Battles Lines and High-Fiving White Guys

John Dehlin Mormon Stories

I’ve pondered all morning how to respond to the recent “Mormon blog battle lines” discussion that has arisen here and here.

I’ll have more to say about this in August during my Sunstone presentation, but for now I’ll leave it with the following response:

  • Each of my podcast episodes is being downloaded over 3,000 times. I have received literally hundreds of very personal emails over the past year. The count actually exceeds 1,000 if you count responses, lunches in Logan, and personal phone calls. All of them have been very, very personal, and very meaningful–and the pattern is overwhelming: People learn the history. They become disenchanted and angry. They either want to leave, or do leave the church–and more often than not, damage follows. And for the people I talk to–apologetics and/or the traditional bloggernacle are either non-entities, or ultimately deteriorating to their attitudes and faith over time.

I know that my blog and podcast are not for everyone, but I also know exactly my place within Mormonism–and it is to help people who have their faith fall apart do 2 things…..

–Not move too quickly in a way that will damage their lives, and
–Help those who have become disaffected, but who still want to stay within Mormonism–find a way to do so without going crazy, or feeling unethical.

That is my purpose. I can’t speak for what others consider to be their purpose, though I often struggle to see one at times–aside from navel gazing, and a fraternity of high-fiving white guys (you’d have to be from Seattle to understand).

  • I used to see the battle lines within the Internet and Mormonism as being: Apologists/TBMs vs. Anti’s. I no longer see this as the division. I’m not gonna tell you where I see the battle lines now (I’m gonna save that for my Sunstone presentation in August), but I will offer the following song (originally written about 9/11) as a precursor/hint:

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September 12th
Artist – David Wilcox

To listen to the song, click here.

Long ago they built this fort of stone above the Hudson
To guard against intruders, there were cannons in these walls
But now it’s just a park where we can come and bring the children
On a clear sunny morning in the fall

The reason for this fortress was the threat of foreign warships
And though these walls were ready, no gunboats reached our shores
But you kids can climb the tower and look out across the harbor
And imagine being lookouts for the enemy at war

But you never see it coming anymore

Now we’re on the frontlines like stepping over landmines
Not beneath our footsteps but never far away
And now the possibility, the presence of the enemy
It could be any city, maybe any peaceful day

It’s a clear sunny morning, but it’s nothing like before
Cause you never see it coming anymore
It’s a different kind of peace, cause it’s a different kind of war
And you never see it coming anymore

These kids have learned some history and they know what warfare used to be
Tanks and guns and soldiers that moved across the land
With strategies and battlelines converging at a place in time
And lives were lost for reasons that the world could understand

On the History Channel war can look exactly like before
When you were certain it was over by the ticker tape parade
They could come back home to safety, they could celebrate the victory
And the landmines were all buried ‘cross the ocean far away

But a different kind of war has reached our shore
And you never see it coming anymore

Now we’re on the frontlines like stepping over landmines
Not beneath this pavement but never far away
And now the possibility, the presence of the enemy
It could be any city, maybe any peaceful day

It’s a clear sunny morning, but it’s nothing like before
Cause you never see it coming anymore
It’s a different kind of peace, cause it’s a different kind of war
And you never see it coming anymore

————————————-

If I have a testimony of anything, it is that apologetics and traditional bloggernacle threads are not going to speak to a whole host of people out there who are seeking honesty, candor , truth, and practical solutions to their questions, doubts, and beliefs. If the “bloggernacle” or whatever that is, wants to close ranks and exclude me from their club or party–that’s totally their call. I learned 6 months ago that you had to play ball their way, or you risked being invited to leave (or ignored). And the way I see the world these days (for example politically, where the Ann Coulters and the Al Frankens offer their shrill mockery and one-sided, self conversations), I don’t divide the world into buckets like Democrat vs. Replubican, Liberal vs. Conservative, American vs. Un American, TBM vs. Anti. I believe that for a specific group of people within Mormonism (the ones I interact with, anyway), FAIR, FARMS, and much of the Bloggernacle actually serves to weaken faith, and increase cynicism about the LDS church. I know this for fact. So I ask those of you who identify yourself as within the ‘nacle–what is your purpose? And are you really achieving it? And most importantly–are you doing good? The extent to which the bloggernacle becomes an intellectually inbred, “lines-drawing” community of “star belly sneeches”–is the extent to which it will begin to alienate and bore its readers, ultimately damaging itself in the long run (which, from the circles I run it, it is already starting to do).

All I can say is….I know what I’m trying to do, and what I’ve been able to do, through my efforts. I could forward you the several emails I’ve received from people who tell me that they’ve started going to church again (at least in part) because of my efforts–but I honsetly don’t believe that most of you would really care, or be open to wrapping your brains around that.

Not only do I believe that my intentions are good and noble (who doesn’t?)–I believe that I have been effective in what I’ve set out to do. And though some might try to throw stones, or cast judgments of suspicion–I know in my heart that I love the LDS church, and fully support people being members of it (if that is their wish). My efforts are directed squarely at helping people manage their crises of faith–and helping to guide them away from unncecessarily inflicted self-damage, and towards a life of greater joy and potential.

To quote Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” If being part of the bloggernacle means being a fish-bowl dwelling, navel-gazing, high-fiving white guy…I’ll be perfectly happy to live in the borderlands category. Honored, actually.

Now excuse me while I go teach Elder’s quorum. 🙂