Wednesday, July 27, 2011

being an apologist means never having to say you're sorry

Let me begin, in the appropriate manner, which is to say that I will sweeten up my intended targets before I give them their medicine. It's only fair. On reflection, I have arrived at this conclusion through no small effort on my part. It is a bitter pill to swallow, and I may require some of that sweetness that I am so generously doling out as a chaser, but here it is: apologists are like me (and other disaffected for intellectual reasons x-mos). We are two sides of the same coin, both willing to grapple with difficult questions, and for this I applaud in their general direction. However, we often, and by often I mean always, tend to reach very different conclusions.

Two of these disagreements unfailingly propel me into a rabid inextinguishable rage. One of which I will share with you today (I told you I was generous).

It's really quite simple. I don't even need a fully fledged syllogism to explain it (maybe just a tautology). One premise will do...

(1) The prophet and leaders of the church are fallible.
(2) Therefore: They make mistakes.

(1) Most Mormons would agree with this statement in principle, but the practice of it sometimes varies. This is partly because there are a cacophony of quotes that discourage members from criticizing the prophet and his cronies at all (One example: "It is wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if that criticism is true" - Dallin H. Oaks. Don't get me wrong, I can think of a time when God's chosen people reaped the rewards of certain individuals unquestioningly going along with what their leaders said. Oh yeah, it was called The Holocaust). This creates an environment where their every word and deed are somehow beyond reproach. However, the premise stands on its own merits, those primarily being its appeal to common sense. I don't think anyone would seriously argue differently.

(2) It seems an obvious conclusion. This is were I part ways with apologists. If you were to peruse any website dedicated to defending the faith you will find that any and all criticisms are addressed in a way that ultimately suggests that the church and its leaders are not at fault. The contradiction here is that if the leaders do in actuality make mistakes then sometimes there is no valid reason why the leaders made the choices that they did. To paraphrase Freud: "sometimes a cock-up is just a cock-up." Certain hot button issues like polygamy, blacks and the priesthood et al. are sometimes justified by intimating that the leader in question who perhaps made a questionable statement was speaking as a man and not a prophet. Do I really need to go into how this is merely a miserably convenient cop out?

Here's an idea. Fallibility of the leadership is built into the religion, therefore it isn't necessary to try and justify every single stance, and utterance that has ever been made or taken. Especially ones that are reprehensible in hindsight and tend to defy any reasonable explanation. Hint: If your answer to a query begins with "He was speaking as a man..." or "It's not pertinent to our salvation" (in any of their guises) or you feel compelled to blame or criticize the questioner for particulars on their part that you find unsavory then you probably need to reconsider your conclusion. It's difficult to admit that you don't know something or that worse yet, perhaps you might be wrong, but I would find it utterly refreshing if just once when I logged onto one of these sites that they did just that. Mistakes were made, it's OK, it happens to the best of us. Hey, I thought the church was true for about 28 years.

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