Don’t Occupy Mormonism…Occupy the Streets and the World.

One of my frustrations with Mormon liberalism is that it is primarily concerned with Mormonism.

In my experience, unorthodox Mormons are just as likely to be right-wing Social Darwinists as more traditional Mormons. Now, do they think of themselves as Social Darwinists? No, nobody has since the 1880s. It is a term used to describe those feel a certain comfort and commitment to social inequality. Those who have, deserve it. Those who have not, brought it upon themselves. We tend to use the term “Social Darwinist” as a label for those who have a morally depraved view of the cruelties of society. Social Darwinism has indeed evolved, but it is as strong and as destructive today as it was in the late 19th-century when it was a popular and celebrated approach to both morality and political economic. Today, we are just more subtle.

On questions of social justice, less orthodox Mormons, in my experience, have no more sense of justice than more traditional Mormons. One of the reasons for this is that unorthodox Mormons are most often united in discussions about Mormonism and the LDS Church. In this sense, liberal Mormons would not all fit within the construct of liberal theology. This is unfortunate.

Social justice is about making the world a better, or more just, place. It is about improving the political, social, and economic institutions which impact everyone. How can we change these institutions so that they might benefit everyone, instead of just a few?

In Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision For A New Generation, Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox offer an aspirational vision how the energy of the Occupy Wall Street movement can become a spring board for a new spiritual movement. Such a spiritual movement would transcend many of the generational divides that currently divide the left. It would also give purpose to spirituality at a time when mainstream religion is struggling to keep and attract youth.

What Occupy Spirituality awakened in me is a desire for a social justice-oriented Mormonism. I am not saying that the LDS Church should be more social justice focused. I might like that, but I am not looking for institutional approval or guidance. Instead, I am looking for spiritual communities, within my larger religious institutional community, that will allow me to focus my theology and my practice on making the world a better place.

I think this is part of why I so appreciate the social justice message advocated by the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian-Universalists, and the Community of Christ. They focus on broader social justice goal and not just the well-being of their respective communities.

Now, I am not saying the LDS Church does not address or tackle larger issues. Their welfare and humanitarian programs make a broad impact. Nor am I saying that unorthodox Mormons are not at all interested in social justice. Indeed, many of them engage in some pretty amazing efforts.

Instead, what I am saying is that Mormonism of all flavors could do with less navel-gazing. Might the LDS Church have a rather corporate feel to it? Sure does. However, the influence of corporate wealth on our political system should be of far more concern. One makes Mormonism rather dull. The other is destroying our democracy. See the difference?

Institutions and religions should be self-reflective. There is a need for navel-gazing of a sort. However, Mormonism as a culture tends to be self-obsessed. Changing the Church is an interesting goal. But it is not a radical one. As a result, few efforts to do so have been particularly radical.

For me, I am not interested in radical for the sake of being radical. However, the institutions that are most in need of change will need some radical action. To that extent, we will need to Occupy Spirituality by putting our spiritual energy into changing the world.

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About Chris Henrichsen

Chris Henrichsen has moved Approaching Justice off of Patheos. Find his latest posts and the new Approaching Justice. Thanks!

  • Russell Arben Fox

    Well said, Chris. I don’t really know how I feel about many of the radical movements which flourish in the margins of American Mormon, but I know that I continually suspect that the existence of such movements, and the focus which nominally (but often not actually) left-leaning Mormons put upon them, distracts for more important critiques.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Thanks, Russell.

  • douglas hunter

    “One of my frustrations with Mormon liberalism is that it is primarily concerned with Mormonism.

    In my experience, unorthodox Mormons are just as likely to be right-wing Social Darwinists as more traditional Mormons. Now, do they think of themselves as Social Darwinists? No, nobody has since the 1880s. It is a term used to describe those feel a certain comfort and commitment to social inequality. Those who have, deserve it. Those who have not, brought it upon themselves. We tend to use the term “Social Darwinist” as a label for those who have a morally depraved view of the cruelties of society. Social Darwinism has indeed evolved, but it is as strong and as destructive today as it was in the late 19th-century when it was a popular and celebrated approach to both morality and political economic. Today, we are just more subtle.”

    Personally I find this offensive (just say’n) some of us are out there working on issues that have nothing to do with Mormonism and that Mormons want no part of, and are as far from social darwinism as possible, so I say speak for yourself. Yea I do see ways in which you are right, and my own experience working primarily with people of other faiths suggests that you are right, but my hurt little feelings want you to make room for the exception. :-)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      I didn’t say “all.” I feel that I left room for exception.

  • JohnH2

    “If the search for riches is sure to be successful,
    though I should become a groom with whip in hand to get them, I will do
    so. As the search may not be successful, I will follow after that which
    I love.” – Confucius: Analacts

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Ancient Asian though not really my area. Help me out.

      • JohnH2

        I thought it was fairly self explanatory, in regards to social Darwinism. If economic success could be assured then we would be in a social Darwinist setting and everyone should do that which brings success. Since success can’t be assured then it is better to do what one loves doing.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

          Oh, nice. Thanks for the explanation :)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

    Yeah, the essay is actually me critiquing other Mormon liberals. Your lack of charity may have skewed you reading of the essay.

    You are doing just what I am calling for. I applaud you…even if you have nothing but venom for me. I make no claim to virtue.


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