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Destroying the Boundaries of the Church

September 17, 2011

Enlarging the BoxThere are several bloggers (especially at Wheat & Tares) whom I think are brilliant. While Bored in Vernal doesn’t post that much any more at W&T, the fact that she’s able to produce really great stuff at Faith Promoting Rumor (which I think is one of the better blogs talking about Mormon issues out there) speaks well to her ability. Mike S has been able to draw a lot of traffic with his If I Were In Charge series, and even on a 9/11 memorial post, he manages to make incisive comments about the status quo of the church’s teachings to young women about modesty.

I’m definitely one of the worst bloggers I read (but maybe it’s because I don’t read bloggers who write even worse than I do?) so I’m glad to be around far better writers and thinkers.

In any case, even when I do have a post that I think is OK, it turns out that others can respond to those posts in ways that blow the originals out of the water. Consider FireTag’s response post to mine about strange bedfellows for progressive Mormons.

There are several things that interest me about FireTag’s posts. Firstly, he is a member of the Community of Christ, not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints like most of the bloggers at W&T are, so he always comes about things with a slightly different perspective if only for that reason. However, what he also does is relates discussions going on at W&T or elsewhere in the Mormon blogging world (often about progressive or liberal concerns) to the goings-on in his own church (which, as he says in today’s article, is a church where “the progressives “won”.”)

But beyond that, there’s an interesting tone that many of his articles take…although it is more muted in some articles than in others. I don’t know how to describe it, except to use a word like fatalistic. As he has commenter before, the Community of Christ is a church locked in demographic disaster. He often writes that nothing the church has done (of which a move to more liberal politics was one reaction) in the past xx (60?) years has had any statistical impact on the decline of the church.

But the various things the  church has done has had some impact. It hasn’t been on how many, but on who.

This gets to his current post. When he writes that the Community of Christ is church where progressives “won,” what he means is that progressives didn’t succeed in “expanding” the church or “reversing” demographic decline, but they defeated traditionalists. So, where progressive members of the LDS church have discussions about whether the church can become a bigger tent and attract some people who currently are alienated (by the church’s traditionalist views on women, or gays, or whomever), FireTag instead reads news on the possibility that increased acceptance of homosexuality in the Community of Christ could lead to schism. As he writes:

…the experience of the CofChrist suggests that multiculturalism, in practice, is merely itself the cultural value of a particular human culture. In fact, even the discussion of gender issues has been isolated by CofChrist leadership because of its possible impact on persecution of  leaders and members in congregations in many emerging nations. It is seen as possible, and necessary to discuss gender now in certain Western nations to avoid schism, but too hot to discuss in other nations lest it actually provoke schism. Paradoxically, the question of inclusiveness transforms into a tension to produce multiple exclusive communities.

This gets to my post about strange bedfellows…because even there, I’m not quite going for a bigger tent, but different people in the same tent. In particular, people with different political goals for the church (many of which are on the CofChrist’s plate now).

So, how does one reach out? As FireTag concludes:

Perhaps we need a better way of viewing our “boundary problem” than either enlarging our boxes, defending them where they stand, or moving them to encompass different sets of people.  Perhaps we need to consider obliterating the boundaries instead. There is no way I know to do that, of course, but I do have an approximation in mind.

Perhaps we need to define our position in respect to the gospel’s boundaries more like the way electrons define their positions in respect to the boundaries of atoms: very fuzzily and transiently. Perhaps it is becoming reconciled to the notion of being uncertain about where we are without becoming fearful about where we are that permits us ultimately to become reconciled to each other and to God. Perhaps detaching uncertainty from fear is what living by faith is all about.

The question is…what does it mean to become more like electrons within the “boundaries” of atoms?

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