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Hopeless Apatheist Critical Mormon

May 18, 2011

Isn’t it interesting how people have been talking about liberal Mormons recently?

Chris H. wants to seize and reform the idea of a TBM to include a liberal religious vantage point (while eventually shedding the “poisonous elements which claim to be part of Mormon liberalism, but which, in fact, have no interest in promoting faith and are in many ways very harmful to the movement.”) aerin ponders whether she would have stayed as a liberal Mormon had she felt she could be openly so. And Enoch provides what I believe to be the middle path between these two, of being a “hopeful agnostic sympathetic Mormon.”

What’s interesting to me is that while both Chris and aerin use the term liberal Mormon, I think they are referring to very different things. As Seth commented on aerin’s post at MSP,

I guess it depends on what you mean by the term “liberal Mormon.” A lot of people seem to consider me one. And I have a firm fixed place in my ward.

So just based on that fact alone, it seems that apparently – yes – there is a place for “liberal Mormons” in the church.

If by liberal you mean – “you believe that Joseph made it all up” – then no, I’m not a “liberal.”

My personal position is that Joseph was a flawed man channeling a genuinely divine message. But he remained a man subject to flaws and his own fallibility in all other respects.

Often being “liberal” as a Mormon means nothing more or less than a rejection of the black-and-white, all-or-nothing kind of thinking that seems to afflict fundamentalists both inside the LDS Church, and on the RfM message board.

I think that Chris is going to something more similar to Seth’s concept. And I think there is something valid.

I mean, you have to look at the Bloggernacle. Once, I struggled to realize that the Bloggernacle is a select subset of the Mormon blogging world, forged more by personalities than by subject matters (just because you blog about Mormonism doesn’t mean you’re a part of the Bloggernacle…) or even general positions taken (just because you’re pro-Mormon doesn’t mean you’re part of the ‘Nacle either…), but now I have that understanding. The Bloggernacle is basically what is centered around Mormon Archipelago, and that is mostly that. It differs from Nothing Wavering, and it differs from Mormon Bloggregate (at least, the spirit of its abandoned corpse), and it certainly differs from Outer Blogness.

The way that it differs gives it a distinct personality that we might not call TBM (for TBM, for better or for worse, definitely means something different than what we are likely to see at a site like By Common Consent), but we ought not call unfaithful either (unless we are what we would call TBM…and I know quite  a few people who think BCC is the pinnacle of apostasy.)

So…I do understand why Chris would want to establish a True Blue Mormon Liberalism for bloggers like the ones at BCC and throughout the bloggernacle.

But Chris also wants, in staking out what is a TBML, to warn about those who would claim the title, but not fit. Maybe aerin isn’t quite the target of his reproach, but certainly, there are some people who would like the “liberal” moniker to mean something quite opposed to the Mormon moniker.

Enoch provides a measured response (as usual), in his hopeful agnostic sympathetic Mormon approach. He writes:

I am fully sympathetic and fully critical of the Church. I give full weight to all the positives and all the negatives. I think I have a gift for maintaining this tension, and I am not saying the approach is for everyone. But it is important to me to acknowledge fully the beneficial and destructive, good and bad, healthy and harmful. I see the whole, and love it. Now, I am critical of the Church *because* I love it. I want it to succeed. I cherish Mormonism and want as many people as possible to be able to benefit from it. I especially mourn when people feel unwelcome, that they don’t belong, when they feel the need to leave when , according to the principles of the gospel, they should not have to.

I’ve been thinking about this issue (sort of) since I wrote about uncorrelated Mormons.

My money is where my mouth is, effectively. But that just means that my mouth is not with the church. I don’t see myself paying tithing and supporting the church’s actions and endeavors any time soon. I find myself cautious to commit to anything to that extent though.

So, I guess that doesn’t make me a “TB” anything liberal.

Unlike Enoch, I don’t hope. Hope seem to me like putting money where my mouth should be…but instead of money, it’s my breath. I hold my breath whenever I hope, with the trust that soon, I will be able to breathe again.

So, being hopeless means I simply don’t hold my breath. I would rather not asphyxiate. Sure, it would be nice if God…it would be nice if the church…it would be nice. But every day, I have to keep breathing. Out, in, out, in, out in.

Speaking of God…s/he/it/they are so far away from me…I have trouble even considering the concept relevant. Whatever theism or atheist or agnostic or whatever, I am utterly apathetic. Does it even matter?

Enoch is sympathetic. I’m still not quite sure what it means, so I’m not sure whether critical is a valid foil to it. I think that part of me is sympathetic. The most part of me is so utterly apathetic though. But I have to admit, that I want to speak out for people who suffer. I want to point out problems and injustice! When people talk about rejecting the concept of “offense,” I want to point out the privilege inherent in such a call and the subjugation implicit in answering that call. Yes, I know that anger consumes, but…

How did I write it at Millennial Star one day? Bruce N wrote in response to something I wrote:

If it’s okay to marginalize one minority, I would either need a really good explanation as to why the two groups were somehow fundamentally different in this regard or I’d have to wonder if maybe marginalization should be shrugged off by all minority groups as ‘all in good fun’ and ‘don’t be so sensitive.’

And I responded:

Note that my comment was not so much to take a position on whether it’s okay to marginalize a minority or not, just that, regardless of whether it’s ok, it happens. A lot. I swing between the goals of decrying such and being resigned to such (e.g., “shrugging off” that it’s “all in good fun.”) As much as I dislike the latter idea, the former is just really draining.

Emphasis added. Not taking offense feels like a resignation. Not pursuing criticism feels like a loss. But the opposites of these aren’t victory.

In the end, the final noun in my little title still has to be Mormon. What else would it be? It would be something that still  has Mormon in it, such as Ex-Mormon or Post-Mormon or former Mormon or Mormon alumnus or whatever the heck. But there always will be Mormon therein.

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12 Comments
  1. Seth R. permalink

    Meh. Just call yourself a “Mormon.”

    If you want to clarify, you can say “but I’m not a member of the LDS Church.”

    Then if they attack your terminology you can pick a fight with them. Your life’s fun-factor will rise by leaps and bounds.

    Actually I’m kind of serious about this. Hmmm….

    What is stopping people from Huntsman to Andrew as just referring to themselves as plain old “Mormons?”

  2. Fights over terminology, even though I love them so, haven’t really raised my life’s fun-factor by leaps and bounds so far.

  3. Seth R. permalink

    You don’t find interminable arguments over definitions fun?

    Weirdo.

  4. They start out pretty fun (which is why I start a lot of them), but I never learn my lesson: things that start out pretty fun can go sour pretty quickly and leave a terrible aftertaste.

  5. Seth R. permalink

    It also occurs to me that the name Mormon does come with a certain social cost for applying it to yourself. Lots of people may not want that cost.

    Of course, calling yourself an “uncorrelated Mormon” isn’t going to keep Bill Maher from being bigoted toward you either, so maybe this definitional thing is just a lost cause for some.

  6. I’m not worried about Bill Maher. Outside of Mormon circles, despite popular conception, people really don’t care about Mormons. It just doesn’t come up that much. Even when it does, it doesn’t go anywhere that often.

    I’m just saying that in the blogging world, I’d be stepping into constant battle from every side. It would be *kinda* like being John Dehlin, but without having a devoted following.

  7. Andrew,

    I am not sure what I want. Thanks for the response.

  8. That thread over at FPR is a hoot. Talk about your front-row seat to the best kabuki in town. Never have so many famous bloggernacle diplomats appealed for civility quite so movingly. *wipes a tear*

  9. Seth R. permalink

    I will admit last year to being a bit taken aback at how much Times and Seasons atmosphere had changed since I stopped hanging out there years ago. I think that was the year a lot of DAMU-ish and interfaith blog projects got suggested as categories, and I nominated a whole bunch. Then they all wound up as contenders, there was a huge stink, and I felt kind of personally responsible for inviting my acquaintances over, only to run into a sort of firing squad.

    Guess places change if you leave them along for a few years.

  10. I should note that I have never called for civility. Surely not my MO.

  11. I call myself a “Latter-day Saint” usually, not because it is more accurate, but rather because it is more pretentious.

  12. Interesting discussion on categories of Mormons. I was very TBM for 50 years, and although I questioned certain things, I stuck with it and hung in there by faith. But in 2001, I went on a Mormon Church History Tour — and before doing so, I decided to do some research so I would know more about the key places before visiting them. Having been born and raised Mormon, I had never really studied that much about church history, accepting it from I heard and was taught. But once I really started studying church history, it was the beginning of the end for me. Essentially, I studied my way out of the church. For me, accepting Joseph Smith from the Rough Stone Rolling standpoint is not possible. As I discovered (and in some instances, uncovered) certain things, I began to believe that Joseph Smith made up the whole thing from the get-go. And that was not acceptable to me. Once I came to the conclusions I reached, though, I never considered staying in the church and becoming a “Liberal Mormon” or whatever category that encases. To me, the fact that the Mormon Church claims to be “The One and Only True Church on the Face of the Earth” and is not was a dealbreaker for me.

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