Belonging Nowhere and Everywhere

I wrote something this morning as a reply in the Marriage on a Tightrope Facebook support group that I thought I would share here too:

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As human beings, our tendency is to attach our sense of identity and meaning to “forms”—including our perceived roles and the groups with which we affiliate.

(See Eckhart Tolle’s, A New Earth.)

Being a member of the Latter-day Saint Church, serving as a teacher and as a leader, serving as an Ordinance Worker, being a class participant, speaking in Church, bearing my testimony, etc., were all “forms” that served as foundational components of my sense of identity, meaning, and purpose in life.

When I stumbled across the Church History Gospel Topics Essays in April 2016, and I abruptly recognized that my spiritual experiences had “witnessed” of many partially or entirely inaccurate things—crumbling my sense and meaning of what God was—and I lost trust in the Church and in the Brethren because I perceived the Essays while an increase in transparency, many of them were blatantly dishonest.  The results were that I experienced an acute existential faith crisis because my constructs for God, the Brethren, and the Church crumbled.

But, it wasn’t only that my constructs for God, the Brethren, and the Church crumbled.

It was that my sense of personal identity and meaning crumbled because these things were so foundationally attached to the “forms” of my roles, belonging, paradigms, stories, traditions, rituals, etc., in Mormonism.

It was extremely painful and acute—to lose God, to lose the Church, to see that I would lose my Community, and to lose my personal sense of Identity, all in one long 3 day weekend while reading the Essays, reviews of them on Mormonthink, watching YouTube episodes of Mormon Stories, reading the CES Letter and Fairmormon’s weak debunking of it, and Fairmormon’s big list of all the other problems.

From that weekend until earlier this year, I have often experienced an underlying desire to affiliate with a new spiritual home as a group where I can go be fed and nourished with a sense of spiritual connection, and where I could participate in similar ways that I did in the past in Mormonism.

At times the desire has been stronger than others.  

I get connection and experience meaning from our local Mormon Spectrum Group, from participating in things like Thrive and Sunstone, etc., but these are not weekly things.

I have reconstructed different meanings for my spiritual experiences, for the meanings that I now attribute to the word “God”, and to how I view sacred texts.

But, I still wanted to find a primary spiritual community where I could honestly show up with authenticity and integrity, without being “othered”, and without being triggered by dogmatic literalism, where there were other people in their 30s-50s who had experienced a faith deconstruction too.

I tried to make it work in my Ward, but that put me in a state of depression because of the kinds of toxic things regarding how Church members speak about people like our gay son and his partner, about me and others who have lost belief in the Church, and about support for things that come out from the Brethren that I believe are the antithesis of what the Jesus of the Gospels teaches.  

(I deconstructed the historical Jesus and the New Testament too, but I still like many of the teachings attributed to Jesus, along with principles from Buddhism, etc.)

It seems like these days, not more than a few months goes by before something comes out of the Brethren/Church that I conclude is not only misguided, but actually corrupt or blatantly dishonest.  It’s like they can’t help themselves, or that like layers of an onion, the Information Age is exposing layers of harm and corruption that are enmeshed in the institution.

Again, this is just my personal experience.  I fully appreciate that people interpret and experience these kinds of things differently than I do.  For some, they are actually faith promoting.  I don’t understand it, but I trust that they interpret and experience things differently than I do.

Attending my Ward became toxic for me—soul crushing.

My active believing wife does not want me to attend our Ward because of what it does to me, and because she is more aware of the kinds of toxicity that gets spewed when I am sitting beside her.  Her enhanced awareness of the toxicity damages her experience.  It is better for her to go alone.

Participating in our Ward and Stake, and as an Ordinance Worker, spiritually feeds my active believing wife.  She thrives there.  The last thing I would want for her would be to lose the spiritual nourishment and thriving she experiences in the Church.

My best fits would likely be our local Universalist Unitarian congregation, or our small local Community of Christ congregation, or one of the local United Church of Christ (progressive Christian, female pastored, LGBTQ+ affirming) congregations.  But, the fits has been hit and miss, and none of them really feel like home at this time.

With all this explained, I have come to the recognition during this last month that my desires to participate in a faith or spiritual community were, at least for me, about attachment to “form.”  They were largely about a longing to reconstruct, in a similar way that once existed, a sense of identity that was attached to my roles and belonging in the Church.

It was a huge relief to recognize that, while not the exclusive origin of desires, this was the primary origin of my desires to affiliate.

There are so many activities and ways in which I can participate in things that feed me and give me opportunities to serve, and with gratitude, participate in the lives of others, for reasons other than attachment to “form”, or needing those things for my sense of identity.

I can go on a hike by myself and feel totally present in nature, to sit and ponder, to quiet my mind and just observe, and those experiences spiritually feed me.

I can read a book, watch a lecture online, listen to a podcast or to music, and I can be spiritually fed too.

I can drop in on different churches—church hopping—and observe and participate with the people there, without sensing a need to figure out whether it could be my spiritual home at some point, because my spiritual home is now nowhere and everywhere.

Eckhart Tolle explains in A New Earth, that our identity is not our forms or roles.  Our identity is our Being.

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2 thoughts on “Belonging Nowhere and Everywhere

  1. Perhaps it is a Buddhist ideal, but it transcends the anthropogenic deification idealized by Mormonism. And, I now seek it as a counterbalance to the narrative that I am destined to be a God! And in the context of my nothingness, I find an increased ability to belong to everything and everyone. I also see the Protestant wisdom in not elevating myself to deity, as this separates me from others but debases me as a defective sinner (which is the ‘endgame’ for Protestantism).
    In the end, it is all true, and it is all false, at some level. And the prevailing truth is couched in “the middle way”. We all partly mistaken, and we all have the truth!
    I have so much to learn!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Anthony,
    This could have been written by me except for the fact my husband, Marc, is choosing to stay home with me each Sunday. He has watched me weep from pain so deep I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. He watched Me trot off to several different psychiatrists and psychologists. With my degree in psychology he thought I was just attempting to reach out to a familiar and trusted profession. He had no idea at the beginning of my faith crisis how serious it truly was or how desperate I felt while searching for logical answers. It was only after seeking out an old Abnormal Psychology Professor who was the Department Head of Psychology at our local healthcare provider that I was actually able to give it a name, “Faith Crisis!”
    Bottom line, if hadn’t started talking with you via text I probably wouldn’t have survived. I was in so much pain I just wanted to die. And now that I have gone “inactive” I am that much more depressed because I miss my friends. There were four of us who use to go to lunch once a month. Now I have no one here to talk to or share laughs with, not even tears. My closest nonmember friend lives in Missouri. Regrettably, I put all my friendships in one basket, (one religion, Mormonism).
    I’m passed the wanting to die phase. I still want to fill this gaping hole in my heart with another form of religion, for lack of knowing what else to seek. I’ve done twelve different experiential trainings all of which filled me with so much love within and out that I know I’ll never be able to find this agape love within a religious institution. I’m a mess. I go about my life now making sure Marc and my children know how much I love them and that’s all I’m capable projecting.
    Like you I’ve deconstructed my religion, my beloved Old Testament stories and even God Himself. I fear for my eternal salvation. I haven’t had the courage to have my name removed only because I know all my friends would know because of who they are and who they are married to. I’m in a living nightmare; however, I am not, “walking in darkness at noon day!” And why I even quoted that eludes me.
    To think I was arrogant enough to think going to the temple or holding a current temple recommend, was proof of my righteousness…
    Your humble friend in truth,
    Deborah

    Like

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