Sunday in Outer Blogness: Another day, another excommunication edition!

Sunday in Outer Blogness

This time it’s Marisa and Carson Calderwood:

We have received the decision from our Stake Presidency about our disciplinary court and it states that we are apostates. This is a title we wear with honor! Yes, we are apostates! We are proud to have been kicked out of an organization that values obedience over truth finding. We love our Mormon family and friends and recognize that there are many good things in Mormonism, but if it chooses to value certain things that we are morally opposed to, then yes, we are happy to stand up for those values and be cut out of our tribe. We are sad that they have chosen to do this, to isolate themselves from those that want to help make it a better place. Those that choose seeking for truth over protecting their image because in the end, the truth will set us free!

Excommunications push out other members as well. See how Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks described her reaction to excommunications and faith crises:

It felt a bit like a break-up. It was as though I had a boyfriend named Church. He and I were in a long-term relationship, with an extended honeymoon phase that felt practically perfect in every way. And then there were some tough times, which I thought we had figured out pretty well. And then there was one very sudden, serious turning point, where it became clear that this relationship was not working for me.

The break-up analogy gets kind of fuzzy at this juncture. If I’d encountered a turning point like this with my husband, I would surely have talked to him about it, said, “Here’s a big problem, we need to figure this out. What can we both do differently?” I can’t do that with Church.

Kiwi Mormon has some interesting commentary on excommunication as well, and Clean Cut made a good point:

“When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser.” -Elder Dallin H. Oaks

I fully agree with the above statement by Elder Oaks. Likewise, our Church is the loser when church leaders retaliate and force out church members who voice concerns in public.

Then there was the Josh Duggar scandal — Ren explained some of the key lessons to take from it:

It also took me back to a moment nearly 10 years ago when my bishop was giving me a blessing in my dining room while my husband sat in jail for online enticement of a minor. He told me not to make any hasty decisions, to consider forgiveness, to remember my covenants. I’d been hearing this line from the bishop since a couple months into my marriage. I was done. How fucked up would a kid have to be to meet a middle aged stranger for sex? And he was ready to take advantage of that for his own gratification. Last damn straw. 3 days later I was sitting in the temple doing initiatories and I watched the concept of God I’d clung to my whole life unravel, recognizing that “Endure to the end” was in and of itself a form of abuse with no certainty of a payoff.

I was initially surprised to read that Josh Duggar’s wife knew of his grievous acts before they were married and still stayed with him. But then I think about all the red flags and problems I forgave because of the message I was getting. Thanks, Christianity. Now I just feel sorry for her – and their kids. Statistically, the odds are he has acted out again or will.

Which leads me to what *might* have helped me and what I wish would happen for all kids: EDUCATION,EDUCATION,EDUCATION

Sadly the CoJCoL-dS gets it exactly backwards: girls at camp get to learn that — even when they’re supposed to be just having fun with outer girls — they should not forget for an instant about covering up their bodies.

LDS Smile posted a new piece (in the grand tradition of Mormon mythbusting). My favorite clarification in the piece is this one:

We believe in Jesus Christ…yes that Jesus Christ

So, in case you weren’t clear on which Jesus Mormons believe in, it’s the California surfer-Jesus.

Actually, this has been a great week for church watch and related commentary! “Doubt” is the new ambiguous term! Nearing Kolob has continuing coverage of news from the mission field including the “Exact Obedience”-loving mission president — in a surprise move he blames the missionaries’ unfaithfulness for lack of baptisms. Seth Payne caught an apologist behaving badly. Book of Mormon archaeology is an example of a hypothesis that lacks evidence, which is perhaps why the CoJCoL-dS has started de-emphasizing the scriptures. Christopher Smith discussed new research on the history of Mormonism’s connections with race while Andrew S explained it with a tax-accounting analogy. And Thinker of Thoughts documented the bold redaction of Emma Smith.

In Theology, RJH tried to make sense of the atonement and the Gospel Doctrine lesson tried to make sense of prayer. Daniel Midgley also improved on a popular meme. In life journeys, David Tweede played a game of pretending to go back to Mormonism. And in interfaith interactions, Mormonism can be detrimental to your ability to socialize with non-Mormons.

Perhaps you’ve heard the news that Ireland became the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote! Same-sex marriage is already law in most of the US, which allowed Just Jill to marry her love of nearly 20 years, which she mentioned in a post where she also discussed some remarks I’d made about the connection between marriage and religion.

And in not-quite-Mormon-related, Nurse Mommy is preparing for a marathon, Froggie’s making Caramel Apple Oatmeal and exploring gardens, Andrew Hackman reviewed Supergirl, a man is recovering from an unprovoked attack, and Adult Onset Atheist has another fun Hugo review!

Well, it’s time for bed here in Switzerland. Yay for long weekends!! Plenty of time for reading. 😀

7 thoughts on “Sunday in Outer Blogness: Another day, another excommunication edition!

  1. From Clean Cut’s quoting of the Calderwoods’ statement:

    Also, other members look down on those having doubts as less faithful.

    Well, you know, in many ways, those who have doubts ARE less faithful than those who don’t.

    Faith in Mormonism is defined as “having a testimony,” and if your testimony isn’t completely orthodox, well, then you’re less faithful.

    The problem is not that the orthodox can recognize who in the church is less orthodox. The problem is that orthodoxy is viewed as the primary determiner of genuine religiosity.

    This is a problem not merely in Mormonism but in very nearly all of Christianity (maybe the Unitarians don’t really do this), and it’s a feature, not a flaw, designed to correct a feature-not-a-flaw of Judaism, which privileges orthopraxy. Karen Armstrong writes about this in The Spiral Staircase. Needing background information for a project she’s working on about St. Paul, she consults a Jewish scholar she works with, Hyam Maccoby, who critiques the New Testament depiction of Pharisees by pointing out “that in all likelihood Jesus had been a Pharisee himself” and “could well have belonged to the school of Rabbi Hillel,” a prominent Pharisee who had lived half a century or so before Jesus. Noting that “Jesus had, after all, taught a version of Hillel’s Golden Rule” Maccoby shares this anecdote:

    Some pagans came to Hillel and told him that they would convert to his faith if he could recite the whole of Jewish teaching while he stood on one leg. So Hillel obligingly stood on one leg like a stork and said, ‘Do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you. That is the Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn it.’

    Armstrong wants to know where faith and belief fit in—how could all of Jewish theology and doctrine be reduced to one sentence? Maccoby replies that “Theology is just not that important in Judaism….There’s no orthodoxy as you have it in the Catholic Church. No complicated creeds to which everybody must subscribed. No infallible pronouncement by a pope. Nobody can tell Jews what to believe.” (emphasis added)

    Armstrong’s response:

    I could not imagine religion without belief. Ever since I had grown up and started to think, my Christian life had been a continuous struggle to accept official doctrines. Without true belief, you could not be a member of the church, you could not be saved. Faith was the starting point, the sin qua non, the indispensable requirement, and for me it had been a major stumbling block.

    “‘No official theology?’ I repeated stupidly. ‘None at all? How can you be religious without a set of ideas–about God, salvation and so forth–as a basis?’”

    “‘We have orthopraxy instead of orthodoxy,’ Hyam replied calmly…. “Right practice” rather than “right belief.” That’s all. You Christians make such a fuss about theology, but it’s just not important in the way you think. It’s just poetry, really, ways of talking about the inexpressible. We just don’t bother much about what we believe. We just do it instead.’

    It was very eye-opening to read that exchange. I had been shocked some years before to be seated in the library of the synagogue in Iowa City and discover that the congregation had a subscription to Atheism Today, but it makes perfect sense if nobody can tell you what to believe, so that your belief is of no concern to the people you do religion with.

    Anyway, the problem in Jesus’s day was that people were all obsessed with exactly what you could and couldn’t get away with on the sabbath and would justify withholding help from an injured man on the side of the road because they didn’t want to sully themselves with a corpse–etc, etc–we all know the stories. Jesus’s mission was to free the Jews from the tyranny of the rigid orthopraxy required to be considered righteous by teaching them to pay more attention to what was in their hearts, and now someone needs to come along to free Christians (maybe not all of them, but certainly Mormons and evangelicals) from the tyranny of the rigid orthodoxy required to be considered righteous.

  2. @1 That’s a really interesting philosophical distinction.

    To me, it seems hard to understand the motivation behind believing it’s important to do these right actions. But bringing it back to the primary Jewish cultural reference that Mormons know well, a main theme in Fiddler on the Roof is that they practice their traditions for the sake of doing it, without necessarily knowing the point of any given tradition.

  3. @3: I left out what comes next in The Spiral Staircase that explains why it’s important to do these things, because I knew it’s not really what matters most at MSP, but if you’re curious, well, here goes:

    Religion is not about accepting twenty impossible things before breakfast, but about doing things that change you. It’s a moral aesthetic, an ethical alchemy. If you behave a certain way, you will be transformed. The myths and laws of religion are not true because they conform to some metaphysical, scientific, or historical reality, but because they are life enhancing. They tell you how human nature functions, but you will not discover their truth unless you apply these myths and doctrines to your own life and put them into practice. The myths of the hero, for example, are not meant to give us historical information about Prometheus or Achilles–or for that matter, about Jesus or the Buddha. Their purpose is to compel us to act in such a way that we bring out our own heroic potential.

    This is an idea Jana Riess is getting at in Flunking Sainthood, which I reviewed here. Here’s the conclusion:

    In such moments it’s clear that while Riess’s experiment doesn’t make her a saint, it still does what many interested in religion believe good religion can do: it forces her to evaluate and expand her sense of who is her neighbor, who is allowed to make claims on her, and increases the reserves of graciousness she has at her disposal when someone makes those claims. These successes are what make the story of her failed efforts at sainthood not only worth reading, but worth imitating.

    I’m happy to find and disseminate evidence showing that it’s fairly easy to raise kids to be ethical and secular because I’m pretty happy being secular myself, but there you have the rationale behind a major argument for contemporary orthopraxy.

  4. @3 Good point, and a very interesting review of Riess’s book.

    Another (perhaps opposite) face of orthopraxy is that it can hinder cultural mixing. A Jewish friend pointed out to me that one result of keeping kosher is that it prevents people from socializing over food with non-Jews.

    It is perhaps not the object of the practices, but it is an effect, and may be one of the reasons why the Jews (and the Roma, who also have ideosyncratic purity practices) have been able to maintain a separate cultural identity within Europe for centuries, while other immigrant groups simply assimilated.

  5. @5: Yes, that’s another downside of orthopraxy.

    I was thinking last night that the sorts of Jews who would be OK with having their synagogue subscribe to Atheism Today were probably not the most orthopractical–they might eat the occasional cheeseburger and turn on a light on the Sabbath.

    I think orthodoxy often begets orthopraxy and vice versa because communities like conformity. Even though a belief system might place a philosophical emphasis on one or the other, those in charge often demand that people conform as much as possible–in behavior and in ideology.

    I didn’t haul out my copy of The Spiral Staircase and type out all that text just for my previous comments–it was already in my files for a presentation I did at Sunstone some years back. And I got to thinking that there was something missing, so I hauled out my copy now and found another sentence that I wish I had included here: “Nobody can tell Jews what to believe. Within reason, you can believe what you like.”

    That’s a caveat that can cover a lot. I left it out of the Sunstone presentation because I didn’t want to get into degrees of “reason” and “orthodoxy”–the presentation was a discussion of Mormonism as praxis, and I wanted to streamline the focus. But as soon as Mormon praxis meets Mormon community, you have to deal with orthodoxy.

    I realize there’s no pope or his equivalent handing down pronouncements to every single Jew about what s/he should believe, but an individual rabbi could have quite narrow or very broad ideas about what constitutes “within reason” as far as what adherents are allowed to believe.

    We can see the same inverse principle in operation in the way the Word of Wisdom, which started out as advice, became a rigidly codified set of rules and one of the conspicuous ways you demonstrate just how righteous you are.

    Even within a tradition that emphasizes behavior over belief, there can be a huge divide between people who say, “These activities and practices are important because they are a type of moral, ethical and psychological discipline that can awaken your human potential” and those who say, “These activities and practices are important because they demonstrate your submission to authority, be it divine or social.”

    I’m interested in the former and thoroughly repulsed by the latter.

  6. Another (perhaps opposite) face of orthopraxy is that it can hinder cultural mixing…. It is perhaps not the object of the practices, but it is an effect

    It is an object in the OT–God and his prophets tell the Israelites that he gives them all sorts of commandments specifically to set them apart from and underscore differences with their idolatrous neighbors. Circumcision is a case in point, so much so that “uncircumcized” is both a name for the other and an insult.

    I know many, many Mormons–including me–who avoided parties where alcohol would be served because they knew they would be uncomfortable. Even aside from the fact that you don’t want to drink yourself, you also don’t want to be around drunk people because they’re obnoxious when you’re sober, plus you feel like a tool saying, “oh, no, I’ll just have soda.”

    The fact that not everyone will be rip-roaring drunk or that most people don’t care what you’re drinking doesn’t quite register. You just think it’s going to be too hard to be around people who don’t approach socializing like you do.

    And often it is, which is why I don’t care to go to ward parties now, even though everyone would prorably be very nice for the duration of the event.

  7. It is an object in the OT–God and his prophets tell the Israelites that he gives them all sorts of commandments specifically to set them apart from and underscore differences with their idolatrous neighbors.

    True, good point. I was thinking in terms of Jewish friends — it isn’t their motivation for orthopraxy. But it is explicitly given as a motivation in the OT.

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