After my post two weeks ago asking why Mormons can’t have a pro-women Mormon theology, I thought about a comment I made to Hawkgrrrl’s post contrasting a church of duty with a consumer church. My comment was as follows:
I’m not exactly driven to go to church, but it’s not because there aren’t rock concerts or small prayer groups. It’s because on any given Sunday, it will probably be boring and utterly irrelevant to my life circumstances punctuated with moments of absolute offensiveness.
I think there is conceivably a value to learning how to hear offensive things without even blinking…learning how to regulate internal blood temperature, as it were…but then i realize that baffling things happen in life without seeking it out in a church.
I understand that for some, the LDS church experience can be very relevant and interesting to their lives. I mean, when it comes to building white picket fence families with husband, wife, and 2.5 kids (ok, let’s be real…there will be more kids), LDS church teachings are admirable.
But what happens when someone doesn’t fit that mold?
Over at By Common Consent was a guest post: Thoughts from a Mid-Single Mormon. While I sympathize and hope that things can become more welcoming and inclusive, at the back of my mind was the thought:
This church simply isn’t for you.
In the post, Jennifer remarked:
I go to church to renew my relationship with God, feel spiritual and reverent, and sing hymns with moving lyrics—not to play musical chairs and have my singleness make me feel less than who I really am in this world. I know I am not alone in feeling it a challenge to be single in a family-oriented church.
However, the last few works I’ve quoted really said it all. The LDS church is a family-oriented church. (…And not just for any family.) This isn’t just a “practical” consideration, but a theological one. Renewing one’s relationship with God, feeling spiritual and reverent, and so forth, are all tied with seeking, building, and growing a family (…and not just any kind of family at that.) I know that some folks say that the church focuses on marriage and families (…and not just any kind of family) because it knows that statistically, those who aren’t integrated in families (…and not just any family) in the church are more likely to fall away. But maybe the chicken-and-egg relationship behind this hasn’t been thought out for. Are families (…and not just any family) so strongly stressed because being single is so hazardous to faith, or is being single so hazardous to faith because families (…and not just any family) are so strongly stressed and nothing is left for singles?
The LDS church’s practical ethics and politics are very much tied up with a view that families (and not just any kind of family) aren’t just a theological good, but a social one. So, for any given topic (research on fertility rates, children raised by their biological parents, average age of marriage, etc.,), it’s easy to predict what the church’s attitude will be, and what the church’s solution will be. Lower fertility rates are bad and people should have more kids. Children should be raised by biological parents regardless of other circumstances. People should not put off getting married.
When I posted about this topic elsewhere, one person commented thusly:
…Could it be that the tough reality is that someone is going to get thrown under the bus? And if we have to focus on something, it needs to be families, and others are just going to have to manage?
I mean, I really do think the American family is in crisis and is on the path to becoming irrevocably broken. I see the LDS Church as providing a crucial last bulwark against the cultural tide. I also see our modern culture as celebrating and encouraging the detached single adult lifestyle so much that its just hard for me to see the LDS Church’s role as providing further encouragement.
I also think that if we start focusing on singles in a big way, we are inevitably going to throw families under the bus, acquiesce to the tide of anti-family cultural shift in the US, and become a church without any unique or useful message at all – just like the rest of the liberal Evangelical and Protestant denominations out there that are losing membership in droves.
To this end, the church will not — unless something radically changes — “celebrate” singleness, as the author wishes. Whether by choice or by circumstances, singleness will be seen as less than because it will be seen as not fulfilling one’s reason to be on this earth. (P.S., this is something all same-sex attracted Mormons need to know.)
Do Ideals Have to be Zero-Sum Games?
While I understand that the way the church currently is, it’s probably just not going to be “for” single folks, one thing I wonder is whether advocacy of families (…and not just any kind of family) must be a zero-sum game.
Is it truly impossible to focus on singles while not throwing families under the bus?
…Or is it possible to focus on families while not throwing singles under the bus?
Would it be possible to recognize that not everyone may necessarily have the same ideal, and then, after recognizing that, promote different ideals to different people (or, even better, identify that values behind specific ideals so that people can pursue broader values rather than specific setups)?
Would it really hurt the ideal of families if one recognized that, if someone is single, they can still improve themselves as a single person in ways that don’t just amount to “getting ready for marriage”?