So over at T&S they’ve been having this discussion about the recent media report about the majority of America’s drifiting faith issues. And I know, you’re about to say, “Dude, this isn’t T&S. We do things differently at Mormon Matters,” and I understand. And while I discussed this a bit at my blog, I most definitely know we do things differently here than there. So I wanted to try to approach the subject differently here and add some value (well…perhaps I won’t be so successful at this latter endeavor.)
My question is this…who should go to church and what should we expect of the people who go to church? Recently over at T&S (and I guess it’s spilled over in some comments in this latest article), there has been a tone that suggests that Cafeteria, Middle-of-the-way, or New Order Mormons are (or should be) a concern to the church. As Bookslinger comments,
I think the drift within the LDS church is also illustrated in the bloggernacle, not just those who’ve formally left the church, but also new order Mormons and middle-way Mormons. There are also those who claim to be solidly in the Mormon camp, but still attenuate some core beliefs. In addition to the cafeteria style “I’ll take a full serving of this, and some of this, but none of that,” people now seem to be nuancing, or adding shades of grey to, things that I had previously thought of as black-and-white, go-or-no-go.
Rather than admitting that one can’t or won’t comply with requirement “X” of the gospel (or of church policy), some people nuance away or diminish “X” as non-essential, or even as an incorrect element.
Rather than figuratively beating one’s breast and admitting a lack of faith/shortcoming/sin, the item is just dismissed or nuanced away.
Ouch. Somehow I feel as if he had some people in mind with some of these thoughts. Regardless, what it got me thinking about was…what should be the goal?
I’ve seen a lot of John Dehlin’s works about staying LDS, and regardless of whether this is still representative (I’m not totally sure, so I’m not sure if I’m completely misrepresenting his views), it seems to me that it distinctly disagrees with someone like Bookslinger’s view. Bookslinger’s comment seems to suggest (maybe it’s just my imagination) that there is an ideal belief system and all members should be striving to move to acceptance to that belief system. If they do not, they should understand clearly that they are not “nuanced” or in “gray areas,” but they are unorthordox, faithless, wrong, or sinful.
If that indeed is the position that Bookslinger (or anyone else) takes, then I suppose that’s not a bad position to take, if one will take it. However, the side effect that it produces is that it creates this incredible barrier to entry that can actually serve to push people on the margins (whether inside or outside the church) away.
This is contrasted, however, with those who would suggest that the number of “core beliefs” is more limited, so there is actually a wide range of flexibility in the church. People should not feel pressured to have to believe a certain way or leave, but instead should make the church work for them.
I see advantages and disadvantages to both. The hardline stance seems just a touch more appealing (because sometimes, you need to strong understanding of what is acceptable or what is not), but on the other hand, the hardline stance also makes it quite easy to look at it all and say no. The flexible stance makes staying in the church more appealing, but it may shy down on providing the tough love needed to provide transformational change.
If the goal is to have people go to church and keep going, then it seems like one might want to consider more flexibility. However, if the goal is to have a more committed community (even if that community is smaller), then perhaps one should worry about quality over quantity and stick with potentially unpopular, unyielding ideas.