There is something fairly remarkable occurring that I don’t quite know how to put my finger on. It has something to do with pastoral apologetics, and how pastoral apologetics is seeking to override base facts. But let me back up.
If I were to summarize the history of Mormon apologetics, I would broadly describe it in two phases. The first phase was the phase of traditional apologetics. This is your FAIR (at least, your old FAIR) and your FARMS. This phase was about showing how the objective claims of the LDS religion were factual (or at least factually possible, given certain interpretations.) This phase was about showing how various strikes against the church were not factual (or that, even if they were factual in part, that critics missed important details or distorted the facts — that there was missing context.)
The basic problem with the traditional apologetic approach is that it’s trying to play a secular epistemological game by secular rules and it simply is not doing (can not do?) this well.
So, some time, we moved into a different phase. And maybe it isn’t correct to describe it as a phase, seeing as its proponents have been around as long as the traditional apologists have. But maybe it’s safer to say that this form is entering ascendancy?
This is the apologetics of care or pastoral apologetics. Read more…
I like that Adam is addressing how the sort of question like “Is the church true?” creates the all-or-nothing mentality that so often drives people out of it. As he says:
In this respect, it doesn’t have the feel of a question that’s meant to be used as a question. It feels, instead, like the kind of question you’re meant to ask when you already know the answer. It feels inherently rhetorical. It feels like the kind of question a missionary is supposed to ask Mr. Brown, a Boolean question meant to force a binary response.
The problem with these vast institutional machines of deduction and inference is that they tend to be super fragile. One cog comes loose, the whole thing groans and grinds to a halt. The wagered “all” of its “all or nothing!” risks, without further consideration, simply returning “nothing.”
It’s in this sense especially that the question seems to me to be much too thin to dependably accomplish real religious work.
Instead, he advocates a different set of questions that are thick enough to accomplish said “real religious work”:
Ask the thick question: “Is this the body of Christ?” Is Christ manifest here? Is this thing alive? Does it bleed?
This is a load-bearing question. This is a question properly fitted, by Christ himself, to address the existential burn that compels its asking.
This is a question that is big enough to not only address issues of veridicality, but the whole of the head and the whole of the heart. And not just these, but the arms, legs, feet, fingers, toes, spleen, bowels, and loins. The body of Christ includes them all. It includes the beautiful and the ugly, the public and the private, the desirable and the foul, the lost and the found.
Inquire into the body of Christ itself.
And then say:
“Though I may not even know what it means to ask if the church is true, I’d stake my life (and the lives of my children) on the fact that Christ’s body is manifest here and that we are its members.”
Very well, Mr. Miller. The only problem is…what does it even mean for the church to be the body of Christ?
The other day, John C had what I believe is a really great, heartfelt post at By Common Consent: Lord, it is I. I think what I like most about it is its visceral personal nature — it’s not an intellectual post but words from John’s soul. From the post:
Actually, if God won’t save me in my sins, what is the point? I’ll never not sin. Sometimes I experience the remission of sin, where I genuinely don’t want to sin anymore, but then I get tired, my family won’t listen, a co-worker irritates me, and Amen to that remission. I’m right back off the wagon, wishing ill and hardening my heart.
Which is, of course, the worst bit. Even if I manage to somehow, via willpower and a higher power, quit my bad habits and to not start new bad habits, I am as prone as anyone to pride and judgment. I might hold my tongue, but in my heart I am likely to think ill of the broken and the straying. Charity for those who offend me, who are not my enemy but whom I would not have as a friend, requires effort and I am frequently lazy.
So, I’m familiar with my sins. Being kind of lame, I take a bit of pride in this as well. I may not be perfect, but at least I know I’m not perfect (unlike some people I could name, but won’t). I’m probably better for admitting my sins (vaguely, with no specifics) than all those sanctimonious people out there. Moral superiority through sinning; who knew?
It is nice to hear, as President Uchtdorf told us in Priesthood session, “Brethren, we must put aside our pride, see beyond our vanity, and in humility ask, “Lord, is it I?”,” but I know it is I. I am the cause of most of my own problems, without a doubt. The question is, what do I do about it?
I could change I suppose, but I don’t know how. I’m relatively old now and I am almost certainly who I am going to be. That I disappoint myself doesn’t really reveal anything; who doesn’t? As if to demonstrate what a cliché I am, the scripture is replete with prophetic self-recrimination. Isaiah says, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Nephi says, “O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.”Alma says, “I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.” If even the prophets aren’t satisfied with their effort, how am I ever to be with mine?
Part of me was thinking that what John C was coming against is Mormonism’s tendency toward works righteousness…but the big question is whether or not we can actually ever work hard enough to be righteous.
I’ve seen this argument a few times in Mormon discussions about certain movements perceived to be liberal, progressive, etc., For a version of this argument stated plainly, moderate, as-a-matter-of-course by Hawkgrrrl, on Mormon Heretic’s recent post asking people to chime in on their thoughts of Ordain Women’s most recent General Conference (to attend the Priesthood session at their local stake centers) action:
…First of all, trying to attend another church meeting is definitely not my style. Second, sisters attending locally had a few different outcomes: 1) some few attended with little fanfare, 2) some attended after a bit of browbeating at the door (being asked why they wouldn’t follow the prophet), and 3) some were reportedly blocked from attending by men at the doors so their womanly taint would not disrupt the meeting. IOW, it’s a reflection of local leadership how the women were treated.
Those who were treated shabbily will probably be gone within a year, along with their families. Maybe that would have happened anyway. Some people seem to care about that more than others.
Emphasis added. Read more…
A week ago, Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) featured an excerpt from Shane Hayes’ new book The End of Unbelief: A new approach to the question of God. I only found out about that post because of Hemant’s tweet about a followup from Shane where he addressed a few of the comments in the first thread and provided additional explanation. Shane is part of the collection of formerly-atheist Christians who claim to have new methods for converting atheism as a result of their own conversion. However, like most formerly-atheist Christians, Shane ultimately shows that apparently, not all people experience atheism similarly, so one person’s reasons for converting won’t appeal to another. (Maybe if I become a theist I can write my own book, though?)
That being said, even if I wasn’t convinced by Shane’s thinking, I give him some credit for being willing to walk into the proverbial lion’s den. Also (and the main reason for this post), I also did find the excerpt interesting for its unexpected Mormon parallels (because I doubt Shane is familiar with the Mormon thinking on the subject.) Read more…
After my previous post asking why we can’t have a pro-women Mormon theology, I read and commented on a post by Hawkgrrrl contrasting a church of duty with a consumer church. My comment was as follows:
I’m not exactly driven to go to church, but it’s not because there aren’t rock concerts or small prayer groups. It’s because on any given Sunday, it will probably be boring and utterly irrelevant to my life circumstances punctuated with moments of absolute offensiveness.
I think there is conceivably a value to learning how to hear offensive things without even blinking…learning how to regulate internal blood temperature, as it were…but then i realize that baffling things happen in life without seeking it out in a church.
My thoughts really are that, for some folks, the LDS church experience can be very relevant and interesting to their lives. I mean, when it comes to building white picket fence families with husband, wife, and 2.5 kids (ok, let’s be real…there will be more kids), LDS church teachings are admirable. But when someone doesn’t fit that mold in any of a number of ways.
Over at By Common Consent is a guest post: Thoughts from a Mid-Single Mormon. And while I sympathize and hope that things can become more welcoming and inclusive, at the back of my mind is the thought:
This church simply isn’t for you.
This past week, I actually saw a post in my RSS feed titled “The brides of Satan.” i am not paraphrasing. I am not making this up. I actually saw a blog post where the blogger said:
Given the fact that Lucifer’s plan appealed specifically and directly to female spirits and their natures and did not appeal at all to male spirits and their natures, it is logical to assume that the 1/3 were all female.
I probably should have DoNotLink‘d to that post, because a sliver of me considers that the only reason someone would write a post like this is for pageviews. (FWIW, at this point, I am 97.333333% convinced that Matt Walsh is just writing for pageclicks, and that all of the liberal outrage shares/clicks are falling exactly into his trap. That is my gift of discernment.)
I did not do that because for a variety of reasons, I happen to believe that LDS Anarchist is fully sincere in believing what he’s writing. I know I’ve gotten Anarchist confused with his coblogger Justin — a confusion that has cause plenty of laughs for everyone, I’m sure — but my impression of the entire LDS Anarchist blog is that these are sincere out-of-the-box doctrinal/theological investigations.
But let’s get back to me in bed, reviewing my RSS feed items. As soon as I saw this post, my gift of discernment clued me in on something — I knew that the fruits of this post would be that it would get posted to some liberal Mormon FB group, and it would cause a lot of drama. I knew that there was nothing I could do to prevent the drama. The only thing I could do was hope that ground zero of said drama would not be the Mormon Hub.
Fortunately for me and the other Hub moderators, it was not. Instead, it was posted to the Feminist Mormon Housewives Facebook group, which was probably an even worse place it could go. And indeed, there was drama. So much drama. I don’t want to get into the drama, because it was so much.
I just want to say a few things.
Firstly, if this is satire, this is bad satire. In the sense that it is completely and 100% ineffective. I mean, maybe I’m just a stick in the mud, but I don’t see how this is satirizing anything. It is possible that this is the best example of Poe’s Law, but I’ll get on that in the future.
Secondly, probably the best thing that arose from this was that I learned the new term “Schrodinger’s Asshole.” I will keep that term saved for later.
A week ago, James Olson wrote a post at Times and Seasons summarizing many of the arguments for and against the treatment of women at the church. The purpose of this “dialectical mapping” was to align people with the most current iterations/rounds of the arguments, rather than having people repeat the points of rounds long since finished.
I think the most interesting thing that happened in this discussion was that very early on, there was pushback in the comments about James’s bias. In particular, several commenters believed that James weakly summarized the final responses of the nonfeminist side. Commenter SilverRain (among others) pointed out that the problem is that James’s entire endeavor to present the arguments intellectually misses that the sides don’t rely on the same premises. As she wrote:
The reason “AA” doesn’t have a great response to you is because you have set a battleground upon which she cannot win. Then, you assume that she has no ability to win.
In other words, participation in the Church is predicated upon faith in its basic principles (God the Father, Christ, the Spirit, personal revelation, God’s authority via the priesthood, the efficacy of priesthood ordinances, etc: ie. that the Church is true.) Without a testimony in those things, the “FF” arguments try to persuade on the battleground of intellect. But AA has no interest in fighting on that battleground. It doesn’t mean she CAN’T (after all, there are many people who do just that in apologetics, and they generally have good points even if you don’t accept them.) It means that she shouldn’t. That’s just not the battleground on which we have been asked to fight.
and, in a later comment:
One last thought: these kinds of posts illustrate quite effectively the major problems between the two schools of thought.
Those who believe in the Church’s claims of authority have really only one answer: I have searched, prayed, and received a testimony. You can, too.
But if someone is determined not to gain a testimony, or if they devalue spiritual sources of information, they will never receive that witness. These sorts of posts are like throwing a gauntlet into someone’s lap: prove it, or I won’t believe. By design, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Church cannot be proven. It is intended to be unprovable. That is why it is faith.
Ultimately, their belief and lack thereof will rest only in their own laps. Those who believe are not called to convert, but to testify. Conversion is solely between the individual and the Spirit, and ultimately it will be to God an individual must answer. Judgment as to whether or not they have reached for knowledge from God in every way they can is up to God, temporarily those He has designated, and no one else. All we can do is shrug and say, “I don’t know why you haven’t felt it, but I have.”
That’s not a non-answer, it just isn’t the answer you want.
I believe that SilverRain was on to something, but I wanted to find out further. I for one do think that many progressive Mormon folks on the internet “intellectualize” issues far often, and so conservative answers that aren’t intellectualized don’t seem compelling.
However, I was not so sure about what I perceived to be implications of SilverRain’s comments. For example, I don’t think that liberal Mormons lack a testimony, or that support for, say, women’s ordination, cannot be grounded in faith and spirituality.
So I asked a few questions
After I wrote my article on the ideal of being White and Delightsome, one of my friends shared it on her wall, and one of her friends wrote the following:
Praise White Jesus!
To which I replied
White Jesus saves.
A Jesus of any other ethnicity probably would get himself killed by the powers that be. Oops
Obviously, there are many reasons why the portrayal of Jesus as a white guy is problematic — and not because he was killed by the powers that be. However, this Medium article: Face it, blacks. Michael Brown let you down got me thinking about the popular racialization of Jesus, particularly with its subtitle: “So instead, can someone just shoot Jesus Christ already?” and a particular paragraph: Read more…