Understanding Anti-Vaxxers in the Church

In light of the announcement that the Church is helping to fund UNICEF's effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, the backlash from a certain type of church member was both immediate and predictable. One example:

"The church funding a UNICEF vaccine feels far too globalist to me and I cannot understand what the hell is happening to people in this church."

Let's talk about this and take it apart. I call this one the "You People" offensive. I'm sensing that those of y'all who were born and raised in the Church aren't accustomed to having this thrown at you.

There's a kind of moral licensing that takes place within the Church on the part of those who are born and raised in it. No, not everyone. But enough people that it's one of the most deeply frustrating aspects of being a convert. Many who are born and raised in the Church genuinely believe that this makes them natural experts on the institution. This is reinforced by the natural nepotism within the Church for the oldest families to hold almost all leadership positions. 

Those born and raised outside of the Church are viewed with a natural suspicion, even once they join. They are assumed to be less capable and untrustworthy, regardless of any experiences or knowledge they've gained in their personal lives. I'm realizing as I say this that I didn't just study scripture, church history, institutional procedure, and cultural practice because I found them to be spiritually uplifting or edifying. I also did it as a means of protecting myself from people in the pews next to me.

I made a conscious choice to never, ever use being a convert as an excuse not to know something. I never wanted anyone to use that against me, to the point where I stopped openly telling people I was a convert.
Why? Because people did use it against me. They would make assumptions about how much I did or didn't know, and change how much they listened to me and valued what I had to say once they found out I was a convert. They viewed me as an outsider, and that it was their personal responsibility to guide and correct me to "correct" ways of thinking as a church member.

As a result, those habits have placed me into a position where I now know quite a bit more about the institutional church, its history and practices, than the average member. I am now constantly amazed at how little some Mormons know about the Church they were raised in, while simultaneously making their church membership their only personality trait. So at the same time that they're completely unfamiliar with the Church's extensive history of funding and participating in vaccination development and distribution, they view themselves as the natural choice to condemn that participation as "globalist."

That's how we end up in a situation where the same conservative person, fomenting the words of former President Boyd K. Packer in their church lessons and lectures to others, espouses an anti-vaccination take while having no idea that President Packer openly supported vaccination as a survivor of misdiagnosed childhood polio. The lifelong challenges of living with polio complications were with President Packer until the day he died. To reject vaccination is probably the most disrespectful stance a member of the Church can take in his memory.
It's frustrating. It's embarrassing. But the one thing I need my fellow church members to understand, from where I'm sitting, it that there's one thing it's not.
This isn't new. This type of church member has always been this way. Y'all who were born and raised in the Church have just been blissfully unaware of it until now because it's only now that their targets are focused on you.

Rethinking What "Clean" Language Means

I watched History of Swear Words, that documentary about cussing on Netflix. Starring Nicholas Cage, it's an in-depth exploration on the history and etymology of various swear words, where each word gets its own dedicated episode. The scholarly approach, combined with the subject matter, is a fascinating romp through how humans use and develop language.

I don't remember which episode it was, but one of the people being interviewed made an observation I find especially salient. The most offensive words to young people aren't the Four Letter words for bodily functions anymore. 

They're slurs for marginalized groups.

Imagine having that lesson in Young Women.

"We're having a lesson on clean language today. Why the N-word is wrong for you to say and I better never hear you say it. You've been warned."

There's a lot to be said about making sure that kind of language is included, confronted, and specifically condemned in those lessons. Otherwise, we may end up raising children who casually using the language that is actually the most offensive in the societies in which they live.

Healing Political Divides within the Church

I'm not saying this post at Segullah on healing political divides withing the Church is wrong. I'm saying it's an incomplete picture of how to achieve what this post author is asking for for failure to acknowledge that there's more to these divisions than a difference of opinion.

"I think LGBTQ people are all going to hell" is not an opinion. "Black people in America are violent thugs who deserve what they get" is not an opinion. They are bigotry, by definition. They are the rejection and devaluing of people for who they are, which inevitably lead to violence.

My inability to get along with people at church because of that bigotry is not a moral failure on my part. My disillusionment and feelings of betrayal at discovering how many people at church feel this way is valid. The problem here is not my refusal to be patient with or accept people who think this way. This isn't a political difference of opinion. Whether or not people deserve respect is not a political difference of opinion. It's a moral failure that requires real institutional action.

A necessary aspect of the unity this post calls for is genuine repentance within the Church, individually and from the institution as a whole. The rejection of old attitudes, the issuance of apologies, and a sincere commitment to changes in behavior. Unity without repentance is unacceptable. Tolerance is not a virtue when there are individuals in our community who are still actively being harmed and we are doing nothing to stop it. 

That's not what being a real Christian looks like.

Also, let's resist the urge—and I would even call it a temptation—to think that these divisions will be easy to heal from.
If we ever start to think that, it's because we're oversimplifying the problem and failing to acknowledge how hard trust is to rebuild once it's lost.

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