5/16/13

I'm taking back apostate.



One of my favorite things to do is mess around with words. I especially like to turn nouns into verbs. When we run out of food at our house, I tell Spouseman we are "Grapes of Wrath-ing it." I also like making up words, "dickalope" being my crowning achievement in made-up words.

English teachers always talk about word choice, and words having power, and that's true, but it also isn't true. It isn't the words that have power, it's the intent and the meaning behind the words. Words can mean whatever you want. Some meanings just happen to be more powerful than others.

Another hobby of mine is taking words with definitions don't fit my purposes and bastardizing them until they do. For instance, my Dad is always defending this awful relative* who everyone hates (because he is mean and enjoys his meanness,) so whenever he starts in on how Relative X isn't so bad, I yell HOLOCAUST DENIER, because in my mind, justifying the behavior of Relative X is like denying the holocaust: only crazy people do it.

(For the record, I like manipulating language in really offensive ways, if you haven't noticed already. Hi. Welcome to my blog.)

When the whole THING happened (hint: I suggested some people wear a type of clothing to a religious service and the shit hit the fan,) a lot of people scoured my blog to find evidence of what a terrible person I am.

Um, I didn't make that really hard. Not because I am a terrible person, because I'm not, I'm actually a very good person, but because I try not to pretend to be better than I am when I write. It is one of the truly good things I think I do with this blog, so I am owning it: I'm a flawed person with lots of questions, and I think God is okay with that.

 But in Mormon-land, showing flaws is like breaking the first rule of Fight Club. We aren't supposed to talk about how we swear or have doubts, or how we make mistakes. So if your parameters for "good person" are narrow, some-what arbitrary, and sometimes down-right Pharisaical, I'm probably not going to make your cut of "who gets into heaven." Too bad you're not in charge.

One of the things people found offensive when they read my blog was my self-identification as "Apostate."

"She is secretly plotting to lure in Mormons with her evil pants and destroy the church! She even admits she's APOSTATE! She weighs the same as a duck!"

Yep. I self-identify as Apostate sometimes.

I've been blogging about religion for six years. When I was a true-believing, active, faithful-in-every-way Mormon, I got called apostate for being a baby-murdering Democrat. When I was a questioning Mormon who believed in Gay Marriage I got called an Apostate. When I talked about how art and literature brought me closer to the divine...you guessed it, Apostate.

I realized it didn't matter what I did, someone was going to call me Apostate, so I just decided to own the term, and give it a meaning that works for me. This worked really well for Henri Matisse and the Fauvists, Monet and the Impressionists, and unfortunately, the Tea Party.

When I call myself Apostate, I mean that I have apostatized from many ideas from my youth. The dictionary definition says that "apostates" "abandon a belief or principle," so I didn't even have to work my word-bastardizing magic too much to make it work.

I've apostatized from the idea that questions indicate a lack of faith. I've apostatized from the idea that we can be "too tolerant" and fall into "tolerance traps." I've apostatized from that idea because I'm a parent, a spouse, a sister, a friend, and a daughter and I know you cannot love "too much" or care "too much" about other people. I've apostatized from the belief that little girls are somehow sexual beings who need to be taught about modesty because they will "need to practice how to dress appropriately when they are older." They will also need to learn how to do Calculus, but I'm not going to buy my-one-year- old a graphing calculator.

I've apostatized from a God who keeps score based on ritual alone, and a God who insists on blind devotion to fallible men. I've apostatized from Patriarchy and the mental gymnastics that tell me Patriarchal institutions are gender neutral. I've apostatized from a pedestal that claims my worth is all in my uterus. I've apostatized from sitting three hours in uncomfortable chairs when I can't feel God there under-neath all the presiding and fear.


I haven't apostatized from grace. I haven't given up hope in the divine, whether we find it in the cosmos or in our souls. I haven't apostatized from hope that religious tradition I grew up in will someday be better. It irritates the hell out of some of my truly agnostic friends, but I haven't apostatized from a God who speaks to their children, or a Son who walked on water to rescue the doubter.  I haven't apostatized from the idea that the best way to protect my daughter doesn't involve covering her shoulders, but teaching her about the nuances of rape culture, because Elizabeth Smart was wearing long-sleeved pajamas and pants when she was kid-napped.

 I believe all things, I hope all things, I will endure many things, except not Polygamy because that's crazy.

So there you have it. There is no food in my fridge, we are grapesofwrathingit. I sort of think Brigham Young was a dickalope. My Dad knows the Holocaust happened, but he has really bad judgement in certain relatives, and I am an Apostate.




*not a close relative, just a super creepy one.





49 comments:

postmormongirl said...

I love this post - I think it's good to just own a term. :)

UtahSouth said...

I follow your blog.. and am refreshed and enlightened and thankful for You expressing yourself.. As a former tbm is seems so amazing i once was part of the problem...

UtahSouth said...

I posted this at the mormon feminist site.. Why cant the church just teach us to love one another....?

Kimberly Wilson said...

The church DOES teach us to love one another. It's just that we go to church to try to be like Christ.

Not because we're already very good at being like Christ already.

It's eternally frustrating to want church to be a soft place to fall for us, and then realize it's simply full of other flawed people, too.

The good news is that there are some people who really do "get" the unconditional love principle, and live it well. Which just means that their flaws happen to be in other areas of their life than that one.

I feel like one of the hardest, messiest things we have to do in this lifetime is live alongside each other as we're all making our own mistakes (and sometimes GRIEVOUS errors) right along next to each other.

I'm hoping I can keep being forgiving of other people as, hopefully, they will be forgiving of me.

I always appreciate people keeping it real; having real questions does not mean you are faith-less.

p.s. I loved your "duck" comment. So you must be a witch, right? After all, pebbles and very small churches float. . . ; )

Michelle Gurr said...

Your writing speaks to my soul. Thank you!

MooMama said...

I love you. Truly, I do. I love your courage, your chutzpah, your wordsmithing, and your brutal honesty. The world need more apostates like you.

wendipooh13 said...

LOVED reading this and thank you!! totally on the same wavelength with everything you said!!! I couldn't agree more:)

Reba said...

I'm so glad I found your blog! And your Mormon Stories speech. Reading your blog helps me feel less alone, and ready to own the title of apostate.

Ryan said...

I love this. Recently and frequently, the conversation of the semantics of words comes up with my friends.

Mostly this happens when one discusses what can be offensive to some people, yet persons of a certain group can say words. The word we primarily discussed was 'faggot', but also the n-word but the conclusion is the same: the intent behind a word is really what dictates a lot of meaning.

Meanings of words change all the time depending on how the majority starts to use it and I'm glad you decided to take back a word most people don't truly understand.

Kaimi said...

Love it, Stephanie. You're the pants. :)

Angie said...

This whole post made me super happy and a little less lonely in my religion. Thank you, thank you.

Karen K said...

I loved this. I just read the entire post out loud to my teenage kids. They need to hear this stuff. You are amazing.

Lisa said...

Inspiring, authentic and lovely. I think you should make tee shirts. "Don't be a dickalope." I would buy them all!!!

;)

bibfile said...

You are the best kind of apostate. Keep being awesome.

tyrannosaurusreg said...

STANDING OVATION!

wonderwoman1975 said...

You are awesome. This post says IT exactly. Beautiful.

Melody said...

Thanks for the laughs. I loved it. :) I'm glad that you are getting back to yourself after the clothing incident.

anngardner said...

I know that that this wasn't the focus of the article, but I was hoping that you would make a retraction about your polygamy comment. Some readers might take it the wrong way and think that you are against polygamy, which we know isn't really the case and that you were just making a joke. Cause the focus is n marrying the person that you love. I would hate to live in a world that would deny that right to anyone. Same as you!

anngardner said...

I know that that this wasn't the focus of the article, but I was hoping that you would make a retraction about your polygamy comment. Some readers might take it the wrong way and think that you are against polygamy, which we know isn't really the case and that you were just making a joke. Cause the focus is n marrying the person that you love. I would hate to live in a world that would deny that right to anyone. Same as you!

Stephanie said...

@ anngardner, I was making a joke, but I will clarify, I don't think polygamy is a necessarily "celestial" principle. (i.e. you MUST engage in it to get into heaven, and that everyone will be polygamous someday.)

I have very mixed feelings on the whole thing,but I do think people should be able to marry the people they love.

melissa34 said...

I would like to know your intent and meaning behind the word dickalope.

momma Skyla said...

Just knowing that there are darling little apostates like you running around the world gives me hope. Though not Mormon (Baha'i living in Utah though, which means my kids still worry about covering their shoulders to be loved by other people's parents), I feel absolutely revived by your post. Now I must go read all of your back posts because this post was like crack. I'm hooked!

myrtlejoy said...

I love me some apostatism on a Saturday morning. Gets me ready for Sunday!

Stephanie said...

@Kate

I never condemned polygamy, I said I had complicated feelings on it.

I don't believe it is a mandatory or "celestial" practice. Some Mormon Doctrine (D&C 132, I think?) is interpreted to suggest that polygamy will be re-instated in heaven, making polygamy a requirement for the celestial Kingdom.

I think that's crazy nonsense created to support an institution that was very damaging in the early church. That's what I meant when I said polygamy was "crazy."

In contemporary society, I am wary (but that doesn't mean entirely opposed) of polygamy because even when women "choose" it of their own free will, it is after being raised in a culture that suggests similar messages, that polygamy is a way into heaven. My feelings are complicated in the sense that I'm not sure anyone knows if they are really making a choice based on their own free will and love, even as adults.

Obviously, I'm against forced polygamy between adult men and teenage girls, just in case someone reads this and thinks there is some secret tacit support.

Like I said, polygamy is complicated. I don't have a solid opinion on every aspect of the practice, and I'm sure some of my opinions stem from bias.

Di said...

I have lightheartedly referred to myself as an apostate for years. It seems to surprise people at first, but I think it's a funny, easy and relatively accurate shorthand for how I think of my relationship to religion.

Drees009 said...

We turn people's names into verbs. Like Shaun Meng-ing it means you hit a stop sign with your car, or Brian Drees-ing it is returning an item and re-buying it with a coupon. Once you find epic behavior, it's easy to tie to a person to the newly found verb.

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cracheld said...

I enjoy your posts. They bring a perspective that I don't hear often enough and maybe lack the depth to generate on my own. Though I don't agree with all of your ideas, it is important to hear things from all perspectives to attempt to come to a truer understanding of what I believe is right.
I find it funny that some people get angry when people express how they are feeling. Yet, at the same time I am enraged by the what I perceive as ingenuity of some (most) members of the LDS church. I sometimes sit in meeting and listen to the trite, banal repetitions that seem to bring some of them comfort and I want to bash them over the head and just scream. Not scream anything coherent...just general screaming. I haven't figured out a way to express these ideas in a productive manner so, for now, I roll my eyes. Maybe someday I'll learn how to get these feelings out accurately.
I love your efforts to be true to yourself and I will try to follow that example.

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Tammy Shumway said...

I think the term apostate is so harsh and has a negative conotation. I guess I could say that I am apostate but I just don't like the term. While the real meaning of apostate is abondoning your childhood beliefs the meaning of it for Mormons is much harsher and serious. If you say someone is apostate it basically means they hate the church and work against the church and yell at other Mormons while they wait in line for General Conference. They also apparently drink alcohol and coffee, smoke, get tatoos, lie and have no morals. (this is what everyone at my work thinks of me because I don't wear garments. I hate it!)

I don't want the apostate label and I don't think that one needs to be labeled to let everyone know where one stands. I think labels can be seperating and generalizing and force us to take on beliefs that we don't want to take on. You have your own beliefs don't take on the apostate label. It is too negative and what you believe and what you are doing is not negative.

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Breanne said...

This was a really excellent post. I loved all of it, including this line: "But in Mormon-land, showing flaws is like breaking the first rule of Fight Club. We aren't supposed to talk about how we swear or have doubts, or how we make mistakes. "

I know this will sound dramatic, but reading this post was like clinging to a branch in a river. It helped me keep my head above water for a little while. I feel like I'm being pulled in all different directions - But I have to listen to my brain in combination with my heart. Which ticks a lot of people off, for some reason.

But it's nice to feel like I'm not alone.

Brittany said...

i'll say what i've said a few other times on your posts:
i loved this!
thank you for being this apostate person.
i guess in my own way i am an apostate of certain ideas. it is surprisingly refreshing.

MJ said...

BRAVO!

Melanie said...

I am so excited to find your blog. Seriously, this makes me think on a whole different level.

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marciemo said...

Thank you for this! Thank you for owning the apostate title so beautifully. I like when people don't pretend to be perfect and instead be real! I love real people.

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