Every exmember a missionary.
These days, I don’t talk religion that much with people offline that much, and even when I do, I keep my religion/lack thereof cloudy until someone asks outright (it’s amazing how many people will talk and talk presuming you’re Christian and never ask you if you feel otherwise…but maybe that’s just because I go to school in Texas.)
Anyway, I had a story about telling people I’m Mormon recently…it was interesting, because while I was comfortable saying, “Yeah, I’m Mormon” (and if it came up, I’d be just as comfortable saying, “Yeah, I’m atheist.”) I intuitively expected and realized I’d have to do damage control. The first damage control: so what kind of Mormon am I? Of course, I pointed out that I’m a nonbelieving Mormon, and so asking me if I believe (x weird belief of the church) is fruitless.
But…at the same time, I felt I was in a unique position. When I considered myself a member, I mean, I still didn’t really believe it, but I felt obligated to speak party lines about the gospel and theology. Now, I realized that I didn’t feel constrained. I felt I was ok to raise some controversy or spice to my answers…but it wasn’t enough. See…what I also felt was that even though I felt like I could speak my mind, I felt strangely protective of the church. I know I don’t want to be one of those antis who use terrible lies to try to smear the church (I mean seriously, if all you have are lies…give up. I happen to think that there is a lot of factual positions about the church that can be found unpalatable)…but even if I’m not an anti-, I recognized that I should treat the church differently with nonmembers than I would with members. Chanson wrote about it when she had a Southern Baptist roommate, and this exactly what I mean. You can’t make fun of my family — only I can do that!
So, I didn’t really know. It seems that while I was a member, I hated the idea of “every member a missionary,” but even as an exmember, I still am a missionary. I have a lot more leeway because ultimately, I don’t bind myself to the LDS rules of the game, but at the same time, I recognize that as soon as I say I’m Mormon (or even if I say I’m a former Mormon), I become — in the eyes of nonmembers — a representative of the church. So they will see my behavior and think, “Hmm…based on Andrew, are Mormons good or bad? Kind or mean? Intelligent or slow?”
Is this just me, or do any of you guys feel like that? I imagine that the farther you can get away from the Mormon part of the identity, the easier it becomes. After all, if I don’t blurt out, “Yeah, I’m Mormon” — which I sometimes never bring up — then I don’t have any obligation. After all, the people who know I’m atheist may not know I was Mormon, so I can freely speak about the church and it doesn’t have any special weight.
But what if I recognize that I do keep some LDS identity here?