April 7, 2006
Pots Shocked and Dismayed to Learn Kettles Also Able to Call Things Black
A progressive Mormon blogger I know recently posted something about a book he's been reading, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence by Mark Juergensmeyer. One of the blogger's conclusions was that "the perpetrators (and those who support their acts) are not necessarily sick or crazed--they merely have a different way of looking at the world."
I found that statement a bit troublesome, and left a comment stating, "It's all fine and good to remember that about the perpetrators, but the world would be a better place if they'd remember that very same thing about the rest of the world they're attacking: the secular establishment doesn't promote birth control and women's rights because we're sick or crazed; we just have a different world view."
I then added,
The whole thing is just one more reason why anything that teaches people to say something like, "The church I belong to is the only true and living church on the face of the earth" [a phrase commonly spouted by Mormons] is bad. Any time you have an institution that teaches its adherents that they are singularly special possessors of a singularly complete truth, then you're going to have problems. Which is one more reason I consider being a devout Mormon and actually "having a testimony" [which means knowing, not merely believing, core precepts of Mormonism are unimpeachably true] a form of spiritual darkness, and prefer to keep my distance from such people.
The wisdom of such an attitude, of course, is self-evident and therefore unremarkable to a great many people. However, to a "devout" Mormon, even an open-minded progressive one, it's so astonishing and troubling he can scarcely wrap his mind around it. Hence the comment that soon followed mine:
I've never bought into the notion that "The church I belong to is the only true and living church on the face of the earth", though I recognize there are many (perhaps most) LDS that say that.... I don't feel like I have to distance myself from such people as much as educate them to broaden their horizons and choose their words more carefully, because I do consider myself "devout LDS" (whatever that means). I feel I do have a testimony of certain gospel principles, but I'm puzzled why you might think that indicates spiritual darkness. Isn't the realization of specific truths more of an awakening? Or are you talking about a wholesale, unexamined buying into the whole package (speculative traditions, doctrinal warts and all)?
while someone else wrote
I still resist your spiritual darkness label for devout believers, partly because this implies that people who aren't constrained by such beliefs are somehow more enlightened.
As I related this story to a friend, (the son of a Baptist preacher), he interrupted at this point to ask, "Wait a minute. You mean these guys have never exercised enough imagination to figure out what it feels like to hear the message of Mormonism, and be told that if you don't buy into the teachings of the Mormon church, you're just not seeing the big picture or grasping the truth? You mean it's never really occurred to them that someone might think about Mormons the way Mormons think about everyone else?"
"That's pretty much what I mean," I said. "And when they were confronted with someone who did, they not only couldn't understand why I'd feel Mormons are unenlightened, they also got all defensive and hurt because of my preference for, as I put it, ‘the average secular beer-drinking Jill or Joe,' because I think such people are not only more intellectually interesting, but kinder than the average Mormon. And again, this despite the fact that Mormons are notorious for preferring their own company and not playing well with others. You're told repeatedly as teenagers not to date non-Mormons. Some parents don't even like their kids having non-Mormon friends, because they can lead their kids astray, help them embrace things like R-rated movies and patronizing establishments like Starbucks, even if all you buy there is hot chocolate."
There's a lot more to rest of the story.... But the rest of the story sucks. My final comment read
Throughout Jesus's ministry, he distanced himself from the establishment. He preferred hanging out with sinner and publicans to spending his time with loyal defenders of the faith, both because he found sinners and publicans more receptive to genuine truth, and because they seemed to have purer hearts, their good deeds seeming to spring from more honorable motivations. When he did end up in discussions with the orthodox, and even with those less orthodox who were nonetheless loyal to the establishment, he argued that it was harmful and beside the point to focus rigidly on things like a person's sexual history or adherence to dietary codes; instead, he thought people should consider the ways in which buying too quickly into a doctrine could be a form of spiritual darkness.
I don't want to say that I've been Jesus in this scenario, but I do want to suggest I haven't been a scribe or pharisee.
But I don't want to trace the course of how I ended up there. I want to focus on the way sexuality was eventually used against me, because it is so often used against women who challenge the religious establishment, but this is already kind of long, so I'll wait to do that later.
Don't neglect to read yesterday's post on the 11th Article of Faith.
Posted by holly at April 7, 2006 9:32 AM