I was very hopeful over recent conversations I’d had with people who still belong to my old church. A group of intelligent, moral and progressive young people were meeting to discuss issues. They see themselves as the future of our church and are basically waiting for the old leadership to die off so they can implement their more ethical, scientifically sound ideas.
I wanted so badly to believe they really had the power to make substantive enough changes that the church would be a safer place. I would have no problems, as an atheist, going to a church run by these people who are passionate about rights for minorities like those with disabilities or those of the QuILTBAG* spectrums. I dream of a country run by people like them.
I also think they are deluding themselves over how much influence they have. I’ve noticed that the men being groomed for leadership are not in this group. The ones targeted for promotion don’t say things the Brethren don’t approve of. Some of the guys I used to talk to about moving forward are now only talking about improvements in terms of number of attendees. Have they realized they are toeing the party line? Was it a conscious decision to step back a few decades/centuries in thought?
I think the old guard is not content to die off. They are actively pushing people out who won’t agree with them. The moderates who remain are becoming increasingly pressured to conform. Will they notice that the new moderate position is now extreme, since the progressives are disappearing?
My friend has been threatened with being kicked out if they ever say something the Brethren disagree with on homosexuality. This meeting of progressives which gave me so much hope gave them so much fear. The Brethren were informed of some of the topics and reacted. Shouldn’t be surprised, as they once forbid all-female prayer meetings.
Cults have options. They can let loose their ties and become a more permeable social group that is part of the broader culture. Many churches have done this well. They can remain in isolation and keep the borders of their group tightly controlled. This has worked in the past, but with the internet and the encouragement of our group to study and work with people in the rest of society, the borders aren’t as patrollable.
Our society is becoming more accepting of homosexuality. Will the move to kick out anyone who disagrees with the Brethren on homosexuality move the whole group backwards? Apparently kicking people out who refuse to censor personal conversations has happened before.
* queer, intersex, lesbian, trans, bisexual, asexual, gay