Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Apostates and Assumptions . . .

In the last two years, I've really learned to hold my tongue on Facebook regarding political and religious discussions (unless in the R&P group). However, yesterday I read something that really bugged me, I'm not sure why I thought the OP could be reasoned with (love her, but she never can be). So I'm sharing my thoughts with you, think of it as a cleansing.

"Looking back, I can say that I have never met anyone who left the Church for doctrinal or theological reasons-they leave because of hurt or misunderstandings, or because they are attracted by the zeal for God they see in many non-Catholics..." - Jeff Cavins
When I read the above quote, I took a day to chew on it. I asked myself if I really wanted to say anything, what could possibly be gained by saying anything - I mean why ruin my religious silence on Facebook for something so obviously close minded, inaccurate, and most likely not even proveable. Then I recalled my own experiences while leaving the LDS church: would it not have been nice if someone had objected to a statement like that regarding apostates?

I do not need to repeat the conversation here, but suffice it to say, here is how it went:

Yep, it went that well. For those who are reading this blog for the first time, let me do a brief recap. I was born and raised LDS, became inactive in my early teens, and returned to the church when I was 21. I was active for several years, templed endowed with my husband, and became very interested in apologetics to defend my faith. In 2006ish, I began participating in online religious forum discussions and became very interested in world religions and expanding my perspective. In 2008, my husband and I took a "break" from the LDS church - we felt, specifically our ward, was extemely legalistic and really began dreading Sundays. We began attending a Protestant Non-Denom church in Vegas, it was a nice experience, and we ended up leaving the LDS church and attending GP full time. I felt at the time, there were doctrinal issues that I could not line up and agree with. Fast forward to now, my husband still attends a non-denom church, and every now and then I'll go to observe. To be clear: after two years to chew on it, my theology lies with the LDS church - I do not believe in the Trinity, or that the Bible is the only Word of God. That's me, I'll not debate with you about it, if you believe otherwise, good for you. The experiences of the last few years have really left an after taste in my mouth, I am very cautious of getting involved in organized religion.

By this I mean, I do not mind attending small groups - they are a great outlet for my desire to talk religion with other people and I do keep my mouth on a leash so as not to offend others. I do not mind helping out with my husband's church, feeding the Elders (if they'd ever come over to dinner), or assisting my local ward. However, becoming immersed in the culture, people, or groups is a whole other story. Organized religion (for me) = group think mentality and I really am ill equipped to deal with that. And this blog is going to explain just one reason why I really am intolerable to these mindsets.

Getting back to the topic at hand - all people "leave" a church, group, etc. due to (1) hurt feelings, (2) theological misunderstandings, or (3) the zeal they see in people outside their belief group and never for sound theological reasoning.

First, no one person can claim to know the minds and hearts of all people, of any one religion, let alone one with a world member count of 1.18 billion (USA Today, 2011).  With a 32% apostate rate, that's a lot of people to know exactly why they left the Catholic church. Regardless, it's the statement itself and the believers' willful ignorance to seek out it's accuracy that I want to address.

In organized religion, it seems generally acceptable for someone to make statements without logic, reasoning, or even substational proof. This alone does not bug me, until people start shaping their ideas, actions, behaviors, around this quip someone shared. If someone were to say, "the sky is red" - I would hope you would at the very least, look outside to check to see if it is indeed red. Instead, I've sat through sermons where pastors have:

- Stated Jesus "never" waivered in His mission (see Garden of Gethsamine), never became angry (He drove people out of the temple, called the Pharisees "vipers", and told mothers to fear for themselves as He walked with His cross).
- That Song of Solomons is about dreaming about God ... Um, no. It's about sex, and if you understand the entire context and language at that time, it was pretty bold too.
- That Mormons believe (insert here since there's just too much to cover)
- That Catholics believe (insert here since again too much to cover)
- Relief Society teachers trying to teach about "apostate Protestants" (Don't get me started)
- Bishops read letters from the 1st Presidency instructing members to vote against same sex marriage rights (or you know - civil liberties...)

The list goes on. And guess what? People take it as fact. I remember when I lived in Vegas, someone from my non-denom church came over and began discussing a mutual friend who is LDS. This lady began sharing all these, "Did you know Mormons believe ...." statements until finally I said, "No, that's not true,"

How do you think she responded? "Yes it is, I spoke with Pastor so-so and he really knows a lot about Mormonism and what they believe..." Appalling. Just because someone says it's true, does not mean it IS true. Take the time to look it up, take the time to review your sources. If all your sources come from your church and other resources like-minded with your church, you need different resources. The best resource? Go to the source. Want to know what a Mormon or Catholic or Jehovah Wittness believes? Go to a service, make an appointment with a Bishop, Parish Priest, or Pastor and sit down and ask them. Go to their websites, then make a decision based upon the facts you are presented with, not just the assumptions and second hand knowledge other people give you.

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