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.