I have known lots of people to “take a break” from Church. Sometimes it comes just after release from a particularly intense calling, sometimes it has to do with certain personalities or dynamics in the ward, sometimes it is an attempt to find their own spiritual path, and they want a little separation between their own beliefs and the monolithic presentation and assumptions at Church. I have known people who take breaks for a matter of weeks and for decades.

I used to feel pretty laissez-fare about taking a break. You know, do what you need to do. But I have come to think that “taking a break” isn’t actually very helpful if you are looking to maintain your belief and activity in the Church. It seems to me that many multitudes more of these taking a breakers just don’t come back than those who do. In my mind, it is self-evident that belief takes some work, some maintenance, but I think that work and maintenance is viewed by many as too much trouble: if I have to work to believe, than it must not be true, or some such sentiment. I wonder how many take a break from our religion and find peace in another? Most I know never do. They are generally agnostic or atheists. In fact, those I know who have maintained belief in deity, even those who courted other religions during their break, eventually came back. Granted, the sample size of “people I know” is very small, but I think it a workable generalization, take a look at this recent thread at fMh and you can get a taste for it, or four in five posts at Exponent II.

I get having issues with the Church: history, doctrine, practice, what have you–it is not all sunshine and sugar cane. But I don’t feel that taking a break is a very constructive approach to “dealing with the issues” (whatever that means). It seems a much more effective method for leaving the issues behind. Sometimes I think the people who take a break think that those of us who don’t must not have any issues; I suspect we see the same issues and “deal with them” differently. Perhaps we engage, wrestle with the Lord, if you will, rather than disengage. Maybe we fake it ’till we make it. Or place our issues on that notorious shelf of things we won’t worry about right now.

Now when I hear a loved one contemplating taking a break, I worry for them. Maybe I shouldn’t. What do you think? Has it been helpful to you or someone you know to take a break?