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Posts Tagged ‘Emerging Church’

I’ve been reading a lot of ex-Mormon (Exmo) and disaffected Mormon (DAMU) blogs lately, and I had a realization. I’m one of them.

It’s weird. Since deciding I no longer believed in the Mormon church, I’ve mostly thought about myself in terms of the present and the future: what do I believe now, and what am I moving toward? It’s the whole point of the “Sailing to Byzantium” motif. I’ve felt like I left one port behind completely and now I’m sailing to a different one.

Maybe it’s because I’m not particularly angry or bitter towards the Church. I don’t necessarily feel the need to lash out or strike back. At the same time, I do spend a lot of time talking to my (equally not-excited-about-the-Church) wife and brother about how false I think the Church is, and I write about it often enough here on my blog- though it is not really the major focus.

In one sense, it’s ridiculous to try and pretend that I can just walk away from Mormonism with no scars or marks. I grew up Mormon- it was my identity for twenty-seven years. It made me different from my peers. I went on a mission and worked hard. I got married in the temple (to my beautiful and sexy wife- read her blog now). My worldview was fundamentally Mormon. My thought processes were Mormon. Most of my family, immediate and extended, are still faithful true-believing members. In fact, there’s a lot of tension in the family because my brother and I and our wives have decided to leave. There’s the possibility that relationships are permanently damaged because of it.

At the same time, I didn’t grow up in Utah. Most of my friends growing up were non-members, and as an adolescent I wasn’t usually particularly excited about the church. I went on Sundays to keep the peace, but Imore or less openly admitted to having no testimony. I “shaped up” to go on a mission, and then basically coasted for the next six years.

I haven’t had my name removed, and I haven’t been excommunicated, so I’m still technically a member. But I don’t think of myself as a member. We don’t go to LDS services at all. In fact, we actually regularly attend an emerging/nondenominational church. I don’t wear garments anymore. I no longer follow the Word of Wisdom. And I don’t feel guilty about any of it because I don’t feel like a member (among other reasons- I also reject the entire concept of arbitrary commandments, but i’ve been through that a couple of times recently so I won’t spell it out here).

We have friends in the church. Our babysitter is a member. We don’t mind home teaching visits. I don’t think we’l let the bishop come back, though. And the missionaries haven’t called us in a long time, but I’m pretty sure if they wanted to come over I’d tell them exactly why it’s not worth their time, but that we wouldn’t mind cooking dinner for them.

I didn’t watch conference. I’m just not interested. I don’t read Mormon books anymore, because I’m not really still trying to figure out if the Church might be true after all. I’m pretty sure it’s not.

So I don’t feel like a Mormon. I don’t feel like I’m defined by Mormonism, either, so I wouldn’t label myself as an exmo or a DAMU. In fact, when it comesup in conversation with people, I’m never sure what to say. Usually I just say I was raised Mormon. My good friends all know the score: I was Mormon until fairly recently, and now I’m in transition.

I tell myself I don’t feel the need to keep proving the Church untrue, but at the same time, I wind up talking about it and reading about it all the time. If I tried to pretend like the Church still didn’t play some kind of defining role, I’d be doing just that- pretending.

I find myself defending the Church in discussions as often as I do criticizing it. I still think it’s a false church, but I’m not going to try to pretend that it’s evil to the core, and when people criticize stuff stupidly, I call them on it.

So… what am I? Who am I? I don’t have a handy belief syste to substitute and claim as identity in place of Mormonism. Religiously, I’m not really anything. Am I an “exmo?” Not technically. I mean, I’m still on the records. I’m not a NOM because I neither attend church nor have any interest in doing so. I don’t feellike I’m a “disaffected Mormon,” because I don’t feel like a Mormon. Usually.

I’m also not really a part of the “Outer Blogness” community. Most of the blogs on my blogroll are pagan or Druid. Or family. And since I really mostly talk about religious issues in general, and about my own search in specific, rather than about the process of leaving Mormonism, I don’t know that I really feel like I’m doing the same stuff as the Outer Blogness community. And even if I did, is “Outer Blogness” my identity? I don’t know.

I’m very quickly heading into repeat-myself-in-a-circular-fashion territory, so I’m going to wrap this up. But the question lingers.

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I met Brian McLaren today (here’s his Wikipedia article).  I haven’t read any of his books (I probably should), and I don’t know him or anything, so I was kind of awkward about it, but it seemed a shame for him to be there and speak and then be approachable and for me to not go shake his hand or something.  He thought our baby was pretty cute, so he has good taste in babies, at least.  He was very pleasant, personable, and charismatic, without having that sleazy snake-oil aftertaste.

McLaren founded the church we are currently attending, although he’s currently not actively serving as its pastor (instead, we have the absolutely wonderful Matthew Dyer), but is instead traveling the world, meeting with people and, you know, doing stuff.  But he was back for the Sunday and he spoke about the state of the church (the church at large, not Cedar Ridge), what he’s been up to, and what he’s seen on his travels.

He has a very good way of criticizing with love and respect.  For example, he talked about the worldwide trend in favor of prosperity theology (which makes me retch), but he didn’t come across as castigating or scathing.  He even complimented what he thought were the good things about it.  Instead of lambasting prosperity preachers fo, you know, being wrong and hurtful, he talked about the enormous potential that they have to do real Christian good.

Anyway, it was a good meeting.  I always enjoy the sermons at Cedar Ridge, and I think our intention is to keep going there for the indefinite future.  The kind of Christianity they preach there is definitely the kind that rings true to me.  Most importantly, we almost always walk away from the service there with a desire to be better Christians.  Also, I think it would be realy easy for Cedar Ridge to be a Brian McLaren personality cult, but it definitely isn’t.  He rarely even gets mentioned, actually.  The focus is definitely on Jesus Christ, and on his relationship to the community of saints (i.e. the Christian church at large, to Cedar Ridge Church as a community, and to us as families and individuals).

If I decide to be a Christian, which I probably will in the end, Cedar Ridge is definitely a place where I can be the kind of Christian that I would want to be.

Speaking of which, I am thinking more about Christianity, and trying to come to grips with it somehow.  I have ths nagging feeling that I am going to ultimately come to Christianity anyway, and so I’m wondering if I shouldn’t quit beating around the bush.

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