Monday, September 12, 2005

Leaving The Saints

I just finished reading this book--Leaving The Saints by Martha Beck. While I wouldn't say that it was life-altering or anything like that, it was definitely an interesting read. Beck left the Latter-Day Saints a/k/a the Mormon Church in the mid-90s. She also claims to have been sexually abused by her father--a guy who is rather high and mighty in the Mormon Church. The book chronicles her search for the spiritual in her life, a journey that started with her return to Utah after several years of living on the east coast and ended with her being virtually completely cut off by her immediate family.

Books like these are always to be taken with a grain of salt. As a friend of mine says (who is a member of the Reorganized LDS church) "This person left the church, so they're obviously not going to be kind to it." I kept that in mind while I was reading it and every time it got a little bit sensational, I remembered that she is an ex-Mormon and well, that kind of speaks for itself.

But the interesting thing is that she isn't universally damning of Mormon culture. She praises it's inclusion, love, friendship and celebrates this. She does not shirk on the details of how her ward members immediately treated her as persona non grata once her husband resigned his membership which (rightly so) saddened her. I was amazed to hear stories of how her daughters Mormon classmates bullied her and ignored her (her oldest daughter was the only child truly affected by their resignation of membership)--I guess childhood cruelty really doesn't discriminate.

I've always been slightly puzzled by Mormon doctrine--not that I claim to be an expert on it or anything. My Lutheran pastor stepfather-in-law refers to it derisively as "Christianity gone to seed." I'm not a Mormon, but I have a good friend who is one and so I've learned a lot more about it than I might have otherwise having been friends with him. I have a healthy respect for it as being a good choice for a lot of people, but just not for me. Still, I'm always a little bit perplexed when I read things about a Mormon masterplanet, the Heavenly Mother and how good Mormon men will become gods of their own planet. I'm tempted to think "How can educated people believe this kind of stuff?" But the flipside to that is "How can educated people believe that a man died on a cross and then CAME BACK TO LIFE?"--a belief that I have and I consider myself to be an educated person.

I guess religion is all what you make it--Mormonism works for some people, not everyone and certainly not for Beck. Christianity may work for some, but not for everyone. Probably my favorite part of the book was it's dedication which went something like this. "They say that religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell and spirituality is for people who have already been through it. This book is dedicated to the latter." I'd have to say that my religion is starting to resemble spirituality much more than traditional Lutheranism. We haven't been to church in forever, but I don't feel separated from my God at all. I do despise how the fundamentalist Christians in this country have hijacked the concept of God, so much so that you can hardly mention that you consider yourself a Christian without having to back pedal and say that you're not a homophobic cretin who believes that the Earth is 10,000 years old more concerned with saving cells in a Petri dish than actual living and breathing humans in New Orleans right now. OK, probably an overstatement, but you get the picture.

A good book, definitely worth the read--obviously I was much more interested in her spiritual journey than I was in her allegations of sexual abuse. The spiritual journey was the part of the book that spoke to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dan, it's so refreshing to read a post like your every once in awhile. Thanks.