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September 2017
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On the front page of today’s print edition of the New York Times, Laurie Goodstein has an article titled “Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt.” Ms. Goodstein’s article is about how the Internet is facilitating deep doubt about Mormon faith/truth claims among some Mormons who find research on the Internet that questions their religious tradition. This seems to me to possibly be a story about what is known in academic theology as “deconversion,” or the process whereby people detach from the form and content of religious affiliation that used to be secure in their lives. Deconversion is a widespread phenomenon today across religious traditions, and has hit Roman Catholicism particularly hard, which is one reason that I and a colleague at Fordham, Dr. Patrick Hornbeck, have been studying deconversions from Catholicism for the past several years.

Ms. Goodstein describes crises of belief and conscience among Mormons who find that the religious claims that have been presented to them as normative, or binding, may be false or at least considerably “otherwise” than they have learned. Interestingly, the article twice quotes Mormon leaders who compare the drama of this (apparently widespread) Mormon situation with Roman Catholicism, which is imagined in these quotations as more secure in the public presentation of its basic faith story.

This comparison makes sense as a rhetorical contrast between a “young religion” and an “old religion”, but it does not jive with the facts, as a substantial number of baptized Catholics no longer trust or believe many basic faith/truth claims that they are taught as binding on Catholics. That is (more…)

Theologian Karl Barth was thought to have said that theology is done with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Although I have never seen the actual quotation, the sentiment is a worthy one when it means that to think about God or God-related things is not only best done with reference to reports of the times in which one lives, it is necessarily done so. And so it is that I frequently enough find myself commenting here at R&T on news reports that seem of likely theological and musical interest to me and to our contributors and readers.

Two such seemingly unrelated reports joined themselves in my mind today.

The first is a New York Times review, by Dave Itzkoff, of a recent NYC show by the rap/pop/Faygo-spraying band Insane Clown Posse.

Here is ICP with “Miracles”, followed by a now-somewhat-legendary Saturday Night Live parody of the Posse.



Interviewing concertgoers on a post-show ICP cruise on the East River, one fan told Itzkoff that she was full of gratitude for the band’s influence on her life. She recently told Violent J, one of the two Insane Clowns (along with Shaggy 2 Dope (yes, you read the last dozen or so words correctly)), that “I want to thank you for everything. I think my life is perfect. Not that I wouldn’t have any friends without [this band and its culture], but I found the people who are most similar to me.”