Friday, December 02, 2005

I've said too much, I haven't said enough

I stumbled upon the bloggernacle late in its life cycle. By Common Consent and Times & Seasons had already been around for over a year. Dave's Mormon Inquiry was almost two years old. Every once in a while, someone would link to an old thread on BCC and I would be jealous that I missed out on the fascinating conversations.

I had no patience whenever I heard an old-timer complaining about burning out. I was like the guy that showed up to the buffet 15 minutes before closing. Everyone else was sated and I was desperately trying to shovel as much free food into my mouth as possible. "No, don't stop now," I would say in my head, "I just got here!"

Unfortunately, I think I'm in the process of burning out. No, I'm not quitting, I'm just running a little low on energy.

Nine months ago, I hadn't been to church in six or seven years. I hadn't seriously thought about Mormonism since my mission. I was a Mormon in name only. Thanks to the Internet, I've finally been able to ask the questions I never could before, and talk about things that have interested me for a long time. Don't get me wrong, I still have a lot of stuff to talk about and questions to ask. I am still quite ignorant and have tons of Mormon-themed books to read. I probably know less Mormon history and doctrine than the average Bloggernacle blogger. I still have a lot of great Mormon conversations to have, but a lot of the low-hanging fruit has already been picked.

Nine months ago, I was wrestling with my faith and my identity as a Mormon. My faith stopped wrestling back a while ago. My question is: can one still maintain an interest in all things Mormon if one no longer believes? Is there an ideal tension between faith and doubt that fuels interest in discussions like the bloggernacle? I'm just afraid that I've ruined myself for future debates if I already know which side is going to win in my heart.

26 comments:

Stephen said...

All I can say is don't stop until you've converted yourself as you saw others become converted.

May you come safely home.

Ronan said...

The Bloggernacle is like Sunday School: we discuss the same things over and over again.

But unlike Sunday School it consistently asks the tough questions, and maintains an effective dynamic of faith and inquiry. You'll learn and you'll change and then you'll be able to add something new to a discussion you may already have had. I don't see this as being a problem.

The Bloggernacle will naturally cycle through bloggers, but it's good to have people like Grandpa Dave around who provide some sense of continuity.

can one still maintain an interest in all things Mormon if one no longer believes?

Hey man, I'll talk about Everton FC 'til the cows come home. I don't believe they're going to win, though!

Stick around, Ned. Much to learn you still have, my old Padawan.

Elisabeth said...

Ditto to what Ronan said.

But, I can't help asking if your musings about your participation in the bloggernacle came on after discovering just how weird we are in real life?

danithew said...

Everyone who participates actively in the 'Nacle experiences weariness at one point or another. Many respond by curtailing their posting or commenting to some degree. Only a few abandon blogging altogether.

Geoff J said...

Mormon blogging is great for the "study it out in your mind" phase of obtaining faith/knowledge, but it is completely inadequate to finish the job. To actually learn the truth about the Universe we have to move onto phase 2 and ask God. Personal revelation, and only personal revelation is sufficient for those that are actually interested in knowing truth about the "great and terrible" questions of existence.

I you are bummed that all this time on phase one is leaving you feeling somewhat empty still, consider spending more energy on phase two and breaking through with God. Enos showed a pretty good example of what that might take... Eternal life requires knowing God, not knowing about hime after all.

(This free and unsolicited sermon was brought to you by the dude who first responded to your first 'nacle comment)

wendy said...

"My question is: can one still maintain an interest in all things Mormon if one no longer believes?"

Sure thing! I haven't believed for 15 years (since my first temple experience) and I'm fascinated by Mormonism. I'm also surrounded by it, living in Utah and having it as my heritage. Religion is fascinating to me, despite being firmly secular humanist in my world view.

nomdujour said...

Wow Ned, interesting post and questions.

I dont do much surfing in the bloggernaccle. I spend some time on the boards and at BCC and a few others. I stumbled over here from a BCC link.

I think the NOM board has recycled most aspects of the debate of whether one can maintain interest. Clearly there are many levels of interest and one level may not be universally appropriate.

I concur that there is short-term value in the boards and blogs. I have come to realize, by observing the boards, where I am relative to others. I am reminded especially that for many members of the church the path is narrow. I accept that the extremes are represented on the boards. I despise RFM and find little to no value there. Equally, while i still go to more TBM sites, I find their dogma and stern approach equally repulsive. That sounds like hypocritically judgmental, I know.

The mental gymnastics required to defend the Church, and the dismissal of valid arguments based on loose logic, has caused me to shun the church more. I credit much of the information I have, and my declining faith to the bloggernaccle, FAIR and FARMS, among other things.

Admittedly, I have used the boards to sound my wider explanations for things, and to test responses to more liberal thoughts. Typically, my thoughts are met with censorship or accusation.

So, to answer your question, we can find a balance of belief and activity. But it isnt easy and it isnt instantaneous. Once you find it, move on, enjoy your peace of mind.

mellancollyeyes said...

I think you can still engage in conversation even when you are fairly positive of the side you'll fall on.

Becuase every once and awhile you find something new out. Every once and a while, I've found my super-solid arguments running into a very solid coutner argument that I haven't heard before. Or I run into one that backs up my argument even more solidly.

So, even when you know for sure what your argument side will be, I think it's worth it to engage in the conversation. Not to mention that YOUR point might be someone else's answer to a question, even if you feel like you've said it a billion times.

NFlanders said...

Thanks for the food for thought, everyone. I do want to emphasize that I am not quitting, just trying to re-evaluate what I am doing here. Also, I don't want to be accused of being disingenuous about my level of belief, which is currently hovering over the "E" on my fuel tank.

I have responses for all of you but I am headed out the door to my wife's work Christmas party so I'd better clean myself up to avoid a divorce. I will be back tonight.

NFlanders said...

Work Christmas parties are the worst. Anyway, moving on...

Stephen-- Thank you, as always.

Ronan-- I find it reassuring that you (a believing blogger) don't see a problem with my lack of faith. Perhaps I am overly sensitive in this regard, but it often seems like there is a litmus test of belief before some comments are accepted as valid. And of course, I love the Everton analogy. Hopefully, the church won't be sent down to the second division this year.

Elisabeth-- I'll admit that the timing is suspicious. But frankly, you people are NOT all that weird. I would call you "quirky."

Danithew-- Ironic, coming from the author of the 'nacle's most lamented dead blog. Do you spend less time blogging now that you primarily comment instead of blog?

Geoff J-- You will always be my favorite (and only) internet home teacher. Your comment has inspired my next post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wendy-- It's nice to know that one can still maintain a secular interest for that long. I was starting to wonder if I would eventually regret my burgeoning Mormon book collection.

Nomdujour-- I've had some of the same experiences you mention. I think you are very right that different levels of interest are appropriate for different people.

Mellancollyeyes-- Good point. I still have a lot to learn.

Christian Y. Cardall said...

NFlanders, in my opening manifesto at The Spinozist Mormon, I said "Whatever else my interests may encompass, some sliver of my attention will always be fixed on the history and doctrine of the faith and culture that shaped my early sensibilities and channeled the choices of my youth and young adulthood." I think that's very understandable and nothing to be ashamed of or particularly worried about, as long as it doesn't devolve into bitterness and an obsession with anti-Mormon bashing.

wendy, you might enjoy dropping in at The Spinozist Mormon once in awhile. It aspires to offer "Exploratory deployment of two Mormon imperatives—“prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” and “awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words”—from perspectives unfamiliar: secular, scientific, humanistic, cultural (high and low), and maybe even—gasp!—feminist." (Sorry for the blatant self-promotion.)

Wendy said...

I've been linked to and read your blog a few times Christian and very much enjoy your perspective.

Christian Y. Cardall said...

Thanks, Wendy!

Stephen said...

Ned,

Almost everything I've blogged about tonight on acceptance also applies to faith.

I surely hope yours is restored and finds root.

May you find the peace of the season.

Stephen

lchan said...

Ah, the great thing about blogs is that you can write about whatever you're interested in, comment on whatever you're interested in, and pass on the rest. If you get sick of writing about Mormonism, write about something else.

I could care less if you've ruined yourself for future debates (although I don't think you have). Being comfortable with where you're at and what you believe is the thing.

Susan M said...

I'm much more interested in individual's blogs than I am in the group "issues"-oriented blogs. I guess I'm in this more to make friends and share experiences than anything.

Ann said...

Hey, Ned, I wrote a hugely long comment yesterday all about me and blogger ate it. It must be a sign.

I think you are a real asset to the 'nacle and hope you stick around. It's not at all unusual for interest to come and go. If you get sick of writing about church stuff, write about the job hunt, or live in your new neck of the woods - how to make friends without going to sacrament meeting; that sort of thing.

m said...

ned, i know plenty of people who know longer believe in mormonism but are still interested in the topic. many continually study it to reinforce the idea that it isn't "true" to themselves, while others maintain an ongoing interest in mormonism because they are truly fascintated by it. being mormon is such a consuming thing that it's hard for many to just let go once they no longer believe.

the funny thing for me is that although i no longer believe i am more interested in mormonism as a topic of study and discussion than i ever was as a believer. the bloggernacle and many of the sites in the DAMU have exposed me to a lot of the more interesting aspects of mormonism that i wasn't really ever able to talk about when my discussions about it were limited to what went on during those three hours every sunday.

so anyway, like any other interests you may have your interest in mormonism will ebb and flow, but i don't think that it will ever go away. and keep your collection of books, especially if they're good ones. i'm very big on keeping and displaying my books, and on lending them out to people who might be interested in them. i love to go over to people's houses and peruse their bookcases to try to get an insight into their personalities.

and like ann said, i'll still check in on your blog even if every post isn't dripping w/ mormonism.

NFlanders said...

I agree that I probably need a bit more balance on the Mormon vs. personal blogging.

Laura-- I think your blog is a good example of that balance.

Susan M-- I think I'm in this for the same reason.

Ann-- Sorry about the comment-eating. I hate it when that happens. If I ever figure out any of the things you mention, like how to get a job or make new friends, I will definitely blog about them.

M-- Nice to see you around. I like nosing around people's book collections too. I need to concentrate on actually reading the books in mine, though.

lchan said...

Ned,
I don't think you need balance. I like your blog just as it is. And if it takes a different direction, I'm sure I'll still like it.

Your title is really sad. Do you think you are gaining anything? Have you tried your wife's church? I know what brought me back to church is that feeling of having lost my religion - and while that was kind of freeing at first - there was nothing to replace it. I was worse off without it.

You're in a different place than me, though, because my husband is also LDS and we decided together to give our kids what we had. That it was our church, regardless of its imperfections and regardless of our questions.

I think you get a lot of feedback that assumes eventually you'll find your way back to the church. I think that would be a good thing, but I think it's more important that you find a church. Some sort of religion.

NFlanders said...

Wow. Thanks for that, Laura. I didn't think anyone picked up on the title of the post.

I do feel like I am losing something. Maude and I haven't gone to any church in quite a while. It seems I'm not comfortable no matter which denomination I attend.

It probably doesn't help that a lot of my basic assumptions about religion in general are also wilting under close inspection.

I have to say that I admire how you've grappled with these issues and made your choice.

lchan said...

Well, I think I was just tired of grappling. And at some point I realized it's just church. It's just what I believe. It isn't a one-time thing and it doesn't have to be static. (And, I don't have to conform all of my beliefs to the church party line to be a Mormon.)

An important realization for me was that what I believe doesn't change how things really are. If God exists and I don't believe in God, He still exists. If I believe in life after death and there is none, there is none.

It feels better to believe. But, the truth is what it is, whether I understand it or not.

Bigger than any of that is the sense that God loves me and understands my heart. If God is just me, that's alright. But the longer I believe (and really believe) the more right it seems.

m said...

just a thought, but if you're losing your motivation to post about mormonism then perhaps you might consider having an occasional guest blogger to change things up a bit. you might even be able to convince me to contribute a post!

NFlanders said...

M-- You don't have to ask twice! Drop me an email at vivanedflanders -at- gmail.com

I've always wanted guest-posters. Any one else who is interested in guest-blogging in the future can also drop me a line.

Jay S said...

As far as the my 2 cents goes, you could always use more REM-centric titles

NFlanders said...

Funny, Jay S.

The REM was an anomaly for me. I much prefer Smiths-centric post titles. Though I may be running out of material.

Now that I think about it, "Handyman Ned" could have easily been title "Finest Worksong."

I'll work on it.