When I was in 5th or 6th grade, there was a girl in my class who still believed in the Easter bunny. She was so adamant in her belief, she even proclaimed to have seen the bunny with her very own eyes. It was the craziest thing I had ever heard up to that point in my life. I thought it was completely ridiculous! We were 10 or 11 years old at the time, she should have known by then that the Easter bunny wasn't real. I mean, come on, there was no such thing as a giant bunny going around leaving eggs or candy hidden for kids to seek out. What kind of parents allowed her to believe in a fictional holiday character still, at her age? Opening up the opportunity for her to be ridiculed and mocked by her peers.
Sadly, I was one of those peers. I specifically remember making it known to her just how stupid I thought it was that she believed in something that (according to my belief system) wasn't real. I was justified. I had made my superior, more knowledgeable experience known. I had to save her from her ridiculous belief.
I think about this situation a lot in my life. Especially around Easter, especially around holidays with fictional characters, and especially when I see her on the outskirts of Spacebook (we have mutual friends). I was a jerk. Who cares if she believed in the Easter bunny? It reflected more on who I was as a person for ridiculing her. I feel bad that I was so mean to her because she believed something different. Its a little crazy that it was such a blip in my history, but it has affected me so much. I have tried to turn that situation of being embarrassed by how I treated another human being into something I can live by as an adult, in appreciating and respecting peoples values and beliefs.
Now, I am not here to preach (okay, maybe a little, why else do people have blogs), and I am not here to open up a huge debate. If you disagree with what I am writing, then that's the fun thing about a blog, you can quit reading and go read something you want to read. Believe me, even if you want to debate or disagree, you wont convince me otherwise. Just ask my mother, she's struggled my entire life debating with me, from getting me to brush my hair or tying to convince me to like dolls, it just wont happen.
Here's why I decided to open up a little today. It's Easter. It also happens to be conference weekend for the LDS church, or also known as the Mormons. I don't feel like I need to go into a huge explanation about who we are or what we believe or why we get together twice a year to listen to our leaders. That is all available at LDS.org.
I'm writing because I came across an article on the great land of Spacebook that discussed some members dissenting during the first session of conference yesterday, while the leaders of the church were sustained. They didn't want to sustain our leaders and made it known by shouting out when asked if they opposed. Again, I'm not here to debate the specifics of that either. What really struck me the MOST was the comments from the peanut gallery of people on Spacebook who happened across the article and wanted to share their opinion (which they are welcome to, its a public forum). It was the harsh, aggressive, hateful way they went about it. I get it, haters gonna hate, but it doesn't stop me from feeling sad about how they chose to go about it.
Now before I preach on, I have to make sure you have all the facts. I am LDS. I was raised LDS. I have been endowed and been through the temple. But I am a ways off from being a "model Mormon citizen". I don't go to church every Sunday. I have bouts of inactivity and wont go to church for months at a time. I cuss and tell dirty jokes sometimes. I didn't even watch the first session of conference I referenced earlier because I was on a bike ride, so it was only through that article that I even knew about the people shouting their "Nay" vote. I have many other shortcomings or sins, but this is not a public confessional, so mind your own damn business.
On a more serious note though, I believe in God and I believe in Jesus Christ. I know them. Too many things have happened in my life to know otherwise. For me, life is too intricate, too coincidental, too complicated, too detailed, to think that any other possibility of them not existing is available. And the God and Savior I know, love me in spite of my shortcomings and sins. They love me always.
I get that other people believe differently than I do. I get that people don't believe in God. I get that people think Mormons are crazy and follow antiquated and oppressive rules. But just because you don't believe in that, does it really give you the right to say awful things?
Now I am not forgetting that in this same turn, I know some Mormons that can be pretty awful and unaccepting. I once went to a bishop for some spiritual council, and he proceeded to tell me that if I joined a gym, I would feel better about myself and date more. Keep in mind, never once had I asked him anything about feeling better about myself, dating, or whether or not I should join a gym. I know what its like to be highly offended by one of God's anointed. But that was his shortcoming, not God's. I have also had another bishop cry with me in a time of deep heart ache when all I needed was someone to care and understand.
I've met some very judgmental Mormons. I've also met some very judgmental Catholics, agnostics, atheists, gym-rats, foodies, superhero fanatics, dancers, book nerds, animals lovers, sports nuts, beer aficionados, hunters, etc. You get the idea. We're all so different. We are always going to differ in opinion somewhere. Why lash out and say hurtful things, just because someone believes something differently than you? Why judge and hold yourself on a higher pedestal because someone doesn't believe what you believe? If someone doesn't believe in your "Easter bunny", it doesn't mean it isn't real to you.
We are all here to experience life, it would be terribly boring if we all believed in the same thing. I honestly think that the only thing any one really wants in life is to feel happiness. Maybe that's through religion, maybe its through hiking (um, not me), maybe its through sharing pictures of cats on the internet, maybe its through falling in love with someone that is your same gender, maybe its through believing that families can be forever even after we die, maybe its through watching all seasons of LOST over and over again until you can solve all the mysteries of that stupid show, I don't know. But I do know that we can find happiness through love, acceptance, kindness and civility to our fellow human beings, despite our differences.