John Larsen at Sunstone has this new Facebook group. The idea is to bring Mormons and ex-Mormons together in a way that will promote healing and reconciliation. Cool idea, or so I thought. I turned to be much uglier in reality. I think the basic problem there is that people who have suffered religious abuse aren’t necessarily rational about it, and they don’t mind lashing out at anyone who disagrees with them. I won’t be going back there.
The piece that set me off was a discussion about
killing kittens book burning. Some guy said he doesn’t think it’s a good idea. People react badly when you kill their kitten burn their book. Someone responded that she’s killed 100 kittens burned 100 books and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Then someone else said it’s very cathartic. We shouldn’t criticize. And the moderator said he doesn’t kill kittens burn books himself but he doesn’t see anything wrong with it.
That’s when I left. It turned out not to be the safe environment it was touted as being. As least not for librarians and booksellers. My opinion, as you might guess, is that if you’re suffering from religious abuse you were abused by people not by books. Burning someone else’s holy books is not going to heal you. It’s just another way of perpetuating the cycle of violence you learned from your abuser(s).
As a gay man living in Salt Lake City in the 1970s and 80s, our conventional wisdom was to never, ever date Mormon boys. They would always be so screwed up by their religion that no meaningful relationship would ever be possible.
Back then I laughed with the rest of them (because it’s sooo true) but I made the decision early on — 20, 21, 22, something like that — that I wasn’t going to get involved in someone else’s religious war. I’m 7th generation Mormon. I’ve always been an aficionado of Mormon history. Most of my relatives outside my immediate family are Mormon. I wasn’t raised in the Church but I converted. And after I left, I vowed that I’m not going to become anti-Mormon like all the other people I knew who failed at it.
That is, until I joined Larsen’s group. Now I’m in odd sort of world where all those old issues seem real again (though probably only for a day or two), and the bad guys are the same ones who were the bad guys back then — the howling mob of ex-Mormons.
I don’t think this is what healing and reconciliation is supposed to look like.
Edited August 30, 2019 to add resources.
- John Larsen, Episode 28: Overcoming the Anger: How to Let Go and Move On (Aug. 7, 2019), at SunstoneMagazine.com, visited Aug. 30, 2019.