Writing “The Other” Off
I am struggling to be gracious today. (Well, I struggle to be gracious every day. And normally, it’s not much of a struggle. Normally, I simply fail at it with ease, and don’t even think anything of it.)
Today, I was manning the torpedos at the Wheat & Tares twitter for the General Conference twitter #ldsconf hashtag. (Yeah, recently, I’ve taken to just coming out and saying that I’m the guy behind it all, although I certainly encourage my co-bloggers to get in on it as well.)
I try not to say things that will stir the pot too much (unlike some people I could name), because in my role representing Wheat & Tares, I recognize that I do have a kind of responsibility for the site. Instead, I often interject with funny side comments.
…for serious commentary (which I plan to post about later), I’ll need to study over the written transcripts of the talks, and that serious commentary will probably be spread out over here and W&T, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, so I’m tweeting, and I notice (of course, most people have) that many of the speakers are hitting on various current phenomena…the internet, twitter, blogs, Angry Birds, etc., Interestingly, there was a sort of back and forth between speakers…one would praise these new technologies, but another one would deride them. I think the idea is that the technology can be good, but there are risks. There are ways to misuse. (That’s a serious topic I’ll have to address when the transcripts come out.)
Anyway, Elder Andersen came out and admitted that he was reading a blog (I wasn’t fully paying attention, but I think he said that it was not an LDS one, though) about motherhood. I tweeted wondering that if Andersen reads non-LDS blogs, what about LDS ones?
Anyway, here came one response…a response that probably is predictable from a blog who’s twitter bio advertises that it is the “best Mormon blog in the world”:
But at that time, I didn’t really think much of the comment, so I just responded with LOL.
…but that wasn’t the only response:
Maybe he would read you guys if you didn’t have so many who seem to hate everything about the church.
Really? Who says something like this?
Afterward came the damage control:
Your bloggers are great; commenters… I haven’t been impressed.
To reiterate: I actually read your blog often; the posts are interesting. I just don’t comment because others seem so negative.
Quite frankly, I think there definitely is a difference in blogs based on the different comment communities, and the divergent community norms when it comes to members of the communities. Dave Banack says that people pretty much self-sort into the various communities, but I think this fails to account for some things that happen either overtly or covertly.
I will be the first to admit that W&T is extremely reluctant to censor, suspend, ban, or even close posts to further comments. Any time the issue gets brought up, there are extremely strong opinions about it, and when someone does it without consulting the rest, there is generally a meltdown. If you remember the old Mormon Matters in its final days, then you should be aware that it fell apart because of this kind of issue. It can be difficult to get into such a community from the fact that everything is chaotic, and in chaos, certain strident voices can outshout everyone else.
But at the same time, it’s sometimes extremely difficult to get into other communities where merely asking questions will make people view you with suspicion (and people openly write that this is the case, although they later come and try to damage control their earlier statements.) Some communities heavily prefer to shape the discussion…it seems to me like tending to a bonsai…not letting any rogue limbs grow too far.
Most of the writers at W&T are well aware of what it’s like to be outsiders…to be the limbs which are to be trimmed and discarded rather than those to be admired, so a statement to say that “the bloggers are great…the commenters…not so much,” misses something.
…and I would argue that this kind of argumentation misses something else. Yes, there is a diversity of opinion at Wheat and Tares. YES, that means that there are some people who are not members of the church, and moreover who are not sympathetic to the church as it is currently run. But we don’t have a discussion that is negative just for the sake of being negative.
I’ve been to negative places around the internet with respect to Mormonism. W&T simply ain’t it. It’s kinda like in the civil rights movement…when people saw Martin Luther King, they saw someone who was radical! Who was critical! Who should be put in his place! Who shouldn’t be so angry!
But these people didn’t know anything about anger, about criticality, about radicality…until they saw Malcolm X. And it was only through comparing the two that people started to “compromise” with Dr. King, because perhaps…perhaps he wasn’t as “bad” as Malcolm X.
But the Martin Luther King/Malcolm X example is instructive here in another way. It wasn’t that Martin = good (because he was “calmer”) and Malcolm = bad (because he was “angrier”). Most of the times, negativity does not exist just to be negative. Anger has a cause and purpose.
I think that what really bothers me about the state of Mormon/ex-Mormon affairs right now is the extent that both sides largely write the other off.
I think sometimes it appears that ex-Mormons don’t know what they want…after all, you can see posts whining about how Mormons won’t leave ex-Mormons alone (they keep trying to reactivate us…or turn us into “projects,” or whatever)…but at the same time, you can see other posts about how Mormons completely disengage with ex-Mormons (as if apostasy is a mental disorder that’s catching.) What do ex-Mormons really want?
(Well, firstly, ex-Mormons aren’t a monolithic group…But secondly…) I think the two options are a false dichotomy. Really, I think that people simply don’t want to be written off. And the current state of affairs is to write “the other” off. Either you write him off as someone in need of salvation, or you write him off as someone who is hopeless.
I think in the Mormon blogging arena, what bothers me the most about some of the Bloggernacle personalities is not that they want to convert ex-Mormons…or even that they don’t want to convert ex-Mormons…but rather, they just don’t want to have anything to do with ex-Mormons at all. They don’t want to deal with us in any way.
You (likely) feel like we want you to come back to the church, we generally feel like you want us to leave the church.
But I was struck by how far off this characterization sounds. From continued engagement with a lot of people in the Bloggernacle crowd (as opposed to, say, the Nothing Wavering crowd), I decidedly do not feel like they want me to come back to church. I feel like they do not care, but whatever I do, they would rather me not interrupt what they are doing if I can’t pacify myself.
They can be very polite about it, but that nevertheless seems to be the undertone.
Writing “the other” off isn’t just something on the faithful side. I’m at a point where a lot of disaffected/former/ex-Mormons discussions aren’t a lot of fun either, because it’s just an attempt to vent at the “Morgbots” or whatever they are called. People seem so sure that they know where the TBM is coming from (having possibly “been there before”) that they can dismiss anyone else as brainwashed, rather than recognize that some people’s experiences may be different, and accordingly, their faith has been grounded differently. Quite simply, some people may have quite a bit more nuanced of a perspective.
I just don’t feel “hurt” enough to go through some conversations. Like, it’s really not that bad for me, so sometimes I just can’t sympathize.
I don’t want to blame the “victims,” but I wonder how much of the divide is because some people literally seem to lose a sense of decency with interacting with members when they have a faith crisis.
Maybe it’s best if we stop associating with the other side. Maybe it’s best if for the most part, we stick to our own kinds…
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