By Scarlet A
Now is the season of the Winter Holidays and I am looking at our magnet board where we display the Christmas cards that arrive from family, friends and the one student-body officer from Bountiful High School who lives under the delusion that I care about her six ‘perfect” blonde cherub-children, their many “blessings” and how the lord has favored them.
There are fewer cards this year. And even fewer than the year before. You see, I am actively being shunned for having left religion, but it doesn’t stop there. After the recent election, some of the last, few, stoic and steadfast relatives, believing that I can be pulled back into the clutches of superstition with just the right variety of guilt or maudlin anecdote, have given up and have joined the ranks of those who shun me.
In 1996, I was shunned—at my Bridal Shower—openly by a great aunt who was aghast that I would actually have the gall to marry a Presbyterian who had no intention of converting. Now one would think that since I was pushing the spinster phase, according to my Grandmother Isom, they’d be thrilled that I’d corralled a man at all, let alone a college graduate. But no. Great aunt asked when we would be “getting married in the temple.” I explained that we wouldn’t because he had no interest in joining the LDS church. She pushed further—mind you this was a bridal shower—where we were playing games and opening gifts.
“Why aren’t you insisting that he join the church?”
At this point, I was more than a little self-conscious, being that the gauntlet had been thrown and she hadn’t accepted the short answer—politely delivered—and was now demanding moral satisfaction. I replied: you know with more than 4 billion people on the planet, some of us don’t find our Celestial Companions in the church. What does the church teach about families accepting and loving these children of God?
She took back her present. Did not come to the wedding and hasn’t engaged with me since. Know what? Good riddance. I don’t have to listen to her bigoted tirades or listen to how she’s a better person than non-Mormons and a better Mormon than most Mormons.
The past election season brought a new spate of shunning. I guess it’s no surprise I didn’t vote for Romney. I live in Washington State. And I am happy to say, I signed the petitions to put gay marriage and marijuana legalization on the ballot. I voted for both measures as I believe strongly in equality, loving acceptance and tolerance, and because I live with a spouse enduring chronic pain and having Hippie Lettuce as an over-the-counter drug is a step forward in his care. I also was pretty open on social networking sites about why I supported these causes and the candidates I supported.
I was called “stupid,” a “sodomy supporter” and a “drug addict” before being shunned, unfriended and emotionally blocked-out by a cousin who had been seemingly tolerant before. I tried to summon indignation. I really tried to be offended. What she did was nasty on a caliber tantamount to junior high or Lindsay Lohan on the town before her fourth cocktail. But really what I feel is relief. Relief that I am done kowtowing to their world view. Because world view and perspective ought to be shared among humans in spiritual growth, not used as a truncheons or as score cards at the NASCAR race to righteousness.
I still have my good memories of them, growing up. The fun times we had are still somewhere in my sui generis. Those haven’t changed. But, you know what? I don’t like what they became. I don’t like who I am around them. Closed off, self-censoring, self-conscious and defensive. I don’t like having their kids tell my kids that their world view is “wrong.” I don’t like being on the short-end of the accusation stick, even if it’s unarticulated, for the sake of an abstract, idealized and ethnocentric notion of a “forever family.”
I didn’t get her usual Christmas card/brag letter this year. Can I tell you how great it is NOT hearing about the perfect image they’re trying to project in order to appear righteous? Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing news about loved ones. I just hate that it has turned into a competition of “who’s loved best by God?”
I guess technically I was invited to the four-generation family bash the day after Christmas— I also know there were discussions about whether or not I should be invited. Nothing says unconditional love like covert, secret meetings where the merit of your very presence is the subject du jour. I’m not attending. No sense going, sitting in a corner and having everyone who shares your DNA NOT talk to you or, when they do, discuss their callings in their church and dismissing your life experience and cherished values.
We are going to indulge in our own Christmas tradition of watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail, open gag gifts with my folks (also in a probationary state of being shunned and/or semi- shunned) and eat lots and lots of delicious food and laugh—a lot. Funny how all the people who made me uncomfortable anyway have decided I am unworthy. All the people with whom I dreaded interacting anyway. So really, they’ve saved me the trouble of providing lame excuses and insufferable small talk.
There is an upside to being shunned. I really wish more people would do it!