Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fowler's Stages of Faith

It seems like this book gets mentioned a lot of NOM, so I finally got a copy and read it. (I purchased By His Own Hand on Papyrus at the same time--I'm excited to read that next.) I'll admit that I'm writing this review a little prematurely, in that I've got about 10 pages to go, but I read a lot of it today in one sitting and found Fowler's stage model incredibly True in my life.

I am a solid Stage Four. I found it interesting reading about Stage Five, and I imagine that that would be a better place for me, but I don't see a completely clear path to it yet. My Dad is definitely a Stage Five, which is probably why I always have felt like he was a member of a "different Mormonism" than I was. I always felt like he used the same words as every other Mormon, but with completely different meanings. I can also see how most of the members I know appear to be Stage 3 or 3/4 hybrids.

What's interesting is that when I talk to active members about this, their reaction is , "so you think you're at a higher stage than me?" It's a question of simple arithmetic, I suppose, in that 4 is higher than 3; however, there is an implicit question: "so you think you're better than me?" The answer to this is equally simple: no. To suggest that a Stage 4 is "better than" a Stage 3 is like suggesting that my 5-year-old boy is "better than" my 1-year-old daughter. The value-based comparison is ludicrous--people are at different stages in many aspects of their life, and their current stage is usually a result of external triggers. It's not like smarter, kinder, more sensitive, etc. people move through the faith stages faster--Fowler makes no such claims, nor do I. I suspect that a person at each stage views people at previous stages as peers at a different place in their life journey, while simultaneously viewing people successive stages as hostile or confused. Thus a Stage 3 will feel threatened by a Stage 4, much to the bewilderment of the Stage 4 (unless they remember what they felt when they were at Stage 3).

At least that's how the stages seem to play out in my life. I think some people who leave the church can be pretty hostile toward the members (as opposed to policy and doctrine), which I think is unfortunate. But everyone's different.

At any rate, this book really seemed to describe my journey thus far. It's amazing that something so personal and unique can be so universal to humanity.


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