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The dynamic of anti-Mormons and Mormons

May 9, 2009

What’s interesting to look at first is the dynamic of ex-Mormons and Mormons…but maybe I’m biased because I fit squarely in this dynamic.

However…it’s not the only dynamic that exists in the Mormon community, and actually, the more relevant and important one is between people who are dedicated to showing Mormons the error of their ways (the evangelical counter-cult ministry, known affectionately by some as the Fluffy Bunny Nice Nice Club and known less affectionately as the Anti-Mormons) and believing members.

As I read articles about selected Bloggernacle denizens and their intensity against the FBNNC, or of how members of the counter-cult community themselves describe their plight, I am just fascinated by the interplay.

Both sides think they are right, and so in the way, the conflict appears to be a battle of wills.

And in many ways, I can see how each side tries to justify. The Anti-Mormons claim to work their ministries out of love — a kind of tough love that has to show the deceived the fulness of their deception and hopefully rip all of their fallacious doctrines to shreds so that they will come to accept the truth. The Mormons, on the other hand, take a comfortable seat as defenders, people who wonder why they are being attacked on their home turf.

Personally, I couldn’t care less (actually, that’s a lie…I probably do have some room to care less) about the actual truth or falsity of either side (because at this point, no one knows; any perceived strengths or weaknesses aren’t necessarily indicative of truth or falsity, but of the battle of wills, propaganda, cultural acceptance, etc., We are running on mere beliefs), so when I look at it, I don’t necessarily see things as, “Oh wow, that’s a GREAT argument; x side must be right and y side must be wrong.” Instead, as I discussed way back when in Pathos, Ethos, and Logos, what probably is most important to me is ethos.

In arguing, both sides think their logos are solid. Both sides are going to use varying levels of emotional appeals…but what immediately turns me off is poor character from one or both sides. I can IMMEDIATELY identify with John C at By Common Consent when he talks about anti-Mormons bringing out the worst troll in him, because to me, anti-Mormons fail abjectly on a matter of establishing a personal moral character and that turns on even *my* hulk switch. (But then again, by resorting to countertrolling, I guess John C. fails the same test).

Quite simply, for people who claim to do what they do out of love for Mormons…they sure have a rather unappealing idea of love. This spills over into everything about their theology — because of the failure of personal character they show, their theology also is tainted: why should I want to believe in a theology that suggests it is ok to treat people the way they do? Their way of signing posts with things like “Grace and peace in Christ” or something like that, when they have just sown seeds of conflict instead makes the entire theology seem dimmer.

So, I have this strange phenomenon that happens to me. Anti-Mormons turn me apologetic for just a moment…while I also think the LDS theology has some questionable parts and I’m no true believing member, hearing fallacious, illogical, untrue, or half-true arguments from anti-Mormons drives me in a frenzy. And even if I come to agree with them on one point or another (because, as I usually caveat: I think there are many legitimate and accepted points of LDS theology that one can find disagreement with, so you need not pull out unofficial or conspiratorial ideas), then the one thing that is most solid in my mind is, even if I do not believe Mormonism, I most certainly am not convinced of your side.

In the end, this is where I think Anti-Mormons, or whatever they want to be called, fail. They do too much of tearing down, but very little of showing why their position is worthwhile. And in fact, all the tearing down of others’ ideas actually suggests that theirs is not worthwhile — the example they preach is that of being insecure and threatened bullies. And I mean, if they don’t want to evangelize or proselytize, this is fine. If you have no intention on trying to get people to join your side, then burn as many bridges as you want. But this is not the motivation of these people, allegedly.

anyways…in other news: Recently, I wrote about how I didn’t find what the deal was with baptism for the dead. And I’m so glad that Bridget Jack Meyers had such a great analogy for it. She, fortunately, understands the difference in being silly and being reasonable (protip: her story with LDS missionaries telling her her baptism was “going swimming” is a great example of ethos failure). Now excuse me while I sign up for her newsletter.

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  1. I like what you say. There is no doubt I go counter trolling, for instance. I feel a bit like an Army interrogator; I don’t like what I do, but I don’t see a way around it.

  2. I don’t pretend that I do apologetics out of love.

    I do it because someone’s been smacking my people around, and I’m not going to take it. Very Jewish eye-for-an-eye kind of attitude.

    After that, I do it because I thrive off argument and conflict.

    Nothing Sermon-on-the-mount-ish about it.

  3. So then, Seth, do you think that anti-Mormon evangelicals do their apologetics because “someone’s been smacking [their] people around, and [they’re] not going to take it?”

    who began it?

  4. That’s the beauty of eye-for-an-eye – it’s self perpetuating.

    And yes, I’m being facetious.

    I actually think one of the big reasons I do it is because I like how it keeps my beliefs challenged. I think my personal beliefs are a bit more refined for having had to defend them a lot.

  5. Andrew,
    Some people view the existence of others as a threat in and of itself. I tend to assign that motive to evangelical anti-Mormons. I don’t like it in anybody. I very likely have some similar motivation. But, as a difference, I don’t want all Evangelicals to go away nor would I be pleased if all the Baptists were eradicated. I don’t love them, nor will I pretend to; but I also wouldn’t support theocide. It is a small difference and unfairly applied, but it is what I have.

  6. “I don’t want all Evangelicals to go away nor would I be pleased if all the Baptists were eradicated.”

    So…missionary efforts…how about them?

    I mean, it seems like the evangelistic nature (or the missionary-centric nature) of each religion naturally pits one against the other.

  7. Personally, I wouldn’t say that Anti-Mormons turn me apologetic (though perhaps sympathetic to the Mormons, as I explained in how I came to sympathize with the Mormons). I’ll dispute points that I think are wrong, but I may well agree with other points made by the same person.

    I hesitate to make a blanket condemnation of people in Evangelical “counter-cult” ministries (though I tend to disagree with them quite a lot of the time). I’m trying to gather up all exmo/post-mo discussion into Outer Blogness, and many of those guys are indeed former Mormons, so let’s see what they have to say. Actually, I’m kind of going against my own intended policies by fanning the flames of the disputes you’ve linked above (by joining in). But maybe I can have a little indulgence — it was just too funny that the Mormon Coffee folks immediately called me a Mormon apologist for criticizing specific points made in their post.

  8. Some people view the existence of others as a threat in and of itself.

    Right, like Proposition 8. It’s not that gay marriages threaten straight marriages directly, it’s just that some people view the existence of others as a threat in and of itself.

  9. Andrew ~ It’s nice to meet you, and thank you for the kind words. I’ve read a couple of your posts, but haven’t come out of the woods to comment until now.

    @ the topic: my comment at BCC says a lot of how I feel about it. On top of that though, my experience with apologetics and debate is that it’s very seldom about who has the correct position. It’s about who has the better argument, and being able to make your opponent look like a buffoon while you’re making your argument is a definite plus.

    Obviously I don’t do that to everyone I disagree with though. You have to show yourself to be completely incapable of re-examining your position or engage in absurd levels of ad hominem before I’ll decide that maybe the only good you’ll serve is as an example to others. So in other words, I think the “hulk switch” is appropriate to certain situations and I feel no shame in employing it.

    @ the proxy baptism thing (I’m gonna be lazy and just comment on this thread): I was really pleased that someone else made the connection that baptism for the dead isn’t so different from infant baptism in that they’re both ordinances which are performed on parties who can’t really consent.

  10. re chanson:

    I agree. When I say I become apologetic, that’s not to say that I am in effect saying, “The mormon church is 100% right.” And in fact, because I don’t have to take that position, I feel more at ease in the argument…because it’s not like my personal beliefs are at bat.

    I guess I’m not trying to make a blanket condemnation either…but rather making a kind of “No True Anti-Mormon…” Obviously, counter-cult ministries who do *not* engage in these vexing tactics are not in my scopes, but then, I wouldn’t call them Antis anyway.

    re Bridget: thinking about things too much? That’s what the Bloggernacle is all about! 😀 I completely agree though: argument is seldom about the correct position, but about giving a better show. The problem, I think, is that people conflate the two, and are quite willing to suggest that a better performance *is* indicative of a better position.

  11. Andrew,
    I think missionary work leads to people being happier, but if people are happy where they are, that’s fine with me.

    I agree that some people are motivated to support Prop8ishness out of xenophobia. I think those people are stupid.

    Andrew and Jack,
    I teach for a living at present. It is all song and dance!

  12. John C…it just seems to me like both sides would say the same thing. “You might think we are mean and hurtful now, but if you come to the ‘real jesus’ (TM) then you’ll be much, much happier.”

  13. Obviously, counter-cult ministries who do *not* engage in these vexing tactics are not in my scopes, but then, I wouldn’t call them Antis anyway.

    I agree. The problem with the term “Anti-Mormon” though is that it has kind of a blurry definition.

    I think it makes sense to call counter-cult ministries “Anti-Mormon” (and I disagree with both the goals and tactics of those ministries). But, in practice, the label gets applied to all sorts of people from liberal believers to friendly non-believers. There’s too much temptation to use it to equate not-orthodox-but-not-anti with the loudest/angriest subset of those on the fringes of Mormonism, and then it shuts down discussion.

    One strategy might be to vehemently insist “I‘m not the ‘anti’ — it’s those guys.” But for myself, I prefer to just say that I don’t think the term is very helpful. That’s part of the point to my Anti-Mormon… Or Not? game.

  14. Andrew,
    I don’t feel pitted against other religions. My disputes with the Fluffy Bunny Nice Nice Club has to do with particular ministries, not with Protestant religion as a whole (although I don’t find Protestantism particularly compelling). Groups of individuals who feel compelled to destroy belief systems are zealots of the worst order, I think (probably an exaggeration). That said, I am happy for them to find their people and us to find our people, because I believe in God and I think that anything that gets you to Him goes to the good. I don’t think that Mormonism is right for everybody right now.

  15. Um, my antecedants are all messed up in the prior comment. I’m happy for Protestants to find their people; when the FBNNC recruits, it saddens me, just as it would to see the KKK or soem eco-terror group grow in numbers.

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