For the past few weeks, we’ve been spending all our spare time on Diablo III. It’s pretty rare that we get to play video games as a family, so we’re loving it. I can’t really handle the visuals of 1st person shooters, I don’t know why. They make me feel all nauseated and headachey. Something about the style; I just can’t orient myself.
On top of that, because I’m disoriented and can’t tell what’s going on, I get killed pretty easily — so me playing 1st person shooters ends up an unending and irritating cycle of me being disoriented and confused, finally starting to get a handle on where I am and how to move, getting killed and respawning in a foreign section of the map, and being disoriented and confused. Rinse and repeat about 10 times, or until I give up and quit.
I fare much, much better with RPGs, but most RPGs on the market have a fatal flaw: They do not support local co-op. I often joke that RPG game designers have a horrible opinion of RPG gamers. They clearly believe that RPG gamers are losers with no friends or family to game with, hence the lack of local co-op on most games.
Thing is, I don’t want a single-player dungeon crawler. I want to play video games with my husband and my son, and my whole family loves RPGs. So Diablo III is pretty kick-ass for us, on several levels.
I am assuming that an updated/ upgraded version will be coming out for the new consoles, and I will tell you now that when we switch to the PS4, we will be buying a new copy of Diablo III for it. I heard the new Dragon Age will have a local co-op option, so fingers crossed for that! We played the Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes and the Baldur’s Gate titles until forced out of them by console upgrades/ updates. I foresee many hours spent as a family on Diablo III.
Anyway, so that’s what we’ve been doing on our weekends, when everyone is home. With the cold snap, John and I stopped walking to the store every night for a bit, and with finals week I’ve been focusing on my papers and studies while John’s at work.
Well, that and this weird new app my family of origin signed up for. It’s called Life360, and it’s . . . I don’t know. We mostly use it for the messaging portion (it’s like a private twitter feed), but you could do the same thing on Google Hangouts, except with less bugginess and the option of sending pictures/video. Life360 has a tendency to not send messages and to lose connectivity. Also, you can’t send pictures or even really links through it. Finally, I don’t really like that if you type a message through the computer, it doesn’t show up in the message history on the app. That’s annoying.
On a different level, I feel like even though my family is having fun messing around with it at the moment, it will ultimately stir up disagreements relating to the latent tensions in our family’s communication styles to the surface.
For instance, 3 out of 5 siblings are inactive in the LDS church. But one of the siblings who is active is dominating the app with church-related talk and news. To me, a former member who grew up in the LDS church and is very familiar with the ideology, mindset, and exhortations to reactivate non-members, this choice of conversational topic is coming across as manipulative, passive-aggressive, dominating/ one-sided, and really just incredibly fake.
It’s manipulative because they insist that they totally respect our decision(s) to leave the church, and won’t pressure us to come back — but they will log into the app every Sunday to gush about church and share the lesson/ activities. Seems innocent, and if I didn’t have an LDS upbringing it would certainly feel less loaded.
But because I am familiar with the structure of the church and the many, many lessons on how to reactive lapsed members, I just keep hearing the tactics advised and taught to members in order to reactivate inactive members. I don’t know whether they’re doing it intentionally or not, but they’re doing it. If you try and call them on it, though, they totally deny that it’s happening, or even that it could unconsciously be happening.
It’s passive-aggressive because both LDS siblings will do things like “jokingly” suggest their other siblings should return to church if anything remotely neutral or negative is said about their use of weekend time. For instance, if non-LDS sibling says that Sunday was a “lazy day” or jokes, “What else are you gonna do on the weekend?”, the LDS siblings will say, “You could go to church!”
They mask it as a “joke,” but having been raised LDS, I know all too well that they are very serious in their desire for us to return to the LDS church, and are choosing to mask their lack of acceptance of our choices behind faux jokes.
And the thing is, when I have asked in past conversations if they would try something similar, like maybe asking them to try not going to church for a month (or, hell, not talking about church for a month), they get offended and upset. They say they don’t know what my problem/ anger with church is, and why can’t I respect their beliefs? They tell me if makes them happy to share the joy the church brings them. They ask why I’m so angry, why I hate the church.
All this leads to a silencing of speech they dislike, which results in them dominating the conversation, and in a rather one-sided manner. They will talk about church activities and lessons and expect positive responses to the information shared, but do not show reciprocal acceptance to conversational topics that bore them.
See, to them, talking about their experiences at church is them sharing something that is positive and uplifting in their life. How are they supposed to avoid it? The church is a major part of their lives. Do we expect them to just not talk about their church life?
And I get that. It would be pretty insane to request active LDS members to not talk about their church life with those nearest and dearest them. I know how all-encompassing it is — it’s a daily thing, threaded into every aspect of their lives. Especially for women who are doing the whole thing in the LDS-approved style and are stay-at-home moms with a passel of kids in tow. There’s really no time whatsoever for independent hobbies or non-church related interests. Everything will loop back to the church eventually.
So in short, no. I don’t actually expect my active LDS siblings to completely stop talking about the church, because it is literally entwined with every single aspect of their lives. They can’t not talk about it. But I would kind of expect that they could extend the same courtesy of listening to how we do our lives without objection. But nope.
For instance, if I slip and swear around my LDS siblings, I get a lecture from them. Mind you, I swear all the time in my casual daily interactions, and around my non-LDS siblings. In fact, the only people I don’t swear around are people I am not close to — I don’t swear at work or in class, for instance, because those are more formal situations.
True, it’s not like I’m swearing in the Life360 app, either. I guess the whole sibling-interaction precipitated by the app is bringing up all these other communication frustrations. In live, real-time talk, they have and do expect me to change my speech patterns on the fly, and if I slip in my attempt, they have and will stop the entire conversation to read me the riot act for being disrespectful of their beliefs. In the same vein, I am discouraged or lectured if I talk about atheism, my views on religion in general, the fact that I drink alcohol, or my preference for playing video games/ going shopping/ eating out/ seeing a movie on Sunday.
And mind you, these are all things I can and do talk about with my close friends and even my other siblings, when we’re talking. So my LDS siblings are creating a situation with artificial conversational walls, and then (ironically or hilariously?) they bemoan the fact that we as a family are not as emotionally close as they would prefer. And it’s so baffling to me, because it seems like they’re striving for this mormon idea of what a family is and trying to force their non-mormon family members into these neat little pigeonholes of idealistic perfection, and ignoring the solid reality of who we actually are.
This is precipitated in small part because today on the app, the religious siblings actually directed myself and my brother to take our discussion of Diablo III to a private, 2-person chat because it was boring and they did not “get it.” Absolutely no shred of self-awareness that maybe, just maybe, some of us might feel the same about the church-related chat — but this interaction was not the primary irritant, it’s more like the frustration that sparked this rant.
I should note that the Life360 app offers the option to message the entire group, or to privately message one person. I should also note that relationships are tense between some of us, and this app is the first contact we’ve had in some time. The general nature of it made me, at least, feel on emotionally safe ground. I felt as though when a message was not responded to or answered, it was less of intentional rejection of my thoughts and opinions, and more just that the chaotic and random flow of input meant my words were lost in the fray.
So to have the LDS siblings explicitly tell us to take our boring conversation elsewhere just reinforced (for me) the overall tone policing that led to the tension in the first place. In the past, when they have asked why I left or what I believe in now, I have tried to share my theological research, and the non-religious beliefs that give me emotional and mental strength, and they have shut me down. They have responded with frustration, consternation, and even anger. They accuse me of lying, or not understanding, or of hating the LDS church. They ask why I’m obsessed with religion and belief, and how do you even respond to that? Really?
I mean, I grew up in a religious tradition that literally permeated every waking hour of my day, and I broke with it, and now they apparently think I’m not supposed to spend any time trying to figure out the psychological, and social structures which shaped my formative years? I mean, if I had grown up in India and then moved to America as an adult, would I be expected to never speak of India again? If I had grown up as a boy and transitioned to a girl, am I supposed to never again speak of my experiences as a male person in our society? Like, wtf, really?
They say, “Why do you care? Why do you keep studying religion? You left, so leave it alone,” and I hear, “Look, just chop this massive piece of your life away and proceed to ignore it, because your method of examining it and coming to terms with it makes me uncomfortable and that’s upsetting to me.”
Finally, the way they talk about the LDS church is just hilarious to me. They are depicting a false representation of church life. They talk about it like I’m a non-member — which I am — but like I’m a non-member with absolutely no experience being in the church. They act like it’s all sunshine and roses and totally supportive and awesome. No doubts or fears, no struggles with the workload, no weeping over the scriptures because you can’t come to terms with a piece of doctrine, no long nights staring into the abyss of eternity and wondering if you’re good enough, no heartache. Just awesome supportive perfection.
Again, I grew up in the church, with these siblings. I went to church meetings with them. I was in the same ward, heard the same lessons, and at least one of them went through a teenage rebellion involving drug use and sexual activity that I consciously mimicked and tried to “one-up” in my own teen years. Like these active siblings, I was sealed in the temple. I wore garments. I went to church with a small infant in tow, and I paid tithing, held callings, prayed over meals, testified of my belief in F&T meeting, read my scriptures, taught lessons, and organized activities. I believed in the LDS church for a long time. I was both witness to and participant of ordinary Sundays, week after week!
Here’s the thing — when I was active, the difficulties of membership were acknowledged and discussed. We used to talk about frustrations with the culture of perfection, feelings of guilt about not “measuring up” to expectations, and feeling overwhelmed and pressured by having to teach lessons for callings/ etc. every Sunday in addition to secular life responsibilities. Those memories didn’t just disappear because I went inactive and they began pretending the church is perfect.
What is up with that? Do they think I left because the church is hard? Do they think if they pretend it’s easy I’ll just forget that it was so stressful and come back? What on earth would they do if this tactic actually worked, and I did return to church and it was still stressful? I mean, if the presumption that a member left because the church was hard was accurate, then pretending the difficulty just magically disappeared is so not the solution, because in the insane situation where this avoidance tactic actually worked, it’s just setting them up for failure when they return!
And also, seriously, think about that logic of, “leaving because it’s hard,” for, like, two seconds. Marriage is hard. Being a mom is hard. Earning my Bachelor’s as a late-start student/ mom/ wife is hard. Dealing with active mormons as an atheist is hard. There are lots of things in my life that are way harder than being active in the LDS church — I’d take the workload of an LDS calling over the workload of a college student, any day — but I don’t abandon them. Why not?
Because the work involved with all these other things has value to me. The LDS church has ceased to have value for me. Neither the doctrines nor the community offer anything that is, “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.” I do not attend the LDS church because according to its own history and according to its own doctrines, the whole mess is provably false. It is a false church led by a false prophet.
The whole thing is a lie, and it’s not even difficult to disprove. Seriously, it doesn’t even require researching outside of approved mormon literature, it just means studying and cross-referencing the approved history and doctrines of the church with the same level of academic rigor required to write, cite, present, and argue a college-level English 102 paper.
Wow, the underlying tensions that are bubbling up in each exchange relating to religion are irritating me more than I thought. That’s one of the frustrating things about relationships, I swear to the gods — nobody is honest and upfront in every interaction/ relationship. Nobody, not even me or people like me, who decry this “nice” dishonesty. Maybe we’re cowards, or maybe we’re trying to be polite and not make waves, or maybe we’re not feeling well and just don’t want to get into it that day, or maybe we can’t face up to the truth, or maybe it just feels like a pointless conversation, or whatever. I don’t know.
Like, I would like to say to my active siblings that if they’re going to talk frankly about church and religion and their belief and so on and so forth, that’s fine, but I would expect them to extend the same courtesy to their non-religious siblings. If I want to talk about going to Drinking Liberally on Monday, I should be able to without having to defend it.
I mean, seriously — every time I talk about my life with my LDS family/ friends, I find myself editing-on-the-fly, and it’s mostly because I just don’t want to get sidetracked explaining that we don’t need to drink to discuss politics, it’s just a fun excuse to meet up, and yes I know you don’t think drinking is fun, and I agree that you can have fun without alcohol, and in fact I have lots of fun quite a lot of the time without any alcohol whatsoever — but sometimes I also have fun with alcohol. I actually do like alcohol. I like to drink occasionally. That does not mean I am an alcoholic. I like to meet with a group of politically minded friends at a pub and have a pint, and I’m not sitting here telling you how stupid I think those teetotaler sing-a-longs at the church are, so stop complaining about how I spend my time.
I get tired of obfuscating any connection with alcohol, drugs, liberal politics, or theology when I reference the books I read, movies I watch, and activities I attend. I am so tired of being expected to sanitize my life to their arbitrary specifications of what is moral according to a religious code I rejected, and then getting flack when I fail in my efforts — an effort I only put forth out of esteem and respect for the individual who gets upset with me!
Yet, because I love and esteem and respect these individuals, and because I don’t want to argue with them, I continue to edit myself in conversation and interaction with them. I continue to bite my tongue and look away and pretend it doesn’t bother me when I’m shut down, but they continue to pontificate on topics they know bother me.
And this is seriously just a rant. That’s all. Because telling them will achieve nothing. I’ve expressed similar frustrations in the past, to no avail. The behaviors (on both sides) will continue. If I express frustration, it’s because I’m an angry atheist who hates the church, ipso facto I hate my family. Therefore, any expression of rejection of religion/ god becomes a rejection of my family, and I do not hate my family! I love them enough to bite down on a fairly fucking regular basis on my actual opinions.
Also we happened to run into John’s family today at the supermarket, so that’s just another level of failed communication that’s been percolating in my brain all day. I just do not get how their brains work. I don’t get their personalities. I just don’t get any of it. It’s not like it’s a mystery why we haven’t spoken in almost two years; John has been very clear in elucidating exactly what the problem is, as have I. So their continued refusal to in any way acknowledge the issues, let alone validate or apologize for said issues, is at this point one of the issues we have with them!
It’s ridiculous to me. I just do not get why they are so resistant to acknowledging that their actions have been harmful, and then apologizing for their behavior and words. Instead, there’s the constant and bland assumption that for some unknowable reason contact just happened to die off, and isn’t it lucky we ran into each other and can talk? As though we don’t live in the 21st century, where more effort is put into avoiding people than is needed to find people. Jesus fucking christ on a cracker.
It’s all very psychologically exhausting and upsetting, and I just wish that people would say what they mean and mean what they say — but I’m as guilty as anyone of pasting on a smile to avoid an argument, so it’s not like I have a foot to stand on.