A frequent comment or attitude I've encountered in my recent faith journey is that I must have returned to the LDS Church because that is the culture I am most comfortable with. Being a polite and non-argumentative type, I usually let people say what they want to say and think what they want to think about my faith journey. But for those who care, nestling up in the bosom of Mormon culture is the last reason I can imagine for affiliating myself with the Church.
I hate Mormon culture. Mormon culture is homophobic. It is still probably quietly racist in large swaths of the Mormon populace, though great strides have been made in this area since 1978. There's a lot of right-wing arrogance that surfaces frequently in the form of attitudes that anyone who's not a Republican is probably deep down inside a testimony-lacking, godless heathen. Mormon culture is also rife with the sexist, Victorian women's pedestal mentality, despite the fact that much lip-service is paid to equality. And worst of all, there's a kind of rampant conformist mentality which amounts to casting everyone as "less-than" or as "sinner" if they don't follow a certain straight-arrow progression from baptism to priesthood to mission to temple marriage and oodles of babies.
I would, of course, be lying if I did not admit that there are some things I very much like about Mormon culture. I like that Mormons tend to be soft-spoken, honest, kind, hard-working, and generous (even the homophobic, sexist, racist ones). And Mormons place a high value on family, which I have seen at work for the good far more often than for the bad. Does the good stuff in the culture outweigh the bad? Probably not any more than the good in any culture counterbalances the bad.
You may take issue with any of the specifics of my portait of Mormon culture. Go right ahead. I'll concede every point you make. But it doesn't ultimately matter what Mormon culture is. The bottom line is, it is still culture. And if it were simply a matter of being a citizen of this or that particular culture, Mormon culture I could take or leave. It does not interest me any more than French culture, or American culture, or Catholic culture, or Jewish culture or Muslim culture or any other culture. Reconnecting with Mormon culture was certainly not my motivation when I put on a suit and tie in October 2005 and started quietly attending my local ward.
To my way of thinking, culture -- even Mormon culture -- is part and parcel of this worldly, sinful mess we are called to pack up our bags and leave when the voice of the Spirit calls to us. Culture -- even Mormon culture -- is hopelessly, fatally infected with pride and falsehood. It is ultimately an idol, used as a tool by the Prince of Lies to lull us into a false sense of security, and cut us off from God.
When we hear the voice of the Spirit, calling us out of Babylon, we must ultimately renounce culture. We become, ultimately, strangers in a strange land. We become people without a land, without a culture. We become people whose eyes have been opened to the fact that until Christ establishes his rule at the end of days, this place and all its ways are not and never can be home to us.
So take my Mormon culture, please!