(Intellectual) War and Guilt

I have a couple of confessions to make:

1. While I have a number of prejudices remaining, the prejudice that I most dearly hold in my heart is a prejudice against the evangelical counter-cult ministry, also known as Anti-Mormons (or the Fluffy Bunny Nice Nice Club, if you insist)

2. I am simultaneously proud and ashamed of my behavior toward such on the internet. Toward them, I have made the decision to just be mean. There is not very much of Christ in my online behavior as regards my interactions with them (I would likely overturn the little bird cages in my wrath). There is a lot of pride and self-justification.

Let me explain:

A couple of years ago, a friend asked me to participate on a blog run by an Evangelical Anti-Mormon group. I wrote several comments over several weeks. I found it remarkably easy to overturn the apple carts there. Any assumption that they made about Mormonism appeared to be based on some lame overgeneralization or it appeared to apply equally well to their own traditions, therefore everything they said was either incredibly fallacious or incredibly hypocritical. There I was, debating with people who had made the hostile study of Mormonism their life’s work, people who knew more about church history than I did, and I was not only holding my own but I was asking exactly the sorts of questions that they couldn’t handle; I was holding my own and winning. It was a heady experience, especially because it was so easy. Anyone with a little experience of bloggernacle (or internet) debate could have done the same. It got to be a little too much fun, a little too gratifying for my ego.

I don’t really understand this, except to say that it always feels good to be right. I was so happy to be right, to demonstrate it easily on a daily basis, that I just wanted to keep doing it. I was making their own website a place that was hostile to the kind of leading, well-poisoning questions that they liked to ask. So, they moderated me, they limited the amount of times I (or anyone) could post daily, and they did what they could to make me feel unwelcome. I was, it turns out, a troll. They wanted a nice, little community where they could bask in the glow of their clever dismissals of Mormonism without the interference of someone asking uncomfortable questions.

So, after a time, I stopped commenting (I left in a huff and everything; very dramatic). From time to time afterwards, when I was in a black mood, I would go back to trolling their blog. I would let the stupidity of what I saw there, the ungenerosity of spirit and the mindless hate disguised as sincere good will, outrage me again. I would start a comment and then stop, realizing that it was pointless or that I didn’t really want to get sucked in again. I should note that on days like this, I also tend to troll ex-mo forums and to listen to AM talk radio looking for fights to pick. I don’t usually pick them; I just yell at screens/radios.

So, obviously, that ain’t healthy.

Anyhoo I was recently looking at the website of an Evangelical whom I actually respect (and who actually treats LDS belief with respect (Hi, Jack!)) and, following a link, I found myself on another blog with an Evangelical who treats us with respect (Hi, Tim!). On that blog I found one of the denizens from the old blog, the one that moderated comments and drove me and my questions away. I found, within me, a long untapped well of disdain, sarcasm, and dismissal, ready to overflowing regarding this blogger. Other denizens of the nacle know this guy (>Hi, Aaron!) and there was a recent blog post devoted to picking apart his stated reasons for his ministry to Mormons. On a thread there, I was particularly mean to Aaron (calling him “a big, fat jerk” and accusing him of all sorts of treachery (possibly of assassinating Kennedy and what not)). Being called out by another member of the community, I started to articulate why I was being so mean. This is what I wrote (please note also that the comment was never posted; I read it and realized that I needed more work):

I admit that I am being mean to Aaron. Possibly too mean. Certainly, I am assuming things about him that are unfair and against which he can’t possibly defend himself. I wonder, for instance, if he has stopped beating his wife yet. In any case, I don’t trust anything that comes out of his mouth and I believe that he would sincerely say that it is midnight on a bright, sunny noon if it suited his exegetical purposes. In other words, I tend to treat him the way he treats us. If that makes him uncomfortable, good. I want him to go away. I don’t want him in our community, dropping by and leaving stupid trollish comments whenever it suits his fancy. I don’t want him linking to our posts in order to prove anti-Mormon talking points on his blog. I want him to realize that he isn’t making anything but his denial stronger or better by his participation in this forum. I want him to feel my disdain for him and his activity, to take a look in a mirror, to realize that he is wasting his life on a campaign of hate, and then to go to Africa and dig a well or something.

Probably it is wrong to descend to his level

So, frankly, I don’t know what to do. I mean, I am responding to his campaign of love hate with my own campaign of just plain ol’ hate. I realize that none of this will likely work; he revels in playing the martyr. I also realize that if he cared about being disgusting to people, he wouldn’t do what he does. I feel a bit like I need to be like Captain Moroni, engaging in stratagems to make the bad guys go away. And Aaron, for all the sincerity of his belief, really does wish and pray for the eradication of Mormon belief. And I see/feel that as actual harm.

What’s worse is that engaging with Aaron (and others like him) brings out the worst in me. I don’t think he really cares what I think, but I have spent time, actual time, thinking of the right way to insult him or belittle his opinion. I am callous to his calls for civility; I am deaf to his pleas for discourse. He exists, for me, to be a whipping boy. That can’t be the right approach. What it does is waste my time and inflate my pride; I get a real Nietzschean uplift from pointing out how stupid the things he says are. However, not even Friedrich would be proud of my behavior (what is the challenge of picking on the “intellectual short bus“?). What in my behavior, being mean to some random internet anti-Mormon, should I be proud of exactly?

It’s the question of our times: what is the best approach in dealing with those who have zeal, but no knowledge? Whether it be al-Qaeda, a filibuster-proof senate, or anti-Mormons, there are people who, if left unchecked, can and will do harm. Is the appropriate response hostile or is it to try to understand and convert? Should I drive them from the temple or should I turn the other cheek? Bury my weapons or raise the title of liberty?

Sometimes, I think that the hostility is the right approach, but that God keeps me guilty to remember that one can go too far. Unfortunately, in the heat of the battle, the lines that indicate restraint blur.

Lord, help thou mine unbelief.

Comments

  1. From a self-understanding perspective, finding a person who gets deeply under one’s skin is a profound blessing. There are lots of fun wisdom stories about such people throughout ages. Our experiences with them allow us to see in high relief the contours of our own Shadows. And it is only when we see them that we can begin to own them.

    It is that kind of integration work that I think Jesus was encouraging when He instructed us to love our enemies.

    How? I borrow Buddhist practices to work on this problem. If you’re interested in a specific practice, consider googling “lovingkindness meditation” or going here: http://inlimine.blogspot.com/2007/09/metta-practicing-lovingkindness.html

    At any rate, whenever I have a strong emotional response to a situation — especially one as sharp as the one you describe — I remind myself that it’s like turning a light on in the cave of my subconscious. Most times — calm times — I just live in the dark, stumbling into boulders or walls that I can’t see, reacting to the pain of the experience, but never really understanding what happened or why. But when I get really angry, the emotion lights up the space more brightly and I can see where the wall is, where the boulder lies. And seeing them clearly lets me either learn to navigate around them or, when I’m feeling even more enterprising, to start a remodel.

  2. Ignore them. Tell the truth in your own forums and on the topics that interest you and to the audience you care about, whether that’s your private diary or to the whole world, and do it so well and so loudly and so often that you drown them out with your own message. Make it about YOUR message, not an angry response to a poisonous agenda set by idiots.

    I’m making a little progress in my analogous campaign to leave poisonous pseudohistorians “severely alone.” Not quite there yet, but making progress.

  3. Latter-day Guy says:

    Carry on, this clearly sounds like an ideal S&M relationship: Aaron likes being martyred, you like martyring him. This is symbiosis; everybody’s happy.

    (Seriously, an interesting post. And I agree with Ardis.)

  4. John,

    he revels in playing the martyr.

    It’s ironic. I think you end up reveling in playing the martyr too. I think all who end up trolling (going in to make incendiary comments on an issue for which they feel passionately, and who, well, revel in the pile-on), end up trolling or at least starting such a firebomb particularly because we want to feel martyred. I know I do that sometimes on political issues, knowing full well the argument battle is lost and nothing particular to gain by continuing, but throwing a few more firebombs in the midst just to feel that martyred syndrome, feel like the failed cause was justified.

  5. Dan,
    no doubt, I do.

  6. I have a standing open offer to take any Mormon (especially those who hate my guts) out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner (no, that’s not a metaphor). I live in the SLC area, and you can reach me at 801-542-9099.

    Grace and peace in Christ,

    Aaron

  7. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    John, interesting thoughts. I think my heart is half with Ardis’s solution, and half in opposition to that solution. Certainly the best approach is to affirmatively tell your own story, to emphasize the things that matter to you and not the things that happen to matter to your interlocutors. At the same time, as someone who lives in the ongoing aftermath of Socrates/Plato, I’m deeply convinced that dialogue is mutually edifying when done sincerely. Leaving people “severely alone” seems like a missed opportunity for both parties…

    I don’t have a pat answer to offer here about how to balance your desire to advocate for your position with your desire to live as a Christian. My own approach, when I’m thoughtful about these things (which admittedly isn’t as often as I’d like) is to conclude that other people’s ideas really aren’t harmful — that God is capable enough to establish the truth as long as we all keep trying to articulate whatever part of it we can see.

  8. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    Aaron, will you fly to Chicago for the meal? Or is it only on offer for those in the Great Basin? Why, oh why, do you hate Midwest Mormons so much that you won’t offer us dinner? :)

  9. What about New York Mormons?

  10. Alas, it’ll have to be in the SLC area :-) Or in the Ephraim/Manti area in the pageant week in June.

  11. I’m deeply convinced that dialogue is mutually edifying when done sincerely. Leaving people “severely alone” seems like a missed opportunity for both parties…

    That doesn’t seem to be the case that John C. outlines. I don’t advocate turning your back on any mutually edifying dialogue — only when dialogue is replaced by a one-sided and unstoppable poisonous spew that is starting to turn your own spirit toxic.

  12. Dan, you’re in New York? There needs to be a NY bloggersnacker sometime…

  13. What Ardis said.

    Aaron,
    I’ve told you before. I don’t really trust or like you and I am not going to pretend to. Breaking bread with you, without a whole heck of a lot of mutual repentence, is a non-starter.

  14. John C., feel free to bring a friend. Sometimes the best way to heal bitterness is some relational face-time.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  15. greenfrog,
    I meant to say that I think that there is a lot of truth to what you say. I have been thinking on it.

  16. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    Ardis, I do see that point. There are certainly times when walking away is better for my equilibrium than continued engagement, and there are moments when conversations get broken. I remain uncomfortable with the idea of disengaging from specific people or categories of people altogether, rather than particular conversations with those people. That seems too much like concluding that there is no hope for those people — or perhaps that there is no hope that I can become a person empathetic and charitable enough to communicate with them.

  17. JNS,
    I see your point. I would like to think that I am sufficiently Christlike to approach Aaron in charity, but I’m not right now. I view him as a kind of pusher and I am far more interested in protecting others from him than I am in helping him figure out his own thing. This is because there is no evidence that he sees anything wrong with his own thing. There is no motivation to repent regarding a given topic if you think you are right.

    I wonder if my whole approach is wrong; if I should toughen up for the battle ahead because it has to happen. There is a time for this and that, as they say. At the same time, I see so much of myself in Aaron, I question if this is all an pretty unsubtle attempt to establish my bona fides or if I am genuinely motivated by concern/anger/outrage.

    In war, we are asked to kill, but with restraint. I think that we intellectual combatants often forget the lessons learned on battlefields IRL. That you can kill, doesn’t mean you should. That you can hurt, doesn’t mean you should. But, sometimes, it appears necessary (it may even be necessary). Your choice, in that moment, is between you and God. I think I can be okay with that.

  18. I’m an exmo myself, and I have to admit that when I see these Evangelical vs. Mormon debates, I frequently find myself sympathizing with the Mormons. But in my blogging I do try to make an effort to keep the discussion civil. When it comes to perspectives different than my own (exmo-Christian, faithful Mormon, etc.) I deliberately seek out (and link to) representatives who are intelligent and civil in order to avoid feeding my own biases against these groups.

  19. JNS, if you can’t agree with me completely about everything all the time, I’m just going to have to turn my back on you entirely. [dusts feet] [leaves severely alone]

  20. chanson,
    You are one of my favorite exmos, and I have links to two intelligent and civil evangelicals in the post. I’m working on it. :)

  21. Aaron’s good for dinner, too … I treated he and his then-fiancée to a fine dinner at Martine ( mm… tapas… ) a couple years back.

  22. You are one of my favorite exmos, and I have links to two intelligent and civil evangelicals in the post.

    Thanks! I already subscribe to one of those two, and perhaps I’ll add the other…

  23. Eisenhower was asked why he did not publicly engage and refute McCarthy during his famous anti red crusades. Eisenhower said that some people live on controversy as if it was oxygen so the only way to defeat them was to deny them controversy. And he concluded: “I am not going to get in a pissing match with that skunk”

    This was my long way of saying I agree with Ardis. Many anti mormons thrive on argument and controversy, (in fact the clobberblogger confessing to that point) so deny them oxygen by avoiding the pissing match all together. I appreciated the post because I have struggled with the same emotions as well.

  24. Velikye Kniaz says:

    How fortunate Aaron is to live in Salt Lake City. Were he to live in Moskva and try the same rhetoric against Russian Orthodoxy he could easily be killed since what he does is considered by Russian law a ‘provocation’ and if you engage in provoking another by either words or actions, they are legally allowed to eliminate the source of their irritation. Afterwards they might likely remove sufficient funds from the deceased’s wallet and take themselves to breakfast assured that they will enjoy the meal in genuine peace.

  25. There is so much sociology on exhibit here – much more sociology than anything else. Change the names of the characters and the camps, then examine the post and some of the comments to imagine, dispassionately, how this must look to any neutral “outsider” who might know little about religions or contemporary blogging “discourse.” I see far less invitation above to come to Christ (or even to Socrates) than to paint our bodies with team colors and rush a sporting event.

  26. VK,
    I would ask you to refrain from death threats, explicit or implicit. That isn’t good behavior.

  27. Mark B. says:

    Life is too short. Spend your time with someone who wants to listen.

  28. Confutus says:

    With me, it took a gradual realization that I couldn’t out-troll a troll, and furthermore, I didn’t want to. Even if I do see things more clearly than someone who seems to be wilfully ignorant, obtuse, stupid, or hateful, I decided, it was both futile and wrong to try to force enlightenment upon on him or her. There are enough people who are willing to be enlightened that I don’t have time to waste with those who aren’t.

  29. Ben,

    #12,

    Yep. I’m in Inwood.

  30. I don’t think Mormons should try to out-troll anti-s either.

    I will say, as another ex-Mormon, that I agree with chanson — anti-Mormon rhetoric turns me apologetic for a brief moment. So, I understand the inclination to go all out against anti-mormons.

    but I think that in the end, what people see (silently and quietly…so perhaps this won’t be as satisfying) is…who was more pleasant? I’ll tell you, regardless of what the anti-mormons say, the overwhelming thought I come away with it from the end of the day is, “Regardless of who’s right or wrong, I do *not* want to be around people like them.”

    So, I mean, I’m not going to say I think the church is perfect, because I don’t. But like chanson said, I’m going to generally sympathize with the church over the antis every time, because their entire cause is tainted by a pervasive “ethos failure” that ekes out in all of their tactics.

  31. Ardis, let me send you e-hugs and a bunch of e-flowers! Your #19 put a big smile on my face after a very long day…

  32. for all the sincerity of his belief, really does wish and pray for the eradication of Mormon belief. And I see/feel that as actual harm.

    Does anyone see the irony here? Replace the word “Mormon” with “SSM” and we have a rather amusing role reversal. Let’s put it up for a vote! :)

  33. Dan Weston brings up an incredibly good point.

  34. [sprinkling dust back on feet] All in a day’s work, JNS. Cheers!

  35. If you ask me—and I was linked to twice in this post, so you pretty much did—you guys are thinking about this way too much.

    I carry out my brand of Internet activities for a lot of reasons. I enjoy hearing fresh perspectives and fresh approaches from Latter-day Saints and anyone else who will interact with me, and it seems like there are people who appreciate my own perspective as well. I like helping other people in similar situations to my own, i.e. LDS interfaith marriages. It gives me a nice, altruistic buzz. And I understand that there are people making decisions about their faith based on what they read on the Internet (try not to laugh too hard, it does happen), so I know my writing can influence them one way or another.

    But I’m in this for another reason: to have some stonkin’ fun. Making fun of stupid people on the Internet is a great pastime, and I don’t have a World of Warcraft account anymore, so I have to entertain myself somehow. I’ve embraced my inner troll, and I’m not ashamed of her. In fact, I solemnly testify that you can out-troll a troll, if you’re good enough, and it’s one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.

    Concerning evangelical anti-Mormons, I might also point this out: being polite-but-firm in your reprimands seldom has a more desired effect than being a snarky bastard. A couple months ago I did a post at LDS & Evangelical Conversations on the evangelical attitude towards theosis & deification. I lamented the fact that evangelicals so often condemn Mormons for teaching that they can “become gods” without considering the teachings on theosis in Eastern Orthodox Christianity or our own tendencies toward deification in Protestant sanctification & glorification. I was polite, I didn’t call anyone names, I gently tried to address what I see as a real problem in evangelical Christianity and the counter-cult approach to Mormonism. You can see that Aaron from MRM was the first person to post on the thread, and he agreed with me.

    Then the post got mentioned to the “Christians” at CARM’s Mormonism forums—exactly the sort of people who hyperventilate about Mormons “becoming gods”—and this was the result. Good thing I was so polite and gentle with the subject in my OP, eh?

    One last thing: I don’t just make fun of intellectually bankrupt evangelicals. Those who follow me on other blogs know that I’ve done it to Mormons as well. I’m an equal opportunity snarker. So if you find yourself aching to act like a self-righteous moron and appoint yourself judge and jury on how Christian / intelligent / modest / righteous / whatever I am, be my guest. I’ll be happy to make you look like a dumbass, too.

  36. Dan Weston (and Andrew),
    I don’t wish and pray for SSM to fail, FWIW.

  37. That’s the Jack I know!

  38. As well as I usually do trying to do good to them that despitefully use (Mormonism), I have a hard time leaving Calvinism alone. I just loathe it so much that it’s really hard to remain silent when it’s theology is being used to spew anti-Mormon crap. I am working on it, but (as the conversation over on NCT attests) it’s hard for me – since I see hardcore Calvinism as being about four steps below Lucifer’s plan.

    I am able to respect the dedication and sincerity of many Calvinists, but I simply can’t respect a theology I find to be abominable. This is one area where I still have a lot of work to do, but even Jesus used harsh language to condemn certain philosophies held by sincerely believing Jews of his time.

  39. John C. where you commenting on Aaron’s blog at the same time I was?

    Because he pulled the same commenting policies when I was there.

    I’ve been engaging on his blog for a couple months, then all of a sudden it’s announced that there is a two-comment-per-day limit on posting. The rational is that Aaron didn’t want “just one or two people” monopolizing the conversation.

    OK…

    Problem was that there was only me and about two other Mormons on the blog and there were about 8 or so Evangelicals. Which basically meant that the Evangelical view was getting more air-time and the Mormon view was always going to be handicapped. So it meant I had to wait until several points had been made and then do a point-by-point answer/rebuttal at the end of the day.

    Then Aaron announces that there will be a word-limit on comments from henceforth. Which meant that responding to all the attacks was really impossible.

    He also suddenly added a registration requirement for commenting at the blog at the same time.

    Funny thing though. There was another Mormon gal commenting there at the same time I was. She wasn’t too bright and didn’t write very well. She bore her testimony incessantly and often gave shrill whining rants about how everyone there was picking on Mormons. Lots of strawman arguments, unfair generalizations about Evangelicals, and also a large degree of ignorance about anything in Mormon history that isn’t taught in Primary – for instance, she’d loudly deny Joseph Smith practiced polygamy, or she’d insist we only practiced polygamy “to take care of the widows.” You know the type.

    Of course, Aaron’s groupies had a field day with her. They’d often pretty-much ignore comments I made in favor of beating up on the clueless Mormon. She doggedly kept at it during the months I was there and there were times I heartily wished she’d just shut up.

    I noticed that Aaron’s two-comment-per-day limit didn’t seem to apply to HER.

    Hmmm…

  40. Oh, and while Aaron and other permas at his blog will typically write in a measured and polite tone, they allow their groupies to do all the dirty work in the comments section. A post that looked promising for a rational and fair-minded exchange will quickly go to hell once the regular commenting goons over there have had their say.

    You know the smiling rancher political candidate at the end of the movie “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”? The one who’s all smiles and polish, but has been secretly payrolling the lout Liberty to terrorize the townsfolk?

    That’s kind of how I felt on that blog.

    Aaron’s got a lot of good input, and I don’t mind him when he behaves himself. But I’ve long since sworn-off engaging him on his own turf.

  41. Seth, that matches my experience. I was there in the summer of 07, I believe. That place is a wasp’s nest.

  42. Ray: I simply can’t respect a theology I find to be abominable. This is one area where I still have a lot of work to do

    Why do you need to work on that? There is nothing wrong with finding an abominable theology like Calvinism abominable. I mean Calvinism obviously paints God as the ultimate sadist and narcissist and that is bad enough in itself. But more importantly, look at the fruits it yields: The spectacularly weaselly douchebags that make up most of the Fluffy Bunny Nice Nice Club. (The very folks John C is trying not to despise.) I agree we need love the people, but the bad theology itself need not be loved or even treated nicely.

  43. John, nice post.

    In general, I try to avoid troll-like arguments–mostly because I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. I like reading them, though. And one day, when I’m smrt enuf, I just might engage. So I say you bring it. :)

    So if you find yourself aching to act like a self-righteous moron and appoint yourself judge and jury on how Christian / intelligent / modest / righteous / whatever I am, be my guest. I’ll be happy to make you look like a dumbass, too.

    Jack, LOL. Very well then, you dimwitted / prideful / satan-sympathizing / tank-top-wearing skank. ;)

  44. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 42
    Wow, for once I agree completely with Geoff.
    There’s nothing wrong with finding abominable ideas, well, abominable.

  45. Hehe. I suspect you are confusing me with (Geoff J of NCT) with Geoff B of M* MikeInWeHo. Happens occasionally around here.

    I doubt you have found a lot of my comments to disagree with in the past.

  46. Having witnessed many an internet debate, and participated in a few as well, I have to say that civility is a must. If you can’t engage without showing your anger, then you’re doing your own argument harm. I do understand what you say and I do believe people who spew out ugly stuff like that in an attempt to breed hate are doing something very wrong. It’s good of you to engage with them, so that their listeners aren’t hearing only one side. But if you do it in anger, you only end up alienating the casual onlooker.

    Not having read any of the material to which you refer, I can’t give specific advice. But from reading your post here, I can tell I wouldn’t want to read your comments there. It seems to me that the vitriol and the pleasure in beating your opponents is doing you harm. Those aren’t good things to pursue, really. What you want to be really careful about is accidentally becoming like them.

    So engage them if you can do it with a spirit of helping others see the truth, of correcting errors and increasing understanding. When you find yourself filled with outrage, then take a step back, take a deep breath, and find some reasonable people to interact with for a while until you regain your equilibrium.

    That’s my advice, for what it’s worth. Good luck in your struggle against lies and for the truth.

  47. Aw, Geoff J., you underestimate your own disagree-with-ability!!!

  48. Interesting thoughts John C. — and you likely know this is very similar for me. I saw how you were treated over there back in Summer 2007 and received that same treatment myself. My comments were censored or deleted because they asked hard questions about Calvinism rather than answering straw man arguments about Mormonism. Geoff J. and I had a lot of back channel discussions about it at the time. He chose to have some crazy two hour telephone conversation with Aaron. I couldn’t possibly imagine wasting the time.

  49. MatthewChapman says:

    A few months ago word reached some of our missionaries in a remote South Pacific island that I would soon be visiting there for two or three days. When I arrived, the missionaries were waiting anxiously to share with me some anti-Mormon literature that was being circulated in their area. They were disturbed by the accusations and were eager to plan retaliation.
    The elders sat on the edge of their chairs as I read the slander and false declarations issued by a minister who apparently felt threatened by their presence and successes. As I read the pamphlet containing the malicious and ridiculous statements, I actually smiled, much to the surprise of my young associates. When I finished, they asked, “What do we do now? How can we best counteract such lies?”
    I answered, “To the author of these words, we do nothing. We have no time for contention. We only have time to be about our Father’s business. Contend with no man. Conduct yourselves as gentlemen with calmness and conviction and I promise you success.” (Ensign May 1978 “No Time for Contention” Elder Marvin J. Ashton)

    “I counsel you, my beloved brothers and sisters and friends everywhere, to make reading in the Book of Mormon a few minutes each day a lifelong practice. I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart… Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness.” (Marion G. Romney, in Conference Report, Apr. 1960, pp. 110–13.)

    For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
    Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
    (3 Nephi 11:29-30)

    But, O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit, which was spoken of by my father Mosiah.
    For behold, there is a woe pronounced upon him who listeth to obey that spirit; for if he listeth to obey him, and remaineth and dieth in his sins, the same drinketh damnation to his own soul; for he receiveth for his wages an everlasting punishment, having transgressed the law of God contrary to his own knowledge.
    (Mosiah 2: 32-33)

  50. Re#47 — Hehe. Oh I know I am disagreeable at times JNS. I just usually know who I am annoying with my comments and Mike was never someone I suspected was on the list of people I irked with my generally-theologically-focused stuff.

    Re #48 — You think one phone conversation with Aaron is bad John — I just had another one with him yesterday. See my latest post. I just separate the person from the atrocious belief system.

    Re #49 — I was wondering why missionaries would be eagerly awaiting the arrival of Matthew Chapman at first…

  51. Man, you guys have been brutal this week.

    Seth, if you felt unfairly dogpiled on Mormon Coffee, then I apologize. But if you’re going to accuse anyone of (metaphorically speaking) “secretly payrolling the lout Liberty to terrorize the townsfolk” then that is just silly and unfounded. I will say this: I have over-moderated before (and I am sorry for that) and I have learned to take a more hands-off approach. But I can’t have it both ways. Over-moderating makes people feel restricted, but undermoderating opens the door for a lot of stuff (from both sides) that just makes me groan. I have been horrible at finding an unbiased middle ground and so I have basically thrown my hands up in the air.

    The problem is that just about any internet turf where religious controversy is engaged is going to result in a kind of aggressive dog-piling. This happens to me a lot on Mormon blogs. That is why I think more evangelical and Mormon bloggers should do more one-on-one audible dialog over Skype.

    Grace and peace in Christ, who justifies the ungodly (like me) by faith apart from works (Romans 4:4-8),

    Aaron

  52. #42 – “Why do you need to work on that?”

    Geoff J: I meant that I need to work on being charitable toward and not reviling Calvinists – not that I need to work on seeing Calvinism in a more positive light. The following is excerpted from my latest comment on the NCT thread, and the last paragraph answers your question directly about why I care about “working on how I respond”:

    “Bottom line:

    I don’t want to view the world as they do, and I want MUCH less to act as they act. I believe life really is about becoming Christlike, since that’s what Jesus appears to have believed, as well – and I simply don’t see the Messiah of the Gospels in the theology of Calvinism or the actions of anti-Mormon Calvinists. Again, I see sincere, dedicated people; I simply don’t see the God who turned the other cheek and taught that we need to do good to those who despitefully use and persecute us.

    I’m not sure my comments here fulfill that injunction – that they “do good” to Aaron or anyone else who believes as he does. That’s my main concern, that in responding at all I am proving my lack of internalization of the concepts I value so highly. A Calvinist might see that as evidence of my damned state; I see it as proof that I am striving to repent (change) and have not succumbed to the type of arrogance and disdain that would allow me to become a Calvinist and act as Calvinism describes God as acting.

    That is the ultimate irony:

    Calvinists who truly are sincere become “God-like” according to their theology. They also become arrogant, un-Christlike, anti-Beatitudes, ant-Gospels, anti-words-attributed-directly-to-Jesus, revelers-in-abuse-and-disdain. They become what they worship – and I simply don’t want to become what they worship.”

  53. “Dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”

    Many years ago (mid-90s), I spent a lot of time at alt.religion.mormon (a USENET news group; think of it as a linear blog). I engaged a lot, usually with clarity and humor, sometimes with a bit of snark. I finally grew tired of it and stopped reading (and posting) to the group. A year later, I went back — and found pretty much the same people going round and round with the same arguments. That was my last visit there.

    What was most telling through this period is that an effort was made to create a moderated LDS newsgroup, so that Mormons could make posts without the deluge of anti-Mormon rants. It was consistently voted down (in the USENET process) by those same anti-Mormons, who — as far as I could tell — were either angered or terrified at the thought that they wouldn’t be allow to counter the Mormon eeeevil…and this in spite of the fact that there was a moderated Christian news group.

    Some people just want to see the ‘nets burn. ..bruce..

  54. Aaron’s not really a regular poster on Tim’s blog though, is he?

  55. No.

    He shows up often enough though that I think he follows the discussion regularly.

  56. My last paragraph in #52 should have said, “Anti-something Calvinists” – not all Calvinists. I apologize for being sloppy in that paragraph.

  57. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 45
    You’re right. I confused you with the generally conservative Geoff on M*.

    I suggest you find a distinct Nom de Blog, Geoff J.
    Maintaining your brand identity is a must in the Bloggernacle.

  58. Remember that Christ overturned the tables in His Father’s house, and Captain Moroni acted only when the battles were taken to his ground. Alma engaged Korihor after the people brought Korihor to him. None of these acts were done with pleasure in the battle.

    1) The battle was engaged only once it began to encroach upon the defender’s territory.
    2) The battle was engaged without pleasure on the part of the defender.

    I think this is a good measuring stick in these sorts of matters to see if one is found on the Lord’s side or not.

  59. re: 57

    Well Mike, I’ve been at it for almost 5 years as “Geoff J” so my brand is pretty set in stone around these parts. Newer folks might get confused between us at first but it is not because I’m new. It mostly has to do with which Geoff they encounter first. (Geoff B focuses mostly on conservative politics while I like theology discussions).

  60. re: 59 — finally something I can agree with from Geoff J.

    re: 57 — MikeInWeHo, are you seriously telling me that after your many years of participation in the bloggernacle you’ve never encountered Geoff J?!? Seriously, you need to get out more.

  61. I can vouch for the longevity of the “Geoff J.” brand. You always know what you’re going to get with a Geoff J. product: vigorous argumentation, a thorough-going belief in the availability of revelation, substantial theological creativity, and a tolerance for ideas that would start fist fights in Sunday School. I highly recommend Geoff J. for your speculative theology needs, even if he shows an alarming allegiance to a particularly severe version of libertarian free will!

  62. JNS, excellent. You should do a post where you provide a similar blurb for 15-20 of the long-timers of the bloggernacle.

  63. Re #61:

    Awesome.

    Or as Homer would say: “It’s funny because it’s true!”

  64. Hey thanks for your compliment John. I’m glad I’m accomplishing one of my goals (even if it gets mentioned in a tirade against some one else).

    Thanks too for the link and your contributions to my blog.

  65. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 60
    I have a severe case of B.A.D.D. (Bloggernacle Attention Deficit Disorder), and did indeed blur the two Geoffs together. Apologies to both!

    You’re right, though: I need to get out more.

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