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Inspired by a BBC blog post and the #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou hashtag, here are some signs you may be in an abusive religion, based on personal experience.

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The same things apply to abusive families, friends, coworkers, and organizations.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

(Content note: Abusive religion and families, depression and self/victim-blaming.)

One of the reasons I still sometimes visit the exmormon Reddit is because it helps to see what I went through from an outside perspective. When you're Mormon and live in an abusive family, everything's supposed to be all smiles and happiness, and you suppress even your memories of the times that they're not.

Part of the reason for this is that you are told, outright, that when you're having hard times it's your fault:

My FIL is a Branch President [Pastor] at the MTC [Missionary Training Center]. He shared an insight that turned my stomach [...]

Every so many weeks there is a set talk that is rebroadcast. The main theme of the message (from one of the 12 [Mormon apostles], I think) is that obedience and worthiness (and work) are the key elements of missionary success. And that there are people prepared in the mission field, prepared for every specific missionary. It is vitally and eternally important that every missionary be worthy of the full guidance of the Spirit™ to ensure they can be led to these people. These nonmembers, these brothers and sisters, are relying on the missionaries to be worthy so as to receive the inspiration to give the nonmembers a chance at the gospel – possibly their only or best chance in this life! The guilt of worthiness is laid on THICK!

So thick, in fact, that every week after this rebroadcast the Branch Presidencies are overwhelmed with missionaries bawling and shaking in dire need to confess to sins so as to be worthy. They are terrified that their past mistakes will condemn someone else. They line up to confess things they hadn’t shared before entering the MTC(fearing they’ll be sent home) or reconfess to perfect strangers sins they already owned up to but are afraid they need to make double/triple sure they have covered so they won’t condemn someone through unworthiness.

Emphasis in the original.

This isn't always the way Mormons handle these things. There's a glurgy song one of them wrote which confronts this viewpoint, and shows how unfair life is. Then it goes on to remind the Mormon listeners that "after the trials we will be blessed, for this life is a test." It's still a bad way of looking at things, and I've seen it used to minimize other people's suffering as being God's will and nothing to complain about. But it at least acknowledges that bad things happen to people who don't deserve them.

What it never quite got around to pointing out is that part of that unfairness is who gets blamed for what happens to them and who doesn't. The 18-year-olds entering the MTC are near the bottom of the Mormon hierarchy, right above women, poor people, and gays. And they're blamed for everything that goes wrong, like getting zero baptisms in a European mission. They usually pay for this privilege, out of their or their families' pockets. Meanwhile, the rich white men doing the blaming -- the Mission Presidents -- live in big houses and have their living expenses, medical expenses, kids' educations, and a lot of other things paid for out of members' tithing.

The biggest revelation I had, when I started reading books like Barbara Ehrenreich's, was that there were people who played by "the rules" and were thrown away anyway. This was such a blow to my system that I don't think I ever recovered. In a way, it helped to find out that not everything was my fault, and that the world was just a scary and unfair place. But knowing that doesn't make the guilt and feelings of worthlessness go away, and doesn't really help me deal with it.

I think that's why a lot of Mormons have this "just world" belief. (TW: Rape) They know, somewhere in their hearts, that they are all play-acting. They put so many things, so much loss and pain, on top of a shaky foundation of belief in their God's will and power, even when it means believing that they must have prevented him from blessing them through their unworthiness. And they know that if they ever stop bracing against it, it will fall down and crush them.

I'd have more sympathy for them if they weren't standing on me while they're doing so, and blaming me for not being a doormat.

I have even less sympathy for narcissists, whatever church they attend. Because what's worse than feeling like everything is your fault, is believing that nothing is.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
I'm starting to realize some ways in which I was programmed to do things contrary to my and others' best interests.

Possible trigger warning for religious and sexual brainwashing, and abuse.

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