At Sunstone yesterday Lynette from ZD told me how impressed she is by my ecumenical approach to Mormon studies. I had never heard it put that way before, but I thought it was a great coinage (to be expected from an expert in Christian theology). The English word ecumenical derives from Greek oikomenikos “of or relating to the inhabited world,” and in contemporary discourse is often used of attempts to seek unity among different Christian churches.
When she made the comment, I knew immediately to what she was referring. I’m basically all over the map. I’m probably one of the few people on the planet who has published both in the Ensign and in a Signature publication. I publish in FARMs publications and BYU Studies and am active in FAIR; I also publish in Dialogue and have published in Sunstone and try to attend the Sunstone conference every year. And of course I blog here.
On the plane coming home I pondered for a bit why I feel comfortable among such disparate faith communities. I suppose it has to do with the following: On the one hand, as I’ve gotten older I have gotten more liberal socially. So, just to name some big ticket items, I favor gay marriage, I think the priesthood ban was a horrible mistake, and I think not giving women the priesthood is simply based on culture, not immutable doctrine, and I wish we would just go ahead and include them in the priesthood. But on the other hand, I remain a believer, even if my belief is more nuanced and complicated than the average orthodox member’s belief.
This probably in some sense is an inheritance from Hugh Nibley. I became a Nibleyophile on my mission, and he had the same sort of dichotomy: he was a liberal on social issues, but a firm believer in the Gospel. Although I’m not exactly like him, I’ve sort of followed the same pattern.
Also, I’ve spent a lot of time doing educative apologetics, so I don’t fear anyone’s pet theories or unbelief. There are a lot of things that could drive me from the Church, but doctrinal or historical or scriptural isses aren’t my particular problem. So I don’t feel defensive in the company of folks who are troubled by such issues, and I don’t feel the need to somehow protect myself from any possible influence they may have on me.
Finally, while I get my intelligence (such as it is) from my father, I get my deep sense of empathy from my mother. I usually can look at the world and the church from other people’s point of view, understand what they are feeling and where they are coming from, and appreciate (if not necessarily agree with) their perspective.
On Thursday and Friday I attended the FAIR conference. Those are my people.
And on Saturday I attended Sunstone. Those are my people, too.
My people are those who are intelligent and thoughtful and care deeply about Mormonism. That they agree with my point of view isn’t the point.
And the denizens of the Bloggernacle are definitely my people as well. I love and appreciate you all.