in terms of removing a toxic virus from my life, I work to establish the terms and definitions around which I will give discourse to and express a religious habit.

it may be that we all have an unfinished wrestling match with Grandpa Church. It may be that although we have broken Grandpa’s unfair choke hold and have managed to stagger to our feet as well as more or less keep away from those grasping arms, we nevertheless remain engaged and unable to leave the mat.

We do not seem to be able to simply call the match ended and call the inevitable stalemate achieved our victory in combat with a more powerful opponent.

In that sense, when he wrestles with us, Grandpa Church applies his arm twisting and choking holds as a leader of a tag team – which means that among those friend and family souls whom we treasure most, there are many whom Grandpa can tag and thrust into the ring to distract and weaken our resolve through exploitation of that existential angst you mentioned.

Are we not overwhelimg underdogs in a circumstance that is not really “winnable” in terms of being able to retain unfettered relationships with those about whom we care the most so long as we wrestle against Grandpa?
Is not Grandpa – as the ultimate tribal elder and authority – practically unassailable?

Can not Grandpa Church more than likely hold on to more unquestioned loyalty, unquestioned love and unquestioned conformity of more members of those of our own blood who constitute our “in-the-Church” family birthright?

Marjean used the words “existential angst” which prompted me to go to my favorite info stash at Wikipedia where I learned that existentialist philosopher Kierkegaard used the word Angest (in common Danish, angst, meaning “dread” or “anxiety”) to describe

a profound and deep-seated spiritual condition of insecurity and fear in the free human being.

Where the animal is a slave to its instincts but always conscious in its own actions, Kierkegaard believed that the freedom given to people leaves the human in a constant fear of failing his/her responsibilities to God.

Kierkegaard’s concept of angst is considered to be an important stepping stone for 20th-century existentialism. While Kierkegaard’s feeling of angst is fear of actual responsibility to God, in modern use, angst was broadened by the later existentialists to include general frustration associated with the conflict between actual responsibilities to self, one’s principles, and others (possibly including God).

This was an interesting find for me, principally because in thinking about what kind of response I wanted to make to Marjean’s lament, I had been pondering the idea of being programmed from birth to be RESPONSIBLE to God; of viewing my life as a gift from God to whom I then owe (am responsible) obligations to generate good fruit.

Belief inculcated from childhood is a difficult thing to overcome when, for example, the transparency of the religious fabrication is not as obvious as the transparency of a cultural myth, say of Santa Claus, to a child growing into an adult. Religious beliefs are planted (one could even use contemporary techno-vocabulary and say “installed’) in our thinking at an early age when the nature of the installation is not easily perceived as beneficent or malevolent.

The malevolent aspect then resembles more of a “virus” that is so firmly installed in so many programs that removal could very well require deletion and re-installation of the fundamental operating system. This because as young and then not-so-young adults who were active in the program (the Church), years of intensive activity caused us to replicate the virus in many venues of our lives, fortifying those strengthened venues with long-term emotional and spiritual devotion-based activity.

Do we realize how profound that circumstance can be?

Just how powerful is that choke hold we have wrestled against and at what price do we seek and achieve genuine liberation?

Marjean wrote,

” …but my journey away from the Church started so late in life that I am still in the “so if the Church isn’t what I thought it is, then what shall I do with life now?” stage. The slippery slope of all this information has led me to question if there is a God, a Virgin birth, pre and post existence, Resurrection, Atonement, etc! I am profoundly disappointed with religion. ”

Yesterday, I sat with Lietta in Gospel Doctrine class for only the second time this year. The lesson was the Alma chapters where King Lamoni and his father “converted” to the Nephite gospel and took upon themselves the name “Anti-Nephi-Lehies,” laid down and buried their weapons and vowed that they would never again live by the sword.

As a discussion ensued about what it means to be truly converted and what kind of change is required if a genuine conversion occurs, we listened to what I felt was a lot of rigid and two-dimensional blathering about knowing truth, being teachable, humble and obedient – most of which sounded to me like suspending critical thinking and devolving into cookie-cut conformity. That to me was the virus asserting itself.

I finally raised my hand and talked about Star Trek (thinking of The Next Generation.) Like the Book of Mormon Lamanite characters who became Anti-Nephi-Lehies, Klingons are a warrior society. They talk combat and warrior talk all the time. Such is the only way Klingon’s know how to talk. The Warrior culture infuses everything about Klingon society, Warrior principles are based on habits entrenched in the violent culture of battle, combat, victory, vengeance and death before dishonor.

The point I tried to make in that class yesterday was that all the conversion stuff about trust, humility and teacheable-ness was trivial compared to the magnitude of the change in a way of both thinking and living that would be required for a warrior society to turn it’s back on violence and combat-mindedness.

In that regard, how do we set ourselves free and bury our old preconceptions which have become part and parcel of our infections? What happened when we awakened. For me it felt like some internal light had ignited in what felt not unlike a massive inoculation of truth serum. Healing was the object based on massive doses of critical thinking and extended logic. That for me, in reality only began treatment involving removal of a virus that was and continuing to poison.

I would suggest that most of us who linger longer with Mormon Stories groups find themselves in a repetitive pattern of having resolved as well as unresolved feelings about choosing to live a life that includes or excludes Grandpa Church. Perhaps we have not yet adequately dealt with the virus that may inevitably again start replicating itself in as many venues of our lives as possible.

I don’t know what the cure for that virus really is or what anti-virus program one could self-install to become free of that particular existential angst.

I believe that it is possible to construct boundaries (firewalls if you will) that oppose the virus.

I have watched as my vibrantly perceptive sweetheart constructed those boundaries prior to escorting me back into the Church. Although she will never live life as a TBM, Lietta has her own reasons for staying connected with our Ward and the Church. She has helped me with my own boundaries and has never made belief or my pretending to be a believer a condition of how I would self-present as a re-baptized Mormon.

We have reached an agreement that I attend Church willingly with her because that is what I do as a man of honor. I attend Church with her because that is something a husband ought to do. It fits my my definition of what it means to be an honorable companion and respectful and lovingly mated male.

Having said that, I can then confess that for me, all that God talk, all that programmed sober-minded discussion of Eternity and a God-parent who must be pleased in every sense has become exceedingly wearisome. I have sought out my own new treasures that require no programming, that invite exploration that includes not only finding new wisdom but new entertainment as well.

Like Marjean, I do not believe or accept any notion of a religiously defined or religion-based Eternity nor any notion that whatever possesses Eternity is a moralizing, ordinance-principle-and-covenant maker who invents the game, makes the rules and calls the score.

As I’ve written more frequently, I totally reject the entirety of the theologies of the world’s Abrahamic religions of which Mormonism is currently number 4. In doing so, I personally feel freed and liberated from any notion of obligation or responsibility to God regarding sin, evil, atonement, redemption or being carnally an enemy to God.

I echo Penny who wrote,

” … I only “do” what I “feel” like “doing” in relation to “The Church”. The absolute hardest thing I ever did was to give myself permission to NOT DO Church.

When I feel like doing, being, etc anything “Church” I just do it. Doesn’t set the precedence that I’m rushing back. It’s more like I said – “snack”. Reading, exploring, participating, only as an “interest” not a duty. Maybe it’s kind of a “hobby”?

But either way, I think you get my drift. It’s taken over 2 yrs and I feel absolutely FINE with my relationship w/ the Church, or lack thereof. ”

Thank you Penny, your words go a long way toward defining how I feel about Lietta’s and my connection to the Ward.

One of the most important moments of our recent trip to Idaho was an evening when I responded to the urge to lay out my truths with my brothers.

I had reached a place of frustration with all those family and Church friends who have assumed that my re-baptism was a reconversion to the Church; that re-baptism was my “Anti-Nephi-Lehi” repentance from my previous “apostasy.” It felt to me that most had assumed that I had covenanted to bury my weapons of contention and live a life of conformity to the will of the Lord as taught by the Church.

What my brothers heard was my own declaration of willingness to stay engaged with the Church; that although I will not again request name removal, I intend to participate as a baptized member on my own terms – almost entirely only socially.

When challenged about that, I replied that I was willing to be active – to share my life with people for whom I have love and a certain devotion – without having the Celestial Kingdom as my ultimate desire and goal. I’ve used that phrase several times since and on each occasion I have sensed an almost visceral rejection of that idea.

Nevertheless, in terms of removing a toxic virus from my life, I work to establish the terms and definitions around which I will give discourse to and express a religious habit.

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