Liberating Theology

religious drawing
Envisioning Spiritual Justice

In recent years, I have had many opportunities to support people of my faith who are experiencing spiritual crises, including doubts, lost trust in religious authority and teachings, and learning challenging information, such as about religious history. Many of these individuals also hope for institutional changes and make efforts to raise their voices about their concerns. Supporting and validating these individuals, and helping them equip themselves with tools to build resilient faith and claim spiritual authority for their personal lives is work I feel deeply invested in. I created a poster inspired by my experiences navigating Latter-day Saints circles while providing specialized support to others. I included concepts concerning trauma and spiritual healing I learned in the movement chaplaincy training, and also concepts from Christian mysticism.

The title of the poster is "Three Universes I Accompany Others Through Toward Restorative Justice in my Church." The three universes are also three "eyes" or ways of seeing and experiencing Latter-day Saint religion and spirituality. In Christian mysticism, three "eyes" symbolically represent three increasingly deeper levels of understanding of the world. The first eye perceives what is presented outwardly as reality without pondering what lies beneath the surface. For this circle, I visually represented "the status quo" of institutional structures and teachings, including exclusively male hierarchical structures of religious authority, sanitized church history, and a white male centered theology. The second eye questions how things work and how they have come to be. It doubts and investigates. In this circle, I represented a variety of "noxious weeds" in church history and policies that jeopardize faith and often require intense study and soul searching to grapple with. Each noxious weed is in a separate fractured segment of the circle, like a cracked plate.

The third eye represents a yet deeper level of understanding. It acknowledges the first two eyes, but gazes deeper beyond the dogmas and dualistic thinking of the first eye, as well as the facts, explanations, struggles and disappointment of the second. The third eye focuses on transcendent spiritual enlightenment acquired through communing with God. It is capable of fostering resilient faith and renewed spiritual vision and also of surmounting the obstacles to faith presented by the other eyes while still integrating them. I'm only sharing the third eye, my spiritual vision of liberating Latter-day Saint community and theology. The visual concept is inspired by a painting called "In Their Image" by Caitlin Connolly. Heavenly Parents are represented as equal partners, and their children as shown as equal members within one family. This disrupts the hierarchy, sexism and racism found in other eyes. I also added scriptural passages and teachings from the faith tradition which further disrupt obstacles found in the other circles, revealing transcendent and liberating aspects of the theology. I also listed specific efforts and changes (to the right and left of this image) that could bring spiritual liberation to Latter-day individuals drawing on concepts I learned from the course about how to heal intergenerational trauma, turn away from traumatized responses, minister and validate those struggling with faith, and foster greater love, equality and inclusivity within the community.

Candice Wendt
Candice Wendt works at MORSL and is trying to learn to raise teenagers. She loves book clubs and pastries.

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