I am told that in the movie “Leap of Faith,” Steve Martin said: “I feel a HEALING comin on!” With this in mind, I must report that the answer to the question of whether an attempt to open a civil discussion about differences between John Dehlin and those he habitually denigrates and demonizes have ever been attempted is an emphatic YES.
These civil discussions began after someone directed me to the following item posted by John Dehlin. I have bolded certain key passages, all of which are clearly intended to claim the so-called objective high ground, while demonizing those who seem to imped one’s project, and thereby poisoning the well for his often quite innocent and sometimes confused listeners and readers without citing one word from any of those he demonizes:
John Dehlin - Are Mormon Apologetics a Gateway to Ex- or Anti-Mormonism? Or….Why I Support Sunstone accessed on 7 July 2006 at http://mormonstories...2#comment-18361
July 4, 2006 on 1:38 pm | In Mormon, LDS, Mormon Stories, Mormon Culture, Anti-Mormons, Sunstone, Apologetics |
Last week I was counseling a friend who had left the LDS church. As he recounted to me his story, it was interesting to note that apologetics (FAIR and FARMS in particular) were a precursor to his leaving the church–and a strong source for his abiding anger/resentment, and resistance to returning.
I probably get at least 2-3 emails a week from folks who have left the church–and I’m surprised at how many of these people not only delved into apologetics before they left–but also look back upon their experience w/ apologetics in almost disgust. Is it possible that the general approach/effect of arch-apologists like Dan Peterson and Louis Midgley–is actually NEGATIVE with respect to helping people retain their faith in the LDS Church? I am sure that they get short-term emails expressing gratitude for what they’ve done–so I’m speaking more in the medium-long term.
Recent postings by Lou Midgley and Dan Peterson in the bloggernacle are benign examples of what I mean. If you want the full banana….check out the FAIR Message Boards. Blech. Yuck. I almost feel dirty linking to that post.
I have had some VERY good experiences with a few apologists (John Lynch and Greg Kearny being 2 very important exceptions–these strike me as really sincere, thoughtful, kind-hearted men), and I know that there are others, but overall, I continue to be saddened by how often, when I engage in, or observe an apologist conversation, I end up feeling sick and disappointed. For me, the reasons include:
· The tendency to attack, denigrate and even mock the individual who disagrees with their view of the world.
· The tendency towards anger, hatred, sarcasm, and mean-spiritedness.
· The general unwillingness to express things like, “That’s a valid concern.” or “Yep…that’s a tough one.”
· The apparent willingess to defend at all costs…sometimes with little trace of a desire to remain objective.
· The tactic of avoiding the overall “mosaic” of an issue, by delving into obscure details and justifications.
· In summation, a lack of credibility in the eyes of many of they honest, open, sincere, thoughtful folk I interact with.
Now….one thing that I will openly acknowledge is that many/most anti-Mormons act the same way–which is also very, very disappointing. I will also acknowledge that I am grossly generalizing to a large degree–which is also very dangerous.
Still–these 2 poles testify to me as to why a forum like Sunstone must be supported. Neither of these sides (apologists or anti-LDS) are considered fair, balanced and credible by most of the sincere, humble, good-natured, intelligent folks that I continually interact with on the Internet–and I know for a fact that Sunstone (under Dan Wotherspoon) is working very, very hard to remain a more neutral, credible source for exploring and resolving LDS issues, in the house of faith. Sunstone may have stepped over a line or two years ago–but I find them (along w/ Dialogue) to be the rare voices of faithful objectivity and reason in an otherwise arena of shrill, hateful, negative voices.
[Note: over a 150 often irrational, unseemly and disgusting comments followed Dehlin’s diatribe, many of which were the usual venting of hostility towards the Church of Jesus Christ that flow endlessly from former members of the Church who seem anxious to justify their apostasy and hostility. Some of the same people hiding behind handles turn up every time an opportunity arises to opine, even or especially on threads I have visited durig my very short stay on the board.]
When I read Dehlin’s stange diatribe, I phoned him and we had a nice conversation. I invited him to meet with me at the forthcoming FAIR conference to be held in Sandy, Utah, in the summer of 2006. (I have had the bad habit of referencing this event as having taken place in 2005, which I know is not the case.] This meeting actually happened. I think we talked for well over six hours that day–he estimated it to be five. Later he was able to have conversations with the ever affable Dan Peterson and other FAIR volunteers whom he had just demonized on his blog.
After my long and civil and I thought productive conversation with Dehlin, he immediately posted the following:
Lunch with Lou Midgley, and Musings from the FAIR conference
August 5, 2006 - http://mormonstories...air-conference/
By John Dehlin
I spent 11 hours at the FAIR conference on Friday, and I believe that I spent about 5 of them with Lou Midgley.
The time with Dr. Midgley, and with the folks at FAIR (including Daniel Peterson), reinforced an important lesson that I keep re-learning regarding the Mormon Internet–we are sometimes not ourselves when we engage in Internet conversations, and more importantly, those we converse with are often not exactly who we think they are.
Now before you start thinking that I’m gonna get all slobbery about Dr. Midgley, let me remind you of something a good friend (Gregory Prince) told me in his studies of Mormon History: “There are no black hats, and there are no white hats.” The purpose of this post isn’t to say that Dr. Midgley’s hat is white. But for those of you who have never met him–let me assure you that his hat is not black either. A few reflections…
If you think that Dr. Midgley is a “blind apologist”, not willing to hold those within the church to the same level of scrutiny that he holds his anti-LDS foes, you do not know Lou Midgley.
If you think that Dr. Midgley has not stood up for what he feels is right within the church as he has without (sometimes at a personal cost), you do not know Lou Midgley.
If you think that Dr. Midgley is not sincere, and is not driven by a firm conviction as to the thruthfulness of the church, a deep love for it, and a desire for goodness on this earth, you do not know Dr. Midgley.
Finally, if you think Dr. Midgley beleves that he is without sin, and is not willing to acknowedge his error when he makes it, you don’t know him either.
Now I’ll grant you that I have similar feelings about Grant Palmer, Michael Quinn, and many other people that have suffered collateral damage (sometimes self-inflicted) in the war of words between apologists and the disaffected. I really, really detest when people’s faith or character are called into question, and I still retain a strong loathing for mean spiritedness and ad-hominim (sp?) attacks. But I also now better understand that sometimes, what is meant in jest, is sometimes taken as mean-spiritedness. And what starts out as a desire to defend what is most precious (on either side), far too easily spills over into defensiveness and anger. I’ll always fight against heat…but I also see that I have been the cause of some heat myself.
Truth be told, the stuff I have written is not only applicable to Dr. Midgley, but also to Dan Peterson and pretty much all the rest of the FAIR volunteers. These are sincere, good-natured folk with good intentions–who are honestly trying to do what they believe is right. In fact, I would claim this about many of us in the LDS “borderlands”, and in many instances, those in the DAMU as well.
Something else that crystalized for me was the realization that each one of us has a very clear bias, and strong opinions about HOW we might be able to make a difference in this world. Perhaps these biases and differences in approach are what divide us most.
I used to say that Mormon Stories was all about “open, honest and respectful.” I still desire these things, but those words are so charged, and so subjective–and do not fully encapsulate what I really hope to accomplish on the Mormon Internet (if I am able to accomplish anything at all). What I now am interested in doing, is building bridges. Between apologists and anti’s. Between conservatives and liberals. Between the estranged and their families. Between the believing and the disbelieving. Between all of us.
At FAIR, I watched Dan Vogel and Brent Metcalf sit in presentations where their work was openly discussed (and sometimes criticized), and then witnessed them both clap for, and go up to their “opponents” at the end and shake their hands, and discuss their differences. This was so beautiful to me. We need much, much more if it.
Anti’s force the church to be open, honest, and accurate. Anti’s help inspire change within the church.
Apologists force the anti’s to be credible, accurate, and thoughtful. They keep anti’s on top of their game, so to speak.
In the end, I believe that they are all both fighting for very similar things, and almost united in a common cause. In fact, I believe that they share MUCH more in common with each other, than with the average “asleep” member.
If we can focus on that which we have in common (love for truth, desire to make the world a better place, a passion for more joy and less pain in each of our lives), and less on what divides (historical BOM vs. non-historical BOM, “one true church” vs. really good church, etc.)–I believe that we can create something beautiful out of what we have started.
That is my new hope and mission. More bridges. Thanks to you all (across the ENTIRE spectrum) for helping me see this more clearly. I look forward to doing it with you (or folding up shop).
[Note: there were 37 comments to Dehlin’s remarks]
What did the long and fully cordial conversation between Dehlin and me (and Dan Peterson and others) actually accomplish? To see how all that sentimentality packed into the blog entry above turned out when Dehlin tried to recruit Professor Peterson and me to join him in “building bridges” over the entire “spectrum” of people at war with each other and often especially with the Kingdom of God and hence the community of Saints, stay tuned.
Well you already know how it turned out, but what you do not know are all the steps that have led to the recent renewed and accelerated attacks on Professor Peterson and me (and any others who seem to oppose creating “something beautiful out of what we have started”) and hence also to the demonic ruckus that has hit internet message boards, blogs, and even the newspapers, all of which is confusing and bewildering to the faithful Saints and must also be of considerable concern to those called to preside over the community of Saints.
Edited by Louis Midgley, 01 March 2013 - 11:41 AM.