For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

- Mosiah 3:19

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Queering Mormonism?

My place in the church is always a topic that consumes much of my thinking. I was recently reflecting, with a friend, about failure. The idea of being a spectacular failure is exciting to me! As a previous post indicated, there are logics of success implicit in the church culture and its doctrine. I certainly have no problem interrogating either of those logics, but still maintain a high degree of deference for the logic of success as articulated by the doctrine. Now the logic of success connected to the church culture is a whole 'nother matter. I have no problem pushing back on this, critiquing it and even moving for changes in that logic.

Yet, that logic, which is simply this:
1. If you're obedient God blesses you.
2. You can know if God blesses you because you're happy.
3. You're happy because of blessing materialize as tangible things.
4. You're happy because your framework of viewing the world does not upset the white heterosexual norms.
5. The more material success you have, the blessings God has bestowed upon you. This material success is connected to succeeding in the capitalist framework.

In a nutshell, the logic goes like this if you strive for the image of a white upper-middle class person, you're most likely a person of faith, as you continue to shed any cultural values or traditions that threaten the white upper-middle class status you're viewed as a success, as you don't shed it, you're viewed as a failure.

Sadly, I see this operating within the culture of the church at so many different levels. If I wear a white shirt, cut my hair, shave my beard, come to three hour blocks of church, wear a tie, shine my shoes, then somehow that is an indication of closeness and proximity to God, and therefore faithfulness. Certainly there are other aspects that could come under scrutiny, but I'll stop there. I'm not entirely clear how any of this is systematically derived from the doctrinal framework. This certainly deserves critique, and most of my resentments and struggles with the church, stem from attempts to compare my "waivering" of faith from this norm, and not necessarily the norm established by the doctrine.

The logic of success connected to the doctrine is simple and beautiful!
1. Express a willingness to believe Jesus Christ and do His will.
2. Doing so makes a you success in the arena of Heaven.

What can I say about this? Certainly there are other aspects, but the logic connected to success in the gospel is contingent not necessarily on the actually doing, but on simply the willingness to believe and exerting whatever energies one possesses to act on that willingness. I think that's pretty amazing.

Yet, with both logics I often come up short and am considered a failure. In one it's easier to see that I'm a failure, while the other is much more difficult, given the expansive understanding God has of me and the many factors that shape my current thinking and actions.

I'm coming to think more and more that what one scholar noted, that the notion of queer "gets a critical edge by defining itself against the normal rather than the heterosexual, and normal includes normal business... . " I like how this scholar implicitly defines queer as being against the normal. I think the norm in the church is the logic of success connected to church culture, while the "deviant" is the logic of success connected to the doctrine, where failure is hard to articulate and even identify.

Yet sadly, many members of the church tend to interpret the logic of the doctrine from the perspective of the logic of its culture, or rather they don't seem to see the difference.

I am queer (that is, not the norm), and am very pleased with that fact, I take some measure of pride in it. I've often never fit the norm, though there have been valiant attempts. Even relinquishing and coming to terms with the fact that I will never marry a woman (at least in mortality) is a may be considered successful.

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