Thursday, August 23, 2012

What Tipped the Scales

I had another interesting discussion today with one of my employees.  It was the same kid that I explained Mormonism to and the same kid who offered to pray for me.

For no apparent reason, during our shift, he blurted out, "You should go back to church."  It would have bothered me if anybody else there had said it, but for some reason his teddy-bear demeanor and totally harmless attitude made it sound like he wasn't overstepping his bounds at all.

What followed was an interesting conversation in which we compared our experiences with our respective religions.  We discovered that both of us were "preacher's kids."  His mother was (and still is) some kind of pastor in his congregation, and my dad was both a bishop and a stake president while I was growing up.

He explained that he's not "super into" his religion because he dislikes a lot of the hypocrisy of his fellow churchgoers, but that he sticks around for his mother's sake and because he still has a very strong belief in God.  He told some crazy stories about people from his congregation.  He seemed to have a particular distaste for people who had severe sins in their own lives preaching to him--he used the example of a guy who beat his kids trying to tell him he needed to be more involved in the church.  But despite the hypocrisy of some of the people he had to deal with at church, he still valued his church attendance because he believed in the doctrines.  He didn't want to jeopardize his salvation just because he didn't like a couple of overzealous idiots.

And suddenly, I realized something about my exit from my own religion that hadn't occurred to me before.

I was raised as almost as counter-Mormon-culture as possible.  My mother is not an outgoing woman, and she loathes hypocrisy.  I was raised with a distaste for the kinds of people that frequently had "inspiration" to perform some seemingly trivial service for someone.  She hated Mormon culture and its tendency for intrusiveness.  And all four of her children grew up that way.  We preferred to be left alone instead of being roped into the false friendships of the well-meaning but totally-off-base ward busybodies.

And because of that, a lot of people in the church seriously pissed me off.  When I went to BYU, those problems multiplied.  My quorum leaders pissed me off, my home teachers pissed me off, ward activities people pissed me off, and most notably, my bishop during my sophomore year made me want to stick a shovel through his skull.  But despite all the idiotic cultural quirks and the hypocrisy and the rudeness of some of the members, I remained in the church because I still believed in what it taught.  It wasn't until I started to realize that the organization itself had lied to me that I considered leaving.

That's what I told my employee, who seems oddly interested in my reasons for abandoning my religion.  Even though we had similar experiences in our religions and grew up under similar circumstances, he had only lost faith in the church membership, while I had lost faith in the church itself.

He said his mom had often advised him that other people in the congregation may think they know everything, but ultimately he should do things his own way according to what he thought was right.  I told him that was good advice.  A church can't force its members to be perfect.  But if you believe its truth claims, it's worth sticking around.

Of course, if the church membership and leadership both piss you off and then you discover that you also don't believe its truth claims...

...leaving the church starts to sound pretty damn appealing.

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