Mormons: Mormons, in the heartland in Utah have an interesting problem. Young men are leaving the church in large numbers, but many young women are staying.
Traditionally, Mormons marry young, and have large families. They have a belief that childbirth brings a soul from the realm of the unborn into salvation; so being born is like being born again. You can see how young and unmarried men cause a problem when they leave.
Why is this happening? My best guess is the leavers follow the reasoning of all young men; they do it because they can.
When I was young, Christians in my church were often called fundamentalists, and they liked the name. I once passed a line outside a movie theater, and I’m sure I saw my aunt. We did not make eye contact and I have kept her secret all these years. Christians were not supposed to go to movies, in those days.
Another time, in a church library, I found a book with a chapter “Should Christians go Bowling?” I forget the conclusion, but that was a serious discussion once.
Toyota: Now I have a Toyota truck, and that has made all the difference. I’m not advertising a product, but my truck will take me anywhere, anytime, in four wheel drive if I need it.
And in my pocket I have a phone that talks, texts, takes pictures, and makes videos. I can get a message from anyone, any time, and I can get in my truck and drive to them, in the worst winter snow storm.
The personal freedom I have today is astounding. In theory, I could go to a movie, or a bowling alley in another city, and no one could find me. And do I? Well I don’t like bowling, and NetFlix is everywhere, but I could.
If I could send this message back to 1965, about my highly reliable Japanese truck, and the Korean phone-camera-fax machine in my pocket, people would say I was crazy. Fifty years ago people could be controlled, so most religions, schools and other organizations restricted the freedom of their members, and we mostly went along with the plan.
Now we have personal freedom our grandparents never knew, and we can’t be restricted.
And young Mormon men in Utah are living out this freedom. One text from a friend and a guy can jump into his freedom machine, and go anywhere, to do anything. One academic interpretation is …
“Utah’s Mormon majority has always fostered a unique religious subculture. The sheer density of Mormons in Utah means that ward boundaries and neighborhood boundaries are often coterminous. Associates at work, school, and in the community are also likely to be co-religionists in this setting.
This fuses church and community norms, and makes violating church standards subject to disapproval and sanction in non-church settings. Traditionally, this has provided added incentive for Utah Mormons with marginal personal religiosity to remain in the church, and to follow church behavioral mandates.”
God: For all of us, this new freedom changes the way we relate to God. Now we need strong personal convictions, because the coercive community around us is gone.
This change brings intense culture shock to conservative religious communities, including Mormonism and Islam. People must now be persuaded. They can’t be controlled, and we can see the stress of this new reality in the world news.
The world has gone in a circle and returned back to the words of Jesus “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) We come one at a time, there is no group conversion.
One of the biggest battles of my life was to become a Christian because I wanted to, not because I conformed to my family’s traditions. What I am comes from my personal freedom, even if it parallels what other people do.
In this new world, religions that use coercion are feeling the stress of personal freedom, and some of these groups will collapse. The old idea is a new revolution:
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10 to 12)