Sunday, June 03, 2012

What If?

It's the question that drives us, Neo. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.
~ Trinity

You're a man haunted by those two most terrible words: What if?
~ Uber Morlock

I have, understandably, become fascinated with people's exit stories. Whether they are exiting from my former faith, or some other, I usually find a kindred soul. The details and particulars may vary from faith to faith, but there is a common thread.

What if?

It is the opening to that question that releases the flood gates. People of faith often wrestle with questions, and therefore believe they have questioned their faith; but as anyone who has left their faith can tell you, it is not the same thing.

The difference is in the letting go. As much as I may have questioned various aspects of my faith while I was a Christian, I always had one foot on the shore. The life preserver was always firmly fastened as I waded into the sea of doubts.

There was a story in Salon yesterday about a woman who left her Mormon faith. Again, the particulars vary, but she had that common "what if?" moment:

Sean was as supportive as an atheist could be. He even went with me for the first hour of church to help with the Squirmy Ones. But when he’d leave early, I’d cry in the bathroom, feeling completely alone. I never said that word aloud: Atheist. My heart clenched just thinking it.

We rarely talked about religion, yet it consumed us. When Sean replaced his temple garments — the sacred underwear he’d promised to wear day and night — with boxers, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was too much betrayal. I called up a neighbor with a husband like mine and cried. But instead of empathy, she offered questions that stunned me into silence. Was Sean addicted to pornography? Watching R-rated movies? What sin had brought him to this terrible place?

My tears stopped. Her questions were so off-base that they seemed absurd. She was sincere, and trying to help, but she believed what the Church teaches — that a man would only leave because he’s disobeying the commandments. She couldn’t understand this was a rational inquiry. She saw everything as the result of sin.

This started my brain twitching. I knew Sean was still a good person, that he still maintained the same moral standards he had when he married me. The Church was wrong about him. What else might they be wrong about?

One of the things that started the "what else might they be wrong about?" process for me was my faith's reaction to Mormons (I moved to SLC from Detroit 8 years ago). I didn't believe Mormon theology, but the reactions of my fellow evangelicals to them gave me insight into my own religion. I knew my Mormon friends to be good and honest people who were just as sincere in their belief as I was in mine. They were quite convinced that I was misinformed about God, and I returned the favor.

However, I was a bit more gracious than most of my fellow evangelicals. I sat through many a bible study and meeting where Mormon faith and practices were mocked. Yet, upon closer examination, many of the critiques and jabs I heard could just as easily be applied to us. Why do we get a pass on similar attitudes and practices? What if I applied these critical measures to my own faith?

What if?


Kevin Dudley said...

I really enjoyed her story. She took a moment and assessed her spouses integrity before throwing the relationship away. It is too easy to assign the pat answers, "they wanted to sin, addiction, or deception" to those who are disaffected. it is a much more difficult to look at the other person's journey.

Don said...

As you know Andrew, My journey of questions began when I questioned that my beloved gay son was bound for hell. Last night, my wife and I found much solace by attending our first meeting of PFLAG in our area. I can assure you we will be regulars, and I can assure you I will never cease to ask questions for the rest of my journey.

Steve H. said...

I can't argue with the post Andy. People who ridicule the beliefs of others are just insecure in their own!

Eruesso said...

How did I miss this gem of a post?

I know exactly what this couple went through, I experienced the same when I almost became Muslim myself (only to end up as an Agnostic/pantheist/whatever). At the time when my wife discovered my possible conversion to Islam she stated she felt as if I had cheated on her. She felt betrayed. We've moved on together since then and forgiven each other how we handled that rough patch in our marriage.

~Sam M.~

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