It was with some regret that I made the decision to not attend the Sunstone Symposium snacker this last Friday. First of all, I had publicly said that I would attend. Second, I really wanted to (I do so love to sit around and gossip with other ‘Nacle people). Third, there were a load of people in attendance that I really wanted to meet (Kristine, Kevin, Aaron, Kaimi, Russell, fmhLisa, BiV, Ann, and a host of others). Also, I really wanted to attend the Bloggernacle session and I am grateful for the notes taken by McQ. However, my ward had a campout and I don’t spend enough time with my kids as it is, so I chose that (don’t worry, the irony that, if there hadn’t been a campout, I would have likely blown off hanging with my kids has not escaped me).
That said, the session kind of disturbs me. The question asked was, “How well does the Bloggernacle represent Mormonism?” and the various ‘Nacle representatives sought, in their presentations, to answer this question. To judge by McQ’s notes, they decided that it didn’t. Combine this with Dave’s recent ruminations on the subject and it leads me to ponder what it is we are engaged in here.
It is cliche, I think, to argue that the Bloggernacle is the Sunday School class or the foyer discussion that we wished we had. I believe it equally cliche to consider this place group therapy. Certainly, there are people here who are here simply because they are alienated elsewhere in church. We try to be as welcoming as we can. However, I tend to think that we are something more than an island of Misfit Saints.
In part, I am disturbed by any idea of Bloggernacle exclusivity. One of the distinctions that I hate in the church is the “Iron Rod/Liahona” distinction (see here for an earlier discussion on its relevancy). The greatest reason I have for hating it is that I have never heard a “Liahona” describe an “Iron Rod” without condescension or an “Iron Rod” describe a “Liahona” without loathing. While the original essay that coined the terms was meant only to be descriptive, it set both terms on pedastals that divorced them from reality. The “Liahona” in that essay asks questions in a manner that challenges but never destroys faith (it potentially could, but our unfailing Liahona does not succumb). The “Iron Rod” in that essay is the quintessential Nietzschean bon homme, a very nice fellow, but too stupid to be trusted with the Sisyphean task of actually struggling in faith. The Liahona’s jealousy of the “Iron Rod” strikes me as similar to ideas regarding the “noble savage,” which are possible to take seriously only if one is actually unacquainted with savages.
Nonetheless, the Bloggernacle discussion seemed to argue for a definition of Bloggernacle sainthood that differs from the rest of the church. Russell apparently tried to integrate the two which is nice, I suppose, but I don’t know why we should have to try so hard to integrate. As Dave noted in his essay by being Mormons writing about Mormon topics we are inherently representing the church. Whether or not we want the responsibility, it is ours.
Why should the church we represent be different from the church our non-Bloggernacle participating brothers and sisters enjoy? Are we really trying to create a differing Mormonism here? Or do we really believe that we are participants already in a differing Mormonism, one that stares the truth in the face while the other members of our congregations walk with carefully blinkered eyes? If participation in the Bloggernacle contributes to a feeling of alienation from (or superiority to) one’s local ward members, is participation positive?
At its best, the Bloggernacle is a place where those struggling in faith can go and find fellow travelers who can help navigate tough waters. Further, at its best, the Bloggernacle provides glimpses of eventual Zion or the beauty all around. I believe in the project of the Bloggernacle as I believe it is a place where we all come to work out our salvation with fear and trembling before God. I just don’t see how that makes us any different from (or better than) those who don’t participate.
In other words, if we really don’t think the Bloggernacle represents the church, then how can it be a positive thing?
ps. one final note, I am going on hiatus in an effort to finally finish the dissertation. After this thread, if you see me here or in any of my other haunts before Sept 30th, please politely scold me. Thank you.