People sometimes wonder why I bother. By which I mean bother writing blog posts or thinking about the church obsessively or trying to interact with people with whom I hold strong disagreements. In some cases, I’ve had to stop because folks were just driving me crazy (Hi, M*). So why bother? Does being involved in this community give me joy or not?
I wonder about this, because I have not had a casual relationship with this community. I am not the first and I am not the most influential but I was an early adopter of the bloggernacle and I’ve been present through most of its culture wars. I’ve been a member of the secret Archipelago cabal for years now. To whatever degree someone can steer or herd this group of cats, I’ve been on the committee trying to do it. Of course, individual blogs and bloggers are why people show up; I’m not the talent. But I’ve always been interested in the community and I feel like the personality of the community closely mirrors my own. I’m, as they say, fully invested.
Except, maybe not. I just moved to Germany and for a couple of months have had sporadic internet access. My new job has a stricter policy regarding internet use. I check the blogs maybe once every couple of days right now and I went about three weeks without checking them at all. I did not feel any great loss.
I should also add that I am going through my biggest period of inactivity since before my mission. I haven’t been to church since January. This is because the closest church is an hour away by car and I don’t have a car. I’m working to rectify this, but I’ve been busy and the time to buy a car is minimal. Hopefully we’ll get ‘er done today. I am feeling the loss of church, so I’ll get there.
Also, of late, folks are arguing to me that the bloggernacle as a community is a bad idea. Instead, we should segregate, in the manner that Nothing Wavering would have us do, into communities where it is okay to question and communities where it isn’t (not that the latter variety actually exists, of course, but I’ll let folks think that way if they like). The argument is that “mainstream” or “majority” Mormons will never feel comfortable on a blog like BCC, because we just question too much. I’ve also, in the recent past, seen the nacle referred to as the “Smugger” nacle and the “Murmur” nacle (I made up the other two, but they’re probably in use out there somewhere). I’ve been told that the bloggernacle is where people go when they want to complain and that we feel superior to other folk by means of our complaints, degrees, general liberalness (regardless of actual political beliefs), or some other font of unremitted self-confidence. Perhaps it is necessary to have this space, to give the wavering in faith a place to blow off steam rather than leave the church, but most folk don’t need or don’t want this space. They want to participate in endless discussions of how great the church is and how inspired the brethren are (unless they say something about immigration or scouting or some other hobby horse that isn’t identified as “liberal”).
I’m tired, almost as much as I’m invested, and I’ve just learned that I don’t need this. This isn’t the church for me; it’s an occasionally fun and an occasionally frustrating way to avoid work and family responsibilities. At any given moment, there is something more important that I could be doing than writing or commenting here. Should I continue?
When people talk about what the bloggernacle is, I almost always take it personally (this is a neuroses, I admit). I’ve spent probably thousands of hours on this thing; I identify it as, in part, my work. That’s me you are talking about. And, frankly, I do murmur on occasion. I am sometimes smug. I hate on folks and snigger just as much as the next net denizen. So I wonder if this medium only brings out the worst in me, because I hear about the bad aspects of this project (and my character) far more than the good. And, frankly, I’m dubious about most of the “good” that we occasionally claim to do.
Part of the reason is that I don’t really subscribe to the notion of a grand unified theory of the bloggernacle. I don’t really think it has a purpose or a higher cause. I look around at this place as a group of friends who enjoy talking about (or raging against) this stuff with each other, while also being sufficiently narcissistic to think publishing it online is a good idea. Perhaps the narcissism is what turns people off. We are all, like certain nameless Religion professors, actually unqualified to comment on the Gospel. We are not its source, we are not its best exemplars, we are, probably, more like Laman and Lemuel than like Nephi. Of course, everybody, including probably Nephi, is more like Laman and Lemuel than like Nephi. So, if we are true to ourselves and trying to be true to God, then we’ll necessarily appear as we are.
So, self-centeredly assuming that I’m typical of our type, who are we? Loyal to the Church and the Gospel, even when baffled by both. I’ve mediocre works, a great hope of grace, and determination to find justice in God’s will, even though it sometimes seems impossible. I have faith in the united will of the Brethren and the Lord, even while being occasionally skeptical that that is what we’re hearing on any given Sunday. I don’t believe that God cares a whit about your political leanings, nor about most of your theological ravings, which means we all can blather on about most of this stuff without doing lasting harm to anything but our egos and our preconceived notions. I think things that lead us to accept more people as Christian brothers and sisters are good; things are allow us to separate the wheat and the chaff according to our own standards, which we tend to find more amenable than God’s, are anathema. I believe that we are the flawed, human, temporal manifestation of our imperfect understanding of God’s glacially patient and implacable will. His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven, but it will likely be in spite of us, or accidentally at best. That’s the foundation of my testimony and, in some small degree, that’s what I see the bloggernacle as being a testament of. Remember, we’re all prophets, to the degree that we have a testimony of Christ. My words, never profound and more often than not fumbling, are nevertheless an attempt to find the Lord in my life. So, yeah, it matters to me what you think of this project.
My brother, who is very skeptical of the bloggernacle (he would definitely refer to it as the Murmurnacle), believes that I am forever halting between two opinions. That I should choose to just buy in to the Church in a way that I haven’t. I’m not sure what he means; I don’t think he is referring to personal conversion, but rather to taking my faith a couple steps closer to blind, which are a couple steps closer than I’m comfortable with. As I am, I’m not content, but I don’t think contentment is the point; joy is. Joy, I think, comes from becoming more like God. And I think, and feel, that my path to God is this path. Never certain, but striving for faithfulness, hopefulness, and charity. I guess that’s good enough for me.
Note: I’m not fishing for compliments on my awesomeness nor for assurances that I’m a crucial part of something or other. Should I quit (which I’m not planning on right now), your heart will go on. If you feel moved to comment (and I totally understand if you don’t), please talk about why you hang around the nacle (good or ill). The truth is good enough.