Have Mercy on us Whiners

I don’t wanna wait for Church to be over; I want to whine right now on BCC.

Periodically (i.e. with frequency) I’ll read some comment about how BCC is full of complainers, about how we’re missing the point of the Gospel and heck I’m done with this site, I gave it a shot but you guys are just such whiners and complainers, it’s like Laman and Lemuel!

There’s something to that, I admit. Look at the last 10 days of posts here: Firestorm on modesty, leaving the Ensign behind, how to revamp Church magazines, the Church as corporation, missionary policies re: opposite sex, wearing pants and then Mark’s post contrasting dinners. If the occasional complaint is steadying the ark then BCC must be like a full suspension system like none other.

I’d like to offer up a little explanation of what’s going on here. If you’re predisposed to dislike this site then I suppose these will make little difference.

1. We’re doing more than complaining.

Those that complain about complaining at BCC tend to focus on controversial posts with lots of comments. Meanwhile, take another look at the last 10 days of posts and you’ll see studies in Isaiah, posts about the Joseph Smith Papers Project, devotional works on Martin Luther and on the necessity of deeper scripture study, and more. But these are not firestorm comment-generation machines. These are posts of deep introspection and analysis; they are posts of faith. My guess is that a lot of people who complain about BCC have never read this site aside from the controversial stuff. But if you’re going to bother judging a book, at least bother reading it.

2. Don’t mistake complaints with a loss of faith or interest.

There are core doctrines of the Church that are inviolate: the divinity of the Savior; the mission of Joseph Smith; the power of the Atonement; the role of modern prophets. The wooden quality of the Ensign or mission rules about talking to women aren’t such things. I submit that these controversial topics are largely cultural artifacts; they represent policies or practices we’ve accumulated over time in creeping administrative increments. When you read a post about how a woman felt wearing pants to Church, keep some perspective: THEY’RE JUST PANTS. You hear complaints about these things because they are obvious problems that affect people disproportionately and for little reason. These are clear areas where reform is not only desirable but eminently possible. These are symptoms of belief; when someone cares desperately about their religion they will do anything they can to understand it, love it and make it a home. This is what we are doing here.

3. We’re willing to help.

Armchair quarterbacking of administrative Church issues is a classic pastime; everyone does it for one issue or another. Part of why we engage in this behavior is because of a hierarchical structure with clearly delineated areas of responsibility and jurisdiction. Do not presume to do a task assigned to someone else who has been called. This takes place regularly on the local level, and on the level of the broader Church this segmentation and walling-off is nearly total. You have ideas on how to improve the Ensign? I guess you can submit a letter somewhere. In other words, we see these obvious problems in the Church, problems with obvious solutions, but not only do we not know where to give our aid, it is not wanted. We see that someone dropped their spaghetti on the floor; we’ve been looking at each other to see who’s gonna clean up that mess, and it turns out: nobody.

4. We will be saved from our sins, not in them.

When the church is lifted up to meet with Zion and become the new Jerusalem, all the administrative detritus will be burned away as chaff. But until that time are we to let those weeds grow in our garden? God is the gardener here, and of course everything is subject to His plan, but a weed is a weed — if I see a dandelion I’m pulling it up before it goes to seed. We are poor stewards if we do otherwise. Some of you might see BCC as a weed; I certainly don’t feel that way. We’re trying to do what we can in the service of God. We’re really trying.

The Church is not perfect, but it is the Kingdom of God on the earth. We have an obligation to build up that Kingdom, to dedicate our lives to making it better every way we can. This is what we are doing here. We’re devoting our talents to talking about what we love and live as Mormons. This desire to build up the Church manifests through devotional pieces, through historical articles and yes, through more spirited debates. But these all stem from the same desire. There is no other place for us; this church has the teachings and ordinances of eternal life.

Comments

  1. Well put, thanks Steve. My online and personal interactions with BCC’s bloggers over the past few years have provided huge boosts to my testimony.

  2. Well said. Even the cultural items that we blog about are because we want to make church a better place for people, where people feel welcome, or to improve our missionary efforts. It’s still about perfecting the saints and preaching the gospel, but pointing out the self- or culturally-imposed roadblocks to those aims, usually as byproducts of well-meaning policies. One thing I love about the bloggers is that we are committed enough to want to make things better.

  3. Frankly, until a given whiner has read every single one of my book reviews, they have no rhetorical standing at BCC. There. I said it.

  4. I enjoy BCC and have read several posts. It never occurred to me that is was complaining (and I’m not LDS).

  5. Thanks, Steve. If only this simple message was understood by everyone, including, in the opposite direction, by all of us.

  6. BCC and the wider bloggernacle, warts and all, have done more to sustain my interest in the church than every talk and Sunday School lesson I’ve ever heard combined. Even the blogs and posts I don’t like. Never change!

  7. Nice explanation of perspective – thanks!

  8. All God’s critters have a place in the choir. Or so someone really wise once said…

    Thanks Steve.

  9. Antonio Parr says:

    Steve –

    Compelling post, as always.

    The question I have pertains to the “we” referenced in your post, and whether that collective “we” is always true to the vision that you describe of the purpose/mission of BCC. In my estimation, the answer is “sometimes yes/sometimes no.”

    To be sure, there are posts that are achingly beautiful and inspiring and full of insight and wonder. To me, that is BCC at its best, and why I keep coming back for more.

    But there is also a persistent and fairly predictable murmer that runs through this website that often seems unwilling to give the Church the benefit of the doubt or to even consider an opposing point of view. And at times, there is something approaching a sense of contempt towards the Brethren that becomes the drop of sewage in the bottle of otherwise fine wine, ruining the whole thing. (I would welcome more expressions of compassion and support and love for the imperfect men who accepted the unsolicited call to give the balance of their lives in service of the Church. God bless them, every one.)

    And yet I always come back for more because, except in rare cases, one can see the hunger and thirst for righteousness in the BCC community, even if I may disagree at times with the proposed cure for our hunger and thirst.

    So, to you and Ronan and Fowles, et. al … Best wishes for the journey ahead. Peace of Christ to you all.

  10. Well said!

  11. Well said, Steve. Truth be told, I believe in whining. For me it’s an act of catharsis. If I can express dissatisfaction, discomfort, or frustration openly to those who know and love me, it frees me up and empowers me to forge ahead with whatever difficult task lies in my path. Sometimes all I need is a listening ear and once I’ve voiced my distress, I’m done with it. Free. If I hold those feelings in I tend to get stuck.
    Maybe that approach doesn’t work for some folks in Mormondom. And I’m glad there are those among us who cheerfully, without complaint, press forward. Sometimes I’m one of those people. But more often I need to express very real and valid concerns along the way. Like the commenters above, I see BCC as a place where people can “lay their burden down” and keep walking toward Zion. Annie Lennox said it best. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU-zTf5mjp8

  12. As a long, longtime reader (I may actually have read all of Blair’s reviews), Antonio’s praise and criticism has expressed my views better than I can.

  13. Christian J says:

    I guess there’s an excepted/celebrated blind spot for people when it comes to the institution. And I suppose the whole idea behind divinely appointed leaders means we give a degree of weight to words spoken and direction given. But I think its true that the Ensign doesn’t get much burn with the membership. And a lot of policies we take as God-granted. But I don’t see that here. And, to me that shows a level of interest in what our leaders are actually saying and what the policies of the Church are doing for Zion. Speaking as a parent, I would rather my children hear my words, examine them and even debate me if necessary. It leads me to believe that they care.

  14. Yes, I am sure that sometimes we don’t get things right. Such is the way of things.

  15. I’ve read all of Blair’s reviews, always enjoy them, and have even purchased a few of the books thanks to him.

    With that said, I concur with Antonio’s appraisal. While there is an evident mission that drives most of the posts at BCC and they conform to Steve’s stated vision, the publishing approach still comes across as a collection of loosely joined authors who may or may not adhere to that vision. Such is the life of a blog with a variety of authors. Perhaps the kinder perspective would be to say that sometimes the frustration shows more visibly as reactionary thoughts are expressed.

  16. “loosely joined” is right. We’re friends with some common interests. We don’t dictate agenda or publishing approach, really, except for a couple of broad principles.

  17. rameumptom says:

    Blair, I’ve read all of your book reviews. For the most part, they are done well. However, you need a better photo – perhaps your wife’s?

  18. There certainly are cultural doctrines that need to be examined. And I appreciate some of the thoughtful critiques offered by BCC authors. At the same time, I like Elder Maxwell’s comment that we can sometimes become, “more concerned with the physical dimensions of the cross than what was accomplished on it by Jesus.”

    I’ve recently wondered if those seeking to learn about Mormonism would find strong, reasoned, non-institutional voices on the Internet. If so, where are they? Are their fair-minded voices that share the beauty of Mormonism? If there are, I’m not aware of them and would love for someone to point me to them.

    Yes, there are moments of interesting analysis. But I also wonder if those reading recent posts on this an similar sites would see Mormonism only as a wooden culture, a rape culture, oppressive of women and LGBT, with an abusive hierarchy.

    Church leaders are flawed (sometimes deeply). But where are the stories about the Bishop/Relief Society President, who didn’t seek to spend another 20-40 hours per week serving (perhaps too efficiently at times) in the church. And yet they spend their time counseling others and pleading to know how they can bless those around them? Not trying to sound too Pollyanna-ish here.

    I realize that’s not the point of BCC or many other blogs in the Bloggernacle. And I’m not looking for sources that only focus on the good. We need to address many of these issues and cultural doctrines. But the challenge in focusing primarily on the weeds, to use your analogy, is that we may inadvertently lead others to believe Mormonism contains only weeds. So are there fair-minded, reasonable sources that share the beauty of Mormonism?

  19. SCW, part of my point is that the things you are seeking so desperately are in fact right here, and that readers who fail to pay attention to those posts at BCC are giving the site short shrift. You’re focusing on the critiques but you’re missing the excellent devotional content, and it’s right there in front of you.

  20. I’m fine with this post as long as we can agree that critique is a two-way street. I do not doubt that the motives and intentions outlined in this post are authentic and sincere. I wouldn’t lurk and occasionally comment here if I felt otherwise. But, like some here feel about the church, I love it in spite of its flaws. So while not disagreeing with the original points, I’d like to add the following two points:

    5. Just as there are legitimate critiques of the church, there are legitimate critiques of BCC. And while I’ve seen uncounted negative reactions and criticisms of BCC posts from people who are totally misreading the motives or intentions of the poster, there are times when their negative reactions may be warranted. And there are times where evidence is lacking that BCC’s “popular clique” (yes, there is one) has entertained the possibility that they may actually not be totally in the right.

    6. Inarticulate and/or ham-fisted commenters may sometimes have a valid point. BCC permas are unusually articulate and obviously put a lot of thought into an idea before they post. Same for some commenters. But there are times when BCC’s “popular clique” belittles an argument they don’t agree with via vanquishing a commenter who is less prepared and less able debate at their level. (Meanwhile, more articulate rebuttles receive little attention.) You might as well be trying to settle an economic debate with a fist-fight; just because you have the ability to thoroughly beat up a guy doesn’t make your intellectual position superior.

  21. Lorin, definitely there’s something to what you’re saying. I can tell you that after doing this for a decade I simply don’t have the patience I used to have. It takes time and effort to walk people through an argument and explain the sometimes voluminous amount of information they are missing. It’s easier to push that all away. I can do better in that respect.

  22. Steve, I’ve read the posts to which you are referring and I’m not trying to minimize the valuable material here. I really appreciate the post on the JSPP in particular.

    Sincere questions. Have you conducted an analysis of the critique to “beauty of Mormonism” ratio of the material on this site? If there is as much beauty as you suggest (which I’m not saying there isn’t any), would you have felt the need to write this post?

    Again, I appreciate what you’re doing here. And there is a place for it. There are many deep and thoughtful articles here. But with all due respect, I think you overestimate the amount of excellent devotional content here.

  23. This one is only kind of related to the above, but this seems like a good place to say it:

    7. Just because a clear rationale has not been articulated for something doesn’t mean there isn’t a legitimate rationale.

    Conservatives believe that certain institutions and traditions are embedded with the collective wisdom of generations – wisdom that has often not been articulated. That human nature is a near constant, and some traditions and practices are the way they are not because someone developed a convincing argument for such, but because weaker alternatives had already been tried and lost out. Essentially, some traditions took a lot of sweat and tears to get where they are, and they are in fact generational evolution and accumulation of superior wisdom.

    Conservatism does not resist social evolution per se, but resists solving obvious evils (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) via weakening or dismantling institutions that may have supported them in some ways. Conservatism resists many “progressive” ends not because the ends themselves may not be good, but because they’re believe time may present a solution for excising the tumor that doesn’t involve cutting off one of the patient’s limbs.

    For understandable reasons, the proudly liberal-leaning BCC wants those arguing for the status quo to provide valid arguments. A valid request, considering this is a blog for discussing things like this. But conservatives hold that much of tradition is a black box – the programmer(s) may be long dead and we may have little means to extract the original code and tweaks – meaning we don’t know how it works so much as that IT WORKS, at least most of the time for most people. And the onus is on the person who wants to discard the module to prove that he/she can do better.

    Bottom line: I wish much the BCC world had a little bit more humility and charity in dealing with both church leadership and institutional leaders when they do not have ready answers for every question. The conservative impulse is no less valid than the liberal impulse. It can get pretty irksome when the default position is that if an institution cannot provide a ready answer to someone’s question, that’s automatically tallied as evidence that the institution is wrong.

  24. SCW, my post wasn’t written because I feel BCC’s content is lacking. I do not agree with you at all that I am overestimating the devotional content.

  25. Lorin, I’m all for charity and humility, especially when answers aren’t clear. Sometimes a spade is a spade and silly things need to be denounced. But more charity sounds like a good thing.

  26. This is a good post for me. I love to come to BCC for a variety of reasons, I do like the Historical articles, and there are some very beautiful introspective and poetic posts occasionally. I do even like to read some of the more whiny type of articles to get better ideas on how to help my ward and understand points of view I may have not considered.

    This being said sometimes I get completely overwhelmed with how much whining and complaining is going on, and I will often take long (several months) breaks from coming. That being said your reasons for the whining and complaining don’t make me feel better about it. Sometimes complaining is still complaining even if you think you have a good reason. A husband or wife may criticize each other because they think its going to help the marriage, but generally it doesn’t. They often think that the marriage will be better if the other person just hears and does what I say, but it often just alienates the other person.

    There are also ways to talk about issues that are helpful and ways that aren’t. For example in the articles about the Ensign There were several comments that were helpful ideas that I hadn’t considered and thought would be good suggestions. On the other hand there were several extremely condescending, prideful comments that just made the poster look like the were really just “looking beyond the mark”.

    Sometimes BCC is helpful in the way it talks about issues, and sometimes it looks like trying to pull the mote out of another persons eye without focusing on their own beam. Sometimes the articles are that way but sometimes the comments are that way. I agree with some of the other commenters that the complaining can make it seem like people aren’t seeing the good. I am aware of what you said above that sometimes those are the posts that just get the most attention, so I do try and look at it from a more balanced view which is why I often come back.

  27. Steve, I sense that you’re misreading my comments. Perhaps that is my fault.

    I realize you don’t feel the BCC content is lacking. My point was that you wrote this article in response to the “frequent” responses you get about BCC complaining. If BCC really had the more of the beauty to which I am referring (again, there is some of that here), I’m suggesting those responses would be far fewer. I can tell we disagree on that point and that’s fine. You are obviously very passionate and committed to BCC and that’s great.

    It’s fine that BCC doesn’t have the content to which I’m referring. It’s not the purpose of BCC. I still think there is still great content here.

    I think if we spoke, rather than just talked through comments, we would agree more than both of us believe. But alas, that likely won’t happen.

    Thanks for all your work!

  28. Fair enough SCW. If you were in SLC I’d go get tacos with you.

  29. Just to contrast a couple of comments in the last few days – a lot of the “whining” is helpful to me. When I feel uneasy about something, I often find that posts on BCC both help me articulate my own feelings, and help me stay comfortable as a believer, knowing that I am not alone, and that there are others who are invested in the church and gospel who share some concern and frustration. It feels like a safe place for a little “whining” because of the devotional, faith-building content, and the hopeful tone of almost every entry.

  30. I wonder if the confusion/disagreement about the ratio of “whiny” vs. “devotional” content here is more about assumptions about where the permas are coming from. In my experience, the way I read a certain post has much to do with my assumptions about where the author is coming from. For example, Elder Bednar can say that there are many traditions in the church that repulse the spirit, and nobody bats an eye because nobody questions his commitment to the church, but if the bearded, long haired, no-tie wearing, seldom-attending guy on the back pew says the same thing, lots of folks might get defensive because they assume that his level of commitment is low and they feel it as an attack on their home turf.

    When I read Mark’s post on the two dinners, for example, I didn’t see it as whiny, but rather as introspective, because I assume (whether correctly or not, I don’t know, but I think I’m right, based on his past posts) that Mark is a committed Latter-day Saint who loves the church and the gospel. Thus, his post, highlighting something that we as Latter-day Saints may be able to learn from other Christians comes across to me as self-reflective, not as whiny. But I can see how, if you came at the post assuming that Mark is a disaffected ex-mo or on his way out, you might not see it the same way. Having read BBC for several years, I assume that BCC is, so to speak, a “safe place” for so called “true blue” mormons (though I hate that label). That’s been my experience. And that’s why I generally enjoy reading BCC even when I disagree with what is being said, while at the same time, right or wrong, I find somebody like Dehlin to be almost insufferably whiny, and feel myself getting defensive even when he says things that I actually agree with on some level.

    That’s not to say that everything posted here is always to my liking. It just means that when I disagree, I feel like I am disagreeing with family, not with strangers, and I don’t feel defensive. BCC might complain and vigorously debate about things that are said and done in the church, but in the end, to borrow Brugham’s phrase, I am confident that if BCC were chopped up in inch pieces, each piece would cry out “Mormonism is true.” That confidence colors whether I see a given post as whiny or introspective.

  31. This is a wonderful post. The only thing that could make it better is if Steve were to ban all the commenters who take exception to it.

  32. Oh man, good idea.

  33. wreddyornot says:

    You all make me feel 60 again.

  34. I thought Rebecca J’s “My Primary Story” was probably the best thing I have ever read on the church primary program. It inspired me at a time when we were having trouble filling primary callings. “Home Teaching and the Miracle of Interruption” made me see the home teaching program in a new light. I could go on. There is some wonderful devotional content.

    I AM interested in the “whining” posts. Sometimes, I agree. So I don’t mean to come off as self-righteous. But the reason I come back to the site is because of the devotional content.

  35. With regard to that Ensign article, JTB, I struggled with whether to publish it at all. I got pre-reads by a few different people, including someone with connection to the Ensign’s editorial staff who encouraged me to publish. It was definitely more critical than I’ve ever been in a BCC post, or feel comfortable being. But I hoped it might give support to the editors over there, who have probably been saying similar things for years and years. And we got nearly 100 comments of free focus group for them, largely from faithful church members. I’m sorry if it came across as whiny or prideful, as that would definitely undermine any credibility it might have.

  36. Great post Steve — a very good articulation of what this project is and always has been about.

    SCW, if we’re being brutally honest here, which it seems like we are, it doesn’t seem to me that you’ve been particularly involved with reading and engaging the devotional content on this blog. In any event, my opinion is that the purely devotional to critical content ratio probably approaches 75% on the devotional side.

  37. Kyle I thought your suggestions were pretty good, so I didn’t think you came across as whiny or prideful. Between the two posts and all of the comments written on each, yours came across as helpful. I found it interesting, until I got to some of the comments.

  38. Also, I suppose it’s possible that clearly devotional content is being received as critical content. (JKC alludes to this possibility in his/her insightful comment above.)

    As a recent example, I left the following comment on Mark’s “Two Dinners” post (which, despite the opinion of many commenters on that thread to the contrary, was NOT a dig at Mormons but rather a call to sincere introspection through a timely and relevant, real-life comparison):

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2014/02/24/two-dinners/#comment-324150

    I meant this comment to be devotional in every way, and I myself am an active, fully believing Mormon who endorses the Church’s own narrative of its Truth claims (e.g. Book of Mormon historicity and all the rest) — a completely orthodox believer (who nevertheless finds no problem at all in raising concerns or expressing sincere disagreement with the opinions and even teachings of Church leaders at times). But true to form, a commenter immediately responded lambasting me for criticizing three poor RS ladies for their service (which my comment doesn’t do despite its introspection prompted by the comparison of their service with the Pentecostals) and even made a bizarre statement about my lack of authority with respect to these women or, perhaps, even to have made my introspective observations in my comment at all.

    (We need some kind of dispensation of authority to engage in soul-searching introspection in a blog comment?)

    So, if someone scrolls through the comments and sees that one, an assumption could be made that my comment was critical in a way that it manifestly wasn’t, and the devotional content of my comment is completely ignored or intentionally overlooked.

  39. Also I wanted to mention that perhaps another thing that keeps me coming back is some of your comments in number 4. I desperately want the church to make progress towards zion, and I can sense there is much the same desire here at BCC. I like that desire and have an affinity towards it.

    Working really hard with my own ward to move towards Zion, I am convinced that the way to it is through the small and simple things. Basically all of the things in the Sermon on the Mount. Easy to understand intellectually yet difficult to master spiritually. Becoming more loving, less materialistic and selfish, more forgiving, more prayerful, etc. Our hearts need to be purified to want what we should want. For that is what Zion is. What I am saying is that some of what is on BCC is helpful, and some of it is looking beyond the mark. Some of it really does help and some is murmuring.

  40. Every single member, including all the apostles, have suggestions to improve things and things that irritate them or that don’t work for them in our programs. Whiny = things I want changed that you don’t.

  41. I much prefer the, “Come, let us reason together” approach I find in the “whiny” posts here to the “All is well in Zion” mentality I often encounter in my own ward and family. I find faithful engagement with troublesome issues much preferable to sweeping then under the metaphorical rug.

    I’m with Sara: knowing I’m not the only one bothered by particular practices makes me feel like perhaps there is a place for me in the kingdom.

  42. “his/her insightful comment . . .”

    His. I am, in fact, a dude.

    Thanks for calling me insightful. I’m not sure it’s deserved, but I’ll take it.

  43. small s steve says:

    I like this discussion and concur with all perspectives expressed. I think it entirely fair and appropriate to criticize and praise individuals and institutions, whether it’s BCC or the Church. For me, this discussion brings to mind the following scripture: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” Opposition, or conflict, is an element of everyday life. Life IS conflict. Imagine a story, movie, article, or discussion that doesn’t include an element of conflict. How boring would life be if everyone agreed on everything 100% of the time? Conflict is the medium in which ideas are shared, problems are solved, and truth is revealed. It doesn’t matter if BCC authors are posting critiques or praises of Church culture; the ensuing blog comments will invariably contain different perspectives…dare I say, conflicting perspectives. There are conflicting perspectives within and without the Church. So I don’t believe giving the Church the benefit of the doubt in all cases is necessarily in keeping with the idea of opposition in all things.

  44. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    One of the things that I like about BCC is the tolerance for navel-gazing. Seriously, I think it’s a good thing.

  45. In various church meetings, I have heard a few different apostles say they don’t want church members to agree with everything they say or automatically go along with all their decisions because they can’t think of every option or consider every obstacle themselves. They don’t need “yes men.” They need people to question their thinking and present different ideas to help expand their own opinions and ideas. We all need that if we’re going to progress and learn and grow.

    I generally agree it should be done as respectfully as possible, but that said, certain things upset some people more than others – usually because it touches them more personally based on their own lived experiences. I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes get upset and may come across as bitter, angry, or cynical on some subjects – but it’s because I’m hurting and frustrated. I try, but no one can be perfectly calm and rational and cheerful all the time, and I don’t really think they should be. Language is how we express our feelings, and I think it’s important to do so.

    I actually see more devotional than controversial posts on BCC, but with rare exceptions, the latter have helped me more in recent times because they help me feel like there’s a place for me somewhere in the church. If it were not for BCC (and President Uchtdorf), I may have just given up entirely a few months back. But because I feel like there’s a place for me to express my frustrations and talk out what I’d like to see happen with others – some who will lend me support and some who may present good alternatives – I feel like there’s still hope – for both me and the church to progress to a more Zion-like place.

    (The Two Dinners post, regardless of whether it was an observation or critique, actually inspired me to get involved in some community efforts near me, so maybe different things inspire different people and that’s why we need the variety BCC offers.)

  46. Freddie Mercury's Mustache says:

    What about this post? http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/09/05/bob-dylan-joseph-f-smith-and-the-price-of-revelation/ No firestorm, no critique. There are LOTS of BCC posts like this one, but they don’t go viral. That’s not the fault of the bloggers, that’s the fault of the readers.

  47. I’m finding that it’s less the posts themselves and more the comments that are tipping the scales of a posting being more “whiny” than it was likely meant. For two dinners, I wasn’t sure how to react, as it was worked very well to try and be neutral about the experience. The problem was that just by putting the two together as a comparison, it became a “we’re doing it wrong and they’re doing it right” post. Add a liberal helping of “Yeah, you Mormons are so bad at being Christians” in the comments, and you get a whiny stew.
    I had to think hard about making my last comment on dinners. I was trying my hardest to give the benefit of the doubt as to intentions. There just didn’t seem to be a lot of thinking about it in the comments. Everyone either took it as introspective of their own efforts or as proof they were right (about the Church or the whiners). So my last came out with more vitriol than it warranted. Thanks to CynthiaL for wording it better afterward.
    The hardest part of all this is that BCC isn’t an island. We’re going to be influenced by all the blogs we follow. Perhaps some of us really do need to drop off the blogs that have gone over heavy to “The Church/Culture does everything wrong”. For me, BCC is far from the top of that list.

  48. Well said, Steve. I will add that it is the devotional stuff that I have found most helpful, and the controversial the most fun. Except, of course, for the PBR, which is the most fun of all. And if anyone thinks that BCC is more dismissive of differing opinions, they haven’t spent much time at some of the other Bloggernacle sites on the other wing of the spectrum. Keep up the good work, all.

  49. There is no topic that is purely intellectual for everyone. Every topic, to someone (and generally lots of someones), is an emotional topic. Thus, even purely devotional posts come across differently to different people who are emotionally invested in that topic.

    Also, just to say this, while I agree that I see some dead-horse-beating occasionally here, I also see some commenter names and immediately, with absolute certainty, know that the comment is going to be critical and negative – no matter the content of the post. The whining doesn’t come from only the authors or in the form of whining that Steve addresses in this post; it comes from the “defenders of the faith”, as well – and, often, when no defense is required.

    We use battle language so much, as a general rule throughout our religious discourse, that we too often see battles where none exist and create battles where none need exist.

  50. Sure, BCC authors sometimes gently critique the establishment. But the powers that be seem to have plenty of tolerance for commenters who want to defend the establishment. They don’t seem to have much tolerance for commenters who want to blast the author or other commentors for daring to critique the establishment. I think this is how it should be.

    I live for the so-called “whiny” posts. Carry on!

  51. John F. My comment certainly did not mention the introspective nature of your post, except maybe sarcastically. That’s my failing. I did respond to your express thought that the Pentecostals in the given example “ministered” and the RS Sisters did not. I found that to be an unfounded accusation, an accusation that sat not well at all with me as one with a mother and wife who serve their hearts out, and my protective instincts kicked in.

    But I concede, the rest of the comment was interesting, not judgmental against the “3 RS Sisters,” and devotional in every way. I reacted to the accusation, which–even taken in the context of the whole comment–seemed overly harsh. But, on reflection, so was I.

    As for this post, I dig it. As I do BCC.

  52. Hi John F

    “SCW, if we’re being brutally honest here, which it seems like we are, it doesn’t seem to me that you’ve been particularly involved with reading and engaging the devotional content on this blog.”

    Ha! There’s a lot of ways I could read that comment, but I want to make sure I understand. I think you’re suggesting that because you don’t see me commenting that I’m not reading this blog and therefore should not comment about the devotional to critique ratio. I can see how you could come to that conclusion. I actually read BCC almost every morning. I rarely comment because I don’t want to get caught up in spending time responding to other comments (which seems to be a fair assumption). It’s difficult to ensure others interpret comments in the manner in which they were intended. Thus…my lack of “engagement.” But I appreciate the pushback.

    This post is a great example of the difficulty of what I’m describing. Some people interpret things as whiny. Others, not so much. Some people interpret articles as devotional. Others, as critical. It’s tough to have this conversation because we haven’t agreed on a definition of terms (i.e. what is whiny, critical, devotional, etc).

    Anyway, like I said, I do believe BCC provides value both in terms of its devotional and critical content and I’ll leave it at that so I don’t have to come back to these comments. :-)

  53. It seems like it would be obvious when something is devotional vs. critical, but I’ve learned from experience that it’s not. Posts that I’ve intended as devotional have sometimes gone critical in comments. And a few times, posts I meant as critical went devotional, unexpectedly. Blogs and comments hold up a mirror to the audience. That’s part of the beauty of it all.

  54. Let’s be honest, even Blair hasn’t read *all* of Blair’s book reviews.
    I love BCC, though sometimes the blog posts are bit overdone, shamelessly showing off clever prose as if it, and not the content, were the focus (I privately refer to such posts as Blornography), but on balance it’s great!

  55. I basically agree with what Lorin said. Every once in a while I’ve grimaced in distaste when the BCC heavies rock the echo chamber or pummel some unequipped or unprepared commenter. I don’t read here as much nowadays, and when I do, I’m much less likely to comment. That’s primarily because the hot-button posts are pretty much re-arrangements of arguments I’ve heard before, and the less controversial posts are usually pretty good and I don’t have much to contribute.

    BUT, I really need to give BCC props. In the four years (+?) that I’ve been reading off and on through the bloggernacle, I have really learned a lot. I think it’s really molded my faith. I’ve been alternately challenged, sustained, disillusioned, and fortified. As a whole, the bloggernacle seems more interested in ripping out tares than preserving wheat, and the field can look a little barren where they work. BCC can be vigorous as well, but there’s definitely a sense that the wheat which remains is cherished. I feel I understand different viewpoints much better, feel far less threatened by people who vent their frustration against things I cherish, and have a capacity to reach out more than I used to. In short, I feel much more capable of serving both my family and the church I love, and that means a lot to me.

  56. I don’t think there is enough complaining. Only through constant pressure, complaints and agitation will there ever be change. We see the church make admissions and statements regarding buzz issues only because people are agitating, complaining and demanding change. Those in power hate public opinion.

  57. Thanks Martin.

  58. John Mansfield says:

    In the old French movie Children of Paradise, the lead woman gets into trouble with the law, but is rescued from it by a nobleman who takes her as his mistress in exchange. She is grateful for his protection, but she does not love him. Years later she describes his frustration with owning her beauty but not her heart, “You are rich, but you also wish to be loved as though you were poor.”

  59. I’ll just add this: BCC is about to get all sorts of devotional with regular Mormon Lectionary Project posts running through Lent. Holy Week is going to be huge, with posts every day. It’s my earnest desire that these posts will make the Easter season more spiritually enriching for those who read them.

  60. John Mansfield, you are, as ever, oblique but wish to be appreciated as if you were direct.

  61. rameumptom says:

    Steve,

    I think this is an issue with several of the LDS blogs in the Bloggernacle. I write for M*, which a little while back was attacked and mauled because of a handful of controversial blog posts. Those who attack tend to ignore all of the quality posts that are written. It seems that people only live for controversy. When we post positive stuff, no one comments or pays attention. When we write something scandalous, we hit at the top of the Nielson’s ratings. Interestingly, the Book of Mormon speaks much about Satan stirring the people up to anger- a sign of the times?

  62. Ram, I’m not as apocalyptic about it but there’s a reason the tabloids are popular. C’est la vie.

  63. First, let me say that I like BCC. I visit often and enjoy (for the most part) what I find here. You’ll probably doubt me at the end of this comment, but no bother.

    In my observation, Steve, I don’t think people are just complaining about “spirited debate.” It seems to me that you want to be given credit for having spirited debate while at the same time (and many times in the same breath) being snarky and irreverent, and that’s what turns some people off. I don’t believe snark and irreverence are a necessary component to spirited debate. That’s your style, I get it, but I don’t think you can employ that style and be impervious to very fair and sometimes warranted criticism.

    You want to be taken seriously and have BCC seen as a place where people can have meaningful, faith-promoting but sometimes tough discussions about Mormonism. That’s great. But at the same time, you want to spend a lot of your effort, especially on Twitter, being snarky and poking fun at the sacred cows of Mormonism (where all the traffic is), but not be criticized for it.

    That’s kind of a tough proposition. It has, after all, been said by a certain person that no man can serve two masters.

    Sometimes I get the sense, not just here but especially with the BCC Twitter presence, as if you’ve drawn an arbitrary line in the sand that you’re not willing to cross when it comes to snark, irreverence and pushing buttons, but you’ll be damned if you’re not going to come as close to possible to that line and maybe even stick your foot out across it in order to get a reaction out of people (see: https://twitter.com/ByCommonConsent/status/438541644317483008).

    When you do that, you can’t be surprised when people have trouble viewing BCC purely as a admittedly imperfect but nevertheless righteous attempt to tackle complex problems of Mormonism and not just another blog that is mostly concerned with garnering plenty of hits.

  64. Really? The Yahweh meme is an example of sticking your foot out in extreme irreverence? More like innocent pun. I was expecting something far more extreme out of the twitter pool which does show irreverence but sometimes the sarcasm is biting. The question to ask is whether it is biting due to cultural discomfort at the jester telling the truth or because it’s highly inappropriate and damaging to faith? Most of the time it falls into the jester role.

  65. Jay, how does your last paragraph follow from the rest of your comment? Do you think that I’m snarky and irreverent as part of an effort to drive traffic?

    I guess I also don’t see that there’s a conflict between poking fun at Mormonism and having discussion around tough, complex issues.

    If, on the other hand, the gist of your comment is “hey I don’t like your Twitter account”, fine. But as written, your argument seems a bit muddy.

  66. In answer to your question, much of your snarkiness and irreverence I’m sure is your personality, which is fine. It’s your blog/twitter. But I don’t think you’re naive enough to not also understand that being snarky and irreverent also drives traffic. I’m not going to presume that it’s your primary motivation per se, but let’s not be foolish here.

    It seems to me that the BCC twitter account and — not always, but at times — the comment fields here at BCC, are your personal playground for being irreverent, snarky, and airing your personal annoyances with cultural Mormonism. But none of that, in my opinion, has very much to do with “spirited debate.”

    I do wonder if the general tone you set in those two examples juxtaposed with what you claim the mission of BCC to be is what turns off some people, not the ratio of supposed whining posts to “uplifting” posts.

    And, OD, yes I would call making Jesus sound like he’s a surfer from the valley merely to make people laugh qualifies as irreverence in terms of the type of audience and discussions BCC purports to have. If you want to drive on both sides of that road, fine, but don’t be surprised when people start honking at you.

  67. To me, it seems unhealthy to whine online but not actually do anything about the problems. If you need to commiserate after the windmill wins, that is more understandable to me. And as long as we all retain a sense of humility that we might be wrong about this or that.

    When I was a member just a few years, The ward Relief Society president was saying how things would be better for the kids in the ward if we had sacrament meeting last. It had already been discussed in ward council, the bishop was fine with it, but the stake president was the one with authority to set such policy. So she wrote a letter to the stake president. I asked her if we could DO that, having been raised in another faith where questioning was unwelcome.

    “Of course. We can and we should. How can they make good decisions if they don’t have good information about how it affects people’s lives?”

    I took that advice and never hesitate to state my opinion. I try to be tactful, I don’t get up in testimony meeting and tell the bishopric that they are doing it wrong. But I don’t sit by and allow false doctrine to be taught. One side effect of that is that it turns out leadership is not as clueless as we sometimes assume. I confess that the first time I went to the bishopric regarding a decision with which I disagreed, I said, “You would not have done that if there were women in the room when that was decided.” He patiently corrected me that there were indeed women in the room. I have learned to ask rather than accuse, but I have not stopped questioning.

    I thought I was supposed to.

    I love BBC because of the great sense of humor.

  68. Jay, I guess I fundamentally disagree with you. Taking ourselves too seriously is a fatal flaw. I view having a keen sense of humor as absolutely essential to navigating contemporary Mormonism. I have little interest in flagellating myself while diving into the deepest mysteries. Sounds dull.

    PS I didn’t make that picture but thought it was funny. Again it just sounds like your principal beef is that you don’t like the twitter. K fine.

  69. Naismith, I agree on all counts. Good anecdote.

  70. I think, Steve, it sounds to me like fundamental disagreement is not whether we can have a sense of humor and still navigate Mormonism, but if being irreverent and biting is an essential part of having a sense of humor.

    You seems to suggest that because I’m a bit turned off by my Savior being depicted as some bleach blonde dough head must necessarily mean I don’t have nor do I value a sense of humor.

    But I think you’re smarter than that.

  71. Jay, if you object to depictions of the Savior as a bleached blonde dough head, take those complaints up with Del Parsons, not me.

    In terms of not having a sense of humor… so far the record is speaking for itself, friend.

  72. In my humble view, what elevates the BCC far and above the bog standard Mormon blog is the capacity of its permas to be reasoned with.

    Sure, reasonable people can disagree on contentious issues. But even more reasonable people can weigh the merits of arguments, occasionally be persuaded and even offer apologies to internet sparring partners, even one who believes, for example, that “many Mormons of a certain intellectual attainment or aspiration” suffer not from “the burden of rare philosophical or political insight” but thinking that “is confined to certain all-too-common ideological categories, of which they often appear to be no more aware than a fish knows it swims in a sea.”

    It’s evidence such as this that ought to dispel under-informed notions that BCC is essentially an incorrigible partisan of some particular liberal persuasion.

  73. I stand corrected – you do have a sense of humor!

  74. You know, some people might just have said “hey I thought that last tweet was offensive, would you consider taking it down” but your way is much better.

  75. I see your mouth moving, but all I hear is “I stand corrected.”

    :)

  76. Sometimes it’s hard emotionally to separate making fun of Jesus and making fun of a depiction / perception of Jesus,. They are two very different things, but humor also doesn’t translate easily in many cases. Add the two issues, and you have a classic recipe for misunderstanding.

    Mercy is a good antidote.

  77. BCC is the best in the business.

  78. I’m much further to the left and more radical in approach than most commenters, but I keep coming back because BCC gives me reason to come back. I had been inactive for almost 7 years when a friend insisted I check BCC out, and the content and community here (good, bad, or ugly) made it possible for me to come home and to make Mormonism work for me again. I can’t ever not be grateful for that because even though I am certainly not orthodox I definitely consider myself a true blue Mormon through and through. Knowing that this is by and large a space that caters to active, believing members makes the content all devotional in my book. Like Church I will keep coming back until I am kicked out.

  79. While I applaud the effort to make things better, I do sometimes wonder about the over-reach from individuals who are looking at things from a perspective that does not also allow them access to the same inspiration and information available to those making decisions for the church. I always used to wonder why some things were done the way they were at the ward level, until I had callings where I dealt with those issues. Same with the stake level. While I may have instituted some minor changes, I also realized my opinions before suffered from a lack of experience/perspective. I feel that much of the ‘whining’ at the church-wide level is sincerely trying to make things better, but coming from the position that may change were we subject to the same information.

  80. starinsideahumansuit says:

    Hey there, I really enjoyed your post regarding Bruce Wayne as the Master Mahan , I had a comment but unfortunately the comments are closed for that post. Anyhow it inspired a writing I though you might enjoy reading: http://symmetryofself.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/the-avatar-satan-as-the-material-manisfestion-of-yhwh/
    I would love to in hear your thoughts. Unfortunately not many other nerds are openly religious.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,622 other followers