It is my experience that the human mind is very, very uncomfortable with ambiguity of any kind. We all want clear answers, and we get a real sense of satisfaction when we are finally able to tie that loose thread, or place that peg in the right hole. I guess I am like that too in my own way.
But there is a side of my personality which I see as closer to my core, which is my fascination with contradictions and exceptions, and it is coupled with a desire to understand. My mind spends much of its time focused on the greys in the world, not the black and white.
Now, I am not here to tell you about how I am my own special snowflake. But I am really not surprised when this kind of s*** happens. Why? Because someone always wants me to join the white and reject the black. And "we" are always the "white" while "they" are always the "black." Hey, I am not saying that I never do that. But I don't seem to be able to join anyone's team in the way they want (whether because they "kinda" like me, or just want the issue settled).
So, I spent a lot of time as the questioning, active member. Then the Prop 8 crap hit the fan, and I was dealing with being a new father, as well as trying to finish my degree in an environment that had become somewhat negative after my dissertation adviser took a new job at Princeton. It was a "clusterfuck," as they say. And I quit going to church. I also got sick as s*** of apologists attacking me and others online for what I thought were serious questions and issues.
So I became Kishkumen. Yep. It is not that I ceased being reasonable. It is that I ceased being reasonable about apologists attacking people with real questions. Being an aspiring academic, I knew the questions were real. I knew the history well enough to know that nothing is simple. If you are under any illusions that I have become more dismissive over time just because I have continued to criticize certain apologetic activities which certain people have some authority over, then you are confused.
Why? Because more than ever I understand that Mormonism is complicated. I have watched my best friend (aside from my Dear Wife) in the world get rebaptized into the LDS faith--a process that involved me as an interlocutor in discussions over Mormon history and the significance of its foundational events. I don't dismiss Mormonism out of hand as a "cult." I don't think Joseph Smith was "evil" or that he was a sexual predator. Charismatic religious leaders constitute a very complex and unsettling phenomenon that polarizes people.
I tried to talk about that at Sunstone, only to get attacked afterward by a particularly noxious personality with real problems. BIG SURPRISE.
I don't make fun of my endowment or share my new name because I hold those things sacred to me. I don't reject my spiritual experiences as mere emotion. I don't regret my mission, my time at BYU, or my time taking classes with Hugh Nibley, whom I still admire, in spite of the accusations against him. I am not saying that I understand these things, or that I agree with others who say that I am obliged to rejoin the fold as a happy, active Mormon. My dissent about certain things is serious, and I am serious enough about it that I refuse to betray the principles involved. Those principles are sacred to me too.
My story is complicated. I don't fit into a neat box, and I am not going to do what you or anyone else demands of me because of you think something is right for me to do. Go screw yourself if you think I am going to dance to your tune.
I am an evolving person. Like you are, whoever you are. Like Daniel Peterson is. Like Ray Agostini is. Like Will Schryver is. Like Scratch is. Like any of you are. So, can you go to some post I wrote three years ago and read me unloading about something that I might not vent about today? Uh, yeah. And so what? Ray has said some unbelievably off the hook s*** in his time. But he wants me to be the same today as I was three years ago.
Sorry, reality doesn't change on Ray's whim. I do not magically transform into a person who lives many days travel away from me and knows a body of literature and cinema I can't even begin to catch up on (probably some languages I can't read too). Hey, I would love to be where he is geographically. But there is that reality thing.
I find it terribly ironic that it is immediately in the aftermath of the Dehlin debacle and when I had finally settled on what I believe to be a fair and reasonable conclusion about the FARMS Review (namely, that they should not publish personal criticisms of members in good standing) that Ray enters here and attacks me with a vengeance, accuses me of being Scratch--his own obsession, I suppose--and ends our friendship. Makes no sense to me, unless someone was egging him on, or something has gone terribly wrong in his life.
I still care about Ray as a person. I hope he sorts this out (whether "this" is his misapprehension about me or it's a personal demon that's got a hold on him). If this is about something he is going through, I deeply regret that he will not allow me to be there for him as a friend. But, I haven't changed my mind about anything regarding LDS apologetics and its problems (or its virtues!). I am not going to jump into the "not ever criticizing anything connected to Mormonism" box, nor am I going to reject my personal experience as an LDS person and attack everything that has anything to do with Mormonism to hop into the "ex-Mo" box.
Deal with it. I am.
And to those who have stuck up for me, thank you. You are good people. I won't forget it.
I really like how you summarized things here, Kish. Thank you for doing so. It would be helpful to me if you would also do so on my board as well.
What is interesting to me is that your journey is very similar to mine, and I have come to the same conclusions, particularly when it comes to FARMS Reviews attacking the author rather than the content. As Scratch pointed out, that may be why the FARMS Review has been delayed.
I have known Ray for a long time as well, and his friendship is also important to me. I hope that if he is struggling with something that he can overcome it, and that he will trust his friends, of which I consider myself one, to help him.
I also consider you, Kish, a friend, and for a long time have admired your posts, and your overall perspective.
I do support you, and I hope that this conflict can be resolved quickly.