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Strange bedfellows for Progressive Mormons…at Wheat and Tares

September 8, 2011

strange bedfellows

Hey, everyone…I have some good news (well…depends on who you are whether you care or not…) I’ve gotten an upgrade at Wheat and Tares!

Now, instead of having posts every other Saturday morning, I get every Thursday morning slot. Which means I have to come up with twice the material. (Hmm…maybe this isn’t as good of news as I thought?)

Anyway, to prepare for my first post at the new time, I wrote Strange bedfellows for progressive Mormons.

The main points are as follows: for…ever, I have thought that most ex-Mormons treat their position as primarily one relating to what the church is and claims to be (so if the church is true [or if I believe that], then I will support it. If the church isn’t, then I won’t.) This, I think, is why a lot of ex-, post-, former and other disaffected Mormons do not like John Dehlin’s various projects (well, also, the fact that he has some nasty forum posts in his past denigrating ex-Mormon sites can’t help)…because they see him as someone who knows too much and who believes too little to remain in the church.

But…for once, this post isn’t about John. It’s about someone else whom many of us know and have various extremely charged feelings about: Chino Blanco!

I really have to say, for a long time I didn’t really like CB. I think it’s a personality clash; I’m still trying to get the handle of advertising myself and my involvements (thanks to my fencing club involvement, I’m getting the hang of it), so since CB is just so much better at it, that used to bother me. (I wrote an entire post, which was really silly now that I think about it.)

The second thing that bothered me is that Chino Blanco is like…crazy smart. He’ll just throw in a bunch of allusions to various things as if it’s no big deal, and I won’t be able to decode the message using context clues because even the context is another allusion.

ANYWAY, as I said, I used not to like him. But as I’ve started growing up and stopped being a baby, I’ve realized that maybe I’m just a tad bit jealous of a skillset that I don’t have, but that I’m trying to get. (Namely, I talk and talk and talk, but I don’t make stuff happen. Chino makes stuff happen.)

What really made me start reconsidering was some of his comments he had on my post about Uncorrelated Mormons (as you can read about in the W&T post linked above.) I expected that he, of all people, would talk about how people who do not believe the church’s truth claims are in no position to serve it in critical ways (e.g., being a missionary when you don’t believe the things you are teaching people is sketchy)…but instead, he talked about actions. The church’s actions to its members or to the outside world. How the church supports or doesn’t support its visionary (yes, visionary!) members like Joanna Brooks, John Dehlin, etc.,

It painted a very different picture: there are many disaffected Mormons who are, regardless of their beliefs in the church, discouraged because they feel they have no political efficacy: the church will not allow them and other perceptive members to help the church.

In this way, the difference between people like Joanna Brooks, John Dehlin, many of the bloggernacle personalities…and then Chino Blanco, chanson, and other Main Street Plaza/Outer Blogness personalities is not in goals (I would go so far as to venture that most Bloggernaclers in general have progressive goals for the church whether they are actively pursuing change for them…in other words, if the church were to amend the Proclamation on the Family to include for gay households, I don’t see the bloggernacle being up in arms against the change) but in whether one believes that one can effectively change the church from within…or whether one even believes the church can be changed.

What I’m interested to know is…how does this pattern play out among more ex-Mormons? If you do not believe in the church’s truth claims, but you were convinced that if you tried to help the church on various fronts (better treating gays, feminists, intellectuals, “less actives”; improving how it preaches, how meetings are run…any aspect could be up for improvement), your efforts would be accepted, would you still try to stay within the church to improve it from within?

Or, stated in a different way, how much of your disaffection deals with your perception that, as Kiley summarized, the church isn’t changing?

  1. I agree that I left so distinctly and forcefully (actually resigned) because I see no sign of the church changing. BUT I’d add one small element to that which is the key that makes me unwilling to stick around for the “good stuff”. That is, that being gay, it is detrimental and toxic for me to be in that environment. For my own self-preservation and health I needed to leave.

    And THAT’s where I see the difference. On the scale of personal pros and cons of sticking around, when regardless of intellectual knowledge the cons weigh heavier, it’s time to go.

    I find that those who stay either tend to not personally recognize the negatives of staying or there aren’t as many for them. If they are straight, happily married and the spouse is willing to accept the “doubts” …then the personal gain of leaving often isn’t great enough.

  2. dadsprimalscream,

    I guess many members wouldn’t agree, but I think that changing the environment for gay people in the church is exactly part of what I’m talking about. Unfortunately, as you mention, it’s really tough to create that change, because it involves someone to stay in the detrimental, toxic environment, while they try to clean it up.

  3. Not In This Lifetime permalink

    I only have one short life to live. The last thing I want to spend my time on is “helping” the church improve. Some things will never change, i.e. they are the only truth, eternal marriage, the 3 degrees of heaven… all the basics that don’t make sense to me. I’d rather spend what time I have pursuing things that do make sense.

  4. If … would you still try to stay within the church to improve it from within?

    No. But the question interests me because there are people in my family who I deeply love who are trying to do just that — and I can’t help but root for them.

  5. To me it’s like a black person saying they’re going to join the KKK to try and change it from within. Why would someone do that to himself? So, they get the organization to allow them to stick around and they don’t burn crosses on people’s lawns or lynch people anymore. So what? Change… woohoo!

    Same with homosexuality and the LDS church… So, they will let me stick around and won’t try to electroshock me anymore… big deal.

    It also belies the actual pattern of change that the LDS church makes. I can’t think of anything in the last 100 years that has “changed from within.” All change has been a response to pressure from outside…even the supposed slackening of the environment for gay people in the church today. Back when I was in just having gay thoughts was bad. Now you can be gay but not act on it… and that change seems in response to outside influences such as facts, science and has been statements from the top… how has that been influenced from within, from the bottom up?

  6. The church meets a lot of people’s needs for answers, assurance, community support, ritual, and structure, but ultimately it meets these needs with a core foundation of nonsense and manipulation. For the church to be even remotely attractive to me to join back again, it would have to leave behind all of the nonsense, which is like saying the KKK would have to leave behind all of the racism. What is left? Just a bunch of acquaintances. I don’t object to people coming together in a community under a shared narrative or purpose (in fact I think it’s important to do so), but cut the bullshit fairy tales already, and keep your devotion to the group in check rather than letting it snuffle out compassion for people who are not in it. The human race would be in much better shape if we followed those simple rules.

  7. As I said on your W&T post, I think that outside criticism actually benefits the organization more than it harms it. But should I be helping the CoJCoL-dS? I’m a little conflicted.

    If the organization were to become more vibrant and less rotten, that would be one positive outcome, and if it were to wither away into unimportance because of its inability to adapt and change, well, that’s another possible outcome that might arguably be positive. I feel like part of my Internet hobby is trying to convince the CoJCoL-dS to stop shooting itself in the foot, and sometimes I wonder whether it wouldn’t be more logical to step aside and allow the corporation to continue shooting itself in the foot.

    But I can’t stop because it’s just too interesting — I’m curious to see what will happen next.

  8. This is really tangential, but I wanted to add to this point of Chino’s that you quoted on your W&T post:

    We might have some skin in the Mormon game, but we’re also used to running the game, calling the shots, in our other pursuits. And we excel at networking. We’re not plebes. So unless you’re gonna utilize us, we’re gone anyways.

    I think that is absolutely true, and it’s an important insight. The CoJCoL-dS is capable of absorbing an infinite number of middle-managers, but it doesn’t have a lot of room for leaders who are used to calling the shots. I wrote about this in my family history post.

    In the current CoJCoL-dS, even if you have a “leadership” calling, you have little or no power to change policies even for your local unit, and even less possibility to influence the direction of the organization as a whole.

    I’ve been thinking lately that that’s part of the reason why women are more likely to stay in the church than men, even though the women are treated so much more crappily. It’s not that women can’t be leaders, but rather it’s that — in the CoJCoL-dS — they’re specifically trained not to be leaders. When you’re brought up to value your own accomplishments and expect people to listen to you, it’s disheartening to find yourself in the role of a cog. The girls are more carefully trained to believe that they have nothing of value to say, so there’s less distance between the role they’re trained for and the role they get.

  9. One thing that I’m finding interesting from a lot of responses here and elsewhere is that the fierce opposition to the church is not based on the church’s falsity…rather, it’s because what the church *does* is perceived to be so integrated that it would be impossible to change, and that trying to change it from within is folly. So, dadsprimalscream and Carson both bring up the KKK, the former to point out that it would be damaging to try to change the KKK from within, and the latter to say that the KKK without its most offensive activities would no longer be recognizable as such.


    re chanson,

    My thought is something like this: letting the church shoot itself in the foot hurts innocent bystanders (the people within…the people the church campaigns against, etc.,) So, when changing perspectives to that of those bystanders, it’s kinda like saying, “Sure, I could help the church be a better place for those in it who suffer, but I’d rather have them suffer [by the church continuing to be as they are] so they can traumatically disaffect and be rid of it once and for all [but with a lot of scars]”

    I think you really have something with your thoughts about leadership vs. management, and how that plays out across gender role expectations. Even from, say, Jesse Stay’s comments on the thread, he’s not interested in leadership, but in having people be under the direction of existing management, providing free photography and videography, programming, etc.,

  10. it’s kinda like saying, “Sure, I could help the church be a better place for those in it who suffer, but I’d rather have them suffer [by the church continuing to be as they are] so they can traumatically disaffect and be rid of it once and for all [but with a lot of scars]”

    I see your point, yet OTOH, the more people leave, the easier and less traumatic it becomes for others to follow. Honestly, I don’t feel I’m in a position to confidently calculate which strategy causes/alleviates more suffering — I think it could go either way. But I’m glad you like my point about leadership vs. management. 😀

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