Sunday, July 21, 2013

Supporting the Faith Quest

One of the blogs I regularly read is called Feminist Mormon Housewives. I'm not likely to convert to any religion anytime soon - especially not to LDS, which has many things with which I very strongly disagree - but I enjoy reading this blog because it's a public space in which many of the issues that cause friction, disagreement, and struggle are openly discussed. I find the discussion of LDS culture interesting, mostly because I'm an outsider; the blog reinforces that LDS is not the religion for me. Yet since Catholicism is a historically patriarchal religion. many of the issues that are analyzed in FMH as pertaining to LDS leadership are those that are, to varying degrees, relevant to Catholicism.

Reading "Supporting the Faith Quest" made me consider that Catholicism is not the only religion in which members of a faith tradition have trouble with those who don't easily follow their religion's tenets.
Mormons are not supposed to have faith transitions or a full blown faith crisis. Or, if we do, we should keep it to ourselves, suffer in silence, pretty much isolate ourselves so we don't contaminate the other members who are doing this the right way. 
The only thing more valued in our culture than being stalwart in our faith is being cheerfully stalwart in the faith. Slap on the smile, push those doubts aside, do some more of what isn't working for you, and any reservations that cropped up about the Fanny Alger business you just came across will disappear. 
Except that it doesn't work, does it? 
I've seen similar lines of thinking with conservative Catholics and converts to Catholicism when it comes to expressing doubts or voicing disagreements. I still remember the woman who, very publicly, took me to task for publicly questioning aspects of Catholic teachings by blogging; in her mind, one simply follows what the Church teaches, and Does Not Question or Disagree because one follows what the church teaches, period, with no question.

I continue to think that an oversimplification of faith. I see no harm in thinking and rethinking about one's faith and religion, and I don't see how this can be thought as definitively harmful. I understand that (dis)obedience is a slippery slope, and I admit that obedience is one of those things with which I personally struggle. But I make the distinction between following the Church's teachings on the Immaculate Conception and - these things I agree with and believe in - as opposed to the Church's teachings on what should constitute "marriage" (gay marriage vs. Bible-based; I've heard seriously flawed arguments about that many times) and birth control. (Know who gets to make decisions about my body and what it needs? My doctor and I.)

I also disagree with the argument that women cannot serve in the capacity of the priesthood. "Because all Jesus' original apostles were men" doesn't strike me as a good argument, insofar as I don't know if I want to follow the equality standards of a culture that even today aren't exactly known for equal rights; what kind of reaction would women have had 2,000 years ago in the Middle East? The "tradition as established by Christ himself" also doesn't work well; we don't know whether Jesus selection of only men was purposeful design, and presuming to know is not something I, or anyone else, can know. And the "indelible spiritual character" argument that permits only men to obtain the priesthood implies that women's characters are unequal and must be dependent on men.

I tend to be wary of the thinking, taught by any religious denomination, that one must agree with every single aspect of religious teaching. It makes me wonder if that particular religion is just not multi-faceted, or if the followers simply haven't really thought about their religion. Or if they were taught to follow blindly. None of these can be good.

Disagreeing with certain teachings does not necessarily make you a bad (fill-in-the-blank). Questioning has allowed me to ascertain what I can accept, what I cannot, and justify how I can continue following Catholicism as I believe it to be, for me and my family, and religion of our home.

In the meantime, one piece of good advice I did hear from a more conservative Catholic was to pray on it, keep an open mind, and consider that I can't know everything that God and Jesus have in store for me, my family, or the Church.