Not-so-big tent Mormonism
The other day, I read Chris Carroll Smith’s summary of his article in the latest edition of Dialogue Journal, as well as his thoughts on Dialogue’s new direction ever since Kristine Haglund has become editor. I have known about Dialogue Journal and Sunstone Magazine for some time, but I just haven’t been so interested in the concept. After hearing the gist of Chris’s article’s idea (and his connection to another piece in the edition that he believes is a good complement), I was intrigued by it. So I investigated subscribing, and I decided to go ahead.
I wondered, “Why not sign up for Sunstone?” I suppose Sunstone is primarily a set of symposia, but it also has a magazine. Why not read into that?
At this point, I realized I had no idea what the difference between Dialogue and Sunstone was. I knew they must have some kind of personality or orientation difference, but I couldn’t imagine. So, I did some research.
My quick (and certainly un-thorough) search excavation of ancient internet history led me to one particular article at By Common Consent (and, to a lesser extent, this one at Times and Seasons). I found a theme to the messages here, and this theme was significant to me because I have seen and grappled with in the past. From what I can tell, Dialogue has more credibility with the faithful community, whereas Sunstone is “alternative” or heretical.
Many commenters simply noted that the unorthodoxy, “whining,” and “religion-making” that pervades the symposia are off-putting. Another commenter wrote:
…It’s not that I am against a way for bridges to be built and for people w/ different perspectives and experiences and varying degrees of in-the-church-ness to associate. And maybe Sunstone will continue to be that place. I suppose if Sunstone changed gears, then something else would form that would run the same course and run into the same challenges.
My thought, though, is that as long as Sunstone continues to have such a wide variety, it will continue to have a reputation that will limit its audience and appeal, and there will always be a raised eyebrow from many a member about it. And because there is a lot of good there, I think that is unfortunate. But maybe there is too much baggage there anyway — even the name triggers a lot, no?
I feared this sentiment. Can it be that the seeking of variety will be the one thing that will discourage it?
In slightly unrelated news, I’ve hit another setback. At a particular site, yet another email of mine has been put on automatic comment moderation. It was only a matter a time; I’ve only been getting by on a technicality and loophole (and am probably risking an IP ban that will require more creative solutions.)
My comment was eventually fished out, but I couldn’t help but express to the person who had fished it out: One day, I’ll get this message for good and just leave. One day, I’ll accept that I’m not wanted and stop trying to crash the party. One day, I’ll stop trying to actualize a dream of mine that was always a nightmare for everyone else. But not this day.
…it’s like you showing up at Fast and Testimony meeting and telling people how much greater life is now that you have tank tops and tea. You wouldn’t do that, not because you are saying anything particularly outrageous or rude, it is just not the forum. Perhaps (hate to put words in her mouth) Naismith feels like I do: that THIS is not the best forum to extol the richness of post-mo life. Exponent II is, as it self-defines, a forum for Mormon women. When people who are no longer (or never were) Mormon women come here and post about their non-Mormon womanness, it feels antagonistic to those of us who actually want to read about, you know, Mormon women (maybe that’s why most of those people read Segullah instead). But I agree that a forum for formerly Mormons might be a very comfortable place for such a posting.
I think the reason why people don’t show up to Fast and Testimony meetings to talk candidly about their doubts and disbeliefs is because they detect, discern, or digest that they can only destroy and damage relationships that way.
But I think when people visit sites on the internet, especially Mormon blogs, they do so with the hope — faith? — (however falsely founded) that there may be a different response. That there can be a bigger tent via the blogs.
Perhaps that simply isn’t the case.
I do not think that people are looking for reasons to leave. I think at all times, they are looking for reasons to stay. They are looking for reasons to stay in spite of the fact that they’ve overstayed their welcome, in defiance of the fact that their contributions are not cherished, in opposition to the fact that others would rather they stayed somewhere else.
I feel there is a disconnection in our diction, a void in our vocabulary, a challenge to our conversation. What does it mean for us to be Mormon and what does it mean for us to be ex- or post-Mormons? What does it mean to move on from the Church (to leave it), and what does it mean to move on from the community (to leave it alone)? ESO writes that she believes Exponent II is a forum for Mormon women. Can’t an ex-Mormon woman be a Mormon woman too? Mustn’t an ex-Mormon woman be a Mormon woman too?