Mormonism is not like an artichoke…
Faith-Promoting Rumor is having a discussion about anti-mormons. Who are they? What do they do? And how do they do it?
I like these discussions…I get to see first how members would define anti-Mormonism generally…but then also, to gauge what members think about ex-Mormons in general. Are all ex-mos seen as being antis? Are only some? What are the criteria?
According to Mike Parker, we can find out who is anti-Mormon in the same way we can figure out who is anti-artichoke.
I don’t like artichokes, but I spend absolutely zero time complaining about them. If someone asks me if I’d like to have one with my dinner, I tell them my feelings, but I don’t go out of my way to blog about my hatred for artichokes, how I was once an artichoke lover but now refuse to eat them, or how people who like artichokes are delusional. Doing that would make me anti-artichoke.
Leaving the Church does not make one anti-Mormon. Complaining about the Church when asked does not make one anti-Mormon. Writing a blog about your awful experiences in the Church and why it’s an idiotic belief system? That’s anti-Mormon.
As I mentioned recently, one of the things I want to address here at Irresistible (Dis)Grace is the idea of “leaving the church but not leaving it alone.” I think many people, including faithful members, do not understand why this might be the case, and so they assume that it is an unnatural or deviant event…that “normal” people would leave quickly and silently and fade away and never be seen again. And if you don’t, well then, you are obsessed, a maniac, and anti-Mormon.
I don’t think this is the case. I think that this is an unreasonable expectation of people, and that, in fact, based on what the church is, and what role that it has in its members lives, we should be far more suspicious of people who can drop it without having any shake ups. We might wonder how invested they ever were in Mormonism when they were members. If you can leave the church with no scratches, then were you deeply involved?
So, my thoughts are that some discharge should be expected from the disaffected — yet this shouldn’t necessarily be criteria to call the ex- the anti-.
I think there are issues with the artichoke analogy. Worst of all, I think that Mike’s analogy insults the magnitude of influence of the church, whether he recognizes it or not.
For example, you tend not to have a drastic time, energy, and financial commitment to artichokes (not even getting into the ideological and emotional connection). In a way, Mike’s comparison with artichokes reminds me of a moral universalist’s criticism of relativism. The moral universalist says: “Your relativism seems to equate moral rules with flavors of ice cream. It argues that flavors of ice cream are merely preference…but moral rules are more than mere preference. They mean something more.”
In the same way, I feel that one’s attitude toward a church should be deeper and more pervasive than one’s attitude toward an artichoke.
When you stop eating artichokes, you generally don’t have residual artichoke in your system that lingers. You may not have various adverse effects from eating artichokes for all this time. You don’t have habitual actions, thought processes, and vocabularies from your time of eating artichokes. Eating artichokes doesn’t tend to color the way you view the world, so you don’t have to “readjust” when you stop. And when you stop eating artichokes, you generally don’t have to worry about strained relationships from your family and friends. You generally don’t suddenly discover that all they had in common with you was artichokes (and your relationships were informally predicated on your partaking of artichokes with the rest of them). Finally, you also generally don’t have to worry about artichokes taking certain political and social actions that negatively affect you or people you know.
As a result, I think it’s a little bit unreasonable and unrealistic to make the dividing line between an ex-mo and and anti-mo be, “Well, the good little ex-mo will fade away and be quiet, but the bad anti-mo won’t.”
So I think this establishes a reasonable ground to understand the conduct of many ex-Mormons. So, still, what makes the anti-Mormon, and how can we distinguish? I think there were other great comments to address the issue. For example, BHodges, who wrote the article, argued that anti-Mormonism in his opinion comes with a sense of argumentative disingenuousness. Commenter Ben elaborated with what I thought was a great comparison to anti-Semitism.
Natan Sharansky provides a “3-D test” to distinguish between legitimate criticism and outright anti-semitism. They are (adjusted by me):
Demonization. When the Church’s or church members actions are blown out of all sensible proportion.
Double standards. When criticism of the Church or church members is applied selectively—singled out for a behavior that is known of other groups and ignored.
Delegitimization. When the Church’s or church members fundamental rights are denied.
I can buy these criteria.