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Thursday, September 19, 2013

The survivor's prerogative

I saw this article linked recently on Twitter, read it and enjoyed it very much, and kind of intended to write something similar from an LDS perspective.

And then I realized that my list of what not to say to a recovering Mormon would be almost identical. Even the mainstream LDS church has strands of fundamentalism, in its doctrine and its culture. This is not something I realized until I was an adult; in fact, fourteen-year-old Diana piped up indignantly in a history class when the teacher included Mormons in a list of US fundamentalist religious (just one of many reasons why "every member a missionary" is, say it with me, flagrant bullshit). Members in many areas, in Utah and the mission field, are survivors of spiritual and sometimes physical abuse. Many outsiders don't consider the LDS church a Christian institution. The jargon, the doctrine, the peculiarities of Mormonism cause it to stand out in the religious landscape, but in practice and in effect it is damningly similar to other fundamentalist Christian groups.

I don't know about you all, but "fundamentalist" was not a nice descriptor in my household, growing up. After 9/11 I heard my parents use it to refer to Islam. My older sister--never baptized, always political--spoke scornfully of the "Moral Majority" and "religious right" (it wasn't until later that I realized she was in fact including the Church in those phrases). It took some doing to rewire my understanding of the term, to get to the point where I could separate my complex feelings about my upbringing and beliefs from the reality of subtle, institutionalized manipulation. 

All fifteen of those statements linked above have been said to me--some while I was still in the Church, some as I was leaving, some quite recently. None of them are constructive, no matter how much love and insight the speaker intends. One of the most pernicious attitudes I have encountered in the last seven years, from both members and non-members, is a certain carelessness: the idea that leaving X Religion is a relief, something to be shucked with a laugh. Sometimes it was like that and I could joke with people, talk smack and shake my head. Sometimes it felt like the world was ending. My experience is my own, is the point, and it's not going to be the same from day to day, which is the survivor's prerogative.

1 comment:

postmormongirl said...

Spot on - thanks for writing this. :)

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