One of the big stereotypes about people who leave the church is that anyone who would do such a terrible thing must have done so because they were too lazy to follow God’s commandments or because they just wanted to sin.
We’ve probably been accused (either explicitly or implicitly) of these (or a variation thereof) charges, and so I bet we all have taken the time to try to explain that that’s not really the case, and that those rationalizations actually ignore, gloss over, and marginalize the real rough spots in church doctrine, practice, and history.
…but what if the stereotypes are true?
Bear with me.
The church claims some nearly 14 million members across the world. But what we know as well is that these statistics hide less palatable details for the church. In many parts of the world, new converts have an abysmal retention rate. Many converts quickly (dis)appear into the void.
I don’t know what the precise number is, but isn’t it true that some wide margin of the worldwide church is inactive (oh, wait, I mean “less active”)? If you want to fill me in on percentages you’ve heard, please do. I remember feeling a bit shocked when I heard a percentage that was regarded as somewhat reliable.
I think that we can understand a difference between people who are inactive and people who leave the church. But from an administrative or official perspective, things blur. After all, leaving the church administratively requires formal resignation. But how many of us have sent in the letter? How many of us, for whatever reason, are (dis)inclined from sending in a letter?
I’m not saying that one should or should not send in a resignation letter, but without one, how does the church tell between an “inactive” member and an ex-member?
So, we have this wide group of people who don’t attend church and perhaps have not for a substantial length of time, but have not formally resigned. (And we also have people who attend church to keep a family together, but do not believe anything that’s said in the meetings…) I’m willing to venture that the vast majority of this pool of people are not the kind like us to write on MSP (or any other blog), to write on FLAK or some other message board, or to have (dis)tinct grievances with particular aspects of church history, doctrine, or practice.
As much as it pains me to say (and it is from just anecdotes and personal experience), but I can’t say I know too many people who are ex-mormons. I do know many people who are inactive, and who stopped going because they didn’t want to invest the time and because they were engaged in some sin they couldn’t reconcile with the prying eyes peering from the pews.
Perhaps we should come to terms with the fact that of a peculiar minority, we are ourselves a peculiar minority?
But then, what next? What does this mean, what should we care about it?