I don’t even know where to begin. I suspect that even if I were to share this article from the rooftops, on Facebook, on twitter, on Reddit, most people would not get it. They would not get it with a vengeance. They wouldn’t even see — for a moment — Stephen’s point.
I still don’t even know where to begin. I don’t want to just quote various parts, because to do the article justice, I would have to just quote the entire thing. So, instead of quoting this piece, I’ll make tangentially related thoughts that hopefully hit at a similar spirit to what the article describes. Read more…
Over at the Mormon Hub (…which is the new hotness of Mormon interest Facebook groups, if you had not heard), there was a discussion a few days ago about the value and the challenge of creating a “middle-way” space. In the discussion, several people pointed out how problematic “middle-way” is as a term or label. Per one comment:
I love Middle-way Mormon spaces because they do their best to respect and allow for different perspectives. People are generally free to believe and express what they want as long as they’re able to accomplish it in a way that doesn’t attempt to hurt anyone else. This seems healthy to me.
My. Favorite. Kinds. Of. Communities. (Both inside and outside of Mormonism)
With that said, I’m a little uncomfortable when the idea gets equated with individuals’ identities or a way of engaging with the church. What I mean is that while I think discussion groups that promote this Middle-way kind of thinking are healthy, I’m concerned about promoting the idea that self-identifying as a “Middle-way Mormon” is healthy. I’m also a bit concerned because many people go through a “Middle-way” stage in their interactions with the church when they first begin their crises. Many (if not most) of these people report the experience being unhealthy for them. I have concerns about contributing to the notion that trying to have one foot and one foot out is a “good” choice.
So, in a nutshell, while I think these spaces are healthy, I’m not sure about the rest of the package. It may also be time to come up with some different terminology. “Middle-way” is pretty loaded at this point.
If you’ve paid attention to the conversation on “middle-way” Mormonism, then thoughts like these should be familiar echoes — similar sentiments were raised in the Mormon Matters podcast episode on middle-way Mormonism, for example. (I wrote about those podcasts episodes here and here). I wanted to make a comment on the Facebook thread, but for a number of reasons, it was not meant to be. (I had a comment typed up, but then went to bed. When I woke up, I discovered that Windows had decided to install updates, restarting in the process.) I’ve known for a while that Facebook as a medium has issues, but the claustrophobia of the comment box is a particularly challenging one. So, here I am instead. (And even with this blog, I’ve had this article sitting as a draft for at least two days. My computer crashed, and while the content was preserved in draft format, all the paragraph spaces were deleted. I have tried to add them back, but if any paragraphs seem funky, it’s because I probably ended some incorrectly.)
The main point I want to express (in far more words than is probably necessary) is that creating “middle-way” spaces is problematic firstly because we don’t even have a consistent image of what the “middle way” is. The middle-way can refer to one of several not necessarily compatible frameworks…the fun part is that when we are talking about the middle way, we don’t necessarily think to clarify which framework out of which we are speaking. We end up not having any idea which framework our conversation partners are using, and likewise, we do not know which framework that they infer from our use of the term. Read more…
Today at Times and Seasons, Nathaniel gives sage advice: Don’t debate the Trinity. The advice is a little incomplete — it’s perhaps more accurate to say that one should never debate anything relating to religion whatsoever. The fact that we still do (those of us who do) just shows how gluttonous we are for punishment.
Anyway, Nathaniel points out that for all the conflict about Mormons’ theological view about the trinity, there doesn’t actually appear to be much essential conflict. As he writes:
The problem is that when Mormons and mainstream Christians argue about the Trinity, the real conflict has almost nothing to do with the subject at hand. This was underscored when a non-Mormon friend of mine posted the following YouTube video on Facebook along with the comment: “For the record, St. Patrick does rightly define the Trinity in the beginning: 3 people who are 1 God. Then it all just goes down hill.”
Up until very recently, I thought that the heresy of the Mormon godhead was that Mormons believe the godhead is made up of three separate persons. In contrast, I thought that the trinity was the belief that God was one person in three forms or modes or something like that.
If you had asked me to explain the trinity that Mormonism disagreed with, I might very well have used the “three phases of water” analogy — the trinity is like water, ice, and vapor. All are the same thing in different forms.
Imagine how surprised I was to find that that example itself was a heresy — modalism.
Yesterday, I was listening to the recent episode of Mormon Expression podcast where John and Zilpha discuss their divorce. Between some comments that John and Zilpha made on that podcast and some other topics that were made about leaving the Mormon church, I wanted to hash out a few thoughts on the perspectivism inherent in how we discuss different life events.
The thing that John had pointed out in the podcast that really got me thinking was this: people typically evaluate relationships in a binary way. If one stays in the relationship until their death, then the relationship is a success. But if one leaves the relationship (such as, through divorce), then the relationship failed. Even if two people have been married for 17 years and are amicably divorced, the divorce weighs above all else as the main determinant of how the relationship will be viewed.
John pointed out that we don’t think this way in other venues. So, for example, if a person has worked 17 years at a company, and then decides to move on, people don’t respond with, “Oh, I’m sorry that your job failed.” They are ecstatic at the level of experience the person has accrued and they are eager to hear about the future opportunities for that person.
Similarly, when one graduates from school, certainly no one would say that their education has failed. It’s an expectation that one will have schooling (and often extended schooling, if you count elementary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate options together), but that one will transition as a matter of course. It’s an expectation that one will live with one’s parents, but when kids move away, no one will say that the family of origination has “failed.” Empty nest homes aren’t failures, because we expect that people will leave and become independent sooner or later.
That being said, there is an area of life where transition is overwhelmingly seen in negative terms (as divorce is), and that is in faith transitions.
I was listening to a vintage Mormon Matters podcast episode (85-86 on “Middle-Way Mormonism” with Andrew Ainsworth, Scott Holley, Dan Wotherspoon, and Jared Anderson).
After I got over the initial pang of disappointment over realizing that I had actually listened to this podcast before, I realized that in the months since I first listened to it, there were a lot of different things that I picked up on this time.
So, the term “middle way Mormonism” is problematic. Originally, when I had listened to the podcast, I probably agreed a lot more with Jared’s thoughts on the problematic nature of the term (and indeed, I still think Jared was on fire through much of the episodes here). To summarize: “Middle Way” Mormonism as a concept gives legitimacy to supposed boundaries of Mormonism, when in actuality, we could argue two things: 1) everyone is a cafeteria Mormon, and/or 2) in some ways, “middle way” Mormons, rather than being on the fringe, are just as or more “true” to Mormon sensibilities than any other kind. Read more…
A few days ago, I was discussing with someone over Terryl and Fiona Givens’ recent firesides slash tour of England, where they have talked about (among many things), The God Who Weeps. I’ve written some of my thoughts on The God Who Weeps and Givens’ other recently popular efforts (I’ll summarize by saying these works have not exactly impressed me), One of the main things is that (HT: Nietzsche) to love is to be vulnerable…thus, to love infinitely is to be infinitely vulnerable. God infinitely loves, and thus is infinitely vulnerable. Cue weeping.
Anyway, someone suggested that if “God” were too weird a concept to handle, we might instead replace it with the “environment,” for in our modern understanding — even our modern, supposedly agent-deprived, secular understanding — most people still understand the environment in a similar way that people in the past understood God. In another comment, the person said:
“We don’t understand the environment (god). It is powerful in ways we cannot predict or control (viz. the recent tsunami). It is also incredibly vulnerable to our thoughtless abuse (viz. pollution, which exists and causes problems that are visible whether or not one accepts anthropogenic climate change as happening in any specific way, i.e. via measurable causal relationships existing predictably between known variables).
The environment is at once incredibly weak and incredibly dangerous, and its outcome in particular instances remains unclear (while I can be certain I and every other living thing will die, I have no way of reliably predicting how or when).”
This week’s weekend poll at Wheat & Tares asks, Has the Bloggernacle Run Its Course?
My issue for this poll is that I simply cannot pick one of the two options. The poll question: Is the death of the ‘nacle imminent? (choose the answer you feel best applies)?
And the poll answer options:
1) No, the ‘nacle will continue to reinvent itself: new blogs, fresh voices, new topics, and there is always more progress to discuss.
2) Yes, the topics of the ‘nacle are simply recycled and rehashed ad nauseum. People eventually quit reading, and we are running out of audience for these tired topics.
The reason I can’t pick an option is not because I believe neither option is the case…but because I feel that both are true, at least in some sense.
I was listening to an episode of Mormon Stories from 2010 — the one where Dan Wotherspoon interviews Randy Snyder and Tyson Jacobsen about atheism.
Anyway, I only have finished the first episode so far (I’m listening as I drive to and from work each day, so it’ll take me weeeeeks before I’m through it), but late in the first part, Randy says:
“Basically, the way I describe it: when I was a true believing Mormon, it was like i was in a small little box, and I was afraid to look around the world outside the box…(snip)…once I got out of that box…the roof of the box opened up, and I saw this whole beautiful universe that I had yet to explore, and there was all this knowledge out there, and when you get rid of all the cognitive dissonance associated with trying to make Mormon theology and Christian theology fit the rational world and the natural world…everything comes into focus, and now I’m free to follow the evidence wherever it leads me. And it’s a fascinating and exciting journey.
[snip]…to me it was freedom that was so appealing.”
Now, plenty of people have done research on the similar constructions of ex-Mormon deconversion narratives to Mormon conversion narratives — check out Seth Payne’s paper and Rosemary Avance’s presentation for starters. But I’ll say that the commonalities I find in Randy’s “exit” narrative and others’ religious conversion narratives is striking. Read more…
A few weeks ago, John Dehlin posted some status about religion — or, to be more precise, about those who criticize religion. The details aren’t super important, but for this post, what is important is that a bunch of people freaked out, and so John tried to delete/hide/undo the drama, which only caused more drama. After a point, John decided that he really needed to study for finals, and so he deactivated his Facebook account.
This predictably caused more drama.
There was some conspiratorial thinking about John’s absence being a direct result of being muzzled by church leaders, and there was more drama. At some point, I decided to lay out what I see as the (rather predictable) John Dehlin Drama Life Cycle:
JD’s behavior is pretty predictable — you don’t need to implicate conspiracies with priesthood leaders or whatever. I’ll run it down for folks who haven’t seen the cycle.
1) John posts something that ends up controversial (usually inadvertently)
2) People flip the heck out.
3) John tries to delete/undo/rewind/reverse the controversy
4) People flip the heck out.
5) John tries to repost/restore/redo/correct the post sans controversy
6) People flip the heck out.
7) John goes on radio silence/total shutdown.
8 ) ??? (I mean, “People flip the heck out”)
9) John comes back in xxx days/weeks/months on his own.
We are, of course, in step 8.
Notice what a great thing of beauty this cycle is. If I didn’t tell you that this was written in response to some FB status from April or whenever, you might think it describes that one time that John temporarily shut down Mormon Stories. You might think it describes the one time that John Dehlin shut down Mormon Matters (from which Wheat & Tares reincarnated like a phoenix from the ashes, and Mormon Matters became a podcast again.) You might think it describes…yeah, so many possibilities.
Sooner or later, I’m going to write about how it seems that fame so often comes with misfortune like this, but for now, I’ll point out that for that last event, we already passed into step 9 and now we are back into step 1, moving onto 2.
What’s the latest drama? John has decided to repurpose the Mormon Stories Podcast Community Facebook group.
Yesterday (and today) have been interesting days. I noticed earlier last morning (like, 2AM early), that around 7 of my friends had changed their profile pictures to a pink-on-red variation of the Human Rights Campaign’s equal sign logo. It seems that as with sports and holidays (“March Madness” does not seem real to me…and I had to google just to confirm that it is pretty much happening right now. I completely missed St. Patrick’s Day whenever that was), I am also living under a rock when it comes to politics — I know the Supreme Court would be hearing cases on California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, but I didn’t know when.
Well, the profile pictures clued me in.
The main reason today has been interesting is because so many people I know have shown their support for marriage equality/gay marriage/same-sex marriage.
Like, I am aware that my friend group is assuredly not a random sampling (let’s put it this way: I have the greatest number of friends in common with John Dehlin, followed closely by Joanna Brooks. After a gap comes my own brother in third place.)
Nevertheless, the 7 early birds ballooned out to a much larger number…I haven’t counted them all, but here’s one thing I’ll say: I’ve seen several Facebook discussions where every commenter has a red equal sign.
Is it so strange that support for gay marriage/same-sex marriage/marriage equality has spread so quickly?
Sorry for the unwieldy terms here…but that gets me closer to what I wanted to talk about today. What do we even call this?