Friday, March 13, 2009

Spiritual Emphasis

Over at Mormon matters, there is a post from someone who, from the tone of the post I take to be a frustrated progressive Mormon. Its a post that resonated with me despite the fact that I disagree with its perspective. The post ends with the following statement:

"I’m intrigued by my brother’s idea of there being “more than one way to not abide it.” We can abide it by doing what I’m doing–just plugging along, doing my calling, attending church, making a few waves, or maybe just ripples. Or we can do what my brother suggested: ignore the things we don’t like and patiently wait. We can not abide it by trying to make bigger ripples/waves. We can not abide it by leaving—just pack up our marbles and go home.

If there are aspects of either church doctrine or church culture that frustrate you, how do you (not) abide it?"

I think this statement is a good case in point of one of the short comings of how we are encouraged to think about our faith and participation within the Church. This being that "its all about the church" even for this individual who is feeling marginalized the emphasis is on going to church, performing one's calling, and making a few waves. I have great empathy for anyone who feels marginalized within the church but I think the emphasis on not abiding is misplaced, and represents more than a spiritual crisis, its spiritual death. I don't say this as a criticism of the author of the post because it is very easy for what we don't like to take center stage in our thinking, and I acknowledge that. Further, the good news is that there is always the potential for spiritual re-birth.

Even if there are a long list of things we don't like or are uncomfortable with in the Church and its culture, our emphasis should be on the aspects of our spiritual experience, our contact with the divine, our reading of scripture, our contact with doctrine and community that we are passionate about, that are the source of wonder and mystery, and that encourage learning and growth. I have learned this in a very direct way in the past two years. I have had an ongoing fascination with the scriptural theme of hospitality and how our encounters with the other are theologically imagined in scripture. Exploring the possibilities of this imagining as a spiritual, and ethical commitment has benefitted me by fostering spiritual growth, and it is also leading to marvelous opportunities for interfaith dialogue, to provide a message of spiritual healing, both in and out of the LDS community. The thing is, I don't think I would have experienced personal spiritual growth, or be getting such opportunities if my efforts were grounded in something like a desire to make waves at church or advocate for a specific ideological position. Its our deeply held theological commitments or better yet our own deepest spiritual needs that should guide us. Naturally, this is a process, as it may take time to identify what they are and how they can or should find expression in our lives. In the end what I am advocating for is a vision of Mormon faithfulness in which we as individuals own our own faith, own our theological and spiritual priorities, and don't feel that we need to rely on the institution to provide a ready made way for them to find expression.

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