Let’s Pretend

Leonard Ravenhill

Let’s Pretend We Don’t Know We Are Pretending

 
Enter with us into an imagined world … one myth among many
Once Upon A Time …
Children born into a Church are in most ways unaware and unwitting conscripts into an environment that is totally and unequivocally one of “let’s pretend.”

Since comparative critical thinking is not one of those innate gifts with which most children are born, those born into active, believing and participating families experience from the get-go a circumstance that – if explained to adult recruits/investigators in an honest, fair and responsible manner – might go something like this.

“Now, Brother Brown, we are here today because we are totally happy, totally satisfied, totally believing in the truths we are preaching. We have mentally moved into the world portrayed by these pretend truths and invite you to do the same.

These truths along with the duties and obligations that we consider legitimate, real and effectual in this pretend world, are what you should come to believe in. To get there we challenge you to suspend your disbelief and assume that everything we teach you is the truth.

We invite you to pretend along with us, go along with us, go along with all our stories, rationales and theologies. As you suspend disbelief, you will become more and more planted in this pretend reality we who are members all share.

If you are faithful, at some point, the disparities, the faulty rationales and theologies and the absolute truths will all be just that … absolutes. You will be so convinced that they are all true, that our drama – yours and mine – is the only true reality, that it will be hard to return back to that original curious state that led to your encounter with us.”

That would be the honest way to proselytize.
But such is too honest for a religious organization, especially one that believes and teaches unreasonable notions about itself. Getting lost in unreasonable religious notions means having lost yourself inside a make-believe world.
Whether born into a Church or converted now with a few years of total participation in  your history, you must pursue and suffer withdrawal pains from your addiction to  a pretended dramatic performance in which you have been recruited and commissioned as a participating actor.
This often becomes more challenging if you have been commissioned a more significant role as an actor of influence on a local, regional or home-office level.
Resisting the demands made by fellow actors also caught within this pretended performance may require nothing less than the resistance required in a Prisoner-of-War circumstance in which one has become entrapped and must endure until release is obtained.
The circumstances of the pretended drama for most religions may be porous and permeable allowing entry and exit easily according to desire and inclination. However, in some organizations, the let’s-pretend devolves in the the rigid, inflexible formalism of religious fundamentalism. Some of the circumstances became buttressed by equally pretended but nonetheless real “rules” and “conditions” that must be met in order for the drama to play itself out to a personally successful conclusion.
When such circumstances exist, fellow actors are empowered to work manipulatively (in many cases as unwitting participants) to keep you engaged in the pretended drama through what amounts mostly to mental and emotional coercion.
One becomes subject to threats, warnings and admonitions that are as pretentious as the entire scenario itself …  unless one has been mentally stampeded to believe that not only is the scenario real, but the threats are real and really legitimate.
Inside the pretended drama, belonging and participation validated by fellow actors’ opinions rise almost to paramount importance. It is only in that venue that theologically-based threats appear to be legitimate. The legitimacy lies mostly with our pretending that there IS a God who would let some mortals eternally course or impede the “progress” of other mortals toward some imaginary bliss.
However, without willing suspension of disbelief, such mortals can not be empowered.
Authorities of the earthly church cannot “do” anything to you physically or eternally. They can only request that the actual head of the church – God – do that … with the expectation that God will do what they request because God is in some way bound to go along with it.
If you believe in that kind of God, then I might say that you have been stampeded too far and for too long. You may now consciously (aware of what you are doing) or unconsciously believe in. 
Given that the genuine and loving Divine Parent ought not let one child abuse another for any personal or authoritative retribution, the Church can only physically restrict its validation of anything formal you accomplish, you say or do inside the walls of the formal and conforming church.
The Church can only enforce its specific earthly organizational “club rules” that are expressed in social ostracism, shunning, disfellowshipment and actual dis-enrolling in the earthly club, i.e. excommunication.
Any God who would actually countenance such congregational behavior and turn that sort of power and influence over to a few mortals at the expense of the rest is not a real God, has ceased to be God and in truth does not exist
… unless one is lost in an imagined reality and willing to pretend that such a god IS real
… in which case one in quiet desperation attempts to live in fear of the imaginary divine tyrant.

Let me begin by asking that you describe to yourself (and for your own understanding)  the spiritual image that comes to mind when you think of God, of Jesus, of the Holy Ghost and – but not least – Mother in Heaven.

Is your image of God the Father defined by the doctrine and theology of your particular religion?

Is your image of Jesus that defined by fundamental Christian theology?
If you pray to Jesus Christ, do you pray to the standard Christian theological definition of the Savior of the World, the Redeemer, the He-Who-Accomplished-the-Atonement?

And how – if you carry such an image – do you perceive Heavenly Mother; the Goddess?

Many ancient pagan religions encouraged prayer to statues. Christianity has a tradition of bowing and praying to statuary images of Jesus, Mary and the Saints. It  would be interesting to discover whether we offer prayers to internally imagined anthropomorphic divine images, merely offer mental oblations to the cosmos or carry out something entirely different?

If one had achieved a genuine and spiritually sensed relationship with the higher  power – God, if you will, as one had come to understand God – how would you respond to the following portrayals if they did not fit what you already possessed in your experience?
Could you easily accept a new idea of God as a Boss of the Universe no matter how respectfully and reverentially that notion is expressed.

Could you easily accept a new idea that God is a kindly, and benevolently divine version of a Caesar?

Could you easily accept a new idea that God is the male head of a divinely created and eternal Patriarchal Order that relegates every female to a secondary role in a forever of existence?

Based on a relationship with the Divine that you had already achieved, could you easily accept a new idea that the Divine with whom you commune is actually a judgmental and critical god who cannot look upon nor tolerate sin with any degree of allowance?

Could you easily accept a new idea that the higher power with whom you have intimate and personal communion is also the Divine Author of Compassion as the ultimate way of human interaction?

Could you easily accept the idea that the God you have come to know is focused entirely on our loving one another and entirely not focused on our condemnation of anyone?

Could we not propose that just as our lives are the living myths of our own creation, our personal stories are made of all the stuff inside with which we show and tell others who we are?

The adolescent religion of my birth was presented to me as the defined nature of life based on a continuous pattern of spiritual prompting. Mormonism came into being in the world of 19th-century American religious literalism based on experiences that bore in their very existence widely-accepted assumptions as to the perceptive definitions and meanings of spiritual promptings, revelation, as it were.

The Father and Son described by Joseph Smith in his Vision were entirely consistent with the fundamentalist bible-based definitions of who God is. In addition, there is consistency with how that male and patriarchal god communicates to man, not to mention a notion that the Almighty rarely speaks to humans.

However, when God the Father speaks, such communication includes an investiture of authority to those “called” to speak on His Divine behalf and become his middle men to the rest of the mortals.

It is necessary to understand and acknowledge one’s own personal cosmic vision and acknowledge the assumptions upon which definitions and constructions of both reality and the spiritual world are created.

We create them all by ourselves. Others do not create them for us except to the degree that we let someone else’s constructs become our constructs.

In very powerful but subconscious ways, many believers practice their religion with an internal image that they “know” exists. This internal image they have never actually seen exists essentially because believers have accepted the testimonies of others who likewise have never seen it but also “know” it exists as defined in the traditional LDS way of testimony and authority.

In the same fashion, many believers “know” of the reality where the patriarchal god “is,”  where Jesus Christ  “is,” and where Satan “is” and “works” and “wants to rule.”

For many Christians, that spirit world exists in some other dimension and interacts with our own world in supernatural ways.

This imagined Mormon reality has its conflicts with the imagined reality of other Christians, not to mention other non-Christian religions who define the High Power in their own way.

But let me write specifically to the assumptions most believing Mormons live by.

There is the view of a purely supernatural, all-wise, all-knowing and almighty God who at times intervenes in the affairs of mortals in dramatic or not-so-dramatic ways.
Most believing Mormons easily accept and live according to the idea of an invisible Jesus/God personage who is vitally invested in human life and who directs forces of good against the other supernatural power and source of evil, Satan.

I am then prompted to ask about those practicing and believing Christians who do not have to see the supernatural Jesus/God as a personage who exists “somewhere else” outside the sphere of mortal perception and who communicates spiritually from a distance through the Holy Spirit.

Taking a cue from Jesus’ words, “The kingdom of God is within you,” they have a sense of God being omnipresent. They have a sense of on-going constancy in which the Holy Spirit is an uninterrupted and steady influence toward good works and compassion.

Mormons are encouraged with relentless consistency to accept the notion of spiritual warfare, with evoked images of the spirit world as some sort of zone of conflict in which Satan and God operate simultaneously for and against human life.

Those who do so seem almost oblivious to their willing mental action of making Satan a god who like the Father is everywhere, omnipresent and forever asserting his contrary will. Satan becomes the direct opposite and yet needful counter to the goodness and righteous-requiring Commander-God; a supernatural reality who tempts mortals to both “sins” of commission and of omission.

Does it not seem that most believing Mormons have difficulty with the psychology of evil and the idea that Satan does not have to be supernatural to function more as a conceptual part evil’s existence? Satan represents among other things the natural mortal tendency to self-focused, self-interested acts that disregard the good of anyone else. In this regard concepts of laziness, selfishness, arrogance and intolerance, for example, represent tendencies that can easily be related to evil and its impact on actions.

It seems hard for most believing Mormons to see evil as not something we are tempted to do by a supernatural Satan, but a more negatively aggressive temptation in life that serves as a kind of resistance or counter force against our intention or tendency to behave in an independent manner – acting in a ways that reflect the highest good of all concerned.

Mormonism is unapologetically a performance-based legalistic relation. As such it must come down on the side of biblical literalists who do regard God as the Boss of the Universe. Mormonism requires that its members live according to the will of a Divine who commands humans to behavior based purely on obedience and morality.
Yet other Christians live comfortably with an imagined reality of a non-judgmental God who fully encourages positive human behavior as a consequence of total agency; a God who will not condemn mortals for not believing the right things and not participating to worthiness-defined degrees.

Published by

Arthur Ruger

Married and in a wonderful relationship. Retired Social Worker, Veteran, writer, author, blogger, musician,. Lives in Coeur D' Alene, Idaho

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