Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, and the Progressive Exmormon Plan of Happiness
Now that it’s been a year since Kate Kelly’s excommunication, she has written an op ed for the Salt Lake Tribune discussing her change in thoughts since then. To summarize:
When I was excommunicated from the Mormon church just over a year ago, I was widely quoted as saying, “Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better.” Many felt that asking women to stay in a church that doesn’t value them as equals was confusing and dangerous. While probably true, at the time I was torn. I didn’t want them to succeed in forcing us out of a space we had fought so hard to claim.
I wish now to amend my original advice: If the church does not “spark joy” in you, leave with your head held high.
Similar statements have been made by major (excommunicated) players of the online progressive Mormon spaces, such as John Dehlin. The basic idea is this: if you can make things work, then stay. But if you can’t, then leaving is OK too.
This seems to be a very balanced approach. Yet, as this tumblr post points out, what at first seems to be balanced can be read in a much more one-sided way.
…If you want to stay, that’s fine with us. We’re the LAST people in the whole world who would want to make you choose one way or another. If we’re being totally honest, it is a little weird to us that you would want to participate in such an irredeemably ugly and oppressive organization. But it’s your choice, and we fully support that. Making choices for yourself is super healthy, and we would never stand in the way of the choice to stay in a male-dominated sexist gulag like the Mormon Church, however puzzling it might be to us.
This is brutal, yet I have to admit that this sort of thing kinda runs through a certain strand of progressive (ex?)Mormon thinking. And so I thought: what does it mean to really be neutral regarding a person’s participation in Mormonism? Can one be neutral on this, or will one always betray leaning one way or another?
My best answer is that perhaps one can’t really necessarily be neutral — you either think that the LDS church is sexist or you don’t — but one can be contextually nuanced. In other words, the position that this tumblr post implies is that the progressive excommunicated Mormon thinks that his or her judgments are universally applicable to the church and its members.
As it says:
You should always follow your bliss, even if it destroys your dignity and turns you into a slave. We are super committed to people making choice for themselves, even if such choices ultimately build the shovel that will dig their own early graves.
Because it really is your choice. A weird choice, to be sure. To be frank, literally impossible to comprehend that you would choose–actually choose–bondage and darkness and humiliation when you could be an actual person, breathing the euphoric air of freedom and jubilation and glee and ecstasy and euphoria and rapture.
But I think that even if Mormonism, really, truly, profoundly doesn’t work for a person, they should still be able to see that it can still (nevertheless!) really, truly, profoundly work for others.
I like to say that Mormonism doesn’t really work well for me as a gay, nonbelieving black man…and I would like to think that for other members of those categories (whether separately or in combination), Mormonism probably won’t work out so well for them either…and yet…I have to recognize that there are gay people for whom Mormonism profoundly works for them. I have to recognize that there are black people for whom Mormonism profoundly works for them. There are non-conventionally believing (or maybe even completely nonbelieving) people for whom Mormonism profoundly works. And there are various combinations and permutations of these and other traits.
That interests me, these days. I want to understand why these people who seem to be on the margins still find meaning and fulfillment in this religion.