When we got out of the car and headed toward the pageant itself, we walked past a seemingly endless row of hecklers, most of whom were under some deluded impression that they could get us to change our religions by screaming about how we were all sinners. It was a bizarre experience.
There were a few things spinning around in my confused mind as we trudged past our vocal critics. First, I was embarrassed. I'd never had that kind of unbridled anger leveled at me. Sure, I'd made people mad from time to time, but it was never for something worse than a foolish action or a minor disagreement. These people seemed to hate me for the beliefs I held dear--the things that I felt made my life meaningful. I was used to occasional slaps in the face and these people were kicking my legs out from under me. My natural reaction was to assume that I'd done something wrong.
But then the second wave kicked in, and I began to think these people were kind of ridiculous. Come on, with all the war and murder and corruption and rape and whatever else in the world, these people are going to speak out against someone worshiping a different version of God? That's their priority? And the leaning over the fence, waving the signs which cleverly twisted common Mormon phrases seemed silly.
And then I began to pity them because the didn't have a clue. They'd volunteered to be here shouting their hate-speech and they didn't realize that the one church they'd picked to so vehemently oppose was the one church that actually had the fullness of the truth. They were so angry because they didn't understand. It was sad.
Pretty much the same thing happened when I encountered hecklers in Salt Lake when I attended General Conference.
Of course, now I'm kind of on the same side as some of those people. I've rejected the "one true church" and I want to see it fail. I want it and its manipulative, closed-minded, moneygrubbing organization to collapse. I know the church has done a lot of damage to me, and I know that it's done way more damage to plenty of others, and I don't want it to be able to do the same thing to anybody else.
But I'm not gonna go get in somebody's face about it.
I'll say as much bad stuff about the church as I can to my friends, on the off-chance that any of them will at any time in their lives ever consider joining. I'll blog about why I think the church is full of crap and how it hurts people. But getting loud and angry about it in public just seems in bad taste. I think tattoos are pretty stupid, but I don't approach my coworkers every day and scream "WHY WOULD YOU GET THAT HORRIBLE DESIGN ON YOUR ARM?! THAT WAS A BAD DECISION!"
So I guess, even though I am no longer a believing member of the church, my opinions of those hecklers are still pretty much the same. Instead of being embarrassed for myself, I'm embarrassed for them. They are being ridiculous, because they're spouting hatred at the harmless, usually decent rank-and-file members of a corrupt organization. They're not really accomplishing anything. They don't have a clue, because they seem to think that their presence makes a difference.
I suppose their philosophy may be that if they stand out there shouting all day and one person eventually changes his mind and leaves the church because of them, they've made a positive impact. But I think many people naturally become more entrenched in their beliefs when they see them so deeply under attack. Those hecklers may actually be doing more harm than good.
I think they should stop.