Friday, December 31, 2010

Aloneness and Community --

  I found this quote in a book I am reading by Michael Spencer, Mere Churchianity.  For some years he was the ringmaster for a website named http://www.internetmonk.com/.  He died of cancer this year, but I think this book sums up his philosophy pretty well.  Mine also.

  A lot of the journey I'm on is described by this quote:

"I want to be one who values relationships and community, but who is not defined by them.  I want to have the certainty, confidence, and contentment that come from knowing who I am in the eyes and heart of God, not just who I am in relation to people.

"At the foundation of the Christian life, there is a kind of sacred individuality, a sort of holy aloneness that cries out to be left alone with God.  This isn't all of the Christian life.  It doesn't erase those parts of a Christian's experience that happen in the context of relationships, but this sacred solitude nees to be discovered, respected, and protected".

Possibly this is a major area the LDS church falls short.  So much of the LDS experience is defined by the group that there is really not much structure for establishing a personal relationship with God.  Certainly the necessary practices are described, which would be foundational and sincere prayer and scripture study.  Yet maybe the end goal isn't laid out very well, nor is a sense of spiritual individualism really valued.  Your primary value in the LDS church is your value and relationship to the group, rather than your own intrinsic value.  It's not possible to sit in an LDS meeting for more than five minutes without receiving a list of ways to "lengthen your stride" to conform more to the goals of the group.

Alas this is just not who I am as a person, nor is this the Jesus I see in the Bible. The true gospel is about earnestly seeking out the desires of God and conforming to those, as imperfectly as we understand them, and not merely conforming to a group.

3 comments:

Paul said...

I got my wife to sit down with me at the computer and we read through all of your ‘new’ posts. She was wondering how your wife is coping or what her views are.

We had to wonder how your story is so much like ours (or our story so much like yours!).

I believe in the “sangha” -- the community, very much, but I have largely given up hope in ever finding a Christian one that fits me and my wife to a ‘t’(or any other ‘letter‘ -- way, for that matter). I remember reading a quote from David O. McKay that if you find one true friend in your lifetime, how rare a possession that is. This might also apply to a church community of like-minded worshipers. I have to wonder how many people in a Mormon congregation really feel content with their membership. I know that I never did, but was “guilted” into remaining, and doing, performing, etc -- and for a large part still feel the weight of guilt, or more than that: fear, that I am going to loose my “eternal salvation,” and perhaps I am even a son of perdition in embryo. So, that’s what still holds me back from completely divorcing myself from the church, i.e., fear -- enormous fear that the church really is “the one and only” by some fantastical occurrence of events, AND mind and will of God, notwithstanding all of the problematic issues that fly in the face of reason. I fear that in the end, I’m the one who will have egg on my face, whilest the Devil laugheth, and that I am of those “who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.” Yet, this same “craftiness of men” idea is found in Ephesians and is not unique to Mormonism. So, here I am, still bouncing around the waves of uncertainty and fear.

Great posts. Thanks for taking the time to chronicle and share the story of your journey.

Bob Dixon said...

My wife and I are pretty much on the same page with regard to the LDS church, although I am more intense about faith issues than she is. She was basically content to just leave it alone, while I push harder into the gray areas to try to figure this out. We were largely drawn to different churches for awhile, but are back to attending the same one exclusively again. The difference is I am a joiner and she has no interest in going through the pain of "membership" again for now.

As far as being "blinded by the craftiness of men" I share your pain on that. One reason I don't want to resign is that I might be wrong. I don't want to burn my bridges. What if the LDS church really is true and I invalidate my baptism and sealings?

In general I just have to assume God will not lead me astray. I have prayed, I have studied, and I feel my intent is pure. I'm not lazy or looking for an excuse to slack off. Disaffection is much harder and much more work than just going along with the group and putting my shoulder to the wheel. Even if I got this wrong, I did it with the best of intentions, so maybe that will count for something in the end. I did what we say Joseph Smith did. I asked God and tried to follow the answer I got.

Bob Dixon said...

Also, as far as why our stories are so similar, the standard line is that people who "fall away" are slackers, sinners, or just distracted. One thing we learn on NOM is that there are legions of us who gave our lives and hearts to the LDS church and then found out we had been lied to about the founding history. It never happened the way we were told. The authority of the leaders is not as clear-cut as they claim it is.

We are not the lazy. We are the good guys who took our search for truth behind the curtain and were horrified at what we found.