A new report from Pew Research shows that religion is losing ground as more people drop out of organized churches. According to the report the shrinking number of Christians and their loss of market share is the most significant change since 2007 (when Pew did its first U.S. Religious Landscape survey) and the new, equally massive survey of 35,000 U.S. adults. The percentage of people who describe themselves as Christians fell about 8 points — from 78.4% to 70.6%. Armed with the latest surveys, coupled by the recent cataclysmic LGBT policies blithely handed down by LDS leadership, along with personally expressed pain from family members, relatives, friends and supporters, it is not difficult to understand why people are leaving religion.
Many in the LDS church, and other conservative Christian churches are perceived to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, as well as women.
In this column I am not attempting to persuade anyone to exit the LDS church, although the title might suggest so, but instead defining and owning your journey, life path, truth, and personal decisions based upon your values, your knowledge of self, and most importantly love. I have chosen to offer ideas, questions, suggestions in hopes they will be seen as helpful. This column is full of reasons, considerations and tools. It is my sincere hope that they help you wherever you are on the path of your religious or nonreligious beliefs.
Recently, I’ve had my ear to the ground, really doing my utmost best to listen and learn what is being said, felt, and done about this recent LDS crisis; so as to try and coach, love, be accessible in relieving the massive amounts of pain, as well as prevent loss of life to suicide and to help prevent the tragic loss of human self worth, lack of acceptance, inequality, and letting go.
What I have been hearing at a high level and in numerous forums is as follows…
- What people really want from the LDS church is not a change in style but a change in substance, honesty, structure and integrity.
- People want the LDS church to never put children in the middle of any policy that damages the child emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually.
- People want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against. People want to search for their own truths and not be lied to.
- People want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers, to be able to challenge without fear of reprisal, up and including excommunication.
- People want the LDS church to emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation, and to get completely out of political issues with their money, influence and manipulation.
- People (queer and straight) want LGBT family and friends to feel truly welcome in LDS congregations.
- People want to be challenged to live lives of personal happiness and spirituality, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to personal and private decisions, living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care, becoming peacemakers, and defining happiness for themselves.
- People are not leaving the LDS church because they don’t have a desire to be there; they’re leaving the church because they don’t find Jesus in the actions of the religion beyond the words of the religion.
I have also observed over many years that much of what it takes to leave a religion is filled with tremendous confusion, angst, fear, but most importantly, and in the end courage to be authentically oneself. It may be time to consider letting go, moving on, releasing. Most people, and particularly queer people, are continually making rationalizations, a series of justifications and judgments— aimed toward our own behaviors, as well as the actions of others.
Let’s face it, it is at our human core to become too attached to religions, things or people, issues and situations that we perceive have harmed us, helped us, pushed us forward or held us back. It’s challenging work to release these attachments even if we know they are not good for us. I’m a believer that addictive, immovable thinking or behavior is at the root of all our own self-suffering. A very strong statement? Yes it is.
What is releasing? It is letting go and releasing the subconscious blocks that hold you back from having, being and doing what you choose. It’s a practice for letting go that instantly puts you in touch with your natural, already present ability to succeed, so you can feel more confidence, calm and in control of any situation. That’s it. In its simplest form it comes down to three basic questions.
- Could I let go of the LDS religion?
- Would I let go of the LDS religion?
Some important questions to seriously ponder if you feel you are ready to leave the LDS religion:
- Are my personal values compatible with those I have witnessed by the LDS leadership?
- Can I perceive and possibly believe that religion and spirituality are two very different things?
- Can I separate the Gospel of Jesus Christ from Mormonism?
- Am I capable of accepting the fact that there are many truths, ways and paths, in life – all worthy of respect?
- Am I capable of releasing the idea that there is only one absolute true religion?
- Can I see myself as containing my own self-power, internalized energy, that I can use for good, healing, taking care of myself and sending it to others for their well being?
- Am I ready to begin separating my heritage from my religion, as well as my beliefs, and where and when I learned them? Membership and heritage are two very different things, one can be taken away or left behind, the other is DNA deep.
- Am I willing to stop abdicating my knowledge or understanding of anything to anyone, regardless of their position, title or age?
- Do I believe that I get to choose my life path and its phases rather than having them outlined and planned for me?
- Is my belief and faith in Jesus Christ, a higher power, contingent on being a Mormon?
- Do I truly believe in unconditional love versus conditional love?
- How important is full equality, love and acceptance to my human dignity? Will I accept being an outcast, an apostate, unworthy of love, or do I denounce those who would label me as such?
- Do I wish to subject myself to dictatorial doctrine or policies instead of using my own moral compass and freedom of choice?
- Is perfectionism a possibility, and who gets to define perfect?
Steve Maraboli, in his informative book Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience, says “The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”
“You are not a drop in the ocean.
You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”
Choose to be that authentic drop, that is an ocean.