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About those who leave the church but don’t leave it alone

December 8, 2008

I was reading a faithful blog entry at A House of Prayer that was writing about the blog Mormon Coffee, which I will admit is a blog in the Outer Blogness tradition (haha, I just love these insider words!)

Anyway, Jared at AHoP had a few concerns about Mormon Coffee. I can understand that. I have some concerns about Mormon Coffee. I’m sure people have some concerns about my blog (at least, I wish my blog were so popular…)

But, out of all the things I could talk about, it was one thing in my parlay of comments that got me:

I know many people have honest questions and concerns. There are many people, however, who are not honest with their questions and concerns. We should at least question the motives of anyone who takes the time to maintain a frequently-updated website that is critical of Mormonism. Why would someone spend so much time on something they don’t believe in? …Is it a desire to attack something they see as threatening and/or evil? Maybe. Is is because they are dishonest and want to try and attack something good? Maybe. Only they can answer those questions. I still have a hard time understanding why people spend so much time attacking or critiquing things that they don’t believe in.

I have seen these sentiments many, many, many times throughout the Bloggernacle or through Mormon Culture in general. In fact, there is a phrase to describe such people: they are people who leave the church, but can’t leave it alone. I dare you to google for that. NO, Let Me Google That For You! It’s talked about a lot. Even youtubers talks about it. And it seems that a lot of members think that when one leaves the church, one should leave it alone.

Really, this issue has been beaten to death. Mormon Matters has succinctly stated my position. But I wanted to talk about it anyway. After all, my very blog is centered around this very phenomenon. The church is irresistible, especially to those outside of grace. Why? Is it a testament of its correctness, as members might say?

No. I’m not going to take a theological route and say that the church faces such adversity because it is prophesied by scripture. I’m instead going to focus on something that I’ve always liked focusing on: culture.

Mormonism is more than a religion. It is a culture! The very active nature of the church means that people tend to put a lot of time, money, and effort into it. So, the real question is…can you leave your culture?  If you read my second comment to Jared (argh, can’t link directly, so just scroll to the second one by irresistibledisgrace), I raise some of these points. But heck, I’ve raised these points in the past. Quite simply, I think that when you invest so much time into something and it’s so close to your heart, you’re not going to drop it if you feel disillusioned or stop believing in it. People don’t immediately forget about ex-lovers, dearly departed friends and family members, and the like.

So, I give props to the church for creating such an environment that engenders loyalty in members and fierce disloyalty in nonmembers. The church can inspire people to conduct all manner of callings that are sometimes very demanding…all based on volunteerism.

Why does this fascinate me?  Certainly not for the ends that the church actually uses this volunteer force. It’s because it has little to do with spirituality. It has little to do with the metaphysical truth claims of the church. I’m not quite so interested either way in those, so perhaps that’s why I’m not adamantly against the church. It’s not a matter of eternal life or eternal death, because I don’t accept those terms (whereas an ex-Mormon who is still religious might actively preach against the church because he feels Mormons’ souls are at stake.) No, the real reason I am interested is because this is so applicable to societal institutions and cultural institutions in general. Could we make people this loyal to their countries? To their businesses? To their families? And how? How do we inspire these values and apply them to good ends? There is something to be salvaged…


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  1. So true!

    BTW, Mormon Coffee is the Christian counterpart of MSP, definitely not a Bloggernacle blog. I’d say they’re a good deal more anti than MSP, and — while MSP is unofficially atheist-leaning — we do try to welcome all perspectives.

  2. Yeah, after seeing some kind of proselytizing posts from Coffee, I kinda got that it was more of a Christian bent. I dunno…I guess that puts me off a little bit too. So, it’s good that MSP doesn’t try to emulate that to the core, haha.

  3. Talking to the commenters on Mormon Coffee is often like talking to a nice bag of monkey dung.

    I had a several month-long stint back there as a regular commenter. Eventually I left in disgust. I have a hard time staying on a blog for long where the participants prove incapable of self-observation. There isn’t a person in the Mormon Coffee corner (including Aaron and Sharon) who is capable of recognizing the flaws in their own position.

    It’s hard for me to listen to a bunch of Evangelicals crow about how much Mormonism sucks using arguments that would be equally deadly to their own faith. The frustration was too much, and I left.

  4. DeeDee permalink

    Why complain about mormons(ism)?

    Before I moved to Ut it never occurred to me to complain or even know about anyone elses religious beliefs or spiritual practices. I always thought personal beliefs were personal. And then I had the rude realization that people in Utah feel that religion, beliefs and spirituality are EVERYONE’s business and EVERYONE needs to clarify their beliefs all the time. In Utah there is a dark cloud of fearful judgement and suspicion that surrounds everyone…and I mean EVERyone. When mormons discover that there is a person in their midst that is not a mormon they feel duty bound to spend a great deal of time and effort either degrading the other persons non-mormonism or convincing them that they should join the group and become a mormon. People that I work with catch their breath in a strange judgemental reaction when I bring coffee to work (!) as if I have an illegal drug in my hand. They constantly look at jewelry or clothing that is outside their guidelines with disdain. The reactions I get are not just a normal “live and let live” but a definite distaste and judgement!
    I frequently attend business meetings that include interspersed chatter about church jobs or callings or there are secretive words that share some “mormon insider” knowledge that they want to make sure I realize has marked me as an “outsider.” And you can forget about any advancement of women since 1950…although I have more experience and MUCH more education than my male counterparts I am regularly stepped over so a mormon male can supervise me.

    As a result of all of the above I have come to HATE the mormon religion more than I have ever even cared about any other belief system because mormonism has created a society that is really WEIRD and extremely unpleasant to live in! I can’t wait to move out of Utah and get back into a normal environment where people are good or bad based on what they do or who they are and not on whether they are in the same group.
    I recommend everyone watch the mini-series “The Prisoner” which shows how a society based on a false belief system can create a weird and frightened existence. Yes, it is fictional but I feel like it demonstrates what I have experienced everyday since I moved to Utah. It is quite similar to what I perceive the Mormon religion has done to the people in Utah.

    So I am not surprised that people spend time hating the mormon church and discovering their authentic self after they leave.

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