Warning: This post contains a quote that takes the Lord's name in vain. I do not care for this word, but it is an important part of the story.
So I had this dream last night, and although it was only a dream, everything that happened in it seemed plausible to me. In my dream, we had just finished performing in a show and we had just done the curtain call, when my friend, who was the star of the show, quieted the audience down so he could speak to them personally. He was addressing the audience and expressing his appreciation to them and he happened to say, "Thank you! Thank you so goddamn much!"
When he said this, several audience members gasped in horror. We were performing the show in Logan, Utah, I believe, and there is a pretty conservative Mormon population there, so there were several audience members who were visibly offended by my friend taking the Lord's name in vain.
My friend, sensing the discomfort of some in the audience, tried to defend himself. He said, "No, wait! God isn't in the theatre." Although my friend in real life is an atheist and probably doesn't think God is anywhere at all, what he meant (or at least what I felt he meant when I was dreaming this and upon further reflection) was that we were actors playing characters, and characters say and do all sorts of things that may not be in line with our own personal values or morals, but as actors we still play those parts to convey a larger message even if some parts may be uncomfortable to those watching. That's a lot to interpret from "God isn't in the theatre," but that's what I felt he was trying to convey to the audience in the dream.
Still, in spite of my friend trying to appease a displeased faction of people (which I don't think my friend would actually care about in real life), that minority of people were having no part of it, and several of them chose to walk out. As they were leaving in protest of what they considered to be my friend's offensive language, my friend said some parting words to them: "Fine, walk out. Believe me, I don't want to go to your party."
He did not say this in anger. It was just a fact. My friend didn't want to be a part of that crowd.
That's when I woke up.
This dream was so vivid in my head when I woke up, and I was absolutely going to try and remember it so that I could share it and what I felt it meant to me.
Before I do, I want to talk a bit about my friend. He does indeed exist in real life. As I said, he is an atheist, and his views on organized religion are pretty unfavorable due to the fact that his own personal experiences have caused him to see more negative things to come out of religion than positive ones. He feels religion often causes people to behave self-righteously and in very unloving ways in the supposed name of love and God. It has left a sour taste in his mouth.
Sidenote: my friend is also a staunch Democrat and tends to view the Republican party in black and white. I think he is just as much of a zealot on the left as the people he accuses of being so on the right, and yet, I don't think he sees that quality in himself. I think he just thinks he's right and is unable to distinguish shades of gray. To him, the Republicans are bad and liberals are good. To him, organized religions are bad and cause more trouble than good. To him, God doesn't exist. End of story.
I'm more of a "shades-of-gray" kind of guy. Yeah, I understand why people don't believe in God, but I also understand why many do. Yeah, there are a lot of things that organized religions do that seem to contradict what they profess to teach, but I also see a lot of really good things that come out of various religions. While I, too, am a Democrat, I certainly don't think all Republicans are a bunch of liars like my friend does. Some are. But so are some Democrats. I actually think both parties want many of the same things; they just have different beliefs about how to get them.
In spite of of the fact that I think my friend has tunnel vision sometimes, I also understand why he does, and that brings me back to my dream. As I thought about this dream after waking up from it, it was very clear what the dream meant to me.
All my friend was really doing was taking a moment to tell the audience how much he appreciated them. He just wanted them to know how he felt, and he used words that he was accustomed to using. Instead of seeing that my friend was thanking them and show his love and appreciation for their response, some in the audience chose to focus on a particular word that offended them, and in their self-righteousness chose to walk out on my friend and his fellow cast mates, and to me that seems the bigger sin.
I know why this particular friend was featured in this dream. I have seen in his life many of the things people have done in the name of religion and God that have left a sour taste in his mouth, and I know because of those things he "[doesn't] want to go to [their] party." I've often heard other friends say that if the Celestial Kingdom is filled with the kind of self-righteous people who think they're going there, they would prefer not to. I understand that sentiment.
When I think of the self-righteous kid at BYU who hands a girl an anonymous note decrying her skirt in the name of morality or the parents who throw their gay kid out of the house because they hate homosexuality more than they love him or her or the man who tells of how his Mormon friends' parents wouldn't let them play with him because he wasn't a member or the members who make a less active person feel unwelcome at church because he or she is dressed funny or smells like cigarettes or coffee or booze or the members who suddenly start shunning another member because he or she is going through a divorce or the thousand other similar scenarios I've witnessed both firsthand and have heard about from others, it makes me wonder how many people get pushed away or left with a sour taste in their mouths because of the Pharisaical behavior of those who believe themselves more righteous.
And this behavior, of course, isn't limited to Mormonism. I think the same the same thing when I see some other religious folk with a sign that says "God hates fags" or hear of some supposed pro-lifer bombing an abortion clinic and killing somebody elseor when Christian people talk about Muslims like they're the most evil thing a person could be. Those are extreme examples, but the point is the same: I think sometimes in an effort to be obedient to the letter of the law, we forget about the spirit. We forget about the hearts of the people. In an effort to chastise and take a stand, we sometimes end up pushing people away from Christ rather than closer to Him. Our examples, either good or bad, will have an effect on those whose lives we touch.
A little while back, I read a really good essay called "I'm Christian, unless you're gay" which I think I even posted a link to on my blog somewhere (although I can't find it now), but today I read a woman's response to it and was touched not only by her son's reaction to the essay, but by the woman's willingness to see what damage her actions in the supposed name of righteousness and God were doing to her relationship with her own child.
Anyway, I'm glad I had the dream and even more glad I remembered it. It was a nice reminder to me that sometimes the things we do (yeah, me included) in the name of God aren't really what God would do at all. I just have to remind myself to be careful that my actions are actually drawing people closer to God rather than away from Him.