Okay, so another podcast is fueling my post tonight. This one is entitled “Mixed Feelings for Mormonism” over on Mormon Expression — and much of the discussion centers around whether or not the church “really is” what it says it is.
Who freakin’ cares?
Sure, scientific accuracy is nice — but let’s face it, when it comes to matters spiritual, you’re never gonna get it. The modern perspective tells us that this means we need to shed our faith, embrace a more “likely” worldview. And indeed, this is why religion is losing followers in droves: many people, when confronted with the simple reality that their beliefs are objectively unprovable (even unlikely!), head to the nearest exit and never look back.
But this is where I think the post-modern perspective, the one so often maligned by conservative believers, can go a long way toward preserving faith in ways that other approaches can’t.
There is an important space in the human experience for myth and magic, for narratives that may or may not be historically accurate but that convey profound truths and create culture and context. Who cares if it really happened, if Moses parted the Red Sea or God flooded the entire earth or Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the flesh? From a post-modern perspective, that’s not an interesting question. The interesting question is: what does it mean? How do these stories shape our perception of the world? How do they influence the way we perceive ourselves as individuals, families, communities? How do they change the way we interact with the divine?
I believe there is a beautiful depth of experience that can never be fully accessed until we are willing to move beyond questions of historical accuracy and begin interacting with sacred myth with the heart of a believer — understanding that myth, like art, is never meant to represent mundane physical reality, but exists instead to lead us into deeper levels of empathy, compassion, and wisdom.
When it comes to Mormonism, this is a particularly tough sell. After all, the church bills its own narrative as True both historically and spiritually. It emphasizes its unique “authority” in an age when people are less and less interested in questions of authority and more and more skeptical of such claims. It takes a sense of humor, patience, and a willingness to “play along” a little, even when you doubt the importance of a given practice or teaching, to make it work — but for me, that’s part of the beauty (and challenge!) of being Mormon.
In another post that’s been brewing inside me for some time now, I’ll talk more about the virtue of literalism and why I think having wishy-washy heretics like me alongside die-hard believers is one of Mormonism’s greatest strengths…but for now, let’s discuss:
What do you think about some of the thoughts I’ve shared? Who cares if it really happened? Does it even matter?
(Note that some of the content for this post is identical to a comment I originally made over on the Mormon Expression blog.)