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Sunday
Nov132011

Homesick For Someone Who Doesn't Exist

There is this childhood friend of mine I still think about from time to time. We go WAY back. We knew of each other in elementary school, were best friends in junior high, complicated friends in high school and college. And then I just had to let her go.

It wasn't a decision I made easily, but it was for the best. She's a devout Mormon and, as I slowly defected from the church, it got to the point we couldn't have a conversation without her instigating the old "I know you know the church is true, just come with me this Sunday" conversation or telling me to watch my mouth when I casually cursed. Seriously? Me watch my mouth? Isn't that like telling the Pope not to pray? And who wants to be friends with someone you constantly have to tiptoe around or with whom you can't be your real self?

For years she tried to dig out of me that secretly I really know the church is true, the implication being, I suppose, that maybe following the commandments was just too hard for me, but that really, deep inside, I know the church is true. It was as if my non-belief somehow threatened her belief, which is often the case, I've found. Mormons battling niggling thoughts sometimes become the loudest and most offensive. It's their way to drown out the terrifying notion that maybe, just maybe, everything you've been taught your entire life is a lie. I've been there. The year before I stopped believing I was president of my high school seminary class and whipped through The Book of Mormon in months.

Ultimately the friendship became toxic. When you've spent the whole of your twenties reprogramming your brain from the absolute bullshit inflicted on you by a bunch of other folks who have had the same shit inflicted on them, well, you just get plain offended when anyone professes to pity the fact that you've left the church. Because you are proud. Proud that you managed to fight your way out and see the world clearly. Maybe you were able to view the world without prejudice from the get-go? Consider it a luxury. A kind of a head start in life. I had to fight like a motherfucker for years to clear my head of the preconceived notions deeply ingrained in there. And they'll always be there. I'm just aware of them now and super cognizant of when they are distorting my perception of something.

See, most Mormons look at me and feel sadness that I "lost my way." They might even pray for me. I've had people tell me they pray for me, for that matter. And they aren't trying to be offensive, they sincerely mean it, which somehow makes it even more offensive. The ultimate condescension. I'm used to it. Doesn't make me nearly as mad as it used to. Now I'm sad too. Sad that so many bright, amazing people have allowed their personalities to be dictated or otherwise negatively shaped by the church. They view me as lost and I feel the same way about them. Don't get me wrong, in many, many instances the church is a good thing. It provides structure - goals, sign posts and rules - for the people who need it. It is a charitable organization that engenders community-mindedness. It also - and I think this is religion's major selling point - helps people feel better about dying, which is the scariest fucking thing of all, isn't it? Who doesn't want to be told they're going to live forever and rule their own kingdom in heaven? SIGN ME UP.

But those positives aren't worth the price of your soul. For every person it helps, the church forces just as many others to repress their true personalities. It strangles beautiful people filled with natural, harmless curiosity about love and life. It makes them feel like living life and learning and exploring who they really are is wrong, a sin. Does being religious mean you stop critically thinking individual issues and just go with the flow even though your gut might be telling you differently? Such is the case with this one friend. She is against gay marriage (because the church tells her to be) even though another great friend of ours is a lesbian raising a child with her wife. How do you reconcile that? When you are so close with someone who is gay, someone you know with absolutely certainty is a loving, caring, beautiful person, yet you still can't see fit to afford them basic human recognition? Because someone else - someone you never met - decided that being gay is wrong. Just ignore your compassionate instinct and obey and you'll understand later, maybe when you die and get to that kingdom we've been promising you.

Shouldn't true love be this all-encompassing black hole with no rules, policies or restrictions? Love is love, right? How do you make rules about love? And who are you to make rules, anyway? Oh, God made that rule? It's God's law? And he told this one guy on Earth that was the rule? Just the one guy? Well, who is that guy to make rules? He's hand-picked by God? How do you know? Oh, you have FAITH... And therein lies every religion's trump card. Faith. You can't dispute faith. Faith trumps everything. It's the royal flush in every religious debate. A strong conviction in something for which there is no proof. You can't argue against that, can you? You can try. But have you ever argued with someone who has tears streaming down their face as they bear their testimony about the church to you and repeatedly tell you that they JUST KNOW. I JUST KNOW IT'S THE ONE TRUE CHURCH. I've had this conversation in person, over email, Facebook messaging and it's a waste of time every time. For both people.

It often seems like most religious people confuse spirituality with faith. You can have a flutter in your chest, a seed in your heart that something is out there, but that doesn't necessarily make the religion your mama taught you a fact and everybody else wrong. It just means you're spiritual and you're framing it in the context that you've been taught; you take that flutter as proof positive of what you've been taught. But the flutter is spirituality most of us feel and you're framing it as faith in your church. That's how religions get you. That burning in your chest is confirming what we put in your head! It's not, though. I feel that burning in my chest all alone when I contemplate the universe and my place in it, God or no God. It all seems so simple sometimes yet it's anything but...

She is an amazing person. Filled with curiosity about life. She is brilliant, fiery, witty, talented. And has been completely swallowed up by the church. Its views are her views. The end. It's the same with hundreds other people I know. But see, even me writing about her (or anyone else who subscribes to Mormonism or any other religion) in this tone borders dangerously close to the attitudes she has about my leaving the church. I can't pity her religiosity because that's validating her pity for my religionless lifestyle. And I have to admit, it's all choice. She chooses to be a churchgoing gal and I choose not to be and so all I can do is respect her choices while mourning the girl that could have been.

And so two girls who love each other, who feel so strongly about each other, stand on opposite edges of this great religious divide, mourning the loss of the person we each hoped the other could be. She has made several overtures of friendship and I have ignored them. What's the point, I think? I can no longer tolerate the old "just read the Book of Mormon, Monica, you know the church is true" horseshit... And she can't tolerate me. The me here on this blog. Because that is the real me.

What to do? Nothing, I guess. Other than feel homesick as hell for a person, my childhood friend, who no longer exists. Or a person that could've existed but doesn't because the church stole that person and erased her true potential in this life. Sometimes I wonder if she ever wonders. She puts on such a solid Mormon exterior but in the dark of night does she ever let her mind wander over to the fact that maybe there is merit to other ways of thinking besides this one, rigid, exclusionary path she's chosen? Maybe. Maybe not. I'll never know.

Whether you are religious or not how do you reconcile relationships with those who feel the exact opposite of you? Have you lost family members or friends because of religion? How do you feel about that? If you maintained those relationships, did you constantly feel like you were walking on eggshells and never able to have a truly meaningful relationship? I'd rather just remember my friendship as it was than attempt to maintain some fake version of it.

Reader Comments (35)

You are so spot on with this Post.

I've been in a mixed marriage (denominations) for longer than you have been alive, and you put it down so well.

You and Serge have a beautiful family, put that first in life and all else falls into place.

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterUtah L

She would have to accept that she can't preach to you, and you would have to curb your language and conversation topics around her. You'd have to both accept those things, and bare them in mind in order to spend time together. At least that's the only way I can figure it.

I've been lucky. I was raised Anglican (so not as rigid as Mormon) however I too believe in spirituality over organized religion. My mom on the other hand. As well as my sister and my brothers to a certain extent all still attend church and have deep faith. I've been lucky because they're very accepting and not at all pushy to my boyfriend and I. In fact, when I told my mother that her grandchildren will not be attending church with her, or being baptized, she said, "well I can appreciate that you're not being hypocritical" ...that's it. Conversation over. We both aknowledge each others views and beliefs, and we don't try and argue either side, just accept each other for who we are.

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

Monica, I had a similar experience with my best friend since kindergarten. She was a devote Christian and I believed in God, but not organized religion. During most of our teen years we had many intellectual conversations about religion that always fascinated me. I just didn't understand why you couldn't question the church. Why is a book that has been translated MANY times the one and only true word of God.

She was admitted to a religious college after high school so we planned a trip to the beach after graduation. Imagine my surprise when about half way through our trip she confessed how she worried each time we got in the car because she truly believed I was going to hell when I died.

I packed up the car, drove us home. I told her that I loved her but didn't have room in my life for her judgements. Severals years later she called me. She apologized for her words. She wanted to be friends again. I asked her if she still felt I was going to hell, which she did. I told her that I had forgiven her years ago, would always love the girl I grew up with with but I still didn't have room in my life for her views.

It's been 26 years since I lost my best friend to religious narrow-mindedness. I too feel homesick for someone who doesn't exist. Thank you for reminding me that it can be hard to truly follow your own path when it would be so much easier to go down the party line.

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSnohotina

It's kind of funny, but my Mormon friends all seem kind of scared stiff to talk to me about my having left the church. Perhaps it's because I didn't really leave until I was in my mid-20's and had put in more than my required time at BYU. They didn't know how to handle someone who was always as committed to the church as they were who then suddenly wasn't.

It definitely affects the number of people I still talk to from my days at the Y. And it means I'm not so likely to get in touch with them.

So I guess I got off lucky. I don't get guilted or anything. I freak them out too much, I guess.

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Religious person here. I don't really get people like your former friend. I know plenty of them (not Mormon, but Catholic) and I've found they are so afraid of doubt, so afraid of not knowing the answers that they go after people who question or disagree....even though it has nothing to do with their own lives. I don't have the time, the spiritual energy or the moral authority to question someone else's personal/religious/spiritual beliefs. I'm too engaged in my own struggle with my own faith to criticize someone else's.

I also don't really believe in arguing about spiritual beliefs with other people. It's too personal and not always entirely rational and not really fair. After all, I assume other people believe what they believe as strongly I as do. When I meet someone, I try to ask myself: Are they a good person? Are they considerate and caring about other people? Do they consistently try to NOT be an asshole? If the answers are yes, we can be friends even if you're a Mormon and I'm a Catholic or she's a Muslim and I'm a Jew. If not, see ya.

Also, I don't get Christian people who are super self-righteous with their Christian-ness. That was not Jesus' deal at all. In fact, he spoke out against that type of thing pretty consistently and was more about kindness and forgiveness. So, that type of behavior doesn't really follow for people who trying to emulate the life of Christ.

Finally, although I was raised Catholic, I kinda get the sense being raised strictly Mormon is a little different....more like a lifestyle that people live along with the religious beliefs. Is that correct? I know plenty of people who've left the Catholic church or are "lapsed" but it's not a big deal socially or anything like that. I'v e been reading your blog and Heather Armstrong's blog long enough that it makes it seem like a huge shock if someone leaves the Church. Are people really that surprised? I don't really know any Mormons so I may not understand the extent of the alienation people feel if they leave the church.

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate

how do I reconcile it? I just love people. I don't judge. Just love them as they are. Period.That is exactly what Jesus told us to do. Simple. BTW, I am going through the same thing with a friend I am trying to find. We have all of this history and I resented the fact that she never told me that my ex had moved another woman into our apt ( which we shared with my friend and her husband). I was livid, hurt, confused and could not get past it really. Tried to keep it going but it seemed that her actions had unraveled my ties to her. Anyway....well I am on my way to Florida early tomorrow and will start a new life hopefully. Find my old friend and try to understand, forgive and forget. I think your attitude towards your old friend and religious people is healthy and fair, especially considering what you went through to break from the church. I broke from my Catholic roots and had to deal with a lot of personal and family pressures. I believe I found something real because it is...relational. personal. People may not understand it and that's fine. Well, I wish you peace and hope that someday you might meet your old friend if only to connect on a 'superficial' level....sad I know. I feel that way. Okay chin up bucky. You still got us.

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergina

I think sometimes we just outgrow our friends, or they outgrow us, or whatever it is that "worked" before no longer jives. I haven't lost any friends to religion, but I have had friendships end when it became apparent that our adult values and boundaries weren't conducive to continuing that friendship. And it's sad, especially when there were good things or a long shared history, but I've also found that it's much more positive to be surrounded by people who accept and love us at our most authentic. I haven't regretted ending the relationships, even if part of me may always wonder: "What happened to us?"

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNostalgic

Amen, which may be an extremely poor choice of words, but amen, sister. I too left the Mormon faith, and it also took me as long as you to de-program nearly every thought process I had. I too lost a friend. She's married, 4 kids, Utah, the whole she-bang. It makes me sad, but I live with it because no one has the right to make me feel that bad for being myself.

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertara

Wow, great post - you really are spot on. I had to read parts to my husband. Your point about faith is so accurate. What can you say to someone who believes a book is divinely inspired when you dont.
My husband and I are not religious but have chosen to live near my family and extended family who are pretty conservative religious. It really is a thing that is tip-toed around. If they ask me something I will be honest with them but I dont think I would go into the details of my beliefs. I dont even use the word 'athiest' even though that is as accurate as 'not religious'. I am viewed as 'lost' and I completely know what you mean about feeling offended when someone says they will pray for you - I cant help thinking 'cant you just send nice thoughts out into the universe for me?'
So I guess the subject is just avoided. No, I cant be myself which makes me sad but I want to maintain some sort of relationship with some of them. I do feel a huge sense of relief when we spend time with our friends who arent religious, and my husbands family - its a non-issue.
Thanks for your post.

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersarsains

I think you're correct to end the friendship, for all of the reasons that you stated... it won't work. I've always respected, in a weird way, people whose 'faith' never falters. It doesn't make sense to me, but when it works for people, I say- hey, whatever works.

I entirely agree with you about -love-. When I was a teenager, hangin' with the lifeguards, the head lifeguard, a married woman, and self proclaimed Christian, mentioned how AIDS was a punishment for gay love, which was wrong.

I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that love could ever be wrong. Love is love... is love. I somehow sputtered out that I couldn't see any 'wrongness' when it comes to love therefore trying to excuse myself from the 'lynching' she was trying to incite. Oh, she was torn up about it all... this horrible disease that all these gay men invited upon themselves by loving the wrong gender. She wasn't going to get a loud reaction from me- I simply shook my head, and told her: don't we need MORE love in the damn world?

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

I've found this situation in my own life - but it's not about religion. However, the outcome is the same. My friend - and closest friend for years - recently said she thought my spouse was abusive to me. Nothing could be further from the truth. I thanked her for her being frank and also told her she was off-base. I hoped she'd stick around and see that he was depressed, not abusive. She felt that because I was "abused" I couldn't "see" it, as ALL ABUSED women in that situation never see the abuse. So I figured whatever I said sounded defensive and chose not to react. I thought in due time, she'd see he treated his depression. And to be fair, there was A LOT of bad shit happening at the time (not to mention the economy).
So it hurts. And sometimes you do have to cut the people out that can't accept you for who you are. Because who I am and who you are is okay!
Why do people that are anti-gay always harp on the act of sex? My God tells me that love is great! It doesn't matter from whom it comes - but to find love and to to find a partner is a part of what's spiritually fulfilling.

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Living in Utah, I know full well what you are talking about. I actually had a friend tell me, after a day doing volunteer work, that I would make a good Mormon, because of what she had seen me do that day. Really?! I'm not a good person because I'm not Mormon!? My volunteer work would have been better if I was Mormon!? Luckily, our kids found friends outside of the church while growing up. They didn't have the experience you had with your friend. But, we feel that attitude every day in this state. We still wouldn't move back to California though!

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoni

I think this is a really REALLY interesting conversation! I came to the Christian faith in college, and met my now husband through singing in gospel choir, etc. My husband is a youth director at a Christian church, and we work with middle schoolers and high schoolers. Teenagers can be sadly so easily dismissed or ignored, and my husband and I just try to first and foremost let them feel loved and valued. And we teach them about Jesus: but we do so in an open-handed way. Because I remember what it felt like to be treated like a 'project' by really religious people before I found faith my own way, and I never want the youth we work with to feel like that.
But the crazy thing is: my husband and I feel a lot of backlash from strangers (and even some folks we know from our past) when we tell them that we are in Youth Ministry. All of a sudden, they look uncomfortable. It bums us out-folks judge us as being Crazy-Christians before they even get to know us: when really, we like going to concerts and having a good drink and hanging out with our friends. We just also like Jesus. People are fast to assume that just because we do ministry, we're going to shove our stances down their throats-I think sometimes a minority of extremists can give all of us a bad name.

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

Wow, I can't believe you posted this right now. I just went through this with the woman who was supposed to be my Maid of Honor back when I was engaged. Her and I just "broke up" last week. We've been friends since middle school, and grew up going to church, hanging out, whatever. Then once we got out of high school we loved to get sloshed together, a lot. But did pleanty of other "wholesome" things I would say. Then one day a few months ago she decided not to drink anymore because of her christianity and boom, I'm not worthy of her time or friendship. She litterlly used the term "It's for the best." Couldn't believe it.
But I'm taking it more of a "her immaturity" and lack of ability to resist having fun thing. Maybe I'm wrong but it's nice to not be "walking on egg shells" now as you said. The last three months were filled with watching my mouth and having to accept that I'm taking a back seat to her new christian friends.
I'm positive I will always wonder though. We were such good friends even 4 months ago and now it's just gone.
Not sure if you have a second but here's the before and after if you will.
http://thingstolookbackto2.blogspot.com/2011/09/old-friend-completely-new-relationship.html

http://thingstolookbackto2.blogspot.com/2011/11/what-hell-is-friendship-anyways.html

Tina

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTina

Well, a religion I can deal with. A cult created by a man who subscribed to the women are chattel idea, no, I can't go there.

You ought not to apologizing for getting out of Mormonism.

There is a God, but He isn't Joseph SMith's god.

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKS

I completely relate to this. We have quite similar stories, you and I. Growing up Mormon, lots of brothers, uninvolved father, a natural rebellious streak that continues to this day. I hit late teens and like most people I started questioning almost everything. And, then, in my case, get 'asked to take some time off' from BYU, not for anything dramatic (although I do usually say I was 'kicked out' of BYU, it sounds more bad-ass), just for equal amounts academic and rule-breaking reasons. So, what comes next? My plans aren't working out. What am I going to do with my life? Cue crying fits, depression, drama. Then, I remember the moment to this day, I had an epiphany.

"What if I decide not to be Mormon?".

Suddenly, calmness. It just felt so right. That was 23 years ago and I have never once questioned my decision. Not for a second.

So because of this lost touch with a lot of my Mormon friends I had had growing up. I couldn't understand how some of them could continue to stay with the church, especially those who I felt had been right with me, questioning everything as teenagers. Smart, funny, cool people. And, like you, I also felt that they pitied me as they prayed for me. Even though I was the happiest and most myself I had ever been. But their actions proved to me that they would rather I be unhappy and Mormon than happy and not Mormon. Recently, I've gotten back in contact with some old Mormon friends - mostly on FaceBook - and its been fine. I've then been defriended by some. But, I don't pretend to be anyone other than who I am and neither do they. I don't think that would have happened years ago. So, for you, time, maturity, and perspective may change things with some old friends.

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBloomer

One of my friends has become a born again christian and our relationship is definitely different. I feel like i should watch my swearing around her, not talking certain things... this makes me sad and also makes me not the person I am. I feel weird around her now :(
I love reading blogs, and am constantly amazed at the amount of mormon women blogging!!! Im in Australia, and i have never even met a mormon, then all of a sudden all these mormon blogs that equally fascinate me and horrify me. So glad I found your blog Monica ;-)
I am not religious at all, and raise my kids the same. They can choose their own religion when they are older, as i was allowed to. I am perfectly happy having no religion... all these wars and unhappiness that stem from religion. No thanks.

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

It's so unfortunate and sad when I read stories like these. Why? Because if two people genuinely care about each other, they can put down their differing opinions and remain friends. However, as soon as one person stops doing that - it becomes absolutely impossible to reconcile it.

For me, I'm a Christian gal in a circle of atheist friends. For the most part, we get on just fine. I take the position of standing up for what I believe, but also letting God be the judge. Not through man's interpetation - but His own, on judgement day. It's His job not mine. They are also very respectful and never make fun of my different views or make overly offensive jokes in my presence. We're cool like that.

Except...for one of us. I've always deemed myself a "God Girl" but never was big on church until this past summer. I worshiped and studied at home with my kids and held the same attitude as I stated above. Since then, our non denominational Church has been great for us. I'm still the same girl I've always been. I've been a Christian all along, and she knew that. However, the very day I decided to go to church, I blogged about it and instantly lost a good friend. She never gave me the chance to show her that I wouldn't change so much, but instantly wrote me off as an up and coming relgious zealot....all because I went to church. She knew all about my relationship with Jesus before hand, and never outwardly expressed anything negative. But, church was over the line for her. And, flat out told me that we could no longer be friends because I was now a church goer. She avoids me at all costs, even though the other friends in our circle accept it, and I've never once became "preachy" or "judgy" since going.

Sigh.

Such crap. It hurts my feelings to just type it.

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Thanks for writing this, Monica. Lately, I'm pondering religion, and what role I want it to play in my life, a lot. I'm really struggling with the idea of religion as a divider - it seems so counterintuitive to the message, you know? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised - history is filled with religious conflict. Which is what I'll have on my hands if I choose to practice another religion - my mother will freak out, and try to baptize any grandchildren in the bathroom with holy water she brings in a flask.

This is partly because of a boy - the one I want to marry. We're different religions, we can't seem to find a way to work out a solution that works for both of us (and any potential children), and I'm scared by what that means. It's one issue among many, but seriously - we're both CHRISTIAN, it's not like we're trying to mesh Islam and Judaism, so why is it so hard?

@Kate, I feel like I could have written your comment, too.

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate2

A little of my background. From a atheist/non-religious family. In Utah. Most of my friends were mormon. Converted to the LDS religion at 20. Brother who is gay (he and his partner actually attend an LDS ward). I do think same sex marriage should be legal, there is a separation of church and state. I love your writing and sometimes commented on your posts at babble, we have little guys the same age.
Anyway about you hellions who left the church :) I have a few friends/family who are atheist and many who are different religions. I can see where this gets in the way of many good friendships, because I am at the other end of the spectrum. Being LDS I was often ridiculed by my friends who left the church. I often received the same type of lectures about my faith holding me back. I do not feel this way and I was often offended by it. I have since expressed my feelings and because I have kick ass friends, they took my feelings into consideration. We are tight as ever. I never mentioned anything to them about leaving the church, aside from me being curious as to why, and they were always truthful and I always respected that. We can now have civil conversations about religions. Our friendships meant more than our religions. It can be done if both parties are putting forth the effort.

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey

Devout Mormon. And yet my life is filled with friends and family members from all walks of life and backgrounds. In general, when I have friends with beliefs on an opposite spectrum, we t
\end not to talk about "trigger" issues, and it's fine. I have a lesbian friend whose wife simply cannot understand our friendship--but it's just an easy and natural thing for us. Mormonism works for me, and that's great for me. I have no issue if it doesn't work for others.

The interesting thing about your post is it makes me think of my former BFF. If you asked her why we parted ways, she might say something similar to what you said in your post. In reality, it had nothing to do with religion--it was her perceived sense of self that caused the rift. Her inability to tone things down in certain situations, her unwillingness to not swear at the top of her lungs in inappropriate settings, i.e the line for a movie, or a professional party. She always maintained that was "just her" and refused to hold her tongue on certain subjects or in certain situations. The reality is I didn't care where she stood, or if her thoughts were different than mine--I just didn't need her constant reminders about where she stood, and unwillingness to let certain topics slide. Because she was struggling with her beliefs, she always felt the need to go out of her way to prove how un-Mormon she was, and it was totally exhausting.

I'm not saying that was the case with you, but I know how all encompassing the church can be. You can't casually leave, or have one foot in, while the other is out. It's an all or nothing thing, and I think some people end up trying so hard to not be Mormon that they can't let certain things slide like a ex-Mormon (or never Mormon) would. I have a much harder time connecting with my ex-Mormon fiends than my Athiest friends. It's a curious thing. Certainly food for thought.

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBetty-O

Monica,

I share a similar response with many of the commenters above me in that you couldn't have written this at a better time. Perhaps this is what it means to experience the "spirituality" that you mentioned above.. I'm a firm believer that everyone is connected in one way or another, and I hope you realize how much encouragement you've provided to myself and others because you followed your heart and created this post.

Over the past months of living on my own, I've reflected deeply about my (very strong) Christian upbringing. The biggest thing that bothered me was the homosexuality argument, which you mentioned briefly. I saw so much judgment/anger/hatred toward homosexuals in the hearts of people whom I would otherwise consider loving, Christian people. It never felt right in my heart to judge someone just because they were different from me, so I've changed a lot of my beliefs as of late.. many of which are great differences from what I was taught as truth as a child/teen/young adult. I asked myself: "why is homosexuality wrong? Why would God condemn it?" I thought for a long time, and was only left with empty question marks. Like you said, a significant tenant within religious circles is the concept of "faith," but faith doesn't mean that we should be content with a lack of logic and understanding of what we put our faith in.

In a way, it feels like unchartered territory now, and that I'm trying to find my footing.. as I imagine you felt as you were shifting your beliefs as well. I still believe in God, but I believe that the Bible contains a lot of societal stigmas that skew perceptions and ignite hatred and judgment in the hearts of many otherwise "good" people.

Anyway, enough rambling. I just wanted you to know that I understand what you went through/still go through, and that I am so grateful that you wrote this.. it's so comforting to know that I'm not alone. Thank you.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey R.

Another one to point out the timely posting of this. I have recently been pondering religion and culture a lot.
I did a similar thing and left my religion, but that also meant leving my entire family.

Only now some 20 years later am I building up the most basic of relationships with them, and it makes me so, so sad to realise and accept just how much I have missed out on. And for what? I'm alone and yes I have my freedom, but wouldn't times have changed in their culture too, and I would've had that anyway? I just don't know.

I have recently been thinking alot about what if I hadn't made the choices I had, what if I haven't left, would I have been happier? I would've had a family. Siblings. Love.

On another note, one of my really good friends is a devout Christian, whilst I consider myself spiritual. We get on just fine as we respect each other's beliefs and leave it at that. I hope you can find a way to be a part of each other's lives, if that's what you want.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterA

You just spoke so much of what I've been thinking, but could not find the words for. Lately for me, religion seems like, well, a complete sack of horseshit. I always believed there was a God, an all-knowing and powerful being. But lately, I am not sure. I'm not sure I believe there is any spiritual being beyond this earth. Maybe the spiritual and powerful being is only a creation of our own minds. And you know, that's OK. It's pretty amazing, actually.

God, if He exists -- perhaps only in our minds? -- is powerful and omniscient. He should not be an excuse for depravity and prejudice. My God is not an excuse to practice our own prejudices. I don't know what I believe. And for most people, religion is a place for community and good deeds. I've had the fortune of writing a profile piece on a priest who mentors troubled kids, and the boys he's helped (now men) credit him with saving their lives.

No idea. I've just confused myself.

I appreciate the FAITH that drives people to be better, to extend a hand of friendship, to contribute good things to the world, NOT the faith that drives oppression and hate and preconceived notions. God and faith should never exclude a person's ability and right to think critically about the world around them.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCaitlin

I find this very enlightening... I never realized horseshit was one word.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergirlcrush

Christian minister's daughter here. I was raised in the Christian faith (Church of God) and while I had questions about the faith, and religion as a whole, I have never doubted the existence of a Creator God who made me, loves me, and made everything I see around me. Growing up, it seems like everyone expected that I was brainwashed because of my father being a pastor. Friends refused to curse in front of me, and if they let one slip, they were embarrassed and quickly apologized, as though my virgin ears might catch fire otherwise. My best friend didn't tell me for years that she had had sex for the first time. I could go on and on with examples of how people felt that they had to "protect" me or keep me "pure" when in reality, it made me feel like an outsider when I never asked to be.

Those hurtful times I experienced over the years taught me that I can still live by my convictions but be tolerant of other people's decisions and opinions, as I wanted them to be of mine. I had close friends who were gay and others who had premarital sex and still others who chose to drink, smoke, etc. And while for a time I may have separated myself from them to a large extent because we simply weren't similar in our interests anymore, they never stopped being my friends because of those things. I could still appreciate the people without condoning their actions. So while I might be against homosexuality, for example, I was never put off by a gay person and welcome their friendship. They are often the nicest, most open and tolerant people I have met, and have always been tolerant and respectful of me being a person of faith when they see that I am not judgmental of them. It is not my job as a Christian to go around Bible thumping and trying to beat it into people. Living by example says a lot more to people than spouting Scripture or continually pestering someone to go to church with me. (Though I will say that not all Christians/Mormons/etc. are annoying or judgmental of other people, or mean to be.)

If you feel strongly about your convictions, whatever they may be, and you believe that you are doing the best thing by ignoring this person's advances, then kudos to you. There is nothing to be gained by tolerating that kind of frustration from someone who hasn't really been your friend for so long, and if you ever decide you want to experience religion, you want it to be purely on your own terms and not hers. And if you don't, why open yourself up to that rejection that you already perceive? Religion, or lack thereof, is a very personal matter and shouldn't be up for debate amongst anyone else.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

Damn, friendship break-ups are so much more complex than couple break-ups. Finding a friend's personality different but intriuguing as opposed to different and intolerable are in two completely different realms.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristine from Canada

" I had her pegged as someone who would travel the world and do her badass thing. Instead? She got married at 21 to a dude I doubt she's in love with and was swallowed up by the church. "

I'm sorry...YOU had her life figured out?

Wow.

Perhaps a first move in reconciling your relationship, should you really desire to understand others rather than just "peg" them, would be to overcome your own condescending attitude towards your friend.

Maybe she's more complex than you think.

Also, if you really do care about someone, watching your mouth in their presence is not that difficult. It's a common courtesy we afford to others and the culture at large as a nod to the maintenance of civilization and the relationships that form its foundation.

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHazel

Monica, you will be delighted to know that your dear friend has traveled the world doing her BA thing. Recently, she’s been living her dream as a snowboarding ambassador for Park City Mountain Resort. She is still married to her true love of 13+ years and together they are raising 4 of my most beautiful grandchildren. (Wild but beautiful.)

The only thing that could make her happier would be to renew her friendship with you. They’ve lived back east for the last ten years now but they will be moving soon. A great window of opportunity for you two to get together and visit is going to close.

Monica, it broke my heart to read this post. I knew immediately it was about LM because she has told me how much she misses you. Like everyone in our family, she has always loved you. You were one of the brightest, wittiest, most fun, enthusiastic and prettiest people to come into our home. You saw us up close –warts and blemishes and all–and we thought you loved us anyway. Where would we get off being self-righteous? Seriously.

We rely on the guidance and fellowship of the church because we’re flawed, not because we think we’re perfect. LM’s faith has gotten her over some pretty rough spots. It’s her handrail on a bumpy ride. But other than motherhood, she’s not much different from the girl you knew. She still ricochets off the walls. I’m willing to bet you two still have a lot in common.

Jim learned while talking to a neighbor recently that she worked with you. He got all excited and made her promise to say “hi” to you from us. He heard you are putting your exceptional talents to good use and he was not a bit surprised. You always were a scholar. As everyone who reads this blog knows, you are a gifted writer.

The photos and videos on your blog are amazing. You have a daughter! What a little doll. She looks just like her mom. Its obvious she has loving parents. What a lucky girl. We’d love to meet her if you ever get back to the old home town. We’re old and wrinkled now but we are still your biggest fans.

One thing I’ve learned during my three score years is that our greatest regrets come from the things we never do. The friendship that you and LM had is a rare treasure. It would be sad if you two never bridged the imaginary gap that separates you now. You guys need to laugh and giggle and remember the crazy things you used to do while you still can. Before someone really does no longer exist. Replace the regret with another great memory. I’ll keep checking back to see your photos.

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJan

I know someone who meet a mormon... and that's exactly what they always says.. "the church is true." even if questioned about their beliefs they just say the "church is true", they don't even reason with some "natural" reasoning on why they still believe it is true when questioned... why? oh why? please forgive me if I offend someone...

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterImadylle

I am scanning your blog for some post about mormonism because some mormon missionaries keep
coming to our place and your the only one I "know" that knows mormonism. I don't push them away because I invite everyone who wants to
come in our house. I'm a Christian by the way, and the main reason I allow them to come to our house is for Bible sharing and that I can share to them also my beliefs. But you are right I find it offensive already when in every conversation we had all they say is "we are here to testify that our church is true". It gets annoying already and we cannot have a descent conversationa about the Bible because that's all that they say. I meet other christians but they are not like that. They talk like they were brainwashed and that they are from some creepy cult. They professed to be christians but i think they are plain mormon. They belive in mormon but not in Jesus Christ..

October 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterImadylle

And just realize that the last two post were mine almost a year apart

October 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterImadylle

Thanks for writing this. I grew up Mormon in Utah and stopped going to church way back in high school. Being a male in the church was extremely frustrating for me. I am still screwed up because of it and I am 33 years old now. I have rarely dated and only had a few girlfriends in my life. When girls found out I wasn't going on a mission they would give me the cold shoulder and wouldn't even talk to me. My mom has bi-polar and was extremely hard to live with growing up because she was messed up from the church and being divorced. She was a do as I say not as I do parent. It's pretty obvious when I say I have major issues trusting women. My dad is a controlling personality and was always on me about church. I was treated like I was a sinner by church members and that must have have been why I wasn't going on a mission in their thoughts. The fact is I was "worthy" for everything as a Mormon but I just didn't attend meetings on a consistant basis. Everyone would ask me if I was doing ok or when I was going to be turning my papers in for a mission. Why would I go on a mission to try to get people to join a church that I couldn't believe in?
I have struggled with some anxiety and depression. I have lost friends because I left the church. My family still asks me when or if I am going back to church. Only my older sister truly respects my decision. I am a good person. I still don't even drink or smoke.

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I understand how you feel and the need to leave old religion behind and to seek and find something which is not HIDING. Brought up Catholic I went through a similar thing, less controlling than Mormonism but still self-righteous and exclusive. Yes, as I was taught, Catholic was the 'true church' and everyone else was wrong. Protestors were automatically judged and pitied for there sad lot in life. Pray for them. Still, I had all these questions that I was supposed to be looking to 'the church' for answers, but longing for some deep personal relationship beyond this manmade religious experience and tradition which, while holding a certain comfort in it's familiarity, still left me feeling lonely and either ashamed or proud of my religious'ness'. I dared not question the 'faith' but knew something was not right. I felt like I was in a club of privileged souls, born into it and not having to awaken to truth and find the truth, not have to come to my senses like the poor protestants and cult followers. Still, there was this gnawing emptiness, a craving for something REAL. Not a religious organization, a 'true church' but a True God who would DO something real right here, and accept me as I was in a dark place, and who would want to remain close to me without the religion part. I was SO longing for God to be REAL that it broke my heart. It was like looking for your true love and never finding him. I cried out to God in the real world and began to meet people who led me into something NEW. Something REAL. It was a personal relationship with God but it was not religious. you can call it that but it was no different from having a relationship with a person except for the invisible part. Seems a huge thing but a phone relationship is the closest comparison only it's closer. In my longing I dared to speak directly to the unseen God, Father, and accept Jesus Christ who then gave this gift of the Holy Spirit. It was the furthest from churchiness I had been. There WAS no joining or membership involved with this and it affected every aspect of my life. Every little dark space in my heart has been dealt with in the most gentle and loving way. This relationship is different from any religion and yes it IS invisible, but it's real. As for others, I am only expected to love them and to allow them to be themselves. I don't try to get anyone to join anything. Yes I do pray for others but will only tell them that if they are in trouble and needing help or reassurance. I am happy to say that my sins have been forgiven, but when I do sin ( and I do) it is not really intentionally and I am quick to feel convicted and return to my first love. Just wanted to share that I understand that needing to leave that which you know in your heart is NOT right and in your leaving to consider that there is a God that hates religion and loves people. Where they are at. Does not condone sin ( which is hard to recognize when we are IN it for a while) but simply wants to love us and does the work in our hearts. :) No strings.

November 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterS

The problem I encountered was that my born-again ex-in-laws truly believed it was their mission to save me and if they failed I was going to hell (fire and brimstone, gnashing teeth hell). They could not give up on me. I understood their plight and didn't mind them praying for me. It can't hurt, right? I accepted it until they tried to save my children. Then I changed the rules and demanded they respect my religion.

November 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterStarsky

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