The Mormon Fringes
In the latest Mormon Matters podcast, on Middle Way Mormonism, Jared Anderson said:
“Let me say first and foremost…I…do not feel more at home ANYWHERE than fringe Mormonism…I LOVE fringe Mormonism. I feel so happy here…I feel such a sense of belonging here..Mormonism on the periphery, both in and out…these are my peeps.”
I liked that and I just wanted to make sure that was in print somewhere.
That being said, whereas Jared lives on the fringe just *within* the church, I’m probably closer to the fringe just *without* the church (at least, on an activity perspective…I haven’t resigned or anything.)
Whether the “fringe” is a spot that one can stay in a permanent fashion (or whether one will always transition from the fringe one way or another), I think one thing people don’t realize is how much growth is possible from the fringe.
I think that a lot of faithful members think that disaffection is a process of giving up…but I don’t think that many disaffected members would describe things in such a way. Instead, the process of disaffection was about trying to keep things together, and then trying to salvage things when they realized that Humpty Dumpty could not be put back together.
But that’s not where that ended. Even if someone decides to leave the church as an institution, what Jared’s point emphasized to me (forgive me if this is really obvious), is that there are other communities and way to be Mormon. I mean, what else can someone describe my blogging every week on this subject? I went to a Mormon Stories Conference. I think I’m going to go to Sunstone this year (and that would be pretty different for me…for the Mormon Stories Conference, I didn’t even have to leave the city I was in…but for Sunstone, I will have to travel to a different state. And I’m the kind of person who would be content to live inside my room for the rest of my life as long as I had the internet, some books, and food.) The simple fact is that people can engage in Mormonism without ascribing religious importance to it.
I guess the problems are that the church doesn’t encourage this…who’s going to know about Sunstone, Dialogue, the Bloggernacle, or Mormon Stories unless they’ve happened to stumble into these things.
Another problem, however, is that people themselves don’t encourage this…So, for the most part, a lot of the discussion on being a “fringe Mormon” (or a middle way Mormon or whatever) is a kind of compromise solution. I guess the ‘fringe’ in fringe Mormon already implies that it’s a compromise, but what I mean is…a lot of people are only New Order Mormon or on stayLDS or on whatever these support sites are because they are trying to keep families together. Would people be as interested in renegotiating their Mormonism if they didn’t have any relationships on the line?
I know that I don’t have to worry about any potential family or friend fallout…but that hasn’t meant that I’ve disappeared, never to be seen in the Mormon universe ever again. But I wonder how many people who are kept “in” because of their relationships would stay on the fringe in they didn’t have those relationship concerns?