Back in Black: Clearing Out the Muddled Middle
by Christian Y. Cardall
After referring RoastedTomatoes to two previous posts of mine, his response made me wonder if isolated readings of various of my posts might give conflicting ideas about what I ‘really think,’ or incorrect or at least incomplete ideas about how I see the big picture. In part this is a reflection of genuine internal disarray on my part, but that’s not the whole story. As suggested by my opening post, I have rather skeptical inclinations these days. But perhaps impertinently, that doesn’t stop me—as can be observed in scattered threads and comments—from opining on what Mormonism really is, as opposed to what some might wish it to be or become. In doing so I have often asserted a conservative version of Mormonism—almost always, I think, with regard to behavior and practice, though I have expressed a variety of views on the relationship of freedom of thought and expression to doctrine.
So in the aggregate, there’s a sort of good cop / bad cop thing going on in my posts, reflecting a natural inclination on my part to see and clarify things in relatively black and white terms. The good cop in me tends toward challenging those who would like a ‘grey,’ pick-and-choose form of Mormonism they can more easily live with—a challenge that takes the form of trying to understand and explicate Mormonism on its own terms (i.e. how its prophetic leaders understand it). But also, the bad cop in me explores whether the epistemological underpinnings of Mormonism can be relied upon at all (as in the two older posts I referred RoastedTomatoes to).
The overall project is sort of consistent: to question and probe both ‘white’ and ‘grey’ forms of Mormonism, and to ask whether the ‘black’ of a secular worldview makes more sense, and if it could possibly make a fulfilling and more realistic life. (My intention was to reflect this not only in my opening post, but in the blog description at the top of the page.) I recognize that aficionados of ‘grey’ will see this as pushing the ‘grey’ into a ‘white’ straw man that the ‘black’ can more easily overcome. I don’t know what to say about that, except, let’s have the discussion.
I should also say that in the process I have come to appreciate a rare handful of people who are willing to thoughtfully consider the full range of issues, perhaps ‘grey’ to some extent, but who also seem to retain a clear understanding that a Mormonism without real top-down textual and/or institutional authority—authority with ‘teeth’—is simply incoherent. I appreciate being able to try and understand their ways as a possible alternative to both secular ‘black’ and what I see as unworkable versions of ‘grey’: the untenable notion that a cafeteria, pick-and-choose sort of Mormonism is viable, or the quixotic wish that a bottom-up, grassroots reformable Mormonism is in the cards.