Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Expecto Patronum (or, Gossip Really Sucks!)

My friend Invictus Pilgrim recently posted about his experience of dealing with the fallout from the actions of a gossipy member of his ward. He posed the question of what prompts people to act like Dementors, feeding off the challenges of others. I posted a comment which is the genesis of this post. (Full disclosure: I'm a hopeless Harry Potter fan. I see many analogies to life in the compelling stories J.K. Rowling has given us in her series of books. And for those of you who haven't read the series, Dementors are the ominous creatures who literally suck the happiness out of people in the wizard world.)

Gossip, emotional callousness and failure to respect appropriate boundaries are not unique to Mormons. But too many Mormons are exquisitely expert at these things. Being blind to the beam in their eye obstructing clear vision of the wholeness of a person, and being tragically unwilling to confront their own personal challenges, many "saints, who are or can be called saints" who have thrust themselves into prominence in their local ward or branch, on the bloggernacle or in the savor-lost realms of headquarters in Salt Lake City swoop in to feast on the trials (or what they perceive to be trials) of others. Rather than find nourishment in the difficult path of Christian discipleship, which requires self-awareness and introspection, these latter-day Dementors relentlessly scavenge on the plight of others. The pervasiveness of this in Mormon culture and the inability (or unwillingness) of local and general leaders to put a stop to it is a primary factor that pushes many people out of the church. Thus, large numbers of wonderful people who contribute so much often leave the church or stop participating in church not because they are offended, but because the outrageous and un-Christian personal conduct of "respectable" members of the church are so offensive and lacking in respect that to remain a part of the church would be untenable emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

Unfortunately, there will always be Dementors feeding on what they perceive to be the trials of others---both in and out of the church. That Dementors are tolerated in the church at all is an indictment against it. Sadly, those Dementors have made what could be a wonderful church into an Azkaban-like fortress of despair and darkness disguised on the exterior as a gleaming city on a hill.

The church can, and should do better. The church as an institution knows how to do better. Individual members know how to do better. Thank goodness for the many Mormons who aren't just "active members" but who are earnestly practicing the best aspects of their faith and following Jesus Christ whom they worship and try to emulate. Many of us who have left the church or no longer participate have deep cultural and familial ties to Mormonism. We may be on the outskirts of the kingdom in the eyes of some. We may reject the notion that the kingdom is real. But many of us are still invested at some level. So we hope for the best to shine forth even though much of our experience has confined us to the shadows and we've had to find light elsewhere.

We may never get rid of all the Dementors in our lives. But we don't have to hang around them. And we have some great remedies to help when they descend on us. My advice to us all: Keep practicing the Patronus charm, and remember that chocolate always makes a person feel better after a Dementor attack.


  1. Brilliant post, Pablo. Love the subtitle!

    The comment about chocolate was priceless, especially considering its hallowed place in Mormon culture. Interesting, too, that dementors always travel in packs of at least two (a la attack on Dudley and Harry), and usually more. Similarly, gossip cannot exist in a vacuum: it requires at least two people to breed and thrive, and the more the merrier.

    And the Patronus charm ... I've been thinking about that. In order to be summoned, it requires happy thoughts that arise from within the depths of oneself: happy thoughts that must be affirmed with all of one's mental acuity, then focused like a laser beam on the dementor(s). Analogy: we defeat dementors (gossipers) by affirming ourselves with such force of mind and heart that the parasitic ghouls literally shrink from our presence. This is my challenge right now.

  2. It is what it is, right? You gotta have thick skin and a good sense of humour. =]