations and terms, why do they say ‚Subhan Allah‘, why not say ‚praise be to God if there IS only one God as they say?! It is as if they renounce everything they once were. Religion isn’t supposed to be like that. There is no one true religion but A religion that is true to basic godly principles is for every culture, language and country, because it is about love, understanding, enlightenment, tolerance and peace. Religion should change your life in a way, sure, but not erase it!“ Of course I had fared just as well talking to a wall. There were few Muslim scholars pretending to be “liberal” (impossible to be if you follow the word of the Quran), but in fact I’d known almost nothing but Muslim scholars who weren’t even bothering pretending to be liberal. All they spoke of was death to infidels, Jews especially, glorifying honor killings, acid attacks, child marriage and infant rape, “corrective” rape, jihad and the mutilation or amputation of bodyparts of thieves, liars and the like.
I packed up my note pad, put on my jacket and approached sister Rhada to give her my e-mail address and ask her a few other questions. As I left I passed a few men who were all looking past me. The funny thing is that although I knew it wasn’t supposed to be unfriendly or make me feel ignored but safe it was still sort of offensive. I was invisible because I was a woman. I had to cover up in order not to “tempt” anyone. Luckily Western men mostly aren’t wild animals who can’t contain themselves whenever they see a strand of hair or naked legs in a pair of shorts on a hot summer’s day. The way the Muslim men bowed their heads or averted their eyes had something submissive, as though they were aware of their “guilt” of having “filthy” i.e. sexual thoughts. It’s not a culture that will ever soften, that will ever be watered down or integrate. How could it. If the Quran is the unaltered and only true word of God altering it would be outright “satanic”.
I remember the many times I’d walked down the tunnels at central station after work to get home. And how spring time would bring out the worst in so many Muslim guys that were known to hang out there to sell drugs or hit on Western women without hijabs. Staring, calling things to me, approaching me and asking me out, trying to start some silly and pointless conversation, pick up lines, some even trying to hug or kiss me, blargh. Not every time of course. But often enough to piss me off and scare me. Scare all of us “infidel” girls. I remember how I’d pulled my scarf tighter around my neck and chest and tried to make myself smaller on weekends when I’d tried to get home after Persian class, just to avoid the loudly babbling, yelling, laughing and not too seldomly intoxicated Muslims. But they wouldn’t eat pork, no, no… I tried to imagine what kind of society I would like to live in. One were women were wearing tents so they wouldn’t „seduce“ men by their simple existence? No. One where women ran around in tiny tank tops with the strings of their thongs showing above their hot pants? No, admittedly, not that either. Somewhere inbetween maybe. I thought about the times that I used to go out to party. Why did I put on a short dress or tight pants? „Be honest, Penny“ I told myself. In the hope that a guy would notice me and talk to me? Or simply because I felt pretty, slim, healthy and dressed for myself mostly? A little bit of both? Isn’t the physical appearance the first thing we notice after all? And why was alcohol a given when going out to dance? Well, in my case it was rather simple, I was too shy to dance without a glass of champagne. I liked the taste of champagne, a cocktail or beer, too. And I had never danced with guys, only with my female friends when going out anyways. My friend once told me that the only way to de-stress from her very demanding job was to put on a fancy dress, go dancing, get drunk and just let loose. Everybody was her friend, the world was great and she had no troubles. Whatever one may think of that, it is her right to choose that for herself. Without anyone assaulting her and then saying she wanted it because she was drunk.

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By then I was sitting on a bench at the subway station I suddenly noticed. I was still thinking, when I noticed a huge blackness approaching me swiftly. „Salam, sister“, someone cried and bowed to hug me, before I had time to look at them. I felt ashamed right afterwards, but immediately my brain spat out the thought, „Nazgul!“ – the hooded ring wraiths of Sauron wearing long black cloaks. When the girl leaned back to sit next to me in her skillfully embroidered Abaya, I saw her face for the first time. I couldn’t guess her age. Most Arab or Turkish girls from the mosque had looked older than they’d turned out to be. I remembered my Iranian friend Farsaneh complaining that non-Muslims were saying Muhammad was a pedophile but “during those times” Aisha had basically been “a grown woman”. – Really??? Fact is that Muhammad married Aisha when he was almost 50 and she was 5 (in words: FIVE) years old and  thighed her (rubbed his penis between her thighs in order to reach orgasm) regularly, until at long last he had had regular intercourse with his wife when she’d been shy of 9 years old. I also disagreed with those that call anyone who condemn Muhammed’s obvious pedophilia a hypocrite because in medieval Europe most females married at 12 or 13 and bore children shortly afterwards. 12 or 13 girls at least were not pre-pubescent and also they did not live past their mid-thirties to forties in most cases.   „And even today,“ Farsaneh had said, „Arab and Iranian girls are more mature, also physically. I got married at 17 and was already pregnant at 17 also.” I asked her if she wanted the same fate for her two daughters. “Your oldest is 25 and unmarried, is she not? And you are encouraging her to finish collage and date although you have to hide the latter from your husband, right?” She fidgeted for a while and said that we lived differently in Germany after all. “You might, but your husband and most of your male relatives that I’ve gotten to know are still stuck in their medieval thought patterns.” She couldn’t disagree and in order to escape the uncomfortable conversation escaped to the kitchen to make tea.
I noticed I’d been staring at the girl while I’d reminisced about all this while trying to guess her age and proceeded to ask her name. Instead she burst out without smiling „I’m so glad you found your way to the mosque today, sister. How did you like it?“ There was no apparent reason but I started feeling uncomfortable around her at once. Since taqqiya was amongst the first thing I learned when studying Islam I told her how much I’d enjoyed it and how nice everyone was and that I was gonna come back next Sunday to learn some more.  „So are you Christian?“ she asked in the same monotonous voice, still not smiling. „No, I’m…no. I believe in God, but I am not Christian.“ At least Christianity was “one of the three religions of the book” in Islam, somehow I didn’t feel it was a good idea to tell her I was Pagan and very happy with that too. The train was coming in. When she asked me how old I was (she was 15 as I finally learned, but looked like 22) and found out I was getting divorced her eyes widened in shock. „I’ll say dua for you, sister. I will pray for a good husband. A good Muslim, very, very religious, maybe? Very strict! Someone who knows the way and will lead you. Someone you can look up to. You will be so happy”. Okay, that girl was DEFINITELY creeping me out… I thanked her and tried to get off the topic, asking where she would get off. She told me the stop (one before mine, where many Muslims lived) and said, „Well, my aunt and uncle are in the other car, I can see them from here, I didn’t go alone.“ I briefly wondered why her aunt and uncle would be in the other car and if it had something to do with me, but that thought pattern got interrupted by her saying „I can only recommend Islam, sister. For once you won’t go to hell. And it is the best religion, you will find true happiness there. If you are wondering anything, if you want to know more about Islam, you can youtube Pierre Vogel. He’s a German convert, do you know him?“ Holy crap on a cracker, I had trouble not gasping at that name. Of course I knew Pierre Vogel or Abu Hamsa as he now called himself. He’d been a German little league boxer before he’d suddenly converted to Islam. He was part of a group of Salafites who occupied Cologne’s streets and caused traffic jams with their public prayers. He was a violent and dangerous man and so were his followers unsurprisingly. I couldn’t force out more than a quivering, „Yes, I know Abu Hamsa.“ until she excitedly went on. „He is SO strict, but that is good, I mean, he IS only saying the truth. You’ll learn everything you need to know from him. He’s a true Muslim.“

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By then people were staring as she was speaking rather loudly and suddenly her voice wasn’t monotonous anymore but shaking with passion and her eyes had a happy fanatic glow in them. I had no trouble imagining this girl having the same expression of devotion on her face when talking about Osama bin Laden. I sat there with my head scarf and all too blue Germanic eyes, wishing I could just sink right through the subway floor into the earth. „So what else are you doing at the mosque?“ I wanted to know. „Do you just go there for class and prayer or do you celebrate holidays, hold events…stuff like that?“ I’m not sure what she answered exactly, I was more intent on watching her facial expression and feverishly glowing eyes as she was speaking to me. Suddenly she said, „This is my stop. I am looking forward to seeing you again!“ She hugged me and got off. I kept on musing about religions that dictate what to eat and how to dress and how uneasy they made me feel. I like Abayas cause they’re comfy and I use them as nightgowns and “house-dresses”, so I have a few at home. I also like Tunics and baggy clothes, but not because I’m afraid people/men might stare at me. We’re all humans and looking around or looking at each other happens, especially in a crowded city as the one I live in. I also think dressing with some sort of “modesty” is not the worst idea. In the West, jeans and shirts, blouses or tunic are pretty modest because while covering everything they are still not hiding or denying the actual body form. On the other hand  rather medieval Abayas and the dishdashas („night-gown-like“ looking gowns for men) are definitely not modest but unusual, unnecessary in this hemisphere as Northern Europe does not have the same kind of heat problem as the Middle East does. And of course it provoke stares, curiosity and slight unease, which has nothing to do with discrimination or close-mindedness or even racism but more with the fact that we all know what devout Muslims are all about. Which is nothing good as (recent) history has proven. I thought back to the first sister who’d talked of her Tuareg husband. Of course he wouldn’t veil himself here, which is what the Tuareg men do back home. The fanatic determination of the people in Little Orient clearly showed that they didn’t even want to fit in. They were happy converting people, they were happy condemning everyone that didn’t follow – not just Islam but their KIND of Islam. And they had more than once condemned democracy and the Western way of life more than once during Islam class. Very worrisome. I know that in Arabic cultures the hair of a woman is regarded as erotic, even today. I also know that the Quran has been misinterpreted by Arab Wahabites and mitranslated by MEN who like to confine women in textile prisons. What most people don’t realize is that whatever you read, Torah, Bible or Quran, Upanishads, Edda… (or whatever other holy text) you should always read it with a history book right next to it. The Arab women of that time were highly vain. They overused make-up, perfume, they dressed with a lot of cleavage showing, etc. Muhammad had advised his wives not to dress like that, but to dress modestly and „cover their chest with their cloth“ to be recognised as Muslims/his wives and hence be left alone by other men. The „cloth“ he speaks of was a lobe of the long flowy dresses (Abayas) that were in fashion during that time. There was originally no word of covering yourself head to toe, covering your hair or hands, that came later in the Hadiths. I’m always very surprised at Arabs who choose to interpret it that way. They are lucky enough to be able to read the original text after all, so they WANT to misinterpret the Arabic it seems. Same with what has been translated as „beat your wives.“ The root of that word has thirty different meanings. ONE of them meaning to beat. Most others having to do with abandon, leave, leave alone. So if a woman is being difficult or unfaithful  men are not supposed to beat her but leave her (alone), also in the marriage bed. I know there have been attempts at an Islamic reform (by people like Marta Schulte-Nafeh and Edip Yüksel for example) but why do these people not publicly speak up against terrorism and the abominable crimes of Islam historically and committed today!? They are cowards in my eyes.  Why are there hardly any Progressive Mosques? I know of TWO in the US. None here… My country has become the playground of either conservatives or Salafites when it comes to mosques. And the only Shia one, which never responded to my e-mails, phone calls and letters about me visiting it, is under the government’s surveillance as it is said to be supportive of the Iranian regime as well as the Hezbollah whose main aim is to wipe Israel off the map. No thanks. Pondering all this and more I remember what sister Rhada said today about tolerating others’ behaviors even if we don’t agree with them. It had sounded so wonderful, I’d perked up my head immediately. Then of course she had negated it all by asserting that this counted for fellow Muslims only. Even if they were wrong we had to reach out to them with love because they might eventually find the true path.  I was still debating in my head when I finally opened the front door, kicked off my shoes and tore off the headscarf. All these scattered thoughts gave me a headache, so I just stuck my head out of the window because I needed some fresh air and also because I heard loud voices outside. I looked down to see two Turkish-looking boys yell at each other, if playfully or not, I couldn’t tell. When I opened the window they looked up and yelled, „Hey bitch, wanna let us up and show you a good time?“ I wonder if they’d done the same if I hadn’t taken off my head scarf only five minutes ago…

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Mormonism: Once more with feeling!

Written by and copyrighted by Penny Rebel, 2012.

So when I pasted my old “inside report” on my Mormon experiences 7 years ago into this blog I felt like giving it another go from a different angle, cause it had ended rather abruptly and the religion I’d previously studied had caused me deep repulsion (if not revulsion) against religion in general and especially the claims of various faiths to be “the only true one.” Sadly, this had had such a negative impact on me that instead of studying I had literally become an adversary, lol.

So here went nothing. I googled the churches’ website lds.org to scroll around a bit, update myself on the current apostles, revelations, and so forth and ordered the free DVD “Finding Happiness.” I already had a feeling that this DVD would not find its way to me via mail.

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I had gotten off work earlier last Friday and had maybe been home half an hour when the doorbell rang. I hurried down the stairs to meet the two Elders, one from Switzerland, one from the US, halfway.

We talked briefly and I asked whether we could meet up at church after I’d watched the DVD, so I would be “better prepared.” They agreed.

Two hours ago I met them at our local church. I’d never been in there as you know by now. The first impression that hit me was: very American. The décor reminded me of the many churches I’d been lucky to visit in Chicago, Indianapolis, Anderson, Wisconsin and Arizona. The cherry wood, warm colors of the carpet and walls and the neo-classical style paintings made this church or environment seem very welcoming and soothing. I have to say I liked it!

As they were showing me around the church I was starting to ask simple questions. They showed me the relief society (where the women gather and are being taught), the kindergarten, gym/theatrical stage, kitchen and the downstairs room the men are being taught at. Before church service women and men are “separated” and taught among themselves. Later they all come together for the service and are – “of course”, as Elder W. confirmed – sit next to each other.

The chapel itself was “simple”, meaning unadorned. There was no cross like I know from most churches (except Christian Science for example) and a little sort of “booth”. That, I was  told, was where the sacrament was being prepared and shared. The sacrament consists of bread and water. NOT wine, as Mormons aren’t allowed to drink. (I made a mental not to ask if Jesus turned water to wine and there are mentions he drank wine as well, why weren’t Mormons allowed? But I forgot to ask it later on. 😦 I’ll have to remember for next time.) Everyone, even non-Mormons are allowed to receive the sacrament. But, as Elder W. explained it will have less of a meaning as the sacrament is sort of like a renewal of the baptism, a remembrance of the covenant between God and the individual church member. He also said that while children under eight may receive the sacrament if they want to, they aren’t allowed to be baptized until they are eight years old, because then they can choose for themselves. I have doubts whether you are able to independently choose what you WANT when you are eight years old so to speak, but that is just my personal opinion. I did ask  whether it does ever happen that a child refused. Elder W. said that could and does happen indeed and wasn’t a problem either; sometimes the children needed more time and some of them never got baptized and left the church, although the latter didn’t happen much according to him.

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The service is different inasmuch as there is no priest or minister reading from the gospel and then speaking on a certain subject in the Bible. Instead, members of the congregation are being asked to speak on various topics they have two or three weeks time to prepare for. Both women and men alike are allowed to speak, whereas women can not obtain the Aaronic or Melchizedic priesthood.

Downstairs they showed me the family gathering room. Here, people who don’t have a family yet come together to basically “hang out” together. They play games, sing, talk, and so forth. The photographs on the walls taken from such family gatherings all displayed happy, smiling faces and laughing faces. Everyone seems to have a good time during these gatherings. I noticed that there are only VERY young people on the photographs and asked if Mormons got married early on or why there weren’t any ppl beyond 25 on there. Elder W. laughed awkwardly, and confirmed this. I didn’t understand the awkwardness until we talked about this some more and I began understanding that the reason for this wasn’t just “because family is very important in Mormonism”, it’s basically also because like many other Christians Mormons aren’t supposed to have premarital sex and are amongst those churches who take this commandment very seriously.

Elder W. and Elder L. (the quiet Swiss fella) walked me to the men’s gathering room where the baptisms take place also. I have to admit I got a brief shock when they pulled a large curtain aside and revealed what at first sight looked like a serial killer’s basement. (No offence, I’m just stating what the first thing was that came to my mind!) A sort of square swimming pool (basin) tiled in white gaped at me and I couldn’t but take a step back and say, “Oh!” “I know, right?!” Elder W. said excitedly. “Go ahead, you can take a closer look, it’s no problem.” I stared down into the “tank” and the worry must have been very visible on my face. “Any questions?” Elder W. asked gently. I didn’t know how to put it, so I just burst out, “Can you keep your clothes on?” They both started laughing and said that of course you don’t go in naked, you wear a white dress. The white symbolizing the purity of the “new born” Mormon. The submerging symbolized the death of Jesus on the cross and emerging was like Jesus rising from the dead into a new and pure life. “When you are baptized all of your sins are forgiven.” I don’t know why, but whenever I hear religions say that I always think, ‘What about murderers and cheaters and child molesters and rapists and people who have tortured animals?’ I never feel content about this claim…

So after the grande tour we sat down and I started firing my questions at them. I asked the same questions as 7 years ago basically, but in a different way, and this time, I wasn’t being thrown out but we had a quite pleasant and interesting conversation actually. Elder W. told me he liked that I had researched so much before meeting them (of course he didn’t know I’d done this before…) and wasn’t afraid to ask difficult questions. I got very different answers than I did a few years back, ones that didn’t seem as…mmmh… fundamentalist? Mysogynist? Racist? And although I don’t agree with everything I was told I could live with it quite well without having to challenge these beliefs.

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Of course both Elder L. and Elder W. emphasized their answers with reading to me or making me read passages from the Book of Mormon. (In fact, I didn’t see one single Bible in that church.) But I felt they both were more open-minded and willing to at least listen to questions that bordered on doubt.

I wanted to know whether Mormons were allowed to marry non-Mormons. “Because, let’s face it, if the Church of Latter Day Saints is the restored and hence one true church of God – everyone else is going to hell, right?” I asked. They both laughed and said that Mormons don’t believe in that kind of heaven and hell. I raised my eyebrows in surprise, that was one thing I had never heard before. Elder L. (yes, he did talk at some point!) went on to explain that while they believe that after death you can remain in a sort of godless state, which could be interpreted as some kind of “hell” the hell of brimstone and damnation wasn’t part of the “plan of salvation.” I asked whether they were trying to say that even after death it was possible to free yourself from that state/”hell” and that is where they went quiet a little bit. I don’t know if that might have something to do with the secret temple rites of theirs, in which case they wouldn’t be able to talk about it, or if it was something else. I’ll try to get back ot it another time. So to get back to marriage: Elder W. said that personally he would probably not want to marry a non-Mormon because the wants his family sealed to him forever and this can only happen to Mormons. (Short explanation: Mormons believe that families can be sealed together in this life by Mormon priests so they will remain together after death and live on as a family forever) I was told that it wasn’t allowed to frown upon a Mormon marrying a non-Mormon, because they could eventually still have a good influence on the non-believing spouse and possibly even convince her of the true church. But they weren’t allowed to get married in the temple. I asked whether they knew any Mormon/non-Mormon couples but they both just looked at each other wide-eyed and then denied that. So I’m not sure how common that really is. Plus, I’m not sure that the pressure of your spouse trying to “save your soul” wouldn’t be too much for any marriage. Who knows.

Next time I want to ask them if they personally would be friends with non-Mormons, or possible even are already. And whether they also try to convince their friends to take on their faith or if they accept them for who they are.

Then I got to the tricky stuff.

I told Elder W. that when researching the LDS (Latter Day Saints as the Mormons call themselves mostly) I found the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints) and asked whether the two were the same or were related. I saw a pained look cross their faces, and after a second’s silence Elder W. said “Wellll…basically the FLDS split from the true church a while ago. I am not sure, but I think they believe in different apostles. They didn’t want to accept Brigham Young as Joseph Smith’s successor, they think the apostle has to be related to Smith.” I waited patiently, but he said no more. (…) I had never heard about that before, I think Warren Jeffs would have promoted his blood relation to Smith more if that were true, but I might be wrong. I have to research that some more. Instead I smilingly asked, “That’s the only difference? That’s not too much of a difference then if the teachings are the same, right?” They said there were probably some other things different, but they weren’t sure. “So to you, are they Mormons or aren’t they?” I inquired. I saw how uncomfortable I was making them and they were beating around the bush a bit, so for now I stopped getting into it any deeper. Instead I asked, “Oh, is that the church that still has polygamy? I think you guys don’t do that anymore, right?” They seemed relieved and agreed. “So how does this work,” I said. “One of your apostles got a revelation that polygamy be abandoned, right? Do apostles just get “the orders” or does God explain the reasons for changing his laws?” They both showed me the passage (which I didn’t bookmark, arrgh!) in the book of Mormon where God forbade it. The Elders said that polygamy made sense during the ancient times because there was a shortage of men due to wars, etc. God wanted to see the women taken care of, hence men were allowed to marry up to four wives. (Funnily that is the SAME explanation the Muslims gave me, not just at the mosque, but everywhere, except they never abandoned polygamy:…) These days polygamy didn’t make sense anymore as there were enough men. “So if some day there is a shortage of women…God might maybe determine for them to marry several husbands?” I asked seriously curious. “Ummmm,” they laughed. “Who knows. God’s ways are unfathomable, but right now we stick to the law we got.”

“When I checked out your website and generally googled for info on the LDS of course I found pages that were rather skeptical towards Mormonism as well. One accused the Mormons of being or having been racist. It said that Native or Afro Americans or just generally “colored” people weren’t allowed to become priests. Is that true? And since you showed me in the book of Mormon God always gives reasons for changing his laws, what were they in this case?”

Elder W. sat back and said. “To tell you the truth. I’m not completely sure. I will definitely ask around and give you a more detailed answer next time, I promise. Personally, I could imagine it had something to do with the mark of Cain. The dark skin was the mark of Cain, it was a curse. Maybe God saw that after all those years the decendents of Cain had risen beyond their forefather’s sin and that is why God now allows every good man to obtain priesthood.” (At this point I didn’t ask further why or how Native Americans and Africans and Oriental people, who obviously are all or mostly very tan to dark-skinned would be related or connected. But I appreciated his attempt to honestly answer my question. I’m still totally pissed about the whole racism thing having gone on till 1972 and still today in a way by accepting that “dark skin” was a “sign of God’s curse”, but hey, I know trying to change their mind is a lost cause. So why cause myself more drama.)

“What do you tell people who say that there is no archeological proof for there having been horses in the US during the time it is stated in Alma for example? There are people who say that the conquistadors brought them over, that was way later as far as I know…?”

Elder L. stepped in at this point. He said that although there might not be archeological or historical proof right now it didn’t mean there would be some at some point. The most important thing to remember he told me was that GOD doesn’t lie. And if we asked God if the Book of Mormon was the truth he would send to us the answer through the holy ghost.

“How will I receive this answer, how will I know?” I inquired. “You will feel it. I know some people expect or even have visions. Some just feel it in their heart, some hear the answer. It’s individual.” Elder W. jumped in. “If you have a piece of cake. And it is delicious and fluffy…”

“I’d want more” I burst out at which point the two Elders start laughing again and I had to join in, blushing. “Yes, yes, of course. But if you saw the rest of the cake, would you think it was just as good or would you assume that the rest might not taste as well?”

“I’m a very careful person, I’d consider that the first piece might have been meant to lure me into having the rest of the cake which might be poisoned.”

Okay. They didn’t expect that answer. But the shock on their faces disappeared quickly and gave way to more laughter. “That is very wise of you – to be careful,” Elder W. chuckled, “but I guess I didn’t explain well enough. If you KNEW that the cake was made of the same batter with the same ingredients, would you want more?”

“Of course,” I said, not really sure where he was coming from with this yet. “Great. So look at it this way. You don’t have to read the whole book of Mormon, you don’t have to know the whole history of the church, even I don’t and I was raised Mormon. If you read one chapter and it made you feel good and you prayed to God to tell you if it was the truth…wouldn’t you want more…?”

Ahhhhh. Now I see what he wants me to say.

“Become Mormon?” I swallow and the audible gulp sounds like “Mhm” rather than “Ummmm”.

“Great!” Elder W. cries out happily as my eyes widen in shock. I didn’t mean that! But of course I couldn’t well tell them that.

The conversation continued to the process of being baptized. Only a Melchizedic priest is allowed to baptize you and this only after you’ve had a “baptism interview” (?!) during which you are asked if you acknowledge the salvation plan of God, that Jesus Christ is the savior of the earth and that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ on the clearing and received the Book of Mormon by the angel Moroni. You don’t have to know the whole book of Mormon or church history yet I was told.

“But when you’re baptized into this new life then you will have to have cut all addictions like caffeine, alcohol, pop, tea or cigarettes, right?” I ask. “We can drink pop, it’s not explicitly forbidden. It’s not good for you, sure, but every once in a while it’s alright to have, we’re not about frugality, just a balanced life. But we do believe that smoking and drinking are bad for your health and as far as I have read black tea and coffee are as well. The sugar in the pop can be mildly stimulating I guess, but not as much as the coffee and tea, so we try to stay away from that.” (At this point I’m asking myself what kind of Mormons I had met up with seven years prior to that! They were so very different (clueless, or… not instructed well enough??) from these two and even told me very different things about Mormonism than Elder W. and L. Anyways.) “So…if you’re Mormon and you had an addiction to nicotine before converting and then you relapse…you get kicked out?” I ask shyly. I suddenly feel very bad about still sometimes smoking. And sometimes smoking way too much. 😦

“Nono,” Elder W. laughs, “you wouldn’t be judged here. But we would try to help you to quit. We have a program here. It works very well. After one week you are free from your addictions.” While my first inner response is skepticism there is a tiny part inside of me that is curious as well and…yes. Hopeful. I decide to be me for a while.

“I sometimes smoke.” I say. “And I don’t like it to be honest. But I find it hard to stop. At some point I always start again. I really would like to quit.”

“We would love to help you with that if you are really interested.” Elder W. says. “We can instruct you and if you follow through on everything we say it will be no problem.” I still doubt/ed that but I actually would love to try this, so I agreed.

Especially since this is the first religion I know of that has sort of a “detoxification program” except Scientology, which has Narconon. A program where your current addictions are replaced by an addiction to Scientology, i.e. where you’re being brainwashed.

I know I asked many other questions, but they were either a little too irrelevant for this blog or I forgot them. Honestly, religious meetings are always very straining for me, as much as they are awesome as well.

So if I remember anything else I’ll edit this blog.

So basically that was it. I asked whether I could come to service next Sunday and of course they agreed. I hope I don’t have to wear their magical underwear if I just want to attend service, but heck, life is short and then youdie, so even if, should be fun(ny) enough!

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P.S.:

Things I want to ask next time:

*Do you believe that the world is 6,000 years old or do you believe in evolution/dinosaurs, etc.? How do you explain the excavations or dinosaur skeletons (in case they don’t believe in dinosaurs/evolution)?

*How do you learn the languages of the countries you are designated to so quickly/well?

*What do you say to ppl who say “Since you baptize me after death anyways I don’t need to join now, I can just sin and have fun and still go to heaven!”?

*Does God live on a planet called Kolob and are there other Gods?

*Is the devil real or is it just a metaphor like the “hell” or rather non-hell you believe in?

 

My experience with the Latter Day Saints (Mormons)

Copyrighted by Penny Rebel, 2005.

It was a mild cloudy September afternoon. My friend and fellow trainee from the young adult library and I were walking towards the train station from work, chatting and laughing.
We turned around a corner and there I saw them. Well dressed young men, wearing suits and shiny silver name tags and girls in long dresses, buttoned up to their neck, their long hair in buns. Their name tags said „Sister (name)“ and the guys‘ said „Elder (name)“. They were Latter Day Saints, better known as „Mormons“ in Germany.
They were on my list of religions to explore – of course – and when Maike saw me stop in the middle of my sentence and excitedly clap my hands, she sighed, „Go on. I know you want to meet them.“ It is fascinating how I can suddenly overcome my usual shyness when I have found a new study object. I approached „Elder Christensen“ and before he got to open his mouth to try and save me, said, „Hello, I am Erin. And I am going to need a Book of Mormon along with some study material. Oh, and while you’re at it, the address of your church at Wartenau.“ He goggled at me like I was a creature from a different planet. Then broadly smiled, gathering some info material, while saying. „Well, it looks like you know the true religion of God already.“
„Ohhhh,“ breathed I, „you have no idea,“ fully meaning it. But I could see he didn’t detect the apparent irony in that statement.
He told me he had been a missionary in Germany for 16 months already and was surprised when I tell him I hope he will get home safely in two months. Mormons train to become missionaries overseas directly after high school (and often before college) and remain in the country they’re designated to for 18 months. I’ve always admired how fast they learn the language of the place they’re being „shipped off to.“ I’ve met Mormons in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Hamburg and they all mastered the languages that they hadn’t studied for more than half a year before leaving the US.
He asked me what else I know about „the religion of God“ and as usual I cringe inside, but smile politely, answering what I know of the particular religion that claims to be the one and only. Of course I held back. It would have been unwise to start out a religious science study project saying something like, „Well, I know you guys believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob and you have a book you claim is the second half of the Bible, full of historical errors. (*I’ll get to that later.) Your prophet Joseph Smith’s brother decided to become a Freemason (Freimaurer) and it is quite apparent that your secret temple rites are EXACTLY like the Freemasonic ones. Coincidence?! Who knows. ImageYour church prohibited African Americans or generally „colored“ people as you call them to become ministers till 1972 as the book of Mormon states that they are inferior to the white race.  Your church abandoned poligamy, although never officially, but the fundementalist group that split from the official church still engages in it as well as underage marriage. We are talking 13-year olds being sold to 50-year olds. (google Warren Jeffs and his FLDS for further information.)“
Yes, I remain skeptic about what I know of Mormonism and have trouble concealing it, as my main issue is their obvious racism. I don’t care if people choose to believe gummibears can save their soul, but racism is something that just makes me shut down completely. But of course I know there is no place for prejudice in religious science. In theory at least. I know my job is to dive in and become one of them. For a while. My job is to let go of everything I knew  or only thought I knew before and understand the mindset of people who believe that they hold THE truth in their hands – from within.
What I knew of Mormonism was scarce, admittedly.
Joseph Smith, born on December 23rd 1805 (As a Capricorn ImageI’m always ashamed when Capricorns publicly turn insane…) came from a poor family, who moved to wherever his Dad would find work. It was a time of spiritual upheaval. Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists and Christian Scientists were all starting to expand and young Joseph was confused as to what the „real church“ actually was. According to his biography Joseph Smith went into the woods near his house to pray to God which church to join. He was 15 at the time. He then was visited by two „light figures“ – God and Jesus. They told him that none of the Christian religions were right and that Joseph Smith was supposed to guide mankind to the true religion. Three years later an angel called „Moroni“ (no pun intended) came to Smith and told him to dig up a few golden tablets that had been written by American prophets hundreds of years ago. The angel guided Smith to the hill they were supposed to be buried under, but he wasn’t allowed to keep them or show them to anyone else. The prophecies written on those tablets are found in the book he wrote down after the angelic experience, the „Book of Mormon“.
There are further strange and magical things regarding the founding of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Smith happened to meet a man who was in possession of three Egyptian mummies. Inside the mummies‘ bandages he had found scrolls. Smith was eager to purchase them. He translated them and proclaimed that these were lost prophecies of Abraham. He published the translations together with photographs of the original scrolls. Several Egyptologists agreed on Smith’s „translation“ being complete humbug. There was no word of Abraham, instead of Osiris and an ancient unnamed Goddess as the papyri were indeed excerpts of the Egyptian „Book of the Dead.“
More strife, confusion, tumult and fraud followed. And after having broken into a publishing house who’d „defamated“ the Church of Latter Day Saints Smith was shot during a riot.
Brigham Young, who was also responsible for the discrimination and racism towards African Americans in the church of Latter Day Saints – became his successor.

Romney

Latter Day Saints have several appointed apostles who are said to be in direct contact with God. He speaks to and through them and they pass on his holy laws to the Mormon community. God seems to change his mind a lot, because there are frequent changes and new laws passed down. Let me get back to the racist issue within the Church of Latter Day Saints in this regard:
Until the 1970s the apostles were at one with the „holy law of God“ that „negros“ (I’m simply quoting the term here) were not qualified to serve as priests. They were allowed to join the church as members but were looked down upon out of the reasons stated above. Mormon apostle Bruce McConkie wrote in his book „MORMON DOCTRINE“ in 1966 that „…negros are denied priesthood in this life (!) and can under no (!) circumstances represent God and his will on earth. The gospel and its message of salvation aren’t meant for them. This is God’s eternal law of justice…“ (p. 527 ff)
And then! In 1976 the Salt lake City Tribune reported that a member of the church ordained a „black“ priest. He was excommunicated ten days later.
There was a national uproar following the excoummunications, many Mormons left the church, numbers kept dwindling over the next two years. Until. Until one fine morning in 1978 the 12th mormon president issued a letter to his brothers in the faith (no, there was no talk of the sisters…) saying that since he and the other apostles had been „painfully aware“ of the unhappiness of „colored brothers“ prohibited to become priests they had locked themselves in to implore God for several days that he may revoke this law. Apparently God reconsidered and remembered that he had indeed created the „blacks“ as well as the „whites“ (way to go, God!…). Many Mormons stated that these news had been as shocking as the word of president Kennedy’s death. Go figure.

When I asked around amongst my acquaintances, friends and family what they knew about Mormonism, the first thing they mentioned was their incessant genealogical research and their gargantuous archive at their main church in Salt Lake City. Upon my asking none of them knew why genealogy was so important to Mormons. It is in fact only because that they collect or try to collect the date of EVERYONE who EVER lived, because they baptize them after death.  Why? So that they will not go to hell once Armageddon comes.

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Mormonism is often accused of not being Christian. Of course, if we define Christianity by what is in the Bible, the old testament Bible itself isn’t Christian, but Osiric (which would then fit fine with Smith’s Egyptian papyri.) and the new testament and Yeshua’s (Jesus) message one of gnosis if anything. But that is something to be illustrated in a different essay maybe.

Anyway. What can be said without question is that Mormonism isn’t a monotheist religion. When Smith published the Book of Mormon in 1830 his understanding of God/religion was still very Biblical/monotheist. God is „spirit“ (> Alma 11:26 ff) and the only one/spirit there is.
In his issued Book of Moses, Smith reports of how God creates the universe, using the term „I“ for God.
However, in his later issued Book of Abraham he suddenly speaks of several Gods creating the universe! Nowadays (google forums and Mormon-based/issued webpages on their religion) Mormons believe that the various Gods differ from THE God only by being inferior to him, less powerful and hence less important. They are on a different „level of evolution.“ (!?)

The second rather „un-Christian“ belief is that according to Smith God is an exalted human being. He publicly proclaimed this during a speech he held on April 7, 1844 in Illinois.
Thought: If God has a physical body in Mormonism then Mary cheated on Joseph with God in the flesh and there is no virgin birth. Of course the virgin birth is very Catholic in essence as amongst other things it was invented to prove that Jesus was without „original sin.“
Conclusion: God is not eternal in the Judeo-Christian sense – perfect, omnicient, omnipotent, etc. He is also just another being, albeit higher developed than humans are at this point. That was also supposed to explain the constant change of „holy laws“ passed on by the apostles. Problem: These laws are said to be passed on when the believers were „ready“ for change. BUT let us remember the disbelief, shock and reluctance that Latter Day Saints received the revelation of „negro priests“ with. „Ready“????? Hmmm…

buddy-jesus making fun of mormons

Mormons, much like for example Christian Scientists (and no, this is NOT Scientology, you Philistines!) say that they do not believe in the trinity, yet strangely they also make a distinction between „Holy Ghost“ as a person of the „package“ of God, son and holy ghost (=trinity?!) while the „Holy Spirit“ is the force/power emanating from all of them.

Mormons believe in procreation taking place IN heaven. These children are called spirit-children. They can progress to godhead.

If humans obey the laws of God in this life they can become Gods in the next life. “If we prove faithful to the Lord, we will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven. We will become exalted, just like our Heavenly Father…” “These are some of the blessings given to exalted people… 2. They will become gods.”
(Gospel Principles, 1997. Chapter 47 “Exaltation.”

Of course there are several other contradictions, such as that according to the book Alma (in the Book of Mormon) Jesus was born in Jerusalem (!) not Bethlehem.

Of course, the above are only tiny fragments of the religion of Latter Day Saints. To comprehend it fully it would be best not to rely on these amateurish scribblings, but to read the Book of Mormon/Abraham as well as several non-Mormon books on the church and faith as well.

But all I told Elder Christensen was a small and uncriticizing biography about Joseph Smith; he was impressed and asked if I would care for a loose get-together with a few other Latter Day Saints our age that to discuss the Bible and the Book of Mormon with. We agreed to meet up on Saturday, and he asked if it would be fine to meet up in the late afternoon since he was helping out a friend in V~. „In that case,“ I laughed in surprise, „you and your friends are invited to come to my place, I live in V~.“ He was radiant with joy. „See?!“ Elder Christensen exclaimed, „This is God working his miracles! Oh, I’m telling you I feel in my heart that this is a sign that we are supposed to pry you away from Satan!“  Sure. Okay.
At home I kept going back and forth between the kitchen and my room, glancing through the open living-room door. The tenth time I did this, my pappa calls, „What did you do?“
I tip-toed into the living-room, deciding to come clean.
„I met some Mormoms today!“
„Oh my God.“ My Dad says. „The Mormons now. Weren’t you just Jewish a few weeks ago?“
I shook my head impatiently. „That was two years ago. So um, can they come over this Saturday for tea?“
My father stared and sighed deeply. The sigh of a man who has known defeat many, many times.
„Please tell me this is not going to be like the time the Hare Krishnas danced out in our garden for all the neighbors to see…?“
„Um.“ I looked away nervously. „I think we’re just supposed to study the Book of Mormon.“ I huffed avoidantly. Pappa agreed and so I walk back to my room to study the Book of Mormon along with four other books on Mormonism I got from the library. A perfect and very common evening .

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon. I was wearing my huge MayheM shirt (for all of you who are unfamilar with Satanic Black Metal – I guess now you get the idea…) The doorbell rung at exactly 5 PM. I stormed to the door and found myself face to face with three young Elders (is that a contradction in terms? Hmmm…) and two sisters. After a lot of avid hand-shaking and introductions I guided the little herd into the living-room. Pappa was watching „The literary Quartet“, but dutifully got up to greet them. As I beckoned the five towards the patio Elder Christensen turned around to whisper to me, „Maybe your Dad would like to join us?“ It sounded hopeful. The compassion of a man who sees nothing but lost souls, hellfire and eternal damnation amongst non-Mormons. „My Dad is good with the old Germanic Gods,“ I smile confidently, and Elder Christensen looked at me as though I’d just offered him some heroine. I was the only one laughing.
„Tea?“ I asked politely, gesturing to the huge pot on the garden table. Silence.
„We’re not allowed to drink tea. Or coffee. Or pop.“ One girl volunteered. Ah. I hadn’t read that anywhere yet.

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„Oh, didn’t know that.“ I mumbled as I was stuffing in a piece of Swedish snuff into my mouth.
More silence.
The Latter Day Saints each got out their Books of Mormon. No Bible, I noticed.
„So.“ Elder Christensen ceremoniously says, straightening up in his chair. Clearly, he is the „leader“ of this little group. „We would like to start this meeting out by saying a prayer if you don’t mind.“ Like on command, everyone bows their heads. I bow mine as well. Elder Christensen’s voice was full of passion when he asked God for guidance and blessings for this get-together. After a few minutes his voice became even louder, the prayer turning into a kind of sermon. He stroke his fist into the other hand, gesturing, opening his arms, wrapping them around them, his eyes half closed as if in rapture. I involuntarily had to think of the Shakers and Quakers. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed my Dad leaning forward in his armchair, eyebrows raised, face pale. He nodded at me through the open terrace door as if to ask „Is he okay?“ I grinned and he leaned back to watch his show again.
„Okay.“ I announced, ready to take matters back into my hands. My turf. My rules. My meeting.
„So I know you’ve come here to read the Book of Mormon with me, but I do have a couple of questions if you don’t mind.“
I acknowledge my standard set of questions is very…basic, boring if you like. At first meetings I don’t usually dive into church or religious history, passages from scriptures to be analyzed or contradicted. I ask what most people ask themselves every day. Why are we here, why are there so many religions, how do you know that your religion is the only true one. What happens to good people who aren’t members of your religion after death, why does God allow evil, sickness, violence, rape, death. In this case of course – I added one question. Why weren’t they allowed to drink tea? I assume I would get a similar answer I got from the Hare Krishnas about the body being a temple of God that was meant to be kept pure and clean of stimulating substances. „But you are allowed to eat, right?“ I couldn’t help but ask. „Of course, why wouldn’t we?“ one girl asks. „Because food can be very stimulating, especially after a long day at work. It’s hot out today, right? Ever notice that on a day like that you couldn’t stop thinking about a nice fruit salad? It’s your body craving vitamins and fluids. And ever notice that after you had your delicious fruit salad you feel like your endorphines are dancing?“ The Mormon group chuckles insecurely, they’re still not sure what this is all about. „Well, that is a kind of stimulating to your body, right? It’s reviving. For someone with low blood-pressure a cup of coffee or tea in the morning can do the same a fruit salad can do for you on a hot late summer’s day.“
Silence.
I was disappointed. Somehow I would have expected them to be better prepared. I often noticed how trivial every-day questions seem to unsettle believers of whatever faith. The whole get-together seemed very chaotic, my questions and thoughts were met with more silence and hectic turning of the pages of the Book of Mormon. It must be hard when you can’t answer for yourself, always to be afraid you might say something that might be contradicting to your beliefs accidentally. At 7 PM, I decided to break it off.
Elder Christensen asked me if I would care for joining the Sunday service tomorrow. „Ohhh, I’d LOVE to“ I lied, „but I have to help an elderly neighbor with her gardening.“ The Latter Day Saints seemed delighted. „We can help! It’s no problem. That is what we do! We help people!“ I somehow managed to convince them it was best I tended to my friend’s garden by myself, but I still got an invitation to an informative meeting at the house of another Elder. As surprised as I was after this awkward encounter, I still agreed.
Elder Christensen gave me the address and I didn’t manage to hide my surprise. This was not just the rich side of town, this was the millionaires‘ side of town.

poderes-unidos-kolob_01
(depiction of the planet Kolob, the planet wich the Mormon God inhabits. Don’t fret, my dears, if you convert you will all get your very own kick-ass planet after death and become a God or Goddess yourself!)

It was hot out on the day I left for the meeting. My pappa kissed me goodbye after I gave him the names of the people present, the telephone number and street address of both the house the meeting is held at and the actual church. This is our agreement regarding my religious science studies that have been going on for 9 years now. Looking over the contact info he called after me, „Don’t let them baptize you, I’d hate to lose a daughter to Moroni!“
As I was making my way to the house I noticed two men in suits both wearing name tags. I speeded up and called to them in English and after a quick glance at their name tags greeted them with „Elder Stewart“ and „Elder Pozniak“. They asked me how long I’d been in Germany. I was confused. „Quite a while now?“ I laughed, totally not getting it. „I know what you mean,“ one of the boys said. „It feels longer being here than I actually am. It’s a tough country.“ I was still confused. „Did you convince anyone of the true religion yet?“ he asked me. Ohhhhhh. It was only then I realized what they were thinking. I couldn’t help but burst into laughter. „I’m not a missionary,“ I giggled, „I’m a guest, see, I’m not even wearing a name tag!“ I pointed at my chest. They blushed and apologized for having „insulted“ my country. „You look so…Mormon!“ one of the Elders, a scrawny Afro-American teenage boy, exclaims. Of course I do. I got a cheap polyester dress with tiny flowers online, one of the ones I’d seen the „sisters“ wear. If I was doing this I was doing this right.
The house the meeting was held at was not a house. It was not even a mansion. It was a castle. And I didn’t like it. I don’t know where I got this strong (strange?) sense of frugality from, but lavishness has always brought out rebellion in me. When I look at the abundant churches of the Catholics, filled with gold and glitter I can’t but feel ashamed for them. I always wish I could tear down the golden crucifixes, sell them and feed the poor, abused and hungry. Looking at this palace brought out the same kind of feelings in me.
The Walkers were a „typical“ American family. (I don’t mean to promote stereotypes, but I think that most of us agree that the word „mentality“ is not just a word shell.) Mrs. or „Sister“ Walker was an extremely motherly, warm and kind woman with big poofy hair and bright intelligent eyes. Mr. or „Elder“ Walker worked  for the church. He had soft, slim, clean hands like a doctor. I caught him glimpsing at his wife while he was shaking my hand. He was taller than her, but he was „looking up“ to her, his head slightly bowed. Clearly, Mrs. Walker was the „man of the house“. The children, all in their late teens, were extremely well-behaved, polite and eager to make us guests feel at home. So not your typical teenagers all in all. The dining room table was almost collapsing under the tons of food and we were encouraged to sit down and „dig in.“ As the others were talking I once more took the time to look around me. Family pictures. Pictures of the current apostles. A picture of Joseph Smith. No crucifixes, no Jesus, no Bible anywhere. Just a shelf packed with books on Mormonism.
I sat down next to elder Walker. I didn’t come for food after all. I thanked him for having me over and explained my interest in the religion. He seemed delighted and began telling me about the advantages of being „saved“ immediately.
After dinner and polite small talk we were guided to the living room to watch a movie on Joseph Smith, the founding of the church and its progression today. I was bored as I was not learning anything new and I noticed my reluctance growing. I looked around and saw the pricy furniture, the 30×30 inch silver frames, the Villeroy and Bosch vases…I cocked my head to read the label better – Mrs. Walker’s shoes were Prada.
I hadn’t wanted this to end too early… ‚You don’t know how much they might donate to charity. All the good they might be doing. Prejudice is the only sin you believe in, remember?‘ I tried to remind myself, but it was too late. I knew how this was going to end that night.
After the movie was over Elder Walker turned back on the lights, smiling welcomingly, opening his arms as if to hug us all and asked if we had any questions.
„Yeah I got a couple, if you don’t mind“ I heard myself say, cringing at the sound of my own voice.
Oh Erin. Really? Do you always have to fight for what you deem justice like the Erinnyas? Why did your pappa call you Erin again? Right…
„So why are the female members of the Church of Latter Day Saints called „sisters“ while the men are called „elders“?
I saw the corner of elder Walker’s mouth twitch slightly, but he replied calmly and in all earnesty.
„Because God has bestowed men with other talents and abilities than women. God created man first, and woman as his companion.“
Now I’ve had enough.
„So the Church of Latter Day Saints says that archeology and history prove the Book of Mormon right, did I understand that correctly?“
„Absolutely!“ Elder Walker’s eyes glowed excitedly.
I leaned back in my armchair. I thought I could enjoy the comfiness of the huge, puffy American furniture just a while longer before the inevitable.
„So… What is your explanation for the mention of metals – coins, weapons and buildings that did evidentially NOT exist until at least 900 AD? Because until the conquistadors arrived all that was used were stone weapons.
Also I noticed the mention of chariots, but there were no wheeled vehicles at that time either.
I also wonder how the growing of crops like wheat and barley could have happened without plows or specialized farming techniques absolutely unknown during the times described in the Book of Mormon?
And while I’m at it, one final question – how did donkeys, horses, pigs and elephants get to the American continent before the conquistadors?“
Elder Walker’s smile disappeared as though someone had switched it off. His wife made an offended little sound, the guests didn’t know what had hit them, they were looking back and forth between me and the Walkers.
„Dear girl,“ Elder Walker says, „there are many things archeology hasn’t been able to prove yet. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.“
„Like that elephants lived in America a few thousand years ago.“ I stated, grinning from ear to ear.
(Edit 2012: I hated myself for being the devil’s advocate, but a few years back the extremism of certain religions concerning the „womens‘ role“ and the various „races“ was something I thought I could fight by using reason and logica as my weapons. Little did I know how wrong I was…)
„Ohhhhhhh! Ohhhhh!“ Mrs. – or sister – Walker then grunted, raising her finger in the air. „You are an infiltrator! You are possessed by the spirit of doubt which is the devil’s spirit!“

images

I raise more and more questions, „desecrating“ their holy temple rites by explaining the ritual to the other guests, and of course the one question  causing everyone to jump up from the furniture, point at me and start raising their voices is the one concerning the Mormon racism. „African Americans weren’t allowed to become priests?!“ the dark-skinned kid asked wide-eyed. „It wasn’t LIKE that!“ Elder Walker says determinedly, but then helplessness overwhelms him. „The sin!….was too big!“ The Afro-American kid still stared in disbelief.

It was dark outside. There were hardly any street lamps. I stumbled towards the train station, calling my pappa from my cell phone.
„Everything in order?“ he asked.
„Always. I got kicked out.“ I laughed.
„Thank God!“ he exclaims. „What are you going to be next? Hindu?!“
„I think….“ I paused. „I’m just gonna be me for a while…“

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