Yesterday morning, I posted a status update on Facebook about a marvelous online course I’ve been taking called “The Science of Happiness.” I’m in the class because it’s directly relevant to the book I’m researching on gratitude, but I’m also enrolled because I’m hoping it will educate me on how to become happier myself and contribute to the full flourishing of others. Mostly I wrote the update to express my gratitude for the class (which is FREE!) and all the fascinating neurological and social research I’m encountering.
But within ten minutes, an eejit showed up to crash my party:
Yep. Because that’s all people have been missing….the “Science of happiness.” Not, repent and believe the person and work of Jesus Christ! It’s nonsense.
This guy proceeded to rail at me and other commenters. “Isn’t the joy of the Lord enough to stay the issues of depression? . . . Why not start preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified rather than placating the masses on temporary solutions?”
I shot back (because I am too immature to ignore bait like that) with this: “Why not start by avoiding judgment of others?”
That really set him off. Within five minutes he had added four more angry comments. To a woman who claimed that merely believing in Jesus would not stop sadness, war, or rape, he replied, “Believing in Jesus will stop progressives like you from murdering millions of babies and promoting the abomination of Sodomy that runs rampant in these streets though.”
Then he played the anti-Mormon trump card, saying, “And actually no. You do not believe in Jesus, you believe in the lies from the heresy of Joseph Smith. You believe ‘another Gospel’ and Paul says that those that preach another Gospel should be ‘accursed.’”
That was when I’d had enough. I did something I can only remember doing one other time on Facebook: I unfriended him. My inner monologue went something like this:
You think I’m part of a false religion, Mister? That merely having Jesus in my life (in the unique manner you advocate) should be enough that rainbows and unicorns will henceforth cast out all gloom? That well-intentioned attempts to educate myself on how to become a better person are worthless?
Cause Mister . . . the whole peace-love-joy schtick you’re allegedly getting from your Jesus sure doesn’t seem to be translating into loving your fellow human beings in any noticeable way.
Good riddance, I thought. I don’t have to stand for self-righteous jerks insulting me, my religion, and my friends on social media.
It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized how very easily I had just excommunicated someone.
That was the humbling context in which I absorbed the news that my friend John Dehlin was excommunicated yesterday from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I feel this was an unfortunate decision on the Church’s part. I don’t agree with it, and as I’ve written before, I don’t feel in general that excommunication is helpful for the Church.
But instead of pointing fingers at my church for (once again) telling someone whose work has been important in my life that they are no longer considered part of the fold, I am forced to point that finger at myself.
It took the LDS Church many years, untold numbers of meetings, and dozens of conversations to decide to excommunicate John Dehlin.
It took me approximately six minutes and the click of a button to excommunicate a reader that I never bothered to get to know.
I hope there is a lesson in my haste and scorn.
Maybe those of us who are so eager to blame John or say he is not a believer can take a deep look inside and examine other times when our actions and attitudes have driven people further away from fellowship.
Maybe those of us who are so eager to blame the Church can turn that scrutiny inward and examine the times we have rushed to simply remove those who disagree with us or have been a thorn in our side.
And maybe we can all pray the old rite of confession: Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.