Following or Pioneering
Whenever I talk with my father, I get a rush of feelings. I feel somewhat embarrassed because of his unorthodox beliefs and exploits. At the same time, I feel somewhat grateful that he’s not orthodox (I can’t say I would prefer him to be a standard ho-hum Mormon instead of the weird chimera of synchretic mysticism and science fiction with LDS foundation.) I feel scared because I wonder if that kind of susceptible or trusting nature is something I might develop like a genetically predisposed syndrome. But I also feel a sense of awe because I know he genuinely feels something out of it all — as do billions of believers in whatever belief worldwide inevitably feel out of each and every one of their faiths.
I am perplexed though, by something he says…he claims to be worried for those who leave faith or spirituality. Those who rationalize the mystical. He doesn’t follow any orthodox view (and his views probably wouldn’t fly in any Sacrament meeting), but he insists that nonbelief and unbelief are weaknesses of personal character. Those who don’t believe in the church (or in anything — he is a critic of atheism above most other things) are simply following worldly trends. They are too insecure, he says, to pioneer in their own spirituality.
It makes conversation with my father difficult, even though I know that we have a good relationship. When people talk about “bad parents,” I know I don’t have bad parents. I know (and appreciate) that I don’t face the familial implosions many ex-members face. And at the same time, I feel that I have to prove myself. I have to prove to him and others that I am not devolving into sin; I am not devolving into relativism that makes me prey to any deception. I am my own person and I am strong. Just because I don’t believe in the Mormon spiritual framework (or in any such framework) doesn’t make me a slave of “worldliness.”
I was gravedigging By Common Consent and looking at a rather early article (or at least, early in the archives). I don’t even know if this entry itself was particularly insightful with respect to what *I* took from it, but I started thinking about why I left the church.
I agree I did not have anger. For me, I was never a big believer, so historical mishaps didn’t affect me. (It only recently clicked to me that some people literally believe the Native Americans are actually descendants of Lamanites or that people try to figure out exactly where Nephi and friends spread in the Americas.) I don’t quite think, however, that it was boredom that drove me away. I mean, I’m not saying that the church is the most exciting thing, but boredom does a disservice to the true feeling. It was instead a sense of…stagnation.
Church always felt intellectually and spiritually stagnant. It was very basic…as if people took “milk before meat” to heart, and never got to the meat.
Beyond that, the church seemed very much like the guidebook to following the crowd, and as an organization of order and a tremendous hierarchy, I admired that. I just came to a realization that just being a well-greased organization wasn’t a sufficient reason to buy — I feel rude to say — a primitive or maybe even harmful spiritual framework.
It seems strange when people like my father (but certainly not limited to him) say that leaving the church is following the crowd. It might be for nonmembers who never join (but even then I’m not so convinced), but for we liberal, cultural, former, ex-Mormons or whatever you want to call us, it’s never like that. I fit comfortably neither in a Mormon nor non-Mormon context — our entire goal is to pioneer — pioneer another way.
At the same time, I recognize that for people like my father, the church *is* spiritually engaging. He enjoys the meat of the church, and he flavors it with foreign condiments (I wonder if the creator of Battlestar Galactica realized people would take his work to heart?)
Where do you think you’ve had to pioneer most? Do you think you can just “follow” where others before you have gone? Who are those others, then? Do you think your friends and family who still are LDS are personally pioneering in their lives?