Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why I Am Not Fair to the Mormons

I received an email two days ago from someone I admire and love. It was in regards to my thoughts on being religion free that I posted last time on the blog (see link).
He writes:

Dear D'Arcy, 

"I read your blog post from last week celebrating 5 years emancipation from the church...You talk about having a rebirth, but you throw a lot of dirt on the church in the process.  When you imply that you couldn't laugh, take walks, eat cupcakes, or see Broadway shows before you left the church, or that in the church the only things you could really hope for were a husband and a family, or that in the church God expects you to be a polygamist wife you are distorting the truth and simply not telling the whole story. 

You're casting blame on the church.  But, I take walks, laugh, eat cupcakes, and watch Broadway plays (albeit not on Broadway, having never been to New York).  Lots of church members find swimming or painting or dance or entrepreneurship or drama to be inherent in their faith--expressions of identity that go beyond marriage and family.  That there are a lot of people in the church who are insensitive and inexperienced goes without saying. That you struggle with the church is also apparent.  But saying that the church is totally at fault is not telling the whole story and doesn't seem fair."

After thinking a bit about this I have decided to respond publicly--cause, well, I want to:

First of all, Mormons are AWESOME dancers!

Second of all--when the LDS church is fair to women, then maybe I will be fair to the LDS church (bam! yeah, take that mature answer!) But honestly folks, that's not really an answer. The real answer is, "um, huh?"

So, here is my best explanation (with some help from an articulate friend who talked through some of this with me this week) on why I am seemingly not fair to the Mormon church.

In a distant land....far, far away...called The Matrix (beat!), when I was still Mormon, every small action of every day, every small act, was informed and shaped by being Mormon. Every moment was full of little moral dilemmas. Should I have done that? Watched that? Thought that? Said that? Worn that? Kiss that with my tongue as long as I did?

In this land, I would not have enjoy a naked Daniel Radcliffe in the Broadway play Equus (stage seating too, I might add) the way I do now because now I do not have any guilt over watching naked people on stage do some acting. That fabulous play was not bound by my Mormon fear of choosing and liking the wrong thing and offending God.  

And cupcakes! Sure, I enjoyed them as a Mormon....BUT....

What about cupcake made with alcohol or coffee? Those are da bomb-diggity! But, even buying a cupcake was an event full of Matrix thoughts: "Should you have born your testimony to that person who asked you about your Utah driver’s license?  Did you bring along pass-along cards or Books of Mormon?  And if not, why?  Are you the clean, bright, happy, healthy representative you ought to be of the Church? "

These are just small examples of the questions floating around in my head as I lived my daily life as a Mormon. A constant barrage, a discourse of inadequacy and guilt--peppered with pats on the back and feelings of marked achievement (look at that man with the smoking addiction! Look at that man with the beer! Look at the women with the tank top! I am not like that, and that is good.)

And while my emancipation took a while to achieve, it was worth the struggle. Why? Well, my friend described it this way, there "is this amazing feeling of peace I feel. There is an enormous, beautiful, quiet place in my heart that never existed there before.  I know I am capable of making good decisions.  I’m not so afraid of words or actions or thoughts anymore.  I’m not so afraid.  And that makes everything, EVERYTHING, better."

To make this briefer--

At one point in time, the church infused everything in my life (demanded to infuse my life). Thus, the church has a major responsibility to answer for the anxiety and fear and guilt that also infused my life.  That is not to say that there are no good things about the Mormon church.  That is simply to acknowledge that my experience in the church was, in fact, not chiefly a positive in my life. And that is the truth. 

And when I speak my truth--then why does the word "fair" come in to play?

Has the church been fair to my truth? 

Does the church acknowledge each Mormon woman struggling to find a worth outside of the confines it has prescribed?  

Is the church fair when it constantly presents talks and lessons and activities and attitudes that make it crystal clear that without a husband and without children a woman is incomplete.  Imperfect.  Sad.  Yearning.  Waiting.

Has the church been fair when it funds campaigns about Prop 8?

Has the church been fair and truthful when presenting its past?

Has the church been fair when choosing what color of skin was worthy to hold the priesthood? What gender even?

Has the church been fair?

Maybe to some it has (if you're a white guy, you've got it made). Maybe to others it hasn't (having a vagina doesn't help your case much). 

But what I do know is that I really do not care if I paint the Mormon church in a light that its members find unpleasing and unfair.

And that is the true freedom I have gained. 

And that, friends, is why I sing and dance and eat my cupcakes with more zest and zeal than I did the first 30 years of my life.