John C. at BCC published this rather stark post, the basic (and unfortunately familiar) thrust of which is that, if you “lose your faith,” it’s your own fault — not any leaders, GAs, ward members, SS or EQ teachers, Jesus, God or the Holy Ghost. (It was not specified whether you could blame the devil, although Old Scratch’s role would seem to be implicit in any loss of faith. Along with a lack of character. Or will power. Or just not trying hard enough. Or something.) It strikes me that the thought behind this kind of assertion is that there has to be some reason you lost your faith — something predictable and categorical; something that ensures that You Did Something Wrong…and if I just don’t do any of those Wrong Things, then I won’t lose my faith. Especially since I choose not to lose my faith.
This was then followed by a post written by john f., who seems to be at least obliquely responding to John C.’s assertions. John f.’s theme is also not an unfamiliar one — a fairly regular theme in the ‘nacle-vs-DAMU conversations. In a nutshell, this argument posits that ex- or post-Mormons are victims of their own “black and white” thinking. They took things too literally and didn’t have the spiritual flexibility to accommodate new information, so they, being absolutists, took the leap from white to black in a sort of spiritually immature snit. And it is the flexible, shades-of-grey-embracing Mormons, who are very familiar with all the so-called skeletons in the closet, who are the more sophisticated, and perhaps more evolved on some pseudo-linear development scale like Fowler’s stages of faith.
The numerous comments on both of these posts come from all different belief spectrums, and represent pretty widely varying approaches to gaining, keeping, and losing, faith. Which of course in itself puts paid to the idea that any parsimonious theory about losing one’s religion is going to capture even a plurality of what people’s real experiences are. In reality, I’ve seen all “kinds” of people who retain faith in religion; really, what else could account for sites as religiously varied as Bountiful, M*, T&S, ExII, ZDs, etc., all having faithful, active believers regularly engaged in conversation about “their” religion? Likewise, those who “lose faith” also represent a very wide spectrum of personalities and experiences; hence sites as varied as NOM, PostMormon, FLAK, and RFM. Perhaps a more interesting question is, what about all the people who aren’t online or involved in any discussions like this at all? The active Mormons who’ve never even heard of the Bloggernacle. The inactive Mormons, or those who’ve actually resigned, who never have any apparent need to talk religion ever again.
The more I read the ‘nacle and the DAMU (or the sites within each that I prefer, which is likely not representative), the more I believe how similar we all are in terms of one variable at least: We are interested in talking about Mormonism and our experiences with it. We are engaged in our religious life through questions and answers, doubts and beliefs, wide-ranging perspectives, with tensions, arguments, and, occasionally, a lovely emergent moment where we feel a kindred feeling and our humanity is affirmed.
Are there more sophisticated people in the ‘nacle or the DAMU? Is it even possible to discover, somehow measure, who sees more grey? Is seeing more grey in fact equivalent to being more sophisticated, or even something unequivocally Good? I don’t know. I don’t have all, or even many, of the answers. That’s why I love to keep talking about it. And my favorite quote from the john f. post’s comments is this (paraphrased): Without Black and White, there is no Grey. Can’t argue with that.