Oh, John Dehlin, what will we do with you?
Recently, I befriended John Dehlin (of Mormon Stories fame) on Facebook. He had some facebook status saying he was going to be interviewed with ABC News. I was like, “OK, that’s kinda cool,” but then I didn’t think about it again. John’s a pretty involved guy, so he could be interviewed about a number of things. But last night, when I was preparing to go to bed, I was alerted to a tweet about a new article from Bloggernacle Times.
As I read the title, I knew that I would have to stay up just a bit longer.
Oh John, what will we do with you?
Normally, when John’s name comes up with such charged negative emotions surrounding it, I have to evaluate from which side the charges come. This time just happens to be from the believing bastion at Bloggernacle Times, but John has also — even if Seth hasn’t seen it — caught flak from FLAK (and other non-believing contingents of the (dis)affected Mormon Underground.)
I for one think that ABC’s video was opportunistic with how they employed John’s comments. The video seems far more critical than the article, and the article seems somewhat bare of context.
Some of the comments from the video and the article seemed familiar to me, and that is because he has already written his thoughts about the new Mormon.org site on Mormon Matters. John’s ending to that article, I think, really clarify some of his reservations, and his hopeful (read: FAITHful) attitude about the church’s future.
Here’s my hope…that the members and leaders of the LDS church will see and internalize the values and sentiments reflected in these videos.…not just the investigators. When that happens….I will once again reconsider my covenants of full obedience and consecration. Seriously. Right now, partial consecration is the best I can muster…but THIS is a church (i.e. the one depicted in the PR campaign) that I would literally bleed and die for.
Consequently, I will rejoice at this marketing campaign. I choose to see it as aspirational on the part of top church leadership — regarding their vision for what our culture and curriculum someday might become.
…but, I can see within even this comment where Geoff and others would experience radical (dis)trust of John. John has just admitted that “partial consecration is the best” he can muster, and that the church for which he could literally bleed and die is not the current one…and yet he is represented by ABC as a faithful, if “progressive” Mormon.
While some people include John’s comments as part of signs of a (Dis)affected Mormon Renaissance, I think this is very bad for John. Firstly, because his aim is not to be disaffected at all. Secondly, because many disaffected Mormons don’t even appreciate his work staying in the church or helping others stay. When John is seen as an apostate or DAMU, then believing members can simply brush off him and his supporters as (dis)gruntled ex- and anti-Mo Butthurt Dehlin Defense Force.
Many people seem to support John’s right to comment, saying that if he is able to air his opinions (which are certainly very (dis)tinct) while *still being a faithful, active member of the church*, then this can only augment and sustain the church’s ad campaign to show that members are diverse individuals. However, I get the feeling is that most people aren’t even sold on whether John even passes the bar of being a credible, faithful, active member. As Mark wrote:
The general problem with Dehlin’s tone is that he doesn’t sound like someone who actually supports the Church _at all_, but rather like someone who hopes the entire Church will move in his more enlightened direction.
Certainly many people feel that way in private. Adopting that tone in public is controversial for very good reason – it suggests that the person concerned doesn’t have any loyalty to the church he is a member of. Loyalty doesn’t just mean “I hope the leaders of the church will repent and quit teaching these discriminatory and irrational doctrines”, it means expressing some indication that one believes the church one belongs to is an institution worthy of commanding loyalty and adherence in the first place, something more than a socio-cultural anomaly that one only feels a kindred feeling for by accident of birth or geography.
The unfortunate conclusion that I can (dis)till from the back-and-forth of comments there, as well as from some (dis)cussions elsewhere in the Bloggernacle, is this:
It’s ok to have doubts. It’s ok to have a right to air those doubts. BUT just because one has the right and the potential doesn’t mean that one should. In this case, someone who would air doubts, (dis)sent, and (dis)agreements so publicly should have his integrity as a faithful, active member of the community doubted.
More importantly is the clarification on what a big tent Mormonism can be.
From what I can tell, it’s ok if someone remains a member even when the church for them is at best “a socio-cultural anomaly that one only feels a kindred feeling for by accident of birth or geography.” HOWEVER, such members must NEVER forget that they are not the same as members with active faith, who can be fully obedient NOW to the community and the church, and who are more prudent, more (dis)cerning than to air the family’s dirty laundry to a hostile public.
For whatever (dis)agreements that Geoff may have with Steve Evans (functionally the Steve Jobs of the Bloggernacle) about loyalty as a virtue, since Geoff believes the church is divinely approved and guided, such imprudent (dis)plays of (dis)loyalty by John cannot simply slide.
I think this is an unfortunate conclusion, but one that binds most human communities in some way, shape or fashion. I don’t think this conclusion is the “anti-Mormon” conclusion of a “hyper-loyal, borg-like culture,” and it is not limited to the church. Instead, it is greater human tendency.
My only regret was that, when I made such comments on BT, I was hoping that someone would say, “No, communities don’t have to be like that.” or “That is not how the ideal church/kingdom of God/Zion works.” I was hoping someone would say my comments were draconian and cynical. But no. That’s not what happened.