Sunday, January 23, 2011

Labels, Authenticity and Avoiding the Appearance of Evil

Many members live in a isolated social bubble that allows them to believe that apostates are sinning/prideful/offended.  The bubble allows them to believe that it is the first sip that leads inevitably to alcoholism and that atheists are morally bankrupt - having nothing upon which to base their morality.  We have all had the opportunity to see firsthand that these things are not true.  While we may abhor the Church and we may find many church doctrines and policies to be bigoted, deceitful, and so on, we know that it is unfair to ascribe these characteristics to "Mormons" as a group of people. After all, we all have friends and family, people we love and respect, who are tolerant and honest.

For this reason, it is good to be authentic*. It is good to be "out".  I am a firm believer that people need to know that their loved ones are atheist, or gay, or liberal, or democrat, or apostate, or... "different" in whatever way they are different. It's harder to apply labels and their negative connotations to entire groups of people when you love someone who self-identifies as (whatever) and you know they aren't evil and don't do horrible things and, in fact, live moral/ethical lives.

It is also important to remember that when one decides to self-identify as (something), one should represent that label carefully.  If we want our TBM families and friends to know that atheists DO have moral codes based upon their own consciences and humanistic concern for the well-being of others, we need to be kind, compassionate, trustworthy, (Christlike?) people.  If we want them to know that many "apostates" (sorry, I hate it too) leave the church for reasons that aren't sin or pride, we need to vocalize our real reasons.  We need to share and educate.  Just as hate and bigotry are learned, so is tolerance. 

I was just reading the post The Heretic wrote on her response to 8: The Mormon Proposition. My response was perhaps a little different. Before I saw the movie, I knew that the church had been involved, that it didn't seem right to me and that it all made me mad. I can't say that the extent of the Church's involvement was a surprise to me, although I learned a lot of things from the film.  I certainly didn't expect better behavior of Church leadership.  I'm not sure that I was even surprised at how willing so many members were to get behind the proposition.  What did surprise me was how viscerally angry and disgusted I was with the members.  All of them.  I know that there were a considerable number of members who were not comfortable with the involvement or stance of the church leadership and the campaigning going on in their chapels.  Unfortunately, few made any sort of decrial in their wards or among their LDS friends and family.  Fewer still spoke out to the media.  Most sat by quietly - angry but unwilling or unable to voice their disapproval.  I was disappointed to put it mildly. What happened to having the courage of ones convictions and standing up for what is right? I know it's harsh for me to feel that way.  I know that most of those people had much to lose if they had spoken up.  The anger didn't last that long.  But, it did light a fire under me.

I'd been meaning to resign from the church for a few years.  Mostly, I just wanted to get off the harassment lists.  I couldn't seem to get around to it. I kept telling myself I'd definitely do it before I had a child so as to avoid them getting all mixed up in it.  After Prop 8, I realized there was a reason FAR more important to resign my membership.  I didn't condone that organization.  I loathed it. I didn't want to carry that label "Mormon" and all of its baggage around with me anymore because it wasn't something I was proud of to be sure.  I wanted to avoid the appearance of evil. 

I resigned my membership in the CofJCofLDS in 2010.  Resignation was my coming out. It was an important part of representing my ex-Mormon, atheist, and humanist labels.  I'm not a Mormon because I don't believe in god, because the evidence against the claims and character of the church's founder is compelling, and because I honestly think that the CofJCofLDS is a detriment to humanity and I cannot condone its repression of any of my fellow humans. Resignation was also my way of reclaiming my authentic self so that those who love me will see that I am still a good, conscience-guided, compassionate person.

*There are plenty of other reasons it is good to be authentic or course.  It just feels better to project oneself as one truly is.


  1. This is appropriate timing. We have been discussing whether or not to tell our small group that I am no longer a Christian. The fear is that they'll look at what we now believe (equality of women, rights for homosexual people etc) and equate it with a loss of faith. And then they'll stay as far away from those things as possible in order to preserve their faith.

    Still not sure. I want to just state it, but my husband thinks it would be harmful.

    You gave some good food for thought.

  2. I had a conversation with a friend the other day. He was trying to be helpful, but it wasn't. He told me I needed to "show them" that I wasn't an angry anti. By always talking calm, looking good, being happy...

    I told him I WASN'T always happy... and though I would never claim to be anti, I AM angry. I have also found that doing things to show anyone anything never works well...

    I've decided I'm going to be me. I happen to be a fairly kind, compassionate, reasonable person. I also experience really sad, hard days. I also feel really angry right now. For the most part, its working for me. Most of the people in my life have known I wasn't happy, but I was always smiling. Now that they can see me being me, they'd prefer this to the faker...

    I felt the same frustration with members - if you don't like it, why do you just sit by?? Why don't you DO something? The answer I usually got was, "It doesn't really effect ME, so..."

  3. Thanks for the shout-out Amy!

    I think you're right about breaking up the stereotypes people have for different labels. The more we come 'out' the more likely people are to change their preconceived ideas of what those labels mean, because they know us as rational, kind human beings.

  4. Well said. One of the difficulties of being authentic is, as I see it, being too authentic. What I mean by that is when the hiding is over, (and everyone does some hiding), all of the things that come out (that TBMs do as well as un-affiliated people), really changes the game. Being really who we are is a precarious thing and not very common. Somehow there must be a place where being yourself is a positive, not a negative.

  5. About a month ago, I typed up an email to my husband's sibs and their spouses, explaining that our exit from the church started with Prop 8. We explained in fine detail how astonished and pained we were at that church's involvement in such a devious act. They were surprisingly accepting. I agree...we all need to be authentic and out about who we are and what we believe.