Zelophehad’s Daughters

Please, Don’t Love Me

Posted by Lynnette

I’ve had various encounters throughout my life with anti-Mormons who were out to save me from this terrible cult in which I am a member. Needless to say, this is an attitude I find extremely off-putting—in fact, as an unorthodox Mormon who engages in plenty of my own critiques of the Church, there are fewer things that rekindle my loyalty and connection to it more than encountering people on a mission to rescue Mormons from their delusions. But this is the thing that really gets to me. That if you ask these people why they’re behaving this way, often they say that it’s out of love. That they love Mormons. All I can say is, please oh please save me from this version of love.

This is the problem. You can’t argue people into believing that you love them.

This is why I roll my eyes when I hear flowery statements about how much the Church loves women. Because it doesn’t really matter how often you say such a thing if it’s not congruent with your actions. I’d actually rather be taken seriously by someone who didn’t really love me than “loved” by someone who wanted to put me on a pedestal by virtue of my sweet femininity. And the problem goes even deeper. Because when Church leaders proclaim just how much they love women, the statement itself reflects a particular framework, one in which women are other: the object of love, rather than the subject who loves.

And what about the assertion that God loves women?  A useful follow-up question, I think, would be–how does God love women? Is it like the way I love chocolate? The way I love my cats? Does he love them because of the important role they play (i.e., what they can do for men)? This is one reason why a glib reassurance that God loves women can be completely unhelpful for a woman who is wondering about these kinds of things.

I’ve heard many a talk about women in which the speaker pointed out how much Jesus loved and honored women, how they clearly had a special place in his heart. This makes me a little crazy. Because the radical thing that Jesus did, I would argue, wasn’t to love and honor women in some sentimental way. Rather, he interacted with them as actual human beings–he talked to them, he listened to them, he took them seriously. It’s quite telling that we see this as some kind of amazing thing, reflecting some kind of special care. Think how bizarre it would sound to assert that Jesus loved and honored men.

Most bloggers are familiar with the testimony-as-a-way-to-shut-down-conversation maneuver. I think appeals to God’s love can function the same way.  My sister Kiskilili has a post in our queue titled, “How God’s Love Was Duct-Taped Over My Mouth.”  That pretty much sums up this particular dynamic. You mention to someone that you’ve noticed something in the church or the scriptures that strikes you as rather inequitable. The person responds by quickly bearing their testimony that God loves women–a neat way of sidestepping whatever issue was raised. (If the person is male, there is a good chance they will also tell you how much they love their wife.) Perhaps they will exhort you to get your own testimony of this, which will presumably cure you of whatever concern you’ve raised. The subtext: God loves you, so shut up already.

In the immortal words of REO Speedwagon–that ain’t love. I think you got the wrong emotion.

25 Responses to “Please, Don’t Love Me”

  1. 1.

    I love the example you give of how Jesus honored women–by speaking and listening to them as rational human beings rather than putting them on a pedestal to be admired but silent.

  2. 2.

    Now that you’ve given us a preview, it is incumbent upon Kiskilili to actually finish her draft and post it. I can’t wait.

  3. 3.

    Because the radical thing that Jesus did, I would argue, wasn’t to love and honor women in some sentimental way. Rather, he interacted with them as actual human beings–he talked to them, he listened to them, he took them seriously. It’s quite telling that we see this as some kind of amazing thing, reflecting some kind of special care. Think how bizarre it would sound to assert that Jesus loved and honored men.

    Yes! This is the issue. I read this, recognized it immediately at a gut level. Let’s stop infantilizing or goddess-izing or demonizing. Let’s just be human beings, capable of rational thought and wise (and foolish) decisions, worthy of being treated as intellectual and moral equals.

  4. 4.

    Too bad I’ve been gagged. ;)

  5. 5.

    This is my favorite ever picture of Jesus, precisely because it shows him listening to a woman speak, and speak apparently forcefully (or at least animatedly, with gestures). He’s not gazing at her, or smiling at her sentimentally, or blessing her, or doing anything to her. He’s walking along with her and considering her words. It pains me that such an image seems so revelatory.

  6. 6.

    Good thoughts! Loved this, especially the observation that Jesus treated the women in his life as human beings. Wow.

  7. 7.

    #5 he’s probably thinking about sports amirite ladies?? :)

  8. 8.

    No. 4, do you mean to say you’ve been Lady Gagged Eating Gaga, or something?

  9. 9.

    I totally agree with this post. I’ve experienced the “love” that makes a person try to “save” another from their wicked, wicked ways, and it just makes me feel uncomfortable.

    Kristine #5, I love that picture. Thank you for sharing it.

  10. 10.

    I like this, and I like Kristine’s picture of Jesus.

  11. 11.

    So Jesus has this *great* conversation with the woman at the well. And he finishes by telling her (first!) that he is the Messiah. And

    ‘Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”’ (John 4: 27)

    I wonder if their latter-day counterparts sometimes still ask the wrong questions . . .

  12. 12.

    Lynnette, I love you. I didn’t read your post because it seemed belligerent and possibly apostate, but I just wanted to let you know that I love you. And I’ll be praying for you to repent, because I love you.

  13. 13.

    Melyngoch,
    You make me smile.

    Kristine,
    Nice. Which volume of Dialogue did this appear on? Is the artist listed?

  14. 14.

    Excellent, Lynnette.

    This post could be read as an extension of your post from the other day. One of the ways people love each other is by taking interest in the dumb little details of their lives, and listening to the things which bother them, and accepting them as unique individuals.

    A pernicious consequence of the way we think about men and women in the church right now is that it encourages us to treat one another as abstractions. It short-circuits honesty and undermines our attempts to know one another.

  15. 15.

    mb–it’s the Spring 2009 issue (my first one :)) The artist is Nathan Florence, who is also Dialogue’s art director. I love all his work, and you can see it at nflorencefineart.com /shameless huckstering :)

  16. 16.

    Gah–two smileys in a single comment. I should be shot.

  17. 17.

    Thanks for this post, and Kristine, thanks for a link to that artist’s page. But the structure of your post in #15 made me first go to nflorencefineart.com/shameless and it didn’t work. :)

  18. 18.

    Melyngoch, #14, FTW! Oops, wrong blog…

  19. 19.

    Good, thoughtful post. I actually think I’ve been on the giving end of this issue as much as the receiving end. I’ve been receiving the last few years and now I understand how much I bothered other people with my “love.”

  20. 20.

    Lynette, is this a bad time to tell you that I love you? In the same way I love chocolate, of course, but still, I can’t believe you don’t think my love solves all your problems!

  21. 21.

    Actually, in the way that I love chocolate, I love chocolate more than Lynnette.

    I think my love for Lynette is more like my love for wombats. But I’m not sure if I love her or the wombats more.

  22. 22.

    A gentle reminder to commenters: we do not permit declarations of love on this blog, unless they are accompanied by chocolate of the finest quality.

  23. 23.

    Oh, Bouncer, I love you.

  24. 24.

    :blushes: Really? You do?

    Petra, you have been warned. Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time.

  25. 25.

    […] today’s edition of that good ol’ Bloggernacle comfort food, Twice-Baked ZD, Lynnette makes the startling assertion that she doesn’t want to be […]

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