For the past few months, I’ve been reading less fiction than normal. I don’t keep perfect track, but I think I’ve only managed my monthly book club selection since May. I’ll pick something up but not focus enough to finish. Some people read more in the summer, but lately I think I’ve been watching more television.
I’ve been watching a drama about a Haredi Jewish family, and recently an elderly woman in it mentioned how she looked forward to seeing her deceased husband in heaven. Her Rabbi son was dismissive, even a little incredulous. He said, “Heaven is segregated!” meaning men on one side and women on the other.
It made me laugh and recite Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Another thing I recently finished was the miniseries, “Keep Sweet, Pray and Obey.” This is not for the tenderhearted, so check out the sensitivity warnings. If you couldn’t read my book Sworn to the Desert, which is also about fundamentalists, I don’t recommend the miniseries. My heroine’s dad was a “lost boy,” something they mention in it. My second biggest dispute with Latter-Day Saint doctrine is that a woman is called into heaven (or a different level of heaven) by her husband. She can’t achieve the same glory without him and his righteousness.
In the miniseries you see (Fundamental Latter-Day Saints) FLDS driving that doctrine into perversion beyond dozens of child brides. Women cannot access heaven except through marriage. Of course, in the FLDS doctrine, men cannot access heaven through Christ alone—it comes through plural marriage with a minimum of three wives. So women become chattel.
Obviously, beliefs about femaleness preventing access to God are all over the place. The idea of a woman’s access to God coming through an authoritative human man normally starts a holy flow of adrenaline in me. That sensation is a perfect example of why I read and memorize scripture. When the fire rises, it’s more helpful to know the truth than to just feel like it’s wrong. And the truth is there’s one God, and one mediator between God and humanity. The only man a woman needs for access to God is Jesus Christ, the same person that men need. A father, brother, husband, or priest just won’t cut it.
Our connection with God hindered
Our mediator is Christ—but I’ve been considering recently how much our interaction with each other actually affects our relationship with God, and sometimes, even our intimacy with him. Interestingly, women aren’t hindered in this first one, like so many man-made religions insist. It’s actually men who are blocked.
If a man is married and does not treat his wife with understanding, it obstructs and delays his prayers. This warning means God sees you, sisters and brothers.
The next one applies to everyone though. it’s unwillingness to forgive. If we don’t forgive others we don’t receive forgiveness according to Matthew 6:14 &15. That’s powerful language, not the more commonly heard suggestion of letting stuff go for your own benefit and healing.
Another one is Matthew 5:24 which says to interrupt your offering to the Lord and first reconcile to a brother (or sister) if you remember that they have something against you. Of course, you’re only responsible to live at peace so far as it depends on you, but the idea is to attempt a reconciliation with others before you offer your sacrifice to God.
I think it’s worth pointing out that God does not want anything between you and him. The entire Bible is a story of him repeatedly removing the obstacles and drawing humanity near. We always have access to him—but how we treat each other affects something between ourselves and him. Pause and think about it, it should be unnerving.
Grace for believers
I thought of this when a woman merged into my lane without a blinker the other day. She had a bumper sticker that read “Prayer Changes Things.” I said to my husband, “It isn’t changing her driving.” But then, I realized I should have more grace for a sister than a non-believer would.
As I said in the blog post Grace bombs for the long haul, sometimes it’s easier to be more concerned with new converts than member retention, but God is very concerned. So concerned that he likens it to a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to go after the lost one. That concept has brought me tears multiple times as I’ve watched youth leave the faith and no one go after them except God. I am so thankful he leaves the group for the isolated one. He is looking for you.
Christians can rightly expect judgement from nonbelievers. But we have a warning if we, the brethren, develop a taste for lamb like the wolves have. When we insult, hold a grudge, argue partisanship or nationalism and tear each other’s flesh, we are told to be careful in devouring one another least we be destroyed by each other.