Monday, April 27, 2009

Nothing Wavering -- well, OK, Wavering a Little Bit, no, A Lot, When It Comes to Being Nice to Those People

First, some background. There are about a gazillion Mormon blogs on the internet. These include blogs about being Mormon or just by Mormons. There are also several Mormon blog aggregators that compile some of these blogs according to various principles. My favorite is Mormon Blogosphere, which aggregates pretty much any blog with any connection at all with Mormonism. To Try a New Sword on a Chance Wayfarer is in that one. There's also Outer Blogness, which is blogs by former Mormons, non-believing Mormons, and so on. To Try a New Sword on a Chance Wayfarer is in that one too.

The Big Important Mormon Blog Aggregator is called Mormon Archipelago. It aggregates the Big Important Mormon Blogs that are collectively known as "the Bloggernacle" ("blog" + "tabernacle," you see). The primary criteria for inclusion seem to be being a devout Mormon and being a friend of the people who run it. To Try a New Sword on a Chance Wayfarer is not in that one.

The big Bloggernacle blogs are run by mostly devout Mormons who also tend to be well-educated intamallectuals. Like intamallectuals everywhere, they tend to think they're smarter than everybody else, which many people seem to find annoying. (I don't, since I'm also an intamallectual and thus think I'm smarter than everybody else -- including them.) Also like intamallectuals everywhere they question 'most everything, even -- and I know this will shock you -- sometimes the LDS Church. I mean, they don't question that it's true, fergoshsakes, but sometimes they kind of wonder if maybe sometimes the Church doesn't make a mistake now and then.

That's entirely too much for some other Mormons, who can't understand why people don't just get out of the Church if they're going to sometimes kind of wonder if maybe sometimes it doesn't make a mistake now and then. One such Mormon, some guy who does that pretentious first initial followed by middle name thing and wears a beret silly hat in his internet picture, decided he'd had enough of those heathen sinners pretending to be devout Mormons and started his own aggregator, which he calls Nothing Wavering. By "wavering," of course, he means things like sometimes kind of wondering if maybe sometimes the Church doesn't make a mistake now and then, because that's something the people who write those blogs say they would never ever do. And that (along with not making fun of his initial or his beret hat) is the primary criterion for inclusion. To Try a New Sword on a Chance Wayfarer is obviously not in that one either.

So that's roughly the state of Mormon blogs, or at least of their aggregators. (There are, of course, lots of other blogs by Mormons -- apparently including some of the biggest "mommy blogs" -- but I don't know much about them.) Now on to the real topic of this post.

A Mormon missionary was recently arrested while trying to board a plane. He was arrested because he is an undocumented immigrant -- an "illegal alien." His parents brought him to the US as a child. He grew up here; it's the only home he knows. Now he faces deportation to a strange country where he has no home, no family, no friends, no possessions, and no prospects. But the everyday travesties caused by US immigration policy aren't really the topic of this post.

The real topic is how Mormons are reacting to the incident. Because, for reasons that could only interest a sociologist (in other words, I don't know the reasons), most American Mormons are very conservative politically, and that especially seems to describe the Nothing Wavering kind of Mormon. Bloggernacle type Mormons, on the other hand, are less likely to be conservative, since most intamallectuals recognize that reality has a strong liberal bias, as a great American political philosopher put it.

The LDS Church as an institution tends to be quite conservative as well. For example, as most people know, it recently led the way in taking away the right of gay people to marry each other in California. So there tends to be a comfortable coincidence of Church policy and personal philosophy for Nothing Wavering type Mormons, while Bloggernacle type Mormons sometimes have to struggle to reconcile Church policy with their personal convictions.

But immigration policy is an exception. Since one of the cardinal tenets of American conservatism today is "Be mean to people who aren't like us," most American conservatives hate the Mexicans favor strict immigration policies and want to deport the Mexicans undocumented immigrants and never do anything to help them. The LDS Church, however, has a different policy. Its policy is basically, "We don't care about immigration status." And it has no problem with calling undocumented immigrants into service as local leaders and teachers, etc., or as missionaries. And as the article about the arrested missionary says, the Church even looks out for its undocumented missionaries and thinks of ways to make it less likely for them to get caught.

Of course, one can ascribe the Church's policy to entirely cynical reasons, but I think that's rather unfair. Credit where due, I think it simply got it right this time. A church's job is to minister to people's "souls," not to check up on their immigration status. So it should feel free to assign undocumented immigrants to volunteer positions in local leadership or as missionaries. (It's perfectly legal, by the way, as long as the people are unpaid, as all Mormon missionaries and local leaders are.)

A discussion of this case and of the Church's policy regarding immigration status in general has ensued on one of the big Bloggernacle blogs. And learning of this policy has been quite shocking -- mind-boggling -- head-exploding -- to some of those conservative Nothing Wavering type LDS, who had so much fun stopping the gays from getting married but can't understand why the Church won't be mean to the Mexicans the illegal aliens too.

The result has been a sudden outbreak of -- dare I say it -- wavering on the part of the Nothing Wavering crowd. Suddenly it's the conservative LDS who are questioning the Church and its leaders, saying a policy is inexplicable or even wrong, or using the same kinds of arguments they've always decried when coming from Bloggernacle types: it's not "official," it's not "doctrine," it's not "binding" on the members of the Church. And it's been a hoot to watch.

10 comments:

  1. Kuri,

    Your take on this was interesting. However, I think you have twisted my use of "Nothing Wavering" to mean something that it does not. You are conflating political conservatism with religious orthodoxy.

    In building my portal, I have deliberately avoided "conservative" and instead favored the terms "mainstream" and "orthodox" to emphasize the distinction.

    If you look through the recently posted guidelines for selecting blogs for my portal (http://nothingwavering.org/blog/2009/04/23/blog-selection-guidelines/) you will notice that it does not include political criteria.

    In fact, in addition to some very right wing blogs, there are a number of blogs included on NothingWavering.org whose authors lean more left from a political standpoint, such as Thinking in a Marrow Bone, Keepapitchin, and Messenger and Advocate, but who are religiously orthodox.

    So when you describe the right-wing zealots trolling the BCC immigration thread as the "Nothing Wavering" crowd, you are being inaccurate and unfair, not to mention reductionist.

    If you would bother to read my posts on the topic of illegal immigration, you would know that, contrary to you reductive characterization, own feelings on the immigration issue are complex. I have sympathies on both sides.(See: http://www.sixteensmallstones.org/justice-mercy-illegal-immigration )

    PS Its a gatsby, not a beret. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newsboy_cap
    :p

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's nice that you can find three blogs that you think are politically liberal, but it's quite disingenuous on your part to pretend that there isn't considerable correlation between Mormon religious orthodoxy and political conservatism.

    As for reading about your "complex" feelings about illegal immigration, you're conflating briefly mentioning you in a blog post with caring about your opinion.

    But I did fix the part about your little hat.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are not a very careful reader.

    I didn't claim that there is no correlation between Mormon religious orthodoxy and political conservatism. I only said that orthodoxy, not political conservatism is my criteria, and that therefore I also include those who lean more liberally as long as they are generally orthodox. There is nothing disingenuous about that.

    Your post erects a caricature of hypocritical conservative Mormons by co-opting my portal name "Nothing Wavering" and then applying it to the right-wing trolls at BCC who are wavering. Since I am ultimately the one who decides which blogs get featured on my portal, I offered the fact that my criteria are not political, and the fact that my own feelings on the topic of illegal immigration are less extreme, and more nuanced than the trolls, as evidence that your conflation of my "Nothing Wavering" title to the BCC trolls is inaccurate and misleading.

    Your response to my evidence, saying that you don't care about my opinion on the topic and that you only mentioned me tangentially, indicates that if either of us is being disingenuous it is you. Whether you care about my opinion or not, the name of my portal and the kinds of opinions I feature there are central to your entire post. So when you say that you don't care about my opinion on the topic, you are saying that you likewise don't care about the accuracy of your own words. And that is truly disingenuous.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I read your comments with all the care they deserve, I assure you. I fixed the part about your little hat after all.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I apologize for wasting your time. Good day and God bless you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Um, JMW:
    Some of those "wavering" on that thread have blogs that you aggregate.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Did the author make fun of the man's hat?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Please delete my previous comment. It is inappropriate.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I don't see why, but as you wish.

    ReplyDelete

What do you think?