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Congrats FD on a good first year…or…I like my cynicism.

March 25, 2009

Faithful Dissident had a post commemorating her first year anniversary of blogging. And I thought…I could spend a bunch of time saying congrats (congrats, if you’re reading this FD, by the way)…or I could be super-petty and point out one tiny little thing that gnawed at my toothe (and inadvertently [or maybe I planned it all along] send her oodles of traffic.)

Yes, I think the latter option is just too good to leave.

It was something she had said that was thought provoking.

The decision of whether or not to remain active is really quite simple. Am I better off with or without it? Is it going to influence me for better or for worse in the future? My way of answering those questions is to ask myself yet another question: who and where would I be today if I had not been raised in the Church? I’d like to think that I’d be much the same person that I am now, but I tend to believe that the uniquely Mormon perspective of who God is and the Plan of Salvation — as lacking in details and specifics as I think these doctrines still are to us — are what have kept me from losing all hope and becoming very bitter and cynical about this world.

I tried to answer these questions myself, just as an experiment. (Maybe I was trying to see for myself if my position were consistent, or maybe I am just a nerd who likes filling out questionnaires.)

The first question wasn’t so bad. If I look now, I can see myself saying, “It doesn’t seem to matter whether I am active or not.” Delicious, sweet apatheism, as you may have read. And when I think about how I fume after certain lessons, I think I can answer the second question by saying that I don’t need that kind of influence or pressure in my life.

But it was the next question — her way of answering the questions — that got me.

I don’t think I’d be a washed-out druggie on the streets if I had not been raised out of the church (millions of parents seem to do just fine without the priesthood power in their lives.) But I do recognize that it would be impossible for me to be the same person. I talk frequently on this site about Mormonism being a culture…and it is because I was raised in the church that I have that perspective.

There would be no Irresistible (Dis)Grace if I were not in the church. I would have no friends in the Bloggernacle or in Outer Blogness, but more importantly, I wouldn’t even understand these perspectives: the Mormon perspective, the ex-Mormon perspective, or anything in between.

As I was fuming about some dude’s outrageous thoughts on race, I had to think about something. I’m not trying to pull any race cards, but I think that living as a black person has affected me in a way that I would not (and could not) have been affected if I were white. So, I think that when people talk about a kinship between black people, that is not to say that we live the same or we like the same things. So, one can’t say [although many have tried], “Oh ho ho, you have nothing in common with that black guy in the projects, because you come from a middle class family.”

No…the shared culture is a meta-culture. Because of expectations that others have had, the ways I’ve been treated…I can identify with people who have been treated that same way. And I think it applies well to Mormonism too. Even though I do not believe, I can intrinsically identify with the feeling felt when someone begins to try to belittle your culture and religion without even understanding it…when they pity your soul even though you’re doing just fine. Or when they hold you in contempt because you are apparently leading people to Hell. Or whatever.

Aaaaanyway. So much for that.

I can’t say I’ve gotten out unscathed from either of these things, and that’s what I wanted to talk about. I won’t lie…my experiences have given me a jaded approach…a cynical approach…but I embrace it and make it something constructive.

I want to disagree with Faithful Dissident’s final line: about believing in uniquely Mormon principles and foundations to avoid losing all hope and becoming bitter and cynical.

My jadedness is showing, but when we hope, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. We try to feel entitled to something we are not owed and may not deserve. Only when we become hopeless about external forces can we realize that really, we need to focus on what we can control: ourselves. (So I suppose: don’t become hopeless in yourself.) When we become hopeless, this need not be a bad thing…it should allow us to be truly grateful for blessings in our lives because we did not expect them and did not take them for granted.

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  1. I think FD’s two questions — Am I better off with or without the Church? and What would I have been like without the Church? — are two wholly separate and largely unrelated questions.

    The Church rescued me from a slow downward spiral that probably would have found me homeless or dead within a few years. It pointed me in a new direction that ended up giving me a family and a career — a life. That’s something I acknowledge and I’ll always be grateful for.

    But that doesn’t mean that the Church is right for me in any way today. My gratitude doesn’t extend to the point of wanting to be a part of an organization that I see as authoritarian, homophobic, sexist, and racist — anathema to many of personal values, IOW — and whose truth claims seem to have no basis in reality.

  2. I think the point on gratitude is an interesting one. sorry to be reticent on that point

  3. Mormonism was a step on my life’s journey. If I spend too much time over that one step I’ll keep myself rooted in a past that is no longer relevant. If I spend too much time thinking about futures that haven’t happened yet, I’ll trip up on opportunities when they do happen.

    The human (and petty) part of me enjoys a revisit now and then just to kick the pricks.

    The begrudging adult part of me accepts that Mormonism is a part of my life (history and family). Not all things Mormon-related are bad.

  4. Andrew, thanks for the congrats and traffic, inadvertent or not. 🙂

    I should perhaps point out that believing in that uniquely Mormon perspective has, I think, saved me from bitterness and cynicism (among other things) personally. It would be difficult for me to claim that it would be the same for all who are true to the Mormon faith, and so I didn’t mean what I said in a general sense. I was thinking about some of the things in this world that disturb and enrage me. I’m generally an optimist, but I have a very cynical side to my personality at times, and I think that the perspective my faith has given me has helped me keep it in check. I can’t imagine having been a druggie, hooker, or teenage mom had I not been raised in the Church. But I know (at least some of) my weaknesses and I think my faith saved me from making certain mistakes in a way that would have been extremely difficult to have prevented me from making any other way.

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