Impaled on history like a butterfly

James Baldwin, Distinguished Visiting Professor

James Baldwin

Another black man in America was shot and killed by police yesterday. I involuntarily witnessed the slaying just before turning off the bedside lamp last night because it showed up in my Twitter feed, a video already playing, and I knew how it would end but couldn’t stop watching and couldn’t sleep and felt sick and felt angry. I personally know too few people of color intimately enough to reach out to them directly for solace. And really, it would be pretty unfair of me to do that anyway. So I go to James Baldwin, an African American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic who was an incredible and thoughtful writer, and who died in the eighties.

So I chose his 1965 piece, “The White Man’s Guilt.”

There is a very clear and very established history of racism in the United States and it made serious inroads into our own religion. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by white Americans. The race-based restrictions initiated by Brigham Young in the 1850s were fostered by the nation’s racism even as they fostered racism within a church whose founding scripture declared “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26.33). The Gospel Topics essay makes that case for the racially grounded origins of the ban and I agree with the essay.

Baldwin’s essay on “The White Man’s Guilt” contains a stark warning about the positive and negative potential powers of history. Honestly reckoning with racism in America’s past is a crucial part of helping the country overcome present racism. What struck me while reading it today is how pertinent his warning is for us Latter-day Saints in particular regarding the way we risk using our own history in ways that obstruct our living the gospel of Christ.

Here’s Baldwin:

History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations. And it is with great pain and terror that one begins to realize this. In great pain and terror one begins to assess the history which has placed one where one is and formed one’s point of view. In great pain and terror because, therefore, one enters into battle with that historical creation, Oneself, and attempts to recreate oneself according to a principle more humane and more liberating; one begins the attempt to achieve a level of personal maturity and freedom which robs history of its tyrannical power, and also changes history.

“But, obviously, I am speaking as an historical creation which has had bitterly to contest its history, to wrestle with it, and finally accept it in order to bring myself out of it. My point of view certainly is formed by my history, and it is probable that only a creature despised by history finds history a questionable matter. On the other hand, people who imagine that history flatters them (as it does, indeed, since they wrote it) are impaled on their history like a butterfly on a pin and become incapable of seeing or changing themselves, or the world.”

Although Baldwin’s observations must first and foremost be applied to contemporary discussions about race in America, I hope I can be forgiven for also pointing out that Baldwin helps us understand why Mormon history has so often been such a flash point for church leaders, scholars, lay members, and critics. Baldwin knew how deeply we are shaped by histories, and he knew we can also shape histories that shape ourselves and others. When we imagine that our history only flatters us (as it often does especially when we write it), we can become impaled on our history like a butterfly on a pin. We can’t progress. We can’t repent. We “become incapable of seeing or changing ourselves, or the world.” We cut ourselves off from Christ’s grace.

History is not the path to our salvation. It is, instead, one means whereby we can be pointed back to the needs and demands of the present moment with clearer vision.

To paraphrase Mormon 9, if there be faults in our history, they be the mistakes of men. Condemn them not for their imperfections, but do not deny their imperfections! Moroni says we should rather give thanks to God that he makes manifest unto us their imperfections because, more often than not, they are our imperfections, too, smuggled into us through the course of history. And once we realize that fact we might, collectively, begin to learn to be more wise than they were. But we cannot learn from imperfections of the past if we refuse to admit they even exist or if we avoid being more specific about what they are.

*

If you haven’t done so yet, please go read the Gospel Topics essay “Race and the Priesthood.” Share it, too. And you might also benefit from Ardis’s recent blog post at Keepapitchinin.

Comments

  1. Jason K. says:

    Thanks, Blair.

  2. I really appreciatedon’t this tonight.

  3. Excellent reminder. And important. I would add, or perhaps just emphasize, that history is a particular problem for a revealed or ‘descended from above’ religion. History shows us errors and change, and any/every error and change puts us to the test of defining and understanding revelation.

  4. “There is a very clear and very established history of racism in the United States and it made serious inroads into our own religion. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by white Americans. The race-based restrictions initiated by Brigham Young in the 1850s were fostered by the nation’s racism even as they fostered racism within a church whose founding scripture declared “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26.33). The Gospel Topics essay makes that case for the racially grounded origins of the ban and I agree with the essay.”

    There are too many people reading what they want or expect to see into this essay. Nothing of what you wrote in this paragraph comes from the essay. The essay talks about the influence of racism on religion, but does not explicitly state that the ban was enacted because of racism. Likewise, the essay talks about how certain doctrinal explanations given for the ban are accepted as doctrine, but it noticeably does not say that the ban was not inspired. You are reading both of those conclusions into the essay.

    In counter to that, we have the experience of President McKay. He is recorded to have come out of the temple ashen-faced, and when a security guard asked if He needed help, He informed him that he had been asking again for the blacks to get the Priesthood and was informed that the answer was not yet and he was to stop asking.

    You’d be hard pressed to argue that McKay was racist, so you are left with the conclusion that (regardless of its origins) as of the 1960s the Priesthood ban was the will of the Lord. Perhaps, you may argue (and I may agree) that the whole ban was the Lord making a concession because of the weakness of His people (racists within the Church), but in light of President McKay’s experience, President Young’s comments, and the explicit text of the essay I don’t believe you can fairly characterize it as saying “The Gospel Topics essay makes that case for the racially grounded origins of the ban and I agree with the essay.”

    I do appreciate your measures language (I have seen some who “cite” that essay as saying they President Young was a racist our supported slavery), and limiting your language to a “racially grounded origin” is a conclusion I can personally agree to – but while it is a reasonable supposition (especially as you have presented it), it isn’t in the essay (you are, at best, pulling subtext). This is, admittedly, a minor (and tangential) point in your post but it is a persistent mIsunderstanding that I try correct when I can.

  5. Jonathan Cavender says:

    That being said, I do realize you may very well point to me as Exhibit A for the larger theme of your post.

  6. BHodges says:

    Wow. Another murder today in Minnesota.

  7. BHodges says:

    Jonathan, the reason the essay talks about the influence of racism on religion is precisely because it influenced the ban. See Ardis’s post linked above. The restriction was God’s will in the broadest sense that God didn’t take miraculous measures to prevent it. But I don’t believe it was God’s specific instruction. Why didn’t President McKay get direction to change it? I don’t know. But that isn’t evidence that God wanted it to begin with.

  8. President McKay’s experience might lead you to draw conclusions about the timing of ending the ban, but I don’t think it is pertinent to the origins of the ban. That requires another logical jump.

  9. I guess Jonathan is right that the essay does not explicitly come out and say “the ban was not inspired.” But it does take paid to point out it the historical context

  10. Sorry, hit send too soon. It points out the historical context (a time where there was a lot of racism, and racism that was justified with scriptural justifications), which at least suggests racially based origins for the ban, and it explicitly refutes the doctrines that were invented to justify the ban, and it suggests no other explanation. I think it is fair to say that it makes the case for racially grounded origins of the ban, even if it doesn’t explicitly come right out and say it.

  11. N. W. Clerk says:

    “Why didn’t President McKay get direction to change it?”

    He didn’t just fail to get direction to change it. He got direction not to change it.

  12. When I first read the Race and Priesthood essay I was impressed by the measured way it approaches the church’s history with race and the ways in which it frames the ban as part of a religious culture of racism, without being so explicit as to blindside members. Unfortunately, many people I talk to interpret it much as Jonathan does, and now I feel at a loss for how to help people grapple with racism within the church’s history. I guess I’ll just have to recommend Paul Reeve’s entire book?

    Anyway, I think these are some important thoughts you’ve put out there Blair. I’ll be sure to read “The White Man’s Guilt” as soon as I get the chance.

  13. N. W. Clerk says:

    “In the case of the priesthood ban, how Mormon leaders will finally resolve the possibility of a colossal mistake countenanced by ten LDS prophets remains to be seen, but if a resolution appears, it will signal a seminal moment in the Mormon theological tradition.” –Terryl Givens

    Not only theological tradition, but also everyday practice. Once you throw President McKay under the bus, how do you, for example, straightfacedly promise members that God is certain to guide them in setting a date to introduce someone to the missionaries?

    For those of you old enough to remember, isn’t it interesting how little talk there was in 1978 that the Revelation meant that the Church was admitting that the priesthood ban had been wrong all along? Apparently, it required a new generation of intellectuals and progressive historians to tease this meaning out of it for the Brethren.

  14. BHodges says:

    N. W. Clerk:

    “Once you throw President McKay under the bus…”

    Hi, N. W. Clerk. Why do you think acknowledging mistakes constitutes throwing a person under the bus? My argument is that in our reluctance to look more clearly at the uncomfortable elements of our history we risk placing too much confidence in the “arm of the flesh,” which the scriptures expressly warn us against.

    “…how do you, for example, straightfacedly promise members that God is certain to guide them in setting a date to introduce someone to the missionaries?”

    Your argument seems to be, in essence, “if a prophet can be wrong about something, we should be worried they could be wrong about anything, and they very well may be wrong about everything, and so what good are prophets?” How does this differ from belief in prophetic infallibility? Do you believe prophets are infallible?

    “isn’t it interesting how little talk there was in 1978 that the Revelation meant that the Church was admitting that the priesthood ban had been wrong all along? Apparently, it required a new generation of intellectuals and progressive historians to tease this meaning out of it for the Brethren.”

    What are you basing this on? Anecdotal experience? Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that you’re right. It would be interesting, yes, if there were relatively few members who perceived the priesthood restriction as being an unnecessary racial injustice that needed correcting in 1978. Of course, that would suggest nothing about whether or not the racial restrictions were truly directed by God, though.

    Most members of the church in 1978 didn’t know Joseph Smith ordained black men to the priesthood. Apparently, it required a new generation of intellectuals and progressive historians to “discover this for the Brethren,” who commissioned, reviewed, and approved the Gospel Topics essay on the subject.

    JJ Flugelheim: Indeed. The essay only makes the case by piling evidence after evidence. It could be more specific, but the evidence is clearly there.

  15. It’s very possible President McKay did not get instruction to change the ban because of the racism in the Church that would have caused immense problems. In other words, we the members were not ready for the change at that time. I grew up in a very racist environment (suburban Utah). I was not ready for the 1978 revelation until I had served a mission abroad and met some very wonderful black people who were much better Christians than I would ever be. So don’t blame God or President McKay. It was probably the members who weren’t ready. And that may also be the case today with the ban on women receiving the priesthood. Are you ready? I am.

  16. Loursat says:

    I’m getting old. I once rejoiced at the possibility that revelation like the one from 1978 could change my world, but now I think it’s not my world that the revelation will really change. There are so many people out here like Jonathan Cavender and N. W. Clerk, dead set on resisting the joy that continuing revelation can bring. Is there any slight rhetorical chance of preserving our racist heritage? These guys will find it.

    The process of change is mostly a grind. Revelation endures. Change comes, but very slowly. It comes partly because people like Blair Hodges keep speaking. Thank you, Blair, for helping us move slowly forward.

  17. So don’t blame God or President McKay. It was probably the members who weren’t ready.

    Including multiple members of the Twelve, FWIW. An end to the Priesthood ban in, say, 1965 would have caused a schism among the Brethren, because so many of them were wedded to anti-black racism going well beyond any doctrinal justification. (See, for example, Ezra Taft Benson’s 1968 GC address in which he declares the protests against BYU athletics over the ban to be the work of a Communist conspiracy.)

  18. Jonathan Cavender says:

    Loursat:

    “There are so many people out here like Jonathan Cavender and N. W. Clerk, dead set on resisting the joy that continuing revelation can bring. Is there any slight rhetorical chance of preserving our racist heritage? These guys will find it.”

    Straw man successfully torched.

    My view of the Church can handle the ban being viewed in numerous, contradictory ways. 1) It was right for reasons of race and the Lord’s interest (exemplified by the fact that only the Children of Israel and the tribe of Leviticus could hold the Priesthood). 2) It was right for practical reasons (the Lord knew the hearts of the members and made accommodations). 3) It was wrong, but based upon the best practical knowledge of the prophets (we don’t need to struggle with that in this Church – we have in the D&C the Lord specifically telling us that Paul was wrong in some of the things he said – we also have Joshua explicitly making mistakes that need correcting). 4) It was wrong, because of the moral failing of the leaders of the Church or their cultural time (which, again, we have examples of through the scriptures).

    I don’t know which is the right answer (though my belief, supported through only the flimsiest of evidence, is possibility #2). Any of the four are fine for me – the Church is still true. What is troubling to me are those who assume that the only resolution is possibility #4, that the Church has conceded #4, and anyone who doesn’t agree with #4 is either denying continuing revelation or attempting to preserve a racist heritage. That was my point in posting – not even to say the author was wrong on his smaller or main points, but to point to a deficiency in his evidence (to shore up as he saw fit).

    As to your point, can you conceive of a world in which the Priesthood ban was God’s will and mimicked the same principle (or similar one) by which the Levitical Priesthood was limited along racial lines? Can you not see why regardless of the origin of the ban, we all can rejoice at the extension of the Priesthood to every worthy man?

  19. Who cares about the a “schism among the Brethren” due to lifting the priesthood ban early? Who cares about lifting the ban earlier causing “immense problems” due to racism that existed among the people? When I hear arguments like this defending the ban being in place as long as it was, I get all sorts of angsty. Because the end game of such defenses is that it’s ok that the oppressed remained oppressed, because the privileged majority couldn’t handle the true principle of God’s will and would have had their testimonies tarnished, testimonies based on racism.

    Maybe our leaders just messed up big time and allowed the mistake to endure.

  20. BHodges says:

    “So don’t blame God or President McKay. It was probably the members who weren’t ready.”

    I believe it was Armand Mauss who showed that polls of church members showed considerable desire on the part of a majority for the policies to change in the sixties. Anyone have that reference handy?

  21. Maybee, perhaps the story about David O. McKay coming out of the Temple is folklore. Wouldn’t surprise me, honestly.

    Jonathan Cavender: there is little point rejoicing at the end of an injustice if, for decades afterward, people engage in mental gymnastics about the origins of the injustice because they don’t want to admit that the leaders they’ve deified might have been human after all.

  22. Loursat says:

    Jonathan, the comparison to the Levitical Priesthood is desperate and dumb. Ardis’s piece, referenced in the original post, explains why.

    The more I read your comments here, the more you remind me of the double-talking racists who are expert at explaining that they are not racists even though we should believe their reasonable racist arguments. Now, I’m perfectly willing to believe that you are not a racist. I hope you are not. But you should reflect about how very hard it is to distinguish your arguments from theirs.

  23. I believe it was Armand Mauss who showed that polls of church members showed considerable desire on the part of a majority for the policies to change in the sixties. Anyone have that reference handy?

    A gerontocratic leadership isn’t necessarily going to reflect the will of its members–especially if much of that leadership is firmly in the sway of a con man like Cleon Skousen. (See also: Trofim Lysenko.)

    BTW, my wife grew up in a Communist country, joined the Church as a teen, and was called as a Temple Square missionary. At the time, the Church was lobbying for greater rights in that country, and invited a group of government officials to Salt Lake for discussion. One of the visiting contingent, who had been in the previous Communist regime, saw the pictures of the then-current Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency, and remarked to the group, “This is just like the old Politburo. We can live with this.

  24. Now, I’m perfectly willing to believe that you are not a racist. I hope you are not. But you should reflect about how very hard it is to distinguish your arguments from theirs.

    Reminds me of this tradesman who said something about knowing people by their fruits. Who was that guy, anyway?

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m old enough that I can remember the pre-revelation days. (June of 1978 came when I was about eight months into my mission). I wish I could say that I had thought deeply and carefully about the ban at that time, but I had not. I was just a thoughtless, idiot kid. And I just went along with the ban without really takig the time or making the effort to even think about it. It would not be until after my mission, when I increasingly discovered Mormon scholarship, and when I encountered the early works of Bush, Mauss, Bringhurst, etc., that I would reflect on that legacy in any meaningful way.

  26. I don’t know how to find it, but somewhere here at BCC there is a comment I wrote years ago stating that I could hardly believe that God would have allowed the priesthood restriction to go on for so long if he hadn’t had something to do with it in the first place. I wish I could find that comment. It could be embarrassing, but it would also demonstrate that people can change (while remaining believing Latter-day Saints), by studying and giving thoughtful, prayerful, fair consideration to scholarship and scripture and documents like the Race and Priesthood essay.

  27. I always feel like people are talking past each other in these conversations. Like most conversations, granted.

    On the one hand is believing that God allows sorrow, pain, and injustice, and can use it to sanctify us, a recognition that we don’t know everything, and a hesitation to judge people in the past.

    On the other is the indisputable doctrine that God loves all, black/white, bond/free, male/female, and a huge compassion for people who have suffered from being treated unequally.

    I don’t think those two sides are as far apart as people think. They are both true and righteous, and both compatible. The incompatibility comes when the first side casts slurs on the faithfulness of the other, and the second casts slurs on the first’s charity.

  28. BHodges says:

    Silver Rain, this post is a warning based on the writings of James Baldwin for us Latter-day Saints regarding the way we risk using our own history in ways that obstruct our living the gospel of Christ.

  29. Silver Rain, I think if one is a white heterosexual male it is easier to belong to the first side of which you speak, and a lot more work to expand oneself to belong to the second.

  30. Yes, BHodges. I guess my point is that it can be a warning for both sides. Using history to try to condemn other people is incompatible with humble discipleship no matter which direction you are using it in.

    Maybee, I don’t know. I think everyone has a hard time expanding themselves past their own perspective, no matter the color of their skin or gender. I think my experiences have helped me understand the first position more than I did when I was more privileged. People like me who know what it is like to be compelled to be humble are blessed when we choose to be blessed. But if we humble ourselves without compulsion, we are even more blessed. I think that truth crosses the entire fabric of human experience.

  31. Jason K. says:

    Ardis: your willingness to acknowledge your own growth on this issue gives me heart. Thank you for having the courage to speak about it.

  32. Bro. B. says:

    From the essay on LDS.org: “There is no reliable evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. In a private Church council three years after Joseph Smith’s death, Brigham Young praised Q. Walker Lewis, a black man who had been ordained to the priesthood, saying, “We have one of the best Elders, an African.”4
    “In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.”…
    “In 1850, the U.S. Congress created Utah Territory, and the U.S. president appointed Brigham Young to the position of territorial governor. Southerners who had converted to the Church and migrated to Utah with their slaves raised the question of slavery’s legal status in the territory. In two speeches delivered before the Utah territorial legislature in January and February 1852, Brigham Young announced a policy restricting men of black African descent from priesthood ordination. At the same time, President Young said that at some future day, black Church members would “have [all] the privilege and more” enjoyed by other members.9”

    Connecting the dots, the essay implies some concern on Pres. Young’s part with the slavery question in Utah and future Utah Statehood, and hints that maybe that was his motivation for the ban (apart from his statements on blacks at the time). Statehood concerns seemed to weigh heavy in the polygamy manifesto also. Two evidences that the brethren are indeed concerned with the political implications of church policy.

  33. laserguy says:

    So where are your sleepless nights for the hundreds of black lives taken by fellow blacks in Chicago every weekend? Why do you only care about the black lives taken by police? Is there any consistency at all from the left on this? Or are you really that skewed that you think that only this life mattered because it fits the lefty’s narrative?

  34. laserguy, if you can’t understand the difference between a civilian taking another civilian’s life and a person entrusted with the power of life and death by the state taking a civilian’s life, you either are a moral imbecile or are too stupid to sit at the grown-ups’ table.

  35. Loursat says:

    Silver Rain, I suppose that cries of racism must hurt your heart. Mine hurts too. But today I am especially weary and impatient. Today I’ll not use gentle euphemisms for bigotry. We Mormons not only have a history of racism, we have racism among us now. There must always be a place for calling bigotry what it is.

    And laserguy, the number of murders in Chicago this year is approximately 340. That’s the total for people of all races. It’s a horrendous murder rate, but it’s nothing close to hundreds every weekend. That kind of hyperbole just makes you look bad.

  36. BHodges says:

    laserguy, your strawman comment is off-topic, not to mention generally inaccurate. If you persist I’ll request you be disallowed from commenting.

  37. Man I’m getting tired of banning laserguy. He keeps setting up shill accounts. Poor behavior from a Mormon. Even a racist Mormon.

  38. BTW, is it just me, or has it been a minute since any of the Brethren has made an explicit condemnation of racism over the pulpit?

  39. Cindy Stapleton says:

    I like that phrase, “…smuggled into us through the course of history.” And may I humbly echo Mormon in saying facing imperfections is key! Thank you for your thoughts on this sad day.

  40. Hmm, this seems to have escalated quickly. I started with an objective observation (which I still believe to be factually correct) and was accused of attempting to preserve a racist heritage. Responding to that and acknowledging a possibility that there may have been a racist origin to the ban, but stating the case has not been made in my opinion, seems to have opened the gates, so to speak. Wow.

    @APM:
    “Maybee, perhaps the story about David O. McKay coming out of the Temple is folklore.”

    The origin for the story is “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism.” I am away from my library, or I would give you a page cite. Short of outright falsification of contemporary journal entries, the story appears legitimate.

    “Jonathan Cavender: there is little point rejoicing at the end of an injustice if, for decades afterward, people engage in mental gymnastics about the origins of the injustice because they don’t want to admit that the leaders they’ve deified might have been human after all.”

    I don’t deify my leaders, and I explicitly recognize that they may have gotten it wrong. The scriptures are full of leaders getting it wrong (which does not, for what it is worth, justify disregarding our leaders today). Properly founded, no testimony should struggle to know that leaders got something wrong. I don’t believe the case has properly been made that this was a mistake — racist or otherwise (and admittedly President McKay’s experience strongly contributes to that belief), but regardless the Priesthood is still the authority to perform the saving ordinances and that’s really what the Church is all about. No gymnastics needed, because I am not invested in either intellectual outcome — but I do want the right intellectual outcome rather than presuming an outcome.

    @Loursat:
    “Jonathan, the comparison to the Levitical Priesthood is desperate and dumb.”

    Again, no desperation because I am fully comfortable accepting any resolution.

    “Ardis’s piece, referenced in the original post, explains why.”

    I’ve read his piece, and it is intelligent and well-written. But his dismissal of the Levitical comparison seems inappropriate to me. There seems to be a bit of hand-waiving by Ardis (we can point to the exact revelation, and we can’t here, therefore difference) and he seems to ignore or dismiss the possibility or unrecorded revelation. Maybe I am being unfair to Ardis (my sincere apologies, if I am — he has always struck me as someone fair even when I disagree with him), but I was not convinced that the comparison was inappropriate.

    “The more I read your comments here, the more you remind me of the double-talking racists who are expert at explaining that they are not racists even though we should believe their reasonable racist arguments. Now, I’m perfectly willing to believe that you are not a racist. I hope you are not. But you should reflect about how very hard it is to distinguish your arguments from theirs.”

    This comment is unworthy of you. First, the truth is the truth regardless of who is speaking it (it is our responsibility to find it). The devils proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, and that didn’t compel Him to renounce His Divinity. I don’t need to distinguish my arguments from racists, because my goal is to find the correct argument (as best as my capacity allows me to find it), and however else those arguments are used by others is irrelevant to a search for truth. Pointing out that comparison, however, seems an attempt to discredit the arguments without actually engaging them.

    @SilverRain:
    “I don’t think those two sides are as far apart as people think. They are both true and righteous, and both compatible.”

    You serve an indispensable role online in reminding us all to avoid contention. Thank you.

    With that, I’ll bow out of this discussion altogether. For reasons that may have to do with my inadequacies in conveying the arguments that I am seeking to make, my prior posts have brought more heat than light (which was not my intent).

  41. it's a series of tubes says:

    Jonathan, you misapprehend a certain core aspect of Ardis’ perspective with your pronouns, but I will leave you to remedy that yourself.

  42. @it’s a series of tubes:

    “Jonathan, you misapprehend a certain core aspect of Ardis’ perspective with your pronouns, but I will leave you to remedy that yourself.”

    Sure enough you are right. I’ve read a fair chunk of what she has written, and yet I didn’t know that before now. I am genuinely sorry, and I hope no offense is given.

  43. In my experience, anyone who states that they’re just “being objective” usually is about to make a statement that completely ignores any other perspective than that which aligns with the speaker’s interests. Not coincidentally I see this a lot more often from conservatives.

    (Mind you, I have plenty of problems with the widespread contemporary leftist attitude that the perspective of the oppressed is inherently superior–to paraphrase Levin in “Anna Karenina,” the peasantry is just as stupid as everyone else–but that’s another side of the same coin.)

  44. There may be something useful here in this bit from Thomas Shepard (Puritan preacher):

    It is not fit that so holy and solemn an assembly as a church is, should be held long with relations of this odd thing and the other . . . but such as may be of special use unto the people of God, such things as tend to show, Thus I was humbled, then thus I was called, then thus I have walked, though with many weaknesses since; and such special providences of God I have seen, temptations gone through; and thus the Lord hath delivered me, blessed be his name.

    While Shepard meant this to refer to believers in particular, I think it applies equally well to the church as a whole. The church was delivered from one evil in 1978. Being a believer makes me struggle with all sorts of questions about it. But I’m none the less thankful for it.