Marissa Explains it All #33 – Outside Looking In

I’ve been on several podcasts in the last week discussing Mormonism with Bryce Blankenagel and Molly Un-Mormon on both Doubting Dogma and Inciting Incident. It’s been culture shock to say the least, even in what I’ve already heard about what it’s like. The fact that there’s this insular “world within a world” that is barely, if at all, known outside of a certain part of the country is endlessly fascinating to me.

But when the fascination subsides, all that’s left is anger and disbelief. There’s such incredulity between the worlds that how horrific some of these things are often slips through the cracks. Something that is horrifying to me when I hear about it from the first time is almost shrugged off with a “that’s just what we grew up with,” and I get it on some level. I’m sure there’s no aspect of anyone’s life that they grew up with that wouldn’t be somewhat horrifying in another part of the country to someone else.

But then, I still can’t process the church’s welfare system, even within the context of American Christianity. At least when I grew up, I wasn’t a part of the church, but from what I could see, when they did charity work, it was… you know… charity. I think that Jesus guy was fond of that. Maybe there’s the invisible other side of it like in this situation, but hearing these new stories from a different place is incredible.

What I’ve been told, and verified from those who were there, is that the Mormon church brags about their charity work as being among the highest. But there’s attachments to it that I didn’t realize. Molly’s story told about someone who needed assistance, and they had to sit down with a (likely affluent) bishop with their entire finances, have it gone over with a microscope, and then beg their families for help first. The ten percent tithing they’re required to pay is supposed to go to exactly this, but they have this first gatekeeping block to it.

Then, if they still need to take food to feed their families, that they, you know, paid for with their tithing… they are suggested to work for what the food costs in free labor at the cannery. And, once again, still pay their ten percent tithing.

Doesn’t that come out to charity net zero?

This church has enough money to make prosperity pastors blush, and politically influence things like prop 8. Yet, they can’t afford to not make people pay their ten percent that they’re making people work off for free to do something crazy like feed their families in a time of need, which is supposed to, again, be what tithing is for?!

How the hell is this not indentured servitude?

But it’s legal because “religion.” Or right above in Idaho, where treatable illnesses in children are given prayer instead of medicine, and what would be negligence anywhere else is dismissed with “sincerely-held religious beliefs.” 

So these places take ten percent off the top of their members to help the charity work, that they make those in need pay for anyway, and pay no taxes but are able to buy off and influence public law and opinion? 

How in the everloving radiant flying rhinoceros FUCK is this anything but bullshit?! 

It’s true, I’m not used to it. It’s true, I didn’t grow up with it. It’s true, I’m on the outside looking in, both in terms of proximity and philosophy. However, isn’t there a point when respecting beliefs is overridden by the lack of relativity for absolute profit-driven shitcannery?!

Anthropology teaches that they want to get you as close to cultural relativism, as opposed to xenophobia, but that no one can ever be completely relativist, because that would be to have no personal agency or values at all. 

I think I found the place where I’m willing to say, “I don’t care if that’s their religion or culture or belief, that is fucking stupid.”

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