Laurie Goodstein's article in today's New York Times about Mormons who now have doubts regarding their faith due to what they discover about Mormonism online intrigues me. I suppose what intrigues me most is the question, How can people continue for so long in many religious traditions without doubting? How can people come to maturity and live within religious traditions as adults and not recognize the many inconsistencies, distortions, and falsities within any religious tradition?
I suspect that many of us who are gay or lesbian and were raised within a wide variety of religious traditions hostile to our very nature never really had this luxury of not doubting. Most of us have had to struggle from the earliest point in our lives when it became apparent to us that our sexual orientation was not approved by our faith communities. Or from the time we began to have glimmers that something was "wrong" with us in "that way," and we began to try to cope with our sense of fundamental difference and otherness in communities that had no room at all for such difference and otherness . . . .
The struggle is a struggle to understand, to reconcile something that we discover is constitutive of our very nature with the demand of our faith communities that we either lie about that constitutive fact, pretend it's not there, or "cure" ourselves of it. For a great many of us, this leads over the course of time to the recognition that our faith communities are simply wrong about what they have to say to us regarding our gay and lesbian natures.
The discovery that our religious traditions can be seriously mistaken about something so fundamental to our lives often leads, in turn, to our growing recognition that our churches, synagogues, mosques, etc., have also been wrong in other of their perceptions or teachings. We find that there's an undeniable human element in all religious traditions, that almost all religious traditions in the world have long been dominated by heterosexual males, who have made those traditions vehicles for the power of heterosexual men over everyone else in the world.
We're left with no choice except to struggle, to try to achieve understanding--or, if the religious communities in which we have been raised prove too toxic to ourselves and others, to repudiate and combat them. In our struggles, we LGBT folks raised within religious traditions also discover that there are many others who have no choice except to ask questions about religious traditions similar to our own--women, who suffer as well from the male domination of religious traditions, people of color, who are frequently excluded and demeaned by religious traditions whose God is construed in racist terms, the poor and outcast, who, as Rilke says, all too often find themselves outside the cathedral doors.
I've often thought that the questions and critiques these communities--including the LGBT community--bring to communities of faith are a precious gift to those communities, an invitation to moral and spiritual maturity on the part of these communities of faith. Though we and our questions are seldom perceived that way by the leaders of many of our faith communities . . . .
That's my take on the story Goodstein tells today. What do you think?
The graphic: Goodstein's article contains her video interview with Swedish Mormon leader (and now doubter) Hans Mattson. The photo of Mattson is from that video.