The whens, wheres, and whys of speaking up at church

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nibbler
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The whens, wheres, and whys of speaking up at church

Post by nibbler » 17 May 2018, 06:15

In another thread Roy said (emphasis added):
Roy wrote:
15 May 2018, 15:12
I agree with the pick your battles advice. I try to limit my comments in the class setting to advocating for more charity and less judgment for all. I do get the feeling that my comments are not always appreciated. Similar to relationships, you can only have so many emotional withdrawals before your comments begin to feel grating. People go to church to revel in uniformity of belief and take comfort in certainty. They really do not want or appreciate me there providing counter examples.
Over they years I've locked myself up in a debate... well several debates, but this is one of them.

Is church really a community of believers with a shared goal of finding refuge in shared belief, where the goal of the three hour block is to reaffirm said beliefs and to seek validation from the community?

With each passing Sunday I feel like the only option available to me is to seek greater comfort than the discomfort I felt the week before. Discomfort at the realization that the more peaceable outcome is for me to refrain from making any comments at all. That's usually when I begin to seriously wonder why I bother showing up to church. I don't need the kind of validation that the church offers, they don't need my comments. Let's call the whole thing off. ;)

People don't come to church looking for truth... or to be kinder, they don't come to church looking for my truths, they come to seek refuge in a community that shares their truths. That begs the question. Should the church be a place where we create room at the table for people that unabashedly hold differing beliefs and feel free to share them, or should church be a sanctuary where beliefs go unchallenged, a place to enjoy respite from the worldly "thems?"

A little from column A, a little from column B is probably healthiest.

But at church we like to believe that there is a place for everyone and we fully expect the church to be a community that everyone should belong to. It creates an interesting dynamic, people that fit well in the community insisting that people that don't fit well in the community have a place and therefore should be participating. The regular toys insisting that the misfit toys join them but the prevailing culture only highlights just how misfit the misfit toys actually are.

What does it mean to belong? To share who you are, even if it challenges the status quo? To show up and be tolerated?

I think not making comments because you realize that what you have to say isn't necessarily what people need or what they came to hear is the more charitable approach, at least when compared to showing up to provide counter examples week after week. I question how sustainable it is for the person that isn't in harmony with the culture.

Does the church want me there, or merely their projection of me?

I recognize that some of you have that skill to say the perfect thing in that loving way, all in sheepese. Not everyone has that skill. Do you take the path of silent sufferer? Here I'm reminded that contrary to what is presented by the culture, it's perfectly okay to be inactive. We like to say that everyone belongs but that sure is a hard thing to practice... for people on any side of the equation.

AmyJ
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Re: The whens, wheres, and whys of speaking up at church

Post by AmyJ » 17 May 2018, 07:45

nibbler wrote:
17 May 2018, 06:15
Is church really a community of believers with a shared goal of finding refuge in shared belief, where the goal of the three hour block is to reaffirm said beliefs and to seek validation from the community?

With each passing Sunday I feel like the only option available to me is to seek greater comfort than the discomfort I felt the week before. Discomfort at the realization that the more peaceable outcome is for me to refrain from making any comments at all. That's usually when I begin to seriously wonder why I bother showing up to church. I don't need the kind of validation that the church offers, they don't need my comments. Let's call the whole thing off. ;)
The last sentence makes me play Taylor Swift's "We are never ever ever getting back together" song in my mind :P
nibbler wrote:
17 May 2018, 06:15
People don't come to church looking for truth... or to be kinder, they don't come to church looking for my truths, they come to seek refuge in a community that shares their truths. That begs the question. Should the church be a place where we create room at the table for people that unabashedly hold differing beliefs and feel free to share them, or should church be a sanctuary where beliefs go unchallenged, a place to enjoy respite from the worldly "thems?"
I think I rephrase the question as follows:
Am I looking for an echo chamber, a sounding board, or something else at church?
nibbler wrote:
17 May 2018, 06:15
A little from column A, a little from column B is probably healthiest.

But at church we like to believe that there is a place for everyone and we fully expect the church to be a community that everyone should belong to. It creates an interesting dynamic, people that fit well in the community insisting that people that don't fit well in the community have a place and therefore should be participating. The regular toys insisting that the misfit toys join them but the prevailing culture only highlights just how misfit the misfit toys actually are.
We like to believe that there is a place for everyone at the table because we are banking on the fact that there is a place for us and that the table has a feast set up... if I can just get there and claim my spot.

It is very, very sobering when you realize that there is a possibility that everyone at the table is making polite lying noises about there being a place for you when there really isn't one (because that is what is what one "does"), or the place at the table does not match what you need in terms of table access and equipment, or that the feast presented does not match your dietary restrictions. It helps when you have the courage and charity to respectfully carve your own niche, bring your own equipment, and talk to people about what you need feast-wise.... but since we all "see" (and therefore perform/create/act) through the glass dimly, it can get interesting.

Leadership roulette also comes into play because the leaders set the tone for the behavior of others.
nibbler wrote:
17 May 2018, 06:15
What does it mean to belong? To share who you are, even if it challenges the status quo? To show up and be tolerated?
To me, belonging is in part having emotional connections with, bringing something of meaning to the group, and taking something meaningfully from the group. Curt Sunshine often remarks he participates in group activities with the sole focus of serving others/making the experience better for others - and that he has more meaningful experiences because of this focus.

In my heart of hearts, I struggle to have faith that the acts of including myself and belonging to the group are worth the personal resources spent, the mis-understanding and rejection of myself and my family.

I think that it is because I am deconstructing my beliefs and second-guessing everything that I am more aware of how different my family is, and how well we don't fit the standard mold. I am reminded that the standard mold is an illusion projected by superficial judgement and being hung up on what traditionally (theoretically) worked - so that the whole situation is not cut and dry.
nibbler wrote:
17 May 2018, 06:15
Does the church want me there, or merely their projection of me?
It depends on whom you ask, and what hat they are wearing at the time.
Your leadership wants you there so that the numbers are impressive (this is not the only reason). If you are female, they want you there more because of the soft leadership skills you are assumed to have (rightly, wrongly, or in between) (again not the only reason). If you are male, they want you there so that you can sanctify yourself to be the best priesthood torch-bearer you are in your home. If no one showed up at church, the organization would cease to exist eventually.

Your leadership usually wants you there to draw closer to God and become a better person. It is also usually to fill in gaps and take care of the organization.

Your friends (who may or may not be leaders) also want you there to be part of the community and share what is going on in your life (in a limited sense). Sometimes friendships survive when the shift in going to church changes.
nibbler wrote:
17 May 2018, 06:15
I recognize that some of you have that skill to say the perfect thing in that loving way, all in sheepese. Not everyone has that skill. Do you take the path of silent sufferer? Here I'm reminded that contrary to what is presented by the culture, it's perfectly okay to be inactive. We like to say that everyone belongs but that sure is a hard thing to practice... for people on any side of the equation.
I have the steadfast (if misguided - still thinking that one out) illusion that what I say has meaning and unique insights that others need/want. So for me, it isn't a question of whether I will speak up, but more a matter of "Can I respectfully say what I feel needs to be said in a way that is thought-provoking and clearly conveys what I am trying to say?"

In the last 1.5 years or so, we developed a habit of missing a Sunday every 4-6 weeks (more often in the late winter battling colds, migraines, and when we introverts are tapped out). It used to bother me a lot, but now I see it differently. Yes, there are Sundays we slacked off, but there are Sundays where we had meaningful experiences listening to conference talks, or being a family.

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dande48
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Re: The whens, wheres, and whys of speaking up at church

Post by dande48 » 17 May 2018, 09:20

I think you're right, that most people go to Church not to improve, but to receive comfort and certainty. There's also another aspect to the Abrahamic God, that most Judeo-Christian-Muslims don't talk about. Jehovah is a God of War.

The main themes behind the Abrahamic religions are not about peace, as most people would like to believe. It's about the fight between good and evil, and the ultimate triumph of good. It's about the fight itself, not what is being fought for. Half of the appeal of Christianity is in sensationalism. Evil beats down on good. They scourge the Christ, and place on his head a crown of thorns, before nailing him to a wooden cross as he dies an excruciatingly painful death. And then Christ slays the devil, conquers death, and redeems all mankind from the bonds of death. God commands the ultimate sacrifice from every man, to cling to the things they believe to be true, even unto death. Every sacrifice, every pain and suffering of the Saints for their beliefs is part of the war against "wickedness", and they will rise triumphant, and squash Babylon under their heel!

If you want peace, growth, and rational discourse, best join one of the peaceful religions, like Buddhism or Jainism. But as Christ put it,
Matthew 10:34-36 wrote:"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household."
nibbler wrote:
17 May 2018, 06:15
Should the church be a place where we create room at the table for people that unabashedly hold differing beliefs and feel free to share them, or should church be a sanctuary where beliefs go unchallenged, a place to enjoy respite from the worldly "thems?"
...
What does it mean to belong? To share who you are, even if it challenges the status quo? To show up and be tolerated?
A good parallel I think, is the affiliation many people take with Sports teams. They want to belong to something bigger. They take the successes and failings of the team as personal successes and failings. If the team does well, they are proud. When the team fails, they get defensive, argumentative, and angry. They invest in the team, by buying sports apparel and overpriced tickets. If a player on the team leaves, and joins another team (even if they are swell person and a skilled player), it is considered absolute treason. It's not the people that make the team "good"; it's the team itself. And if your team is different than mine, you are delusional and just plain wrong. Disagree? You can go **** **** **** **** **** you **** **** ****.

The main difference here, between let's say "The Red Sox" and the "LDS Church", is that the "LDS Church" and all of their members believe everyone's eternal salvation and happiness depends on them being right. The stakes are high! You belong to the Church of God, or the Church of Satan. There is no middle ground. Those who try to be fence sitters are an annoyance to God, and He will reject them. Fight, fight, fight! Army of God! Be steadfast in your testimony! Defend yourself against the arrows of the Adversary! Put on the armor of God! Wield the sword of truth! Deserters be damned! Endure to the end!

...and this mentality, as a whole, is why the world (not just the Church) is as messed up as it is. What will happen when there is no one left to fight? Thankfully, we live in a nation with wonderful religious diversity. When people are so diverse, they generally get along. It's tough to feel rejected by the Church for holding different beliefs, but if there were only one religious belief holding sway over a nation, people will have their throat slit over apostasy (looking at you, Brigham Young). Two primary religions in a nation always lead to civil war. But when there are many, people get along pretty well. Same within the Church; where diversity of opinion is prevalent, people mostly get along. Where there is conformity, there is oppression against the outliers. If you want to express your differing beliefs, you need to be tactful, and have much better reasons than "wanting to be accepted".
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

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Roadrunner
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Re: The whens, wheres, and whys of speaking up at church

Post by Roadrunner » 17 May 2018, 10:00

nibbler wrote:
17 May 2018, 06:15
Is church really a community of believers with a shared goal of finding refuge in shared belief, where the goal of the three hour block is to reaffirm said beliefs and to seek validation from the community?
I actually agree with almost everything in this thread. The problem is that - imho - that the church leadership doesn't view the church this way. They view the church's purpose as the 3 (or 4) purposes we all know. Community is a nice to have and is secondary. If community were primary we'd function very differently.

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Re: The whens, wheres, and whys of speaking up at church

Post by nibbler » 17 May 2018, 12:44

AmyJ wrote:
17 May 2018, 07:45
Curt Sunshine often remarks he participates in group activities with the sole focus of serving others/making the experience better for others - and that he has more meaningful experiences because of this focus.
It's also sobering when you begin to realize that the best way to serve others may be to keep your mouth shut or simply find somewhere else to be.
AmyJ wrote:
17 May 2018, 07:45
I am reminded that the standard mold is an illusion projected by superficial judgement and being hung up on what traditionally (theoretically) worked - so that the whole situation is not cut and dry.
Too true. It's a shame we don't let our hair down more at church and just be, break through imagined living and just live.
AmyJ wrote:
17 May 2018, 07:45
I have the steadfast (if misguided - still thinking that one out) illusion that what I say has meaning and unique insights that others need/want. So for me, it isn't a question of whether I will speak up, but more a matter of "Can I respectfully say what I feel needs to be said in a way that is thought-provoking and clearly conveys what I am trying to say?"
Yes. That's where I was going when I said I believe some people have that talent, others do not. I do not think quickly on my feet. If you ask me a question at the beginning of Sunday school I will only want to make a comment on that question towards the end, long after the subject has changed a dozen times over.

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Re: The whens, wheres, and whys of speaking up at church

Post by nibbler » 17 May 2018, 12:50

dande48 wrote:
17 May 2018, 09:20
If you want to express your differing beliefs, you need to be tactful, and have much better reasons than "wanting to be accepted".
But what if "wanting to be accepted" is the better alternative to "burn this puppy to the ground." :twisted:

If I really thought about it, which I'm not inclined to do, I'd say that the main reason I'd want to speak up would be to cut through the boredom and predictability of our meetings. To spark off a real discussion rather than listening to the same lecture I've heard hundreds of times. That's just it though, it's so hard to have a real discussion at church.

Not that I have anything remotely interesting to say but at least participating would help me feel like my presence wasn't a waste of time. But I get hung up on the same point. People go to listen to the lecture... again. Or maybe they are equally frustrated and are more like me than I realize.
Roadrunner wrote:
17 May 2018, 10:00
Community is a nice to have and is secondary. If community were primary we'd function very differently.
I believe that is close to the heart of the matter.

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dande48
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Re: The whens, wheres, and whys of speaking up at church

Post by dande48 » 17 May 2018, 12:58

nibbler wrote:
17 May 2018, 12:50
But what if "wanting to be accepted" is the better alternative to "burn this puppy to the ground." :twisted:

If I really thought about it, which I'm not inclined to do, I'd say that the main reason I'd want to speak up would be to cut through the boredom and predictability of our meetings.
Boredom... the greatest motivator of the human race.
Pascal wrote:"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."
Last edited by dande48 on 17 May 2018, 17:43, edited 2 times in total.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

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AmyJ
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Re: The whens, wheres, and whys of speaking up at church

Post by AmyJ » 17 May 2018, 13:17

nibbler wrote:
17 May 2018, 12:44
AmyJ wrote:
17 May 2018, 07:45
Curt Sunshine often remarks he participates in group activities with the sole focus of serving others/making the experience better for others - and that he has more meaningful experiences because of this focus.
It's also sobering when you begin to realize that the best way to serve others may be to keep your mouth shut or simply find somewhere else to be.
Which is one of the reasons why I hang out so much in the nursery most Sundays for 2nd and 3rd hour when we make it to church. It is also the reason why long-term church attendance isn't automatically on the table...

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Re: The whens, wheres, and whys of speaking up at church

Post by Roy » 17 May 2018, 16:17

I try to limit my comments in the class setting to advocating for more charity and less judgment for all. I do get the feeling that my comments are not always appreciated. Similar to relationships, you can only have so many emotional withdrawals before your comments begin to feel grating. People go to church to revel in uniformity of belief and take comfort in certainty. They really do not want or appreciate me there providing counter examples.
dande48 wrote:
17 May 2018, 09:20
And if your team is different than mine, you are delusional and just plain wrong.
My most recent discussion where I was made aware that my perspective was not appreciated went something like this.
Light bantering conversation prior to lesson in EQ.
EQ member: "JW's are weird and crazy."
Me: "I met with the JW's for several months and their beliefs are not that dissimilar to ours."
EQ member: "No way - they believe that only 144k will be saved."
Me: "I understand that they get that from a scripture in the bible. I think of it as their version of the celestial kingdom. Only 144,000 become heavenly administrators but an unlimited number can enjoy the paradisiacal earth - AKA terrestrial glory."
EQ member: "But they have more than 144k members. Why go to a church that has such a small chance of going to the top?"
Me: "We have the second anointing temple ordinance that is supposed to make your calling and election made sure and it is only offered to a tiny fraction of the membership. That does not sound terribly different to me."
awkward silence
EQP: "On that note, lets begin. Who read the lesson?"

I feel like I spent a boat load of credibility in that conversation. Essentially what was happening was puffery - where we talk in glowing teams about our own team and talk in disparaging terms about other teams. A person may even disparage other teams as a way to gain favor and prove loyalty to the group. Unfortunately, I believe that I successfully managed to call into question my loyalty and not much else.

What lessons to be derived from this episode? 1) Refrain from having contrary discussions in public. Most individuals are more reasonable in one on one conversations. 2) Advocating less judgment for individuals is more acceptable. Advocating less judgment for competing religious organizations is less acceptable. 3) Bringing up weird LDS practices in any context that makes them sound weird is less acceptable.

In retrospect I should have found a way to politely exit the conversation with something like, "religious beliefs always sound weird to everyone except the believer."
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

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"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

nibbler
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Re: The whens, wheres, and whys of speaking up at church

Post by nibbler » 18 May 2018, 06:45

Yeah, I can see how that might ruffle some feathers. :smile: The subject matter alone (second anointing) really makes people feel uncomfortable and probably steers most people's thoughts towards thinking their beliefs are under attack.


The moment I realized that my perspectives weren't welcome and the moment I went from regular participant to near zero participation went something like this:

Instructor: TSM gave up his commission to the Naval Reserve because he was called into the bishopric and the bishop's council meeting was on the same night as his navy drill meeting.
Me: Could the bishop's council meeting be moved to another ni...

And before I could even finish the sentence a member in the BPric and another old guard got into a contest to see who could shout louder than the other so they could be the one that got the honor of correcting me. Lesson learned. Never accept a calling in the bishopric of that ward. :shock: Like I'll ever have to worry about that. :lol:

...or should I have gotten equally loud and assertive? Talk about how there should be a balance between personal life and church life and trying to be reasonably accommodating of people. There's nothing wrong with that statement and some people in the room may need that message over the message of 110% fealty to local leaders.

Shrugs.

Maybe the key that day was to not ask a rhetorical question (making people think that they need to answer) and just make the declarative statement about balance and trying to be accommodating. That's me though. Think of what to say the next day, week, month, year.

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