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Scattered post-Sunstone thoughts on forgiveness and activism

August 4, 2019

There were a few moments when Jonathan Streeter’s hoax apology for LDS racism was discussed.

There were several people who noted, either explicitly or implicitly, that Jonathan Streeter is persona non grata to them. There was a bit of discussion about whether Christians (even progressive Mormon Christians) are even theologically allowed to have personae non gratae, or whether theology compels them to always be willing to forgive, even when immense emotional turmoil has occurred.

But during one conversation, I said wryly that as a non-religious atheist, I was not beholden to the Christian and Mormon rules, and this included those admonitions on forgiveness.

But still, I was struck by our modern concept of “Cancel culture,” which has evolved from its predecessor “call-out culture.” There’s something to be said that in an increasingly post-Christian landscape, one of the Christian concepts we are jettisoning is forgiveness.

But the weirdest thing happened. At lunch one day, there was a woman who sat down. She heard us talking about Jonathan Streeter but something was very different…she was in favor of the effort. She talked about how she had been in close proximity to Streeter before, thinking about the best ways to make a hoax. I may have misheard, but I got the sense that she had even created her own satirical apology, but had just been barely beaten out in terms of timing and popularity by Streeter. After the publishing of the hoax, and had witnessed the emotional turmoil he had gone through in the aftermath.

So, when I suggested that the best thing for Streeter to do was get off the internet (because, in my experience, every thing he has said since the hoax, quite frankly, has not helped his case — non-apology apologies, justifications, defenses, etc.,), the conversation became extremely emotional, with this person talking about the need for forgiveness, about how people always could be so offended and wouldn’t understand the other person’s side of the story. This person expressed exasperation in how well-intentioned actions as an ally can be taken so wrongly, and I expressed that this was why many marginalized people are suspicious even of allies, because when the chips are down, those allies will give up if questioned about their actions or intentions. She suggested that marginalized people needed to be less offended and read Jonathan’s words for what they were. I said that based on her response and reaction just then and there, I was confident that I had not misinterpreted Streeter’s comments before (although it has been a long time since May 2018…), because so much of what she was saying was echoing what I remembered back then.

Anyway, I thought again about forgiveness. The impression in my mind was that this person did not prioritize the experience of faithful black LDS folks who were most hurt by the hoax. And, ultimately, this was the unbridgeable divide that rendered Streeter personae non gratae. Faithful black LDS folks were supposed to care about her and his emotional turmoil, whereas they would not do the same for faithful black LDS folks.

(Marginalized people are well familiar with this sort of experience. This isn’t new.)

As a non-faithful black LDS dude, I feel like my disaffection allows me to see both sides, in a glass darkly.

What Jonathan and she were saying is that people shouldn’t shoot the messenger — to any extent one is disappointed in the satirical apology, then this should be directed toward the church. And as an exmormon, I can sympathize with calling the church out. The pain of a lack of an apology for racism (and the pain of having the hope of one stripped away) doesn’t just come from nowhere.

…but the other side is that artillery bombardment of the church cannot be justified if it results in civilian casualties and collateral damage. Any approach that disregards the experience of faithful marginalized LDS folks is suspect.

…but despite all this, in the real world effect, nothing I was saying was going through. The emotional escalation only escalated further as long as I wasn’t willing to forgive first.

Maybe that is the value of forgiveness. Maybe the prerequisite to disarming the other side’s artillery, even when they are aiming to fire again, is to tear down the target walls and to present as an utter non-threat.


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  1. Happy Hubby permalink

    Thanks for explaining some of your thoughts. I have to admit I have a hard time seeing the depth of the pain of faithful black LDS members to the hoax. I have tried and continue to try.

  2. Agellius permalink

    “Maybe the prerequisite to disarming the other side’s artillery, even when they are aiming to fire again, is to tear down the target walls and to present as an utter non-threat.”


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