Guest Post: Yes, I Want You Back at Church
This post is a response to Chiaroscuro’s post “So You Want Me Back At Church“
Dear Chiaroscuro (Or any of my several favorite friends who have left),
I do want you to come back to church. I’ll tell you why. When you leave, I am more lonely at church. I really love you, and want you to bring your whole self to church, just how you are right now.
There is a lot of conformity at church, and frankly, it gets boring. I do not need you to conform. I need to be refreshed. I want to see something I haven’t seen before. I want to hear new perspectives. I’d like to hear conflicting ideas there, because it is in the conflict that I reflect, learn, and grow.
I do not need whitewashed church narratives. I have read enough church history to put me through a hard faith transition. Sometimes I feel like the only one who has complicated belief but decided to stay. I know I’m not the only one, but sometimes it feels that way.
I have space for you to speak your mind, even if you disagree. I often disagree with things said, but because no one else speaks up I feel silenced. If another dissenter came, one who was brave enough to speak, maybe I would feel like I could, too.
I will not shame you if you don’t conform. I apologize if I have not made you comfortable. It is because I am not comfortable either, and in my discomfort it’s harder to turn outward. From the outside I look like a Molly Mormon because I am outwardly conforming. Inside I am a raging feminist, but few know this.
The temple is painful for me, too. I keep my recommend so that I can spend time with the parts of my family who wish me to be there. I was happy about the recent changes, although they were too little, too late for them to transform my worship experience there. Please don’t assume that because I have a recommend, I judge people who don’t have them. I believe you when you say that peace for you is not there, and I will not shame you for staying away.
Please talk about your doubts. I spoke about mine recently in a talk, and in the testimony meeting that followed I heard many things about how we can pray harder and need to hold tight to our testimonies and be obedient. Here is my secret. I am not at church for obedience. Not mine, or anyone else’s. I am at church for love. I am there for family love, ward love, and God and Jesus love. I don’t know everything I used to about Christ anymore, but I know he taught love. And I believe in love.
I will not judge you if you dress differently. If you do, and keep showing up, maybe I’ll finally get the courage to wear pants to church. Or talk to you. I do not want you to look and act like me. I want you with your black toenails or your pierced nose, or your pantsuit, or anything that is a break from the regular monotony. If I look at you, and you think I am judging your difference, you might be wrong. I might be appreciating, and hoping that eventually we will be friends. I might be glad that you are here as your genuine self, ready to be really seen.
I am with you on the hardships of the literal beliefs many at church have. I don’t bring up my position on this at church because I have worked hard to let go of my “true / false” mindset. A true / false mindset is easy to fall into in the church, and it is hard to let go of even outside of the church. I still haven’t mastered the non-binary way of thinking. I don’t think most people at church are ready for it, either. So I let them be. I am still learning and working on ways to push this thinking, but gently.
I respect healthy boundaries, and if you miss a meeting that seems useless I will only miss seeing your face. I will not judge. Yes, you can say no. Yes, yes, yes you can. I tried saying no recently, and it was great.
I know God is not found only in the LDS church. I have sensed this since I was young.
Great Art, Architenture, Music, and Literature reinforce this for me. So yes, I am with you on that, too.
I believe that the best place to ask for change is in the place where it is possible to create it. So yes, I want you back. I want more people in my local community who feel the way I do, and are not afraid to speak up. Speaking out is less hard when it’s done with friends in the room.
I am sorry for the internalized shame you have felt. I do wish to mourn with those that mourn. One problem I have is that I experience high degrees of empathy, and I think that when serious self-hatred and shame need to be processed, a therapist is a better person than I am to help get through. I have worked through so many of my most painful things with my therapist. She is like an angel sent to me. She has given me the tools I need to work toward a functional resilience.
I have no excuse for Joseph Smith and the things he did. I think it is reasonable to have high expectations of leaders. I don’t believe in polygamy. It would be a lie to say I never have. Through hearing the voices of other women I realized the wrongness of polygamy and flaws of patriarchy. When like minded women leave the church, they are less likely to help women like me move forward. I understand the feelings of betrayal in learning about church history. I have felt sadness and loss over knowledge gained.
When you say I don’t want you back, we will have to respectfully disagree. It is hard enough to have lost so many parts of my once-solid faith. To lose Sunday time with a sympathetic friend is just another loss, and it hurts, too. If you need me to make church a safe space for people like you, I need you to be there to show me how.
Now, I feel like you were telling us what you need, and I have told what I want. I realize that your needs and my wants may not meet. I know that not all paths lead to the same place and time ( Church. 10:30, Sunday morning). I know that we all have to do what is needful for us, and if it is needful for you to create your own new space, I will process my loss. I’ll hope to find ways to make it continue to work for me. I just wanted you to know that I do have space for doubters, angry women, and non-conformers. Just because I have lost Sunday time with you, doesn’t mean that I don’t still want you in my life. I still want you for my friend, and sister, and always will.
Rowena is a working mom, gardener, and secretly aspiring writer.