I figured out why I love the internet so much, or more to the point, my internet connections from around the world. Besides being a communications major in college, and having been told my entire life that I talk entirely too much--my parents thought it was endearing as a toddler, and my first husband was sweet about it, but grade school teachers and my childrens father protested otherwise.
When we first moved to the heart of Mormon Utah over a decade ago, I loved being surrounded by churches around every corner. As a convert, it felt macaroni-and-cheese comforting and secure, and oh those beautiful temples, thinking of all those loving spirits watching over us...But what was at first a protective field has become a cage of sorts. I can stand on my condo deck and see not one, not two, but three church spires just in the neighborhood. It can get downright claustrophobic.
I got over the sheer numbers early on, even devising a travel game with the kids which we called, Spot the Steeple; you earned five points for being the first to spot an LDS church, fifteen points for a Stake Center (a Mormon church that comes replete with a satellite dish to broadcast Salt Lake's doctrines worldwide, including, er, um, it's own backyard, which we practically are) and a whopping twenty-five points for a temple....okay what can I say, it fit the tight budget of a family of six--it was free and it was distracting.
Not until a non-member (translate, normal) friend recently passed through the state and got stuck somewhere south of us in St. George, and failed to make her appearance up here, did I get a glimpse of how the rest of the world might view us. She said the proliferation of Mormon churches was creepy, and couldn't bear to venture into the heart of the LDS labyrinth to visit, and the sooner she could get out of Mormon Dodge, the better. Seeing it from an outsider's view, and make no mistake, it can feel like you are dead on the outside of something when it's broadcast in your face so pointedly, as in, "Here I am! Here I am! I AM MORMON and proud of it! Want a piece of me?" Okay maybe a bit overboard, but I'd never considered how exclusive we appeared to someone outside our tight little community.
Over the years I have felt less and less a part of the fold, particularly after experiencing firsthand that religion and love and and compassion don't necessarily go hand in hand. I was amazed to rediscover that perfectly good people don't belong to this religion, often not to any religion, and still have more heart than some who spend their entire life focused on the energy of following rules/beliefs. What a shocker. There are good Mormons, but to me they are simply good people and would make good Buddhists, good Jews, good Atheists, good Muslims--you get my drift. They simply ARE 'good' and don't need to be endlessly badgered into being good which frankly, I prefer to call just being decent. Good is such a judgmental word. People who are genuinely kind, decent, and compassionate who allow their heart to actually guide their actions in how they treat others, not just whether someone is obeying the rules and thereby deserves to be treated well. People who openly embrace humanity as a whole, not just their community of fellow believers.
Which oddly may be human nature after all. I find that though I live in a place mired in the sticky mud of belief systems, some occasionally offensive and small-minded (think small-town mentality with a hint of territorial aggressiveness) I could easily feel swallowed and lost in the sea of judgment. Including, I admit, my own. But I want to believe that goodness, or just plain decency, exists everywhere, including here at home.
So even though my community has expanded to include my neighbors worldwide, of all different beliefs, cultures and backgrounds, I like the feeling of being all in this together. And I love that my 'internets', i.e. Facebook--despite all it's bad press and continued privacy violations, although once you are on the web you have pretty much signed that over anyway, but I have nothing to hide, so why hide?--I love that I can go on the computer and connect, communicate and BE with people with the same, different, or really out-there ideas. Though I am still shy of adopting beliefs per se, because, well, they limit your world. Or at least mine.
Ultimately Mother Theresa said it best, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." So welcome, World, into my very own backyard, steeples and all.