No, Mormonism can NOT be like Judaism. Mormonism is a religion
I love reading Bloggernacle articles that try to come up with explanations for why people leave the church or what can be done about it. And the current edition — the disaffecting youth — is no exception.
I’ve slowly learned not to try posting in these discussions, because I’m not really wanted anyway, but also because I’m not really the target audience. It might seem to be the case: I’m pretty young (20), I’ve just left home recently to go to college (graduating in 2011, actually), and I have indeed drifted from the church.
And yet, I am not the target audience. I cannot really provide insights here. Why is that?
I know that it’s a well-known psychological bias that most people think of themselves as exceptional. And yet, what I’ve come to realize is that most ex-Mormons on the internet (especially me) are, if not exceptional, at least quite different from the average person who drifts away from the church.
I’ve played around with this idea before. What if the stereotypes about people who leave the church are true? What if they are just being lazy or just desiring to sin? What if the fact is that when people talk about those who “leave the church,” they don’t mean the narrow subset of people who found out some terrible factoid or who had some issue with the theology and who now talk about it on the internet?
(I note that there was a great response to my above article. It may not be that people are lazy; maybe they leave because they are bored.)
Anyway, as usually happens in these contemplative discussions by the faithful…the disaffected parts of the community became aware of the latest BCC topic and began to offer their own insight. When this happens, I can generally understand why sites like BCC aren’t really open to every commenter (even though, maybe it’s my bias poking through…but I don’t believe I’m that bad of a guy.)
The former Mormons who end up posting end up posting really cringe-worthy things. “I left because I eventually realized that reasoning, science, and facts are better than prayer/fasting.” (But then again, I cringe when anyone assumes that “reasoning” directs any particular way. Really, different premises lead to different conclusions.)
Or (and here’s the winner for the blunt-ness award)
I’m not going to say these are dumb reasons to leave. But I don’t think the average 16 – 25 year old member is going to know (or care) about any of that. The problem is realizing that the average 16 – 25 year old is not an honor student who loves to read and is proficient with surfing the internet.
And of course, there are plenty of people who are well aware of the issues of the church, yet stay. Many of whom are also honor students who love to read and are proficient with surfing the internet, but oh well. (Of course, I can anticipate what many former members would say to this.)
…Notwithstanding all of that stuff, I think there were some interesting insights into the issue. Many members highlighted the social role of the ward community — both its positive roles when it is good and its negative roles when it is alienating. I tend to think that for many people, a supportive community is going to matter far more than whether doctrine makes sense or not.
Neveretheless, I had to cringe when MikeinWeHo made his comment:
This is a fascinating post. Thanks, Kevin. It made me think about all the Jewish people that I live and work with. Their religious community doesn’t seem to have this problem at all. You can grow up and attend synagogue weekly, or not. You can keep strict kosher, or not. You don’t have to believe Moses and Abraham were historical figures and you can even doubt the existence of God. But at the end of the day, the community still embraces you as Jewish. Cultural norms restrict aspersions by the more faithful toward the less. There might be something for Mormons to learn here.
OH NO YOU DON’T MIKE. Don’t you dare! Don’t. Go. There.
I’ve taken enough abuse for trying to maintain this position. For trying to bridge between the DAMU, the Outer Darkness, the Bloggernacle, and wherever the heck Mormon Matters used to fit in with this argument. I’d still like it to be true that there is a kind of “Cultural Mormonism” forged from shared experience with the church and shared understanding of the church language of meetings, doctrines, common reactions to outsiders (and separate from “Utah culture,” or whatever.)
And yet what I’ve heard from all sides is that this isn’t the way things are, and this isn’t the way people want things to be.
The Bloggernaclers insist that this isn’t just about people who grew up going to church. This is about people who believe and live the Gospel. If you don’t, get the hell out. Many ex-Mormons are all too glad to agree with that message.
Why? Because Cultural Mormonism is an abomination. Mormonism is a religion. People left their families and communities for Mormonism because they believed it was religious truth, so how dare we try to make this a social club disconnected from the truth of the existence or nonexistence of God, or of the existence or nonexistence of Moses? How dare we try to divorce Mormonism from faith just so we can accommodate obnoxious nonbelievers who only want to ridicule and condescend to those who actually believe in this religion? Or who only want to stay because they are afraid of breaking up their families and losing their friends (as their ancestors were courageous enough to do)?
We just CAN’T be like Jews in this aspect. Because we are not a culture separate of a religion. Blood is not thicker than Priesthood anointing oil.