Date: August 07, 2019 03:25PM
LW's comments reminded me of another point I wanted to make. Way back when I first came to RfM, there was much less information on the Net about Mormonism and not as many related web sites (if any?). One major board guideline that was quite strictly observed was "no preaching, no proselytizing". To some it seemed unfair. To most it was a vast relief after the trauma of exiting the faith of their fathers (so to speak).
If you think of Eric K's purpose in setting up the board (to assist those who have left Mormonism transition to a postmo life and to answer questions of current members if any so desired) it may be easier to understand why the board has been, and continues to want to be (as I don't see that the guidelines against preaching/proselytizing have changed) a religion-free zone in that regard.
IOW, exmos and questioners have the most floor space here. Eric never said it was equal opportunity time for folks to present both sides of every question (i.e. defending the [Mormon] faith not allowed, for sure, but neither is promoting other belief systems).
So then the argument becomes what is the definition of 'preaching', of 'proselytizing', of 'defending the faith'. And undoubtedly we can argue over definitions. But if you use the dictionary and take the most basic definition of each word or phrase it is straightforward.
Less obvious may be various accounts of beliefs and experiences that are preachy yet understated. Hence motive comes into play. One can "preach" without presenting a formal sermon. One can "proselytize" without issuing a direct invitation. One can "defend the faith" in subtle ways.
So then the question becomes one of motive. When does a personal account of a particular faith experience or a chatty little aside about a church event breach the line between general posting and the P/P that is against board rules? Harder to discern sometimes. At other times it seems more obvious. That is when the hackles of many exmos rise. Not only does it offend their sense of decency and fair play (going against board guidelines in the most egregious way - to proselytize - an activity to which they may be highly allergic, with good reason) but they also may see it as a threat to the more vulnerable. Both reactions are understandable in this forum. And backed up by Admin's stated purpose/s for their private board.
I think that often people may do the preaching thing unawares. They merely want to share a thought or event or experience or insight. Even so, if they cross the line it's still not OK just because they don't realize how it comes across.
If people do it on purpose (harder to tell unless an interloper makes it obvious; we've had some of those through the years) then it's understandable that posters get riled.
This may mean there is more of a burden on people who maintain religious faith to examine their topics and purpose for posting than there may otherwise be. There is nothing wrong with expecting that.
There was a poster who used to give a church report every week because they attended with their still-believing spouse. But the exmo poster wrote his accounts in such a way that it was informative and from an exmo view, certainly not as an active and preachy believer. So people found value in that.
If a newbie exmo is still looking around to formulate a new belief system (if you want to call it that) and maybe attends various churches and wishes to discuss their thoughts that would seem to be perfectly fine too.
When I first came I spoke of having returned to my pre-mo EV church. (EVs of my acquaintance in Canada are different from many in the USA, which I didn't realize at that time; i.e. not as political or en bloc and more what I call "mainstream", i.e., not all that rigid - most of them). I outlined what I had talked to my pastor about re Mormonism and what he had said about it. And what helped me figure things out, or not. Etc. Nobody told me to take a flying leap (which I greatly appreciated). But I wasn't trying to convert anybody (I'm done with that for life!) so maybe they could pick up on that fact.
I have spoken of my JW days (pre-mo) and what their beliefs are, contrasting or comparing them with Mormonism and also mainstream EV teachings. If anybody didn't like it, they didn't tell me off for such topics. Again, no conversion was intended on my part. It was an exercise in thinking out loud as well as wishing to share some thoughts and experiences. It has helped me greatly in figuring things out (still an ongoing process).
I can remember only one time (a good long while ago) when I shared a religious experience, I think in answer to someone else's query about prayer. A police officer friend of mine had been killed on duty and I had been the victim services volunteer who had been called out to assist. (They didn't realize he was a friend and they didn't give me the news gently. I actually fell over with shock and grief during the phone call asking me to show up to the station right away). I had to spend the entire weekend squishing my own grief down deep while I did my duties, in the face of an entire station of officers who were grieving their loss.
When I was free to do so, I felt my own pain, which became physical as well as emotional. I had never experienced anything like it. I felt short of breath and had chest and abdominal pain. After a few days of it, lying in bed and fearing it was getting worse, I finally prayed for relief. For a Christian, I was often lax in resorting to prayer, which exercise never came easy to me, and I never thought I should pray for anything for myself. But I was desperate, thinking that maybe the pain would never end, and physically worn out. I was so surprised and dismayed that I would actually also have physical pain. I never knew that about grief before. So I prayed for help and instantly the physical pain was alleviated. I felt like I had been driven to the edge and with no other avenue open, so it seemed, in desperation I had prayed for help and it came. Not slowly but instantly. I counted it as a supreme spiritual experience. And also a great physical relief. It felt like love. Like I was loved. Like God was there and knew me and cared. Of course, I could have seen my doctor or a counsellor and got an Rx or a good word on grief reaction. But that was too slow for me at a time when I thought I was going to explode from the awful pain in my chest (which could have been a huge bundle of unshed tears or other physical reaction to emotional pain).
So that is my one big personal religious experience. And I felt comfortable enough at some point to detail it here and nobody complained (at least not to me). Because it was an account of a personal experience, not preachy at all. I never said it proved that God lived or that anybody could shoot off a quick prayer and get whatever they wanted in life or anything like that. I think that makes all the difference. Personal experiences OK. Even if they touch on religious belief. As long as one doesn't make absolute statements of universal "truths" to which non-religious folks do not subscribe.
But the bottom line, and the most important one, is that this board is for people who have been hurt by religion, namely Mormonism, as well as by other beliefs, which is generous of Eric, Founder. I have often said that I could quite easily get over my Mormon interlude as it was relatively short (three years) but other negative faith experiences have plagued me and I find it OK to bring them up here from time to time. I do try, though, to include Mormonism in my observations because that is the main topic of the board.
So the emphasis here is on people hurt by Mormonism. Such highly negative experiences which affect one in very personal and lifelong ways can and do make people sick, literally and figuratively. It is understandable if they develop an aversion to all religious ideas and talk and expressions. I have tried to clean up my act in that regard, changing my expressions for instance, such as refraining from my too-oft-used "Thank God" or "Hallelujah" as expressions of relief or joy. There are other non-religious-oriented words that will do just as well. It may seem small but even that kind of detail can either hurt or help a recovering person. I don't believe it is anybody's "right" here to insist on their own preferences and privileges but rather that all should make it a priority to refrain from hurting others by means of religious chatter and casual references to faith beliefs.
Again, this is a board for people who have been hurt by religion (or at the very least have questions about it). They are the priority, not my (supposed) right to fly up any topic I wish to chat about such as the church picnic or the wisdom in the latest Sunday sermon. If it is possible to do that, for the purpose of furthering the discussion about Mormonism, maybe that is different and would be OK. But first, I believe, one should think about a post they are considering writing and ask whether it will help or hurt the body of exmos in recovery.
I know that is a high standard and one I likely often do not meet myself. But at least I try to keep it in mind. To be blunt, this is NOT an equal opportunity board where everybody has a "right" to post whatever they want. One of the best ways to avoid even inadvertently hurting someone is to accept the premise which I strongly believe is true: Religion can make people sick, emotionally, mentally, physically (not a huge blinding insight; most of us know this). Do I want to add to their plight by my words? No, of course not. That's who should be our focus - it is the stated focus of RfM. And if that means that, to be kind, and more, we can't always dive in and post whatever we want, so be it.
As for how we interact with others, who knows when a cruel jab from us could be someone's last straw? Or when a wise word, a good word, a kind word will brighten someone's outlook and help them along their way?
Look at Deenie - gone 10 years (!!) and still people remember her with great fondness and love and appreciation. She got a very raw deal from Mormonism but she related her experiences with humour and warmth. And her legacy is that folks remember her for the beautiful and talented person she was, often vastly underappreciated within Mormonism, lauded and rightly so, outside it, including here. I'm sure her example helped many and likely does still today. I do not remember her arguing or dissing another poster ever. Even her accounts of her unbelievably weird, strange, and unkind Mormon experiences and the Mormons in her life were funny and entertaining and largely good-humoured. She spoke and we read and enjoyed. We still miss her. That's quite a legacy. Something perhaps to aim for.
Meanwhile, I try to remember, my "testimony" could very well hurt, not help, a fellow RfMer. So if I want to share my wonderful experience at a Christian concert or retell the greatest sermon of all time, I'll take it elsewhere.
And that hurts me not at all.