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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Roach

Daddy Issues

I got low-key accused of having Daddy Issues the other day.

Not the Freudian psychosexual kind, but the religious kind.

Truth be told, I’m not totally sure what the term “daddy issues” actually means. It’s not a psychological concept and there is no DSM 5 diagnostic category for it. Freud uses the concept a bit (though not the term) but applies it to men, not women. A Google search produces many links that did not appear safe to click on.

What could it mean to have religious Daddy Issues?

The television show Lucifer offers some ideas. What’s a theologically-educated and hyper-religious girl like me doing watching a tv show like Lucifer? The intellectual exercise of it is pure bliss. In the show Lucifer, the very personification of evil, is placed in a redemption story line. He’s not being bad so much as trying to get his father’s attention. You can relax, theology police, I know the difference between reality and using a plot device to explore an issue. And Lucifer does a decent job of exploring the issue perhaps best illustrated in this clip. Lucifer looks to the sky and cries out to God by saying that following the rules gets you rejected. And not following the rules gets you rejected, so what’s the bloody point?

There can only be 2 options. Either God is cruel and sets up a game where we will never win, no matter how well we follow the rules. Or, the rules don’t matter nearly as much as we think they do. I tend to go with option 2, though to be honest, I’ve had plenty of moments in option 1.

And now is about the time you’re asking yourself: Are you SURE converting to The Church was the right move? And I get it. This is a church with lots of very clear rules. It also has quite a few unclear or unexpressed rules, 872 of which I’ve probably already broken without knowing*. But here is my problem: I played by the Evangelical rules. In fact, I had impeccable Evangelical credentials. I have the right education, the right church affiliations, I read all the right books, I have the right manners, the right socioeconomic status. (Even as I write this I can’t choose between the past tense “had” and the current tense “have”…I’m just going to let it stand as-is to express my ambivalence. Sorry, grammar-loving friends.)

So, yes, I joined a church with a lot of rules, and I’m a person who sees that neither following rules nor rejecting rules wins you favor with God. When confronted with this dilemma Lucifer (the tv character) moves deeper into hedonism – if none of this matters, I will just work on pleasing myself, he says. There is no way to please God, so why try? And what do I do? All I can say right now is: I don’t know.

Follow the rules - you can get rejected

Don’t follow the rules - you can get rejected

Follow your heart - you can get rejected

Don’t follow your heart - you can get rejected

Be your true self - you can get rejected

Be who someone else needs you to be - you can get rejected

Do I have Religious Daddy Issues? Probably. Do I long for attention from a Heavenly Father that I don’t know how to get? Absolutely. Do I scream at a brooding sky and wonder how I’m supposed to be okay? Far too often.

So I joined a church that has a lot of rules. But I’m not confused about what roles those rules play in my life. I AM confused about how to feel the love of God. That was true when I was an Evangelical. That was true when I was 3-years-old praying to God in my closet (which happens to be my very first memory.) That was true when my dad died when I was in junior high. That was true when I was being molested by my pastor as a teenager. That was true even when I finished my theological studies and graduated with my MDiv.

I feel the pull to wrap this up with some nice bow. Some sweet lesson that might help you too. But maybe what you really need is to understand that if struggle like this, you are not alone.

*Have I told you about the time I was so enthralled with conversation with a man in our ward that we sat on a couch in the lobby and talked all the way through 2nd hour? It was a fantastic conversation that I’m still thinking about, but I got teased about missing Relief Society for weeks.

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