If you can believe it, we can laugh at it!
The way I see it (and I apologize in acnavde if this becomes an essay) is that ever since the rise of science and modernism (which includes modern archeology), religious thinkers have had to be crafty in how to maintain the “truthiness” and “truth” of religious history. A lot of religious people think of postmodernism (“my truth is as true as your truth”) as a terrible devastation of “truth” in the 20th century, but actually it was postmodern thinking that saved religious history altogether. For example, in 19th century Europe, in the face of rising secularism, Sf8ren Kierkegaard proposed that faith, at its core, cannot be intellectualized. Truth and God must be personally known in a world where secular truths might be totally averse to religious ones. Some historians of philosophy have called Kierkegaard “The Father of Postmodernism” (but many more give the title to Nietzsche =p). Postmodernism in full force is seen by the 1960s in folks like Derrida and Foucault. I remember reading somewhere a Mormon historian talk about Derrida’s deconstructionism as “not hated” precisely because it offers a way of stripping away false truths to reach a beautiful core of real truth. I thought this was strange at the time; Derrida is very much against the idea of “cores” or “origins.”Anyway, in America, the controversy of modernism came about in the 1920s-30s for every religious denomination, from Methodists to Presbyterians to Mormons. This was a result of the nation making decisions to secularize its academies. A somewhat good essay I’ve found for the Mormon context is in (“The Modernism Controversy”). Basically, to achieve statehood, Utah Mormons had to become like the rest of the country: less theocratic, less communal (no more polygamy), more capitalist and individualistic. There was a rise of “personal idealism,” to maintain the truth as “true,” which can also be described as “spiritual realism.” IMO, this is basically Kierkegaard’s philosophies in application across America, except Mormons still also have the communal thing going on that most American denominations tossed. My feeling is that Mormonism cannot survive without this communalism because of the eccentricity and youngness of its doctrine and history (and I mean, secularly-speaking, it’s only been around for a couple centuries).What’s fascinating, but then also saddening, is then reading Margaret Toscano’s essay in that book on feminism and Heavenly Mother. One sees how the postmodern tools Mormonism used/uses in maintaining its historicity have been used by minorities in the imagining of their histories in the midst of debilitating forces (politics in full force since the 1960s, but also certainly earlier). The power-play in Mormon culture to silence these minority histories to maintain the communalism (men v women, heteros v queers, whites v others) becomes empirically evident to me. I don’t blame anyone for this silencing…for example, I don’t get angry at Church leaders, because it really isn’t their “fault,” per se. I also recognize that various minorities are happy in the Church… which I state on my website regarding same-sex attracted people. But this is where I stop and cannot go further and why I’m more comfortable as an outsider to the faith.I’m sure a testimony would be useful here, but well, I suppose I’m not really interested in one. Like Toscano, I remain very interested in Mormon culture for other reasons. It certainly provided me a good framework to write my novel, which I do not believe at its “core” is an anti-Mormon novel. =) I’m sure some of the queer characters in future novels I write will also deal with “Mormon-like” dilemmas.
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