Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ordaining Women and Abusive Relationships

I want to tell you all about my new car, but I'm going to hold off... Ordaining Women has been all over the news this past week. Between their plan to go to the Priesthood session of General Conference again, and the church's news release, I can't really get away from it.

I've left the church.

I came to the conclusion that I was in an abusive relationship with the organization.
They told me who to be, how to act, what to think, what to do, where and how I could spend my money, my time, my talents. They told me I was worthless without them, and they also told me I could never leave. I was miserable with their control. I was miserable with the way they spoke of and treated women. Every practice in the church is sexist, even though much of it falls under benevolent sexism, it is still a very sexist organization.

I have friends who felt the way same way I did, and rather than leaving, decided to stay. They were going to do their best to change the organization from the inside. My therapist told me that I shouldn't leave, but I should stay and work to change the church. He believed it needed changing, and no one would listen to me if I was an "angry ex-Mormon".

I thought about staying. I thought about enduring the pain they caused, so that I could maybe make them into something else. But... I realized it is not the victim's job to change her abuser. Most abusers will resent you trying to change them. Just because I don't like the way I am being treated, doesn't give me the right to try and change someone else. And in the end, I have zero control over changing someone else anyway. One of the biggest things I had to learn, was that I was not responsible for someone else abusing me. I can't change them - the only thing I can do is get myself out of harm's way. Often, that means leaving the relationship.

So I left the church. I walked away from the abusive relationship that we had. I decided the church could continue to be just how it was. I would continue to be just who I am. And we just wouldn't be in any sort of relationship with each other.

It was terrifying to leave. I was afraid of losing my family and friends. Everyone I knew and loved believed that the church was true. As far as I knew, they also believed it was better that I died a member than if I lived as an ex-member. (Luckily, I was very wrong.) My whole life was wrapped up in the belief system I had been taught since birth. How do you walk away if you've been told you're evil/deceived/of the devil for even thinking about it? I'm pretty lucky that things turned out as well as they did, but I don't think most women (or men) are as lucky as I am.

They might be unhappy with the current policies, practices, and even doctrine, but they don't have a lot of options.

They can leave and chance losing everything: their family, their community, their friends, their spiritual home, their belief system, their faith, their whole life.

They can stay, and try to force themselves to be what the church tells them to be.

Or, they can stay and try to change things from within. They can ask questions. They can push to have their stories be told. They can write books and blogs and do newspaper interviews and hope that it will do some good - if not for them in their lifetime, maybe for their daughters or even grand-daughters.

Mostly, I think it's a futile effort. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't know. But their fight makes my heart ache and my insides churn.

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