The State of Religion

There is an update to this article below.

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about that comment, ‘dark people who profess to be believers’, and it suddenly seemed to me that the problem is my blog. So in the past few hours I’ve tried to come up with some relevant questions and explanations about this conversation.

I included Christianity in the conversation in an effort to refute Paul Ryan and his hero, Ayn Rand. I couldn’t have foreseen that it would lead to an alliance between Pope Francis and the Bernie Sanders progressives. I think this alliance is very important. However, every time I try to create a proper space for this development in the conversation I find that my knowledge and ability are not up to the task. What I have concluded however, and my point in this article, is that Christianity does not have a set identity in the world; there is a lot of confusion out there.

There are two levels for Christianity in the conversation. The objective, impartial level would be the church’s historical, cultural and political contribution to Western civilization. Then there’s the level of a believer. I’ve tried to keep my own interest out of this blog, but it always seems to come through. Hopefully my relation to Christianity will become clear in the following story.

My grandmother left the Mormon Church as a young woman and never went back. My mother left it too, for a while. Or maybe she was never active—I don’t know–but she did become active after she married. My father was not religious. His parents were atheists, so this was entirely her decision. The strange thing is that she had nothing in common with the church. She was very independent. When she married in her 30s I assume she thought it would be good for her children to be raised in a church, and the Mormon Church was familiar to her. She must have believed that the church she knew would be as good for her children as any other. I suspect there are many people like her.

I learned about polygamy at a friend’s Family Home Evening when I was eight. That’s also where I learned that all women are responsible for Eve’s sin. To my way of thinking, my friend’s family had not thought the Eve story through. As for polygamy, I thought it was funny until my mother told me that her great grandmother and the daughter she had brought with her from England had married the same man in Idaho. The daughter had nine children. My grandmother was one of those. My mother was not proud of this.

I didn’t plan to be active in the church as an adult. It’s not that I had anything against the church; it just wasn’t relevant to me. But at the last minute my finance decided he wanted to be active. I went along with him. I learned how a religion grows on you. It gets all tied up with your marriage and your family, and it begins to feel necessary, even if it kills you. I would probably still be there if I hadn’t had my experience. I can’t help but think there are many people like me out there, in many different churches.

That is where my tie to Christianity comes in. My experience was a Christian experience, except that I wasn’t converted to a church. I was rescued from a church. It remains the one solid thing in all my theorizing—the one thing to which I am determined to remain loyal. Unfortunately, the things I learned in the process, like how easy it is to become devoted to some random church, have made me conclude that it takes a miracle to see the one real thing, and since I’m not in charge of miracles it doesn’t suggest a program for the world. However, I can tell you that miracles are possible. I can tell you we are not alone.

Most people think of Christianity as a known entity. I wish it were. I think it’s important to understand how uncertain the picture is. I’ll give you some examples. Previously I shared a story about an evangelical friend who insisted that Joseph Smith was damned and Jim Bakker was saved. Later I realized that Bakker was still working in the public eye, so I felt sorry for him, until I heard him say that people who don’t support Donald Trump are ‘unsaved’. Where does this ‘saved’ idea come from?

Robert Eisler contrasts Orphism with the dogma of other mysteries, “where—as the Cynic Diogenes said with reference to Eleusis—‘a better lot was promised for the pickpocket Pataikion, because he had been initiated, than to the great Epaminondas, his uninitiated rival.” [1]

Maybe the evangelicals get it from the Mysteries. If so, they’re not alone in the general confusion. Maybe this is the difference between evangelicalism and Mormonism. Maybe Mormonism is Orphic. But again, the Mormons are not alone. I’ve already admitted that my own hold on Christianity is tenuous.

If my blog seems dark to anyone out there, could you please be more specific? Just explain the problem to me and I’ll see what I can do.

Update: I’ve been talking about leaving one’s church as though it’s no big deal. It’s a very big deal for everyone involved. It’s better to work within your church if you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Robert Eisler, Orpheus the Fisher: Comparative Studies in Orphic and Early Christian Cult Symbolism. Kessinger Publishing, 1920. (Notes, p. 1-2)

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