In my latest article at Main Street Plaza, I thought about what is in a Mormon identity and what the terms we use imply about us. Because even if labeling is silly and should only be pursued lightheartedly, I can’t help but feel as if it is something that we use in communication (and that gets to thoughts about recent conversation with Andrew Callahan on this site about the expectations we have when we use certain terms with certain people.) It’s already hard to describe believing Mormons, because True Believing Mormon and New Order Mormon are prickly terms to deal with, liberal Mormon too, and all the number of terms people have devised (Liahona vs. Iron Rod? Carrot vs. Stick? and so on) are each thorny. Yet, we can tell that people are different and it might be meaningful to see if there is any relation.
Mormons, it seems, don’t come all in one stripe.
Of course, non-believing Mormons don’t come in one stripe either, hence my post.
My worry was that terms were inadequate. I didn’t quite feel ex-mormon, because of connotations of that. Same with disaffected Mormon underground. Yet, I’m not just inactive. I can never be the same as a non-member.
But Holly quickly commented back and provided what I thought was a convincing argument against my use of post-. She has also, since then, written a post elaborating on her reasoning and introducing the idea of a “Mormon Alumni Association.” In particular, I liked that she related it to real-world uses of the term post-, like here:
Similarly, post-modernism began primarily as a literary and artistic term, an attempt to express the idea that we are mired in modernity, even though modernity is not adequate to describe our condition or meet our needs; hence we’re left with post-modernity, which, among other things, is fractured, inadequate, ironic, and endlessly self-referential.
One dictionary definition of post-modernism is: “of, relating to, or being a theory that involves a radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about culture, identity, history, or language.”
Likewise, to me, post-Mormonism involves a radical reappraisal of religious assumptions about culture, identity, history or language.
I can completely agree with this, down even to the idea that post-Mormonism for many of us is “fractured, inadequate, ironic, and endlessly self-referential” (cue members saying, “They leave the church, but can’t leave it alone…”)
So I think I’m happy to use this definition of post- instead. But indeed, many people lament and regret post-modernism and wish we’d just “move on” from it, so I wonder if it’s necessary to “move on” from post-Mormonism?