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[personal profile] jewelfox
This is a phrase I hear a lot in exmormon circles. The idea is something like
They think you're a worthless sinner now, and that you're going to go all out on hookers and booze now that you've left the church. Prove them wrong! Keep being the awesome successful person you are, except now without Mormonism to hold you back. Show them you're just as nice and caring as you ever were, and make their brains break when they see how you're doing and realize the other shoe may never drop.
Closely related is the idea that Mormonism itself is somehow good. That yes, it's a manipulative cult, but that it "teaches good principles," and that "clean living" has value. The people who hold this idea, like Mormon Stories founder John Dehlin, genuinely love and cherish Mormon culture to some degree. They just wish the Mormon church hadn't lied to them and hurt people they care about.

I'm not so sure you can separate the two, though.

A brief aside about mormon!Jewelfox's experiences

Personally, I was as much of a pathetic hanger-on in Mormon culture as I was in GNOME and Free Software culture. I showed up religiously because I believed in it religiously. I believed in it so much that I made myself overlook the fact that I had basically no friends there; that the few people who cared about me to some extent didn't have much in common with me, and that most of the people there "tolerated" me at best and kept saying or doing things that hurt me.

I was not shy about expressing my opinions there. On Planet GNOME I kept repeating myself about feminism, accessibility, and outreach. In Mormon Sunday School (there's a separate one for adults, and people often speak up with their thoughts about something -- also I taught a few times) I kept repeating myself about technology and the Internet, the value of online outreach, and the idea that things were good or bad in and of themselves, not because God arbitrarily said so. And just like how in GNOME I had to keep repeating myself about how "meritocracy" is a lie, I was so frustrated that people continued to see the Internet as (at best) a way to watch General Conference and download lesson manuals, instead of a way for individual people to tell their stories and share the Gospel.

It's probably just as well that more people didn't listen, because the ones who do see it that way are the kinds who are obnoxious on social media like I was(/am).

Getting back to the point

Anyway, a lot of the Mormons around me were extremely unreflective about their faith. They knew this was good and that was bad, because Jesus and God and the Book of Mormon, and never the twain shall meet. I'm not sure why a particular passage in the Book of Mormon -- which said, in essence, that God is God because he is good, and that if he stopped being good he would "cease to be God" -- meant so much to me. Or another passage which said that God won't suddenly change miserable people so that they'll be happy in the afterlife; he will instead "restore" them to the state which has become natural for them.

I just know that I honestly believed that Mormonism taught "correct principles." Things which were objectively true in a timeless way, and which were designed to make people happy. I believed that "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy," and I realized how different that was from a lot of Christian thinking. So when I saw people going on in a "my church, right or wrong" kind of attitude, I tried to patiently explain to them how a) The Church was right, and b) It mattered that it was right.

That if it turned out to be harmful, or a force for evil, it would be worthless.

You already know how that went

And now what I'm starting to realize is that it's not just one thing about the Mormon church. It's almost everything. That it is, at best, not a good-but-ultimately-flawed church that teaches "clean living," but a social club for white middle-class heteronormative people, and a way for them to exclude others.
I want to point out, right here, that the whole time I was Mormon my mother of origin was extremely marginalized in their social circles. But when I left, she was running a weekly scrapbooking night, and was giving rides to a black, lower-class family to all kinds of church activities. I remember she bought them Christmas presents, and was genuinely dismayed that she was having trouble finding toys of black people to give to their kids.

I feel that this all is worth noting, and believe in giving credit where it's due. I frequently told her how proud I was of her, for being a friend to them and for organizing these meetups and pursuing something she obviously cared about. But I also feel that it's an exception to the rule, and that my mother of origin's ability to demonstrate altruism -- to others or to myself -- doesn't negate her ultimate cruelty towards and neglect / rejection of me.
With that in mind, I feel that almost every Mormon "virtue" -- including the ones most exmormons continue to think of as virtues -- can and should be deconstructed.
  • "Clean living" is a terrible goal. If you're free of the kinds of addictive behaviours Mormonism stigmatizes, it probably just means that you're privileged to be able to meet your deep needs in legal, regulated, and socially acceptable ways.

  • "Truth seeking" is twisted by Mormons to mean "I'm a member because The Church Is True," as though whether God approves were the only concern. This is why there are so many exmormons and atheists who don't care if your beliefs are healthy for you or not.

  • And the value Mormons place on "service" is deeply problematic.
"Service," by which Mormons mean "going out of your way to help someone," can be a fun way to spend an evening and discover the failure points of a system (i.e. if we keep having to do this then something needs to be fixed). But as a way of life, it sucks. Because at best, it means doing something over and over again which is just a hack to get around the real problem. At worst, it means letting needs go unmet because someone didn't find the requisite act of service rewarding enough, or the beneficiary deserving enough.

Some of you might remember the "Mormon Messages" video I linked to awhile back, that showed this community rallying around a sick little girl. That video made me sick, because it tells me that if I'm not as cute and photogenic as her I don't get to have people going out of their way to meet my urgent needs. Instead, I get blamed and shamed for my problems, the way that I was growing up.

They seriously told me that "Church welfare is better than government welfare, because bishops can use their gift of discernment to decide who is worthy to receive help." In a culture that values service, you do not have the right to live. Only to grovel, and beg, and hope you're pathetic enough after you cancel your Internet service and give away all your "excess" possessions. And take a job that you hate, and that gives you no time to study or energy to take care of your kids or better your condition, and continue paying 10 percent of your income in tithing the whole time.

Oh, that and giving "church service." The Mormon church knows how to exploit volunteers, for purely self-serving, even profit-making ends. And while its leaders preached against Social Security back in the day, they're now taking advantage of it with "senior missionaries," who spend their retirement years and money doing unpaid labour for them.

And about that "living well" thing

It's easy for someone to say that living well is the best revenge, when they aren't neurologically disabled and emotionally broken and scarred. Some people have it in them to put up a grand display of defiance, or to go on being cheerful and helpful in the face of trauma. Others, sadly, do not.

In Mormon culture, there's no room for one to be un-grateful. There's no room for being dissatisfied with your life, for hating your life, for hating yourself and wanting to die. You can choose to be happy, and if you aren't happy it's your fault.

And it's when I realized that this was the case, that I started seeing how everything in Mormon, conservative culture is all about the people at the top getting what they want. And no one else ever complaining or inconveniencing them.

So screw Mormon culture.

Screw "clean living" and its bigoted, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, anti-GSRM evil. Screw "truth seekers" who don't seek to understand why. Screw "service," when it means that I have to be miserable in order for you to be happy. And screw "gratitude," when it means you never have to face how miserable you have made me.

Especially screw "worthiness." It's a carrot on a stick, a way to make people feel Not Good Enough so that they need external validation. It justifies horrible cruelties, and ignorance of others' pain. And like everything else in Mormon culture, it's applied unevenly between haves and have-nots. Because in my experience, the worst Mormon abusers just lied in their worthiness interviews. Some Mormons are even given the mystical "Second Anointing," where they "have their calling and election made sure" and are promised there's no way they can not go to heaven.

You know what's so terrible about that? That not everyone gets it. That not everyone even knows it exists, or at least that it's practiced today. That some get to have that assurance, while others -- much, much kinder and more hard-working others -- live their whole lives in doubt of their heavenly promise, or even feel that they're going to hell.

Well, Inari has personally told me that there's nothing I can do which would jeopardize my standing with her. That no matter how much I hurt myself or others, I'll still be welcomed back in the next life, and she'll help me heal from whatever I've been through.

I feel that she said it not because she wants to give license for me to hurt others. But because she knows me deeply and personally, she knows what kind of circumstances would drive me to do something "monstrous" if it ever happened, and she wants me to know she will always love me and nothing will ever change that. That I'll always have her to fall back on, and that deep down, I'm not the terrible person I thought I was.

It's what she kept trying to show me, in my most painful moments, when I was living in hell and despair because of "unworthiness." And it's something I think everyone who wants it should have. Unconditional love, whether it comes from a goddess or lover or friend.

Emotional security, financial security, caring and respect ... these things shouldn't be kept for the few at the top, and doled out in pitiful portions to the "grateful" poor at the bottom. They should be everyone's birth/hatching-right.

Everyone should be allowed to live well, and the ones who can't shouldn't be pitied. They should be helped.

Anyway, now that we've established that I'm an amoral fox-demon, I'm off for some hookers and booze!
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