Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Rescuing "The Lost"

I have, recently, been the recipient of many re-activation efforts from members of the Mormon Church. I have not been attending since July, and this is the first real wave of "please come back, we miss you" that I've seen. For example:
   My Visiting Teaching companion, who has said maybe 6 words to me in the entire 3 years I was in the ward, and the sister missionaries, dropped by my house last week. Thankfully I wasn't home, so they stuck a note and a talk to my door. The note said: We miss you and hope to see you again soon.  My mind was boggled that somebody who had rarely spoken to me can claim to miss me. Perhaps she missed my commentary? My amazing shoe collection? My incredibly dramatic makeup looks? I'm not sure, but I know she couldn't have missed me, as a person, because SHE DIDN'T KNOW ME.
   I helped a lady from the ward (who is a friend) clean her house before she moved last Saturday. The Relief Society President was there, along with one of my more liberal church friends. My friend and I ended up discussing women's ordination, our views of God, Wicca, Mother God, and a lot of other things. It was nice, because when I said that I was done with the Christian God and that I was happier than I had ever been, she didn't condemn. She was happy that things were going well.
   However, the Bishop called the next day. First time he's ever called me. I'm not kidding. My husband answered the phone, and told him (politely, because my husband is a very nice man) that we weren't interested. He told him this 3 times. Then the Bishop asked if we were offended in any way. My husband replied that our being done with the church had nothing to do with offense, and that we want to be left alone.

I'm unsure how to feel about these re-activation efforts.
   First, I'm a bit annoyed that it took this long. Seriously, it's been 5 months. Where was all that concern 4, even 3 months ago, when I could have used it? I understand that it's a big ward, and there are lots of people and needs, but if you're going to drop a note by my house telling me that I'm loved and cared about, perhaps showing that while I was attending should have been a priority.
   Second, I'm annoyed. 5 months. It should be clear that I am done. My Facebook status clearly shows that I no longer consider myself a member. We've stopped paying our 10% in tithing. If I'm asked to attend an activity, I say "I'm not interested."  Sometimes I just want to scream "TAKE A HINT AND BACK OFF!"
   Third, the hypocrisy is driving me bonkers. One of the reasons I left was because I felt socially isolated and shunned, because I had (very loud) differing opinions than most people in the ward. People would literally look away if I made eye contact. And yet I'm getting notes and emails telling me that I'm loved and missed. Sometimes by the very people that couldn't look at me! It's mind-boggling how they don't see this as wrong!
   Fourth, I'm grumpy that very few people want to hear my real reasons for leaving. Outside of my therapist (who gets paid to listen to my reasons), my husband (who is my sounding board), and my aforementioned friend, people just want me to say that I was angry about a little thing, and am coming back. They don't want to feel like I have legitimate concerns. They don't want to acknowledge that my experiences, while possibly different, are valid.
The funny thing is, I've been on the other side of the re-activation table. I've sat at a table and said "Oh, yeah, I'll send her a card, so she knows we care."  From where I am now, I can see how incredibly...stupid that is.  I don't have statistics, but I'm sure most people don't leave because they don't feel loved. It might be a factor, but what I know now is that leaving is complicated.
   My therapist -who is Mormon, incidentally-said that most people leave for either doctrinal reasons (like they hear about polygamy or the Book of Abraham), or cultural reasons (can't fit into the narrow mold).  Sometimes it's both reasons. Sometimes it's neither.  But the point is, people leave for lots of different reasons, and no amount of cards or visits will change that.

 I had thought, for a long time, about what my concise answer would be when I'm asked why I don't go to church anymore. It's all well and good for me to have a laundry list, but people don't want to hear it. So I've been racking my brains for a Cliff's notes version.  This Saturday, I finally thought of it. It just popped out of my mouth when I was asked why I hadn't been attending church.
   My answer?

   "The church doesn't have my heart, my mind, or my soul. And this is not a discussion."


  1. Wow, just wow. Having never experienced anything like this (thank you mom and dad) your frustrations seem totally valid to me, but perhaps that's because they make sense, lol.

    And for the record, I think your Cliff Notes version is PERFECT!

    1. Thanks! It's nice to know that I do make sense, outside of my head. :D

  2. That's an awesome answer! Discussing it is pointless. They are not interested in understanding you, just converting you.

    Even if you had been offended are the cards, visits and phone calls really an attempt for introspection, to consider the role they may have played in pushing you away, and to get your perspective as to how they ward/culture could be more inclusive and accepting? Or are they really just hoping to convince you that you're wrong? That you misunderstood, were being too sensitive, had unrealistic expectations, or were "confusing the message with the people"? Sure they'd apologize and try to be friendlier if it was the only way to bring you back. But would they really recognize their own wrongdoing and try to make the culture more inclusive? Or would it be about accomodating YOUR eccentricities and YOUR hypersensitivity and YOUR need to be coddled?

    1. That's how I feel. They are wanting to humour me into coming back.
      Was that the general response when you went inactive?

  3. I stopped going gradually (I hate the term inactive) so it was a bit less noticeable. And when people did mention they missed me I gave the excuse that I was working most weekends. At first I wasn't sure how I felt and wanted space to figure things out. I hadn't been in the ward long so most people there didn't know me to begin with. My husband was still attending church at the time and I think people probably asked after me and said the generic "tell her we miss her and would love to see her" but if so he never passed it along. I had visiting teachers but they rarely came. It's only in the past couple years that I've been bold enough to come right out and tell people that I'm not really interested. I actually still have a visiting teacher though I've told her that I really have no interest in the church. She's my neighbor and my son and hers play together all the time so even though she never schedules visits I still see her a lot and occasionally she'll give me the relief society newsletter/calendar. Since my husband still considers himself a member and occasionally takes our kids to church I will still attend an occasional ward dinner or activity to be supportive and when I do a few people might say hello to me but that's usually the extent of it.

    1. Sorry. "Inactive" was the buzzword around the time I left, and it's always the phrasing people use when talking to me lately.

  4. Wow, I always thought the Mormon church was more caring. When I came back from overseas, my church never called me. It still hurts me.

    Sometimes our churches ask why the young people leave. But they ask to be politically correct. tehy don't take our suggestions, and then they write blog entries about how we are relativists and compromisers. So now if someone asks me why I left, I'm scared to say.

    1. It's not that they're not caring. It's that it often seems, at least in my experience, the caring is directly tied to church activity. It feels like they care enough to want me to come back, but not enough to want to understand my reasons why I don't want to return. If that even makes sense.
      That's a really good point. The asking why I left seems to be more out of politeness than really wanting to know. Political-correctness is the best way to phrase that.
      Leaving one's church is complicated, messy, and sometimes a hard decision. But people still in the church seem to think it was on a whim, or because of some slight.

  5. Hey there, we really miss you're money...er, I mean, seeing YOU at church. Please come back...and bring your checkbook...er, family. That's right, family.

    I felt like it was really all about the money, at the end. And, the reason they don't listen or respect what you have to say when you tell them why you left is that, if they gave any credence to your perspective, it would threaten their faith, worldview and whole concept of their lives. Few can travel that path. Their cage is locked from the inside, and you're jiggling the knob to show them, and that just scares the sh** out of them. Stay strong, and show them the mercy they refuse you. That, more than anything else, will bring them around if they are going to make it.

    1. Hahahaha! That's how it feels sometimes! "We know you're dirt poor, but God will help you if you help the church...even though the church brings in billions a year, and you live hand to mouth...God will make up the difference. Promise!"

      And that's a good point about extending mercy. I'm very abrupt and brusque. Kindness and mercy seem to take a backseat, sometimes. :S