Thoughts on the Smallness of Orthodoxy, the Good News of the Gospel, and the Gestation of Advent
Orthodoxy has its place. I see it as a type of identifier. We, as humans, crave signs that help us recognize sameness, or that inform us about what to expect. If there is a specific list of what is expected in a certain community, place, or time, event or gathering, we might feel more at ease with belonging. We might have a better idea about whether or not we will be included or safe. Or we might be interested in learning more about how things work in a group or event whose orthodoxy is different from our own.
It has been interesting for me to see the many ways someone might declare or claim orthodoxy. I have heard people firmly state what is orthodox belief and behavior for faith groups and religions, usually but not always one to which they are connected. It is one way I have learned how diverse views of orthodoxy can be. What one might consider to be essential belief and behavior for an active LDS church member might not have any similarity to another.
I have lost count the number of times someone tells me that my lifelong involvement in church activity, my devotion to the mystical, unique teachings of the restoration, and my constantly evolving journey of faith that includes church participation, is not in any way orthodox. Yet it aligns with the orthodoxy that inspired me. I have come to view any expression of orthodoxy to really be a statement of personal belief, with the human need to validate it by stamping it with an “orthodox” label.
I have tried to avoid the need to align my faith journey or mindfulness work with statements of orthodoxy. I think orthodoxy suggests a smaller place of thought, a narrower community, staying comfortable in sameness, a restricted space, defined by truth claims and certainty, relying on biased human authority, instead of possible paradigm shifts for new light and knowledge. Our language and experience is limited. When someone tries to claim orthodoxy, especially if the claim includes what is not orthodox, it can only speak of smallness for those that can belong. Strict orthodoxy is not inviting or inspiring to the countless numbers that are excluded.
One of the authors of a recent statement about “radical orthodoxy” (to which I will not encourage giving energy or attention) centered his claim around agreement to and support of a proclamation which is used to justify exclusion and diminishment of the family life and relationships of most humans.
There is nothing radical about a person of privilege claiming allegiance to a man-made statement that attempts to elevate that privilege to divine investiture.
I hope and would like to believe what another author of this statement says, that this statement is about a willingness to revisit paradigms, and reconsider traditions. But the disclaimers about the need to fit it all within existing dogma brings it all back to smallness.
There are some people I love and admire who endorse this recent orthodoxy statement, people who have helped me make it through desperately dark times. I try to remember that we are all here, seeing through a glass darkly. I can’t and won’t assume the intention of others.
What is very clear to me is the pain and heartbreak felt by those who are, once again, feeling betrayed by a statement from people in their community which denies their existence, their experience, their divinity.
That pain, that heartbreak, is real. It is deeper and more profound than any statement.
I think of my father’s last essay, “The Weeping God of Mormonism”. God weeps for us because we hurt each other. Their children hurt each other.
There is no answer that will take away the pain, the heartbreak. I have learned from my Mormon God to let go of the fixing, of the explaining, of the need to have the answer. They have sat with me. They have said, “I am sorry. This hurts. I weep with you. I am here. I am with you.”
From Them, there is radical, unconditional, overwhelming love.
It is wide as all eternity.
The God of Love is radical.
Christ’s human example was radical in bringing us the good news of the Gospel.
The news that we are each an embodiment of the kingdom of God. That God’s love is present and unconditional. That God’s grace is constant and unearned. That we are so connected through this grace and love, that no salvation is complete without everyone. No love is experienced unless it is unconditional. The news that God’s loving grace has the power to transform us.
This Gospel is so radical, there is no language that can completely describe it.
It is discovered, revealed, wrestled, brought into existence moment by moment, when we step into transformational living.
The Gospel of Love has no orthodoxy.
Three words express it all.
Love one another.
Even when asked about exceptions, Christ taught there are none by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The lesson I have learned from this so far is…If there is anyone you don’t love, you don’t love anyone.
I wrestle with that epiphany constantly. Sometimes that thought embraces and enfolds me. Sometimes is eats away at me. Seeking to live this has wounded me. And God is with me in the wounds. Sometimes, I am born into a new life from the woundedness.
It is Advent.
Some see this as a time of waiting, anticipating the birth of Christ.
This year, I see it as a time of gestation.
I did not experience beautiful, soft-filtered picturesque pregnancies. There was pain, vomit, blood, tearing, loss, stretching, confusion, and the end of my life as I knew it. And that was all before the birth itself.
There was no adequate preparation, no orthodoxy to follow which prepared me.
I don’t regret it. It taught me transformation like nothing else could.
And I won’t romanticize it.
Taking on a transformative life is a gestation process.
Advent is a time to participate, not passively await, but actively participate in bringing the life of God into the world.
When Mary traveled to find support and wisdom from her cousin Elizabeth, there was an extraordinary greeting that occurred. Elizabeth felt the new life within her leap in recognition of the new life within Mary.
She cried out, “The God in me sees the God in you.”
Her wisdom and love invited Mary to see what Christ would later teach – The Kingdom of God is within.
What new life is growing within us?
What new life will I see in others?
Four years ago, during the dark advent time of 2016 when so much hope seemed lost, I was deeply moved by the words of Valerie Kaur. She gave a powerful speech, and said, “The mother in me asks, What if this is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?…What if this is our great transition? And what does the midwife tell us? Breathe…then push!”
I believe that God became our parents by breathing inspiration into us, inspiring us to move into new life and deeper wisdom, to take on more complex and challenging levels of existence where we could learn wisdom and love, even in opposition.
God inspires me to breathe deeper, and to push forward.
God sits with me in the darkness, whether it is the tomb or the womb.
Can I learn to do so?
Can I learn to see the God in everyone else?
It is hard for me to see that in the smallness of orthodoxy, even though I think God is still there.
Outrage does not do much to overcome this.
Bringing God into the world overwhelms smallness.
I will sit with those in pain, in heartbreak. I find God in that woundedness. I will be reminded of the overwhelming experience of radical love, and the transformation of one-ness.