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Loving your religion? Not a priority.

March 24, 2012

Lady Amalthea has had what is to me a very perplexing post at Zelophehad’s Daughters: Why I don’t really love the church (and why I think God’s okay with it.) A snippet:

I have spent my entire life in the church, and I feel pretty confident it’s where God wants me to be.  But I am never going to love being in this church.  Even if I put aside all my doctrinal issues, my feminism, my liberalism, how much I hate the Mormon culture, and all the clashes I’ve had with other members, my experiences at BYU in particular have made very clear to me one thing: with the church as is, I will never gain acceptance; because the institution and its people don’t want me for who I am – they just want me for who they think I should be.

On the most basic level, I would ask why Lady Amalthea feels “pretty confident” that the LDS church is where God wants her to be, especially when she states with certain terms (“never”) that she is not going to love being in the church. And considering that she concludes that even if she puts aside doctrinal issues, feminism, liberalism, and her hatred of Mormon culture, then that’s some deep-seated feelings…

But the most perplexing part of the essay wasn’t that paragraph…it was the one that followed:

So can’t I say that’s enough?  Do I really have to love it?  If I show up every week with a good attitude and participate in my callings and keep myself temple-worthy, is loving it really necessary?  If we start requiring love from its people, we move into dangerous territory.  I’ve long held the belief that no utopia is applicable to everyone, because people are far too varied.  And I resent the idea that a place with Mormon homogeny should be the ideal for everyone, especially everyone who’s Mormon.  I hated living in Utah, and I resent any implication that I should feel otherwise simply because it varies from the opinion of the majority.  And where other Mormons see church as a safe haven from the world, I oftentimes feel it’s the opposite.

I’m just a silly nonbeliever apostate speaking here, but it seems to me as if this is going about things in a backward way. I wouldn’t say it’s about whether she “has to love it”…but I would imagine that a religion one feels “pretty confident” they are supposed to be in should be about more than “show[ing] up every week with a good attitude.”

Amalthea frames it as if her loving Mormonism would be eliminating her personalities differences. “No utopia is applicable to everyone, because people are far too varied.” But it seems to me that there are two other ways to approach it that she simply doesn’t:

Perhaps Mormonism could cherish the value of different styles of worship, different personalities, etc.,

or

Perhaps, even conceding that no utopia is applicable to everyone (and you can’t necessarily just start adding “branches” to the utopian tree that appeal to different people), then maybe the answer there would be to realize that perhaps that utopia isn’t even for some people.

But for that second one to really make any sense, I’d have to understand how Amalthea feels “pretty confident it’s where God wants [her] to be.” Does God want people to be in places they will *never* love being it? I mean, it’s one thing to suggest that God is trying to change individuals into being the kinds of people who love those things…but it’s another thing to say: “I’m supposed to be here, but I hate it, and I don’t think loving it should be the ideal for everyone.”

Ultimately, her analogy of her relationship with the church to how she felt about the Pixar movie The Incredibles didn’t clarify her position for me. I think it’s ok for people to have different tastes when it comes to movies. But that’s not really all. First of all, we don’t expect that everyone should enjoy the same movies. And secondly, we don’t expect that people who don’t like certain kinds of movies should force themselves to watch those movies or preoccupy those movies. It would be bizarre if someone said, “If I show up to every movie I dislike with a good attitude, is loving the movie really necessary?”

Well, no, it’s not necessary. But why would you keep going to those movies that you disliked?

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8 Comments
  1. Seth R. permalink

    I think this is just one of those cases of having some evidence that things are a certain way in your group, and then running with those hints much, much further than you really had any right to.

    I’ve lived as a liberal in the LDS Church. And I have a hard time really believing it’s all as grim as Amalthea is painting it.

  2. I used to feel much the same way when I was a believer. I didn’t like it and didn’t fit in and I knew I would never like it and would never fit in, but I felt I had to go anyway because (I believed) it was God’s own (and only) church and that’s where he wanted me (and everyone else who believed) to be. The only difference was, I never had a qualm about not loving it. I didn’t think that was a requirement.

    In John, there’s a passage where things are going pretty rough for Jesus, and many of his disciples are leaving him, and he says to the Twelve, “Are you going to leave too?” And Peter says, “Where else could we go? You have the words of eternal life. We’re sure you’re the Holy One of God.”

    That’s what it’s like for a true believer. It’s the True Church, such as it is. Where else is there to go?

  3. The most interesting bit for me:

    is loving it really necessary? If we start requiring love from its people, we move into dangerous territory.

    Well, Christianity is a religion of compulsory love. You have to love god — it’s a commandment. Of you it is required to love everyone.

    Looking back on it now, it strikes me as horrifying. Loving is great, but mandated love is an upside-down requirement.

  4. kuri,

    That last parts makes it sound like this is yet another post that Bruce N from Millennial Star could answer shortly with: “When it comes to making a powerful religious impression upon people, the LDS Church is the best bar none at producing an active and talking God in a person’s life. ”

    Daniel,

    I guess the thing behind that is is that you’re supposed to love for a couple of reasons: because you were loved first (you’re supposed to by into that whole, “grace is a free gift that you didn’t even deserve) and because God is so lovable.

    So it would seem strange for me to hear, say, an evangelical say, “I think God is kinda a monster, but I still follow him and his commandments.” You see a lot more people saying, “God is amazing and that’s why I worship.”

  5. Except for me, the church didn’t produce the god, I took him into the church with me.

  6. Here’s how I felt about it:

    I recognized that I didn’t enjoy church and never would, and yet I believed I was supposed to be there because it’s was a commandment to be there. If you didn’t enjoy it, you were expected to endure it.

    However, I did feel like I was somehow less righteous than people who sincerely felt edified and uplifted by attending church. I didn’t think “God wants people to be in places they will *never* love being in?” I thought He did want everybody to be there and He did want them all to love being there, and the ones who fail to enjoy it — well it’s their (our) own problem for being such a disappointment to God.

  7. Tekeydie permalink

    For me when i was in the church i didn’t think so much ‘will i ever be happy in the church’ but though ‘do i want to be happy this way’ even then i knew the answer was no. Not that i thought the church or its people were bad, it just was never what i wanted to be. the more i learned the less i liked

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