This week as he clarified the Church handbook changes regarding apostates and children of apostates, Elder Christofferson spoke of Jesus Christ in the same familiar and intimate way as does Pat Robertson – who also pretends to have an inside track to the Divine Mind. Both – perhaps in a perceived respectful and reverential way – tend to portray describe Christ as a legalistic and rigid moralizing divine tyrant.
Such from the Divine who also said, “Let the children come unto me.”
Children born into the Church are in most ways unaware and unwitting conscripts into an environment that is totally and unequivocally one of “let’s pretend.”
Since comparative critical thinking is not one of those innate gifts with which most children are born, those born into active, believing and participating LDS families experience from the get-go a circumstance that – if explained to adult recruits/investigators in an honest, fair and responsible manner – might go something like this.
“Now, Brother Brown, we are here today because we are totally happy, totally satisfied, totally believing in the truths we are preaching. We have mentally moved into the world portrayed by these pretend truths and invite you to do the same.
These truths along with the duties and obligations that we consider legitimate, real and effectual in this pretend world, are what you should come to believe in.
To get there we challenge you to suspend your disbelief and assume that everything we teach you is the truth.
We invite you to pretend along with us, go along with us, go along with all our stories, rationales and theologies. As you suspend disbelief, you will become more and more planted in this pretend reality we who are members all share.
If you are faithful, at some point, the disparities, the faulty rationales and theologies and the absolute truths will all be just that … absolutes. You will be so convinced that they are all true, that our drama – yours and mine – is the only true reality, that it will be hard to return back to that original curious state that led to your encounter with us.”
That would be the honest way to proselytize. But such may be too frank and too honest for a religious organization believing unreasonable notions about itself.
At some point – usually after baptism – at risk is the loss of the right to ask frank and honest questions that are based on anything resembling doubt – principally because the religious authorities do not necessarily believe in academic situations where questions that help make sense of things are addressed directly. The simple truth is that the authorities themselves deeply believe and assume that you – like them – have lost yourself in the make-believe world.
Whether born into the Church or converted with a few years of total participation in your history, to free yourself from such costly assumptions, you must pursue and suffer withdrawal pains from your addiction to a pretended dramatic performance in which you have been recruited and commissioned as a participating actor. This often becomes even more challenging if you have been commissioned a more significant role as an actor of influence on a local, regional or home-office level.
The circumstances of the pretended drama for most religions may be porous and permeable allowing entry and exit easily according to desire and inclination. However, in some organizations, the let’s-pretend devolves in the the rigid, inflexible formalism of religious fundamentalism. Some of the circumstances became buttressed by equally pretended but nonetheless real “rules” and “conditions” that must be met in order for the drama to play itself out to a personally successful conclusion.
When such circumstances exist, fellow actors are empowered to work manipulatively (in many cases as unwitting participants) to keep you engaged in the pretended drama through what amounts mostly to mental and emotional coercion. One becomes subject to threats, warnings and admonitions that are as pretentious as the entire scenario itself … unless one has been mentally stampeded to believe that not only is the scenario real, but the threats are real and really legitimate.
Inside the pretended drama, belonging and participation validated by fellow actors’ opinions rise almost to paramount importance. It is only in that venue that theologically-based threats appear to be legitimate. The legitimacy lies mostly with our pretending that there IS a God who would let some mortals eternally be cursed or impeded in their “progress” toward some imaginary bliss by the arbitrary rule-making of other mortals.
We make it so when with willing suspension of disbelief. Otherwise, such authority-defined mortals would not be empowered. Such authorities of the earthly church cannot “do” anything to you physically or eternally. They can only request that the actual Divine head of the church do that. Specifically, no LDS authority can ruin your eternal happiness, your forever, or consign you to outer darkness unless Jesus Christ endorses and carries out the decision.
If you believe in that kind of Jesus, then I might say that you have been stampeded too far and for too long and now believe in a Divine Punitive Despot Obsessed With Obedience more than Free Agency … and you yourself deserve what you have bought into hook line and sinker.
Given that the genuine and loving Heavenly Parent is not going to let one child abuse another for any personal or authoritative retribution, the Church can only physically restrict its validation of anything formal you accomplish, say or do inside the walls of the formal and conforming church. The Church can only enforce its specific earthly organizational “club rules” that are expressed in social ostracism, shunning, disfellowshipment and actual dis-enrolling in the earthly club, i.e. excommunication.
But no Church and no leader can stand between you and God and block your access … unless you stop thinking about who and what God is as defined by your own experience and let someone else’s definitions run your life and needlessly drain your emotional energy.
Any God who would actually turn that sort of power and influence over to a few mortals at the expense of the rest is not a real God, has ceased to be God and – in truth – does not exist
… unless we are lost in an imagined reality and willing to pretend that such a god IS real
… and in quiet desperation we attempt to live in fear of the imaginary divine tyrant.