I wrote last time about modern heresy in lived experiences outside “the norm” and the methods of torture utilized to enforce conformity in the Middle Ages. Now I’d like to speak on U.S. culture but more specifically on my experience in religious-heavy Utah. I have lived on the fringes of this community for most of my adult life. I am currently planning my escape for places that feel more like home but, even while the time draws nigh, I can’t let go just yet.
I’ve often thought about what it would look like for me to simply return to “the fold” of the Mormon church. Perhaps I could blend in, stop speaking up, and just exist. Maybe I’d have time for hobbies or a more illustrious career. I could have a guaranteed family, an extended default support network, and I would be accepted and safe nearly everywhere. But I would be denying who I was. I would be lying to everyone around me, and most importantly to myself.
Many of us have found our own societies, our own safe spaces, throughout our lives. Some of us have built them. I prefer building communities because it offers the opportunity to incorporate multiple viewpoints and methodologies. I believe through diversity we build more solid foundations to better sustain our futures. With diversity, we learn how to address differences of opinion, de-escalate conflict, and work together. I also believe we can better articulate what values mean the most to us and defend our communities from intentionally malicious characters.
I want to pause here and ask you to reflect on your behaviors, opinions, and principles. Write them all down and, if you would, do it again from time to time – not just once. What do you believe? Do you stand up for those beliefs? How? What would you do tomorrow if you were accused of heresy and expelled from your community?
Missdansie wrote about the recognition of belonging within oneself in order to actualize belonging to external communities (extended and chosen family). I want to expand on that, to explore the tools I might need to facilitate the creation of a community that welcomes the heretics. If missdansie had to overcome some trauma to feel belonging, I want to figure out how to make room for others to do so, for myself to do so. It’s one part opening up, and many more parts keeping the door open to build trust with folks I might not be comfortable with. Heretics of different flavors who might enrich our lives and our communities.
Now I’m not advocating that we wholeheartedly accept and welcome those who might be malicious, deranged, or dangerous, as we need to maintain our own personal boundaries and communal safety. But how might we open ourselves up to viewing heretics as people to be honored and respected, as folx who might have something to teach us that we would never encounter in our everyday lives? Can they join us, build with us, help us adapt?
The more experiences we have, the more secure in ourselves we can become. The more we can belong. The more heresy we can ingest and incorporate into our worldview, the more we become dynamic and adaptable. We grow tools to implement healthy criticism on what’s being offered to us in media and pop culture. We develop the ability to forge our own reality. We let ourselves be changed.
So, before you call up the Inquisition (or retreat into your default, potentially homogenous communities), consider something new. A new group, a new club, a new dogma. Welcome people into your circles that you would not otherwise. Seek out new places and people you’d normally avoid. Allow them to contribute to you in a way that is meaningful. Look at the power of diversity in biology, the strength we build by adapting and growing. We are curious and inventive creatures, and we enrich ourselves and our communities by coming up with and sharing new ideas. If you are uncomfortable, keep going! You may very well be doing it right.