“Satan and Satire: On the Narratives of Excommunication and ‘Persecution'”

My friend, fellow Mormon blogger, and apparently heartless jerk who likes to compare people he disagrees with to Satan Neal Rappleye has written an excellent piece on his blog titled “Satan and Satire: On the Narratives of Excommunication and “Persecution”.

I strongly recommend you read it. I heartily endorse what Neal said.

Just one comment from me.

Neal quotes one of Dehlin’s supporters as follows:

John Dehlin has never said others should believe what he believes. When asked, he has honestly stated from time to time what he currently believes or does not believe about the church. He has also repeatedly stated that he supports people, regardless of what they believe about the church.

I read a commenter on my own blog recently say the same thing. Dehlin is not really trying to promote his opinions that run contrary to the Church’s teachings, you see. He’s just throwing them out there for people to accept or reject without actually trying to influence anyone. So to call Dehlin some kind of “teacher” isn’t accurate.

Sorry, but to me this sounds like the cop out of all cop outs.

Why on earth does anyone share an opinion, especially an unsolicited opinion, other than out of hope that somehow his or her opinion will be influential on others? People usually share their opinions because they feel they have something meaningful or important to say and want others to hear it. That’s why they do things like publish books, go on TV, and write blogs. Or start podcasts. Am I to seriously believe that Dehlin has no motivation whatsoever to be an influence or guide for others in any manner? That he’s spent hours and hours interviewing others, writing blog posts, and “liking” material on Facebook with no intention to have this stuff influence my or someone else’s opinion? That his therapy practice helping people in a “faith transition,” or whatever it’s called these days, is in no way meant to change peoples’ behavior or beliefs?

I simply don’t buy it. It’s clear to me, after listening to many of his dreadfully verbose podcasts and wading through many his tedious Facebook posts, that Dehlin is trying to make himself heard, and that he’s consciously promoting certain views over others in an attempt to influence what people think about the Church, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, etc.

But even if Dehlin doesn’t mean to purposefully influence others by sharing his opinions, which I find very hard to believe, the fact is that he has influenced others. In my own life I have friends and extended family who have, either in part or entirely, accepted Dehlin’s narrative about Mormonism. As a volunteer with FairMormon I have read dozens of emails from people who either themselves have been influenced by Dehlin or have loved ones who have been influenced by Dehlin and want further information to counter his narrative.

This is why President King was wise to insist that Dehlin, if he wants to remain a member of the Church, immediately take down and otherwise renounce his Internet material. Dehlin is influencing plenty of people, for better or for worse, and is making an impact on the public discourse on Mormonism. I think it’s clear he’s doing it on purpose, and to claim otherwise is highly naïve.

But enough of my rambling. Go read Neal’s excellent post.

7 thoughts on ““Satan and Satire: On the Narratives of Excommunication and ‘Persecution'””

  1. I am dismayed the Dehlin has been able to do what he has done for so long. His discipline is long over due. He has been handled with kid gloves and given many chances to change. He changed just enough to keep his membership and then went right back to attacking the church and leaders and members. He never allows anyone to express an opinion opposite of his.
    He is manipulating the media to make
    himself look good, and the media is not telling the whole story, which is typical.

  2. No need to employ guesswork; Dehlin himself says that he means to influence others:

    "I am dedicating the remaining years of my life to: 1) helping minimize the harm, and maximize the good within religious and secular cultures, and 2) helping those who are transitioning away from religious orthodoxy find joy, meaning, and fulfillment in their lives, families, and communities — whether within, or outside of a formal church structure."

    Of course, the way he defines "harm" and "good" is evident from the rest of his autobio.

  3. When Dehlin's in trouble, he's just a guy with some unorthodox opinions who wants to be left alone. The rest of the time, he's a beacon of Love and Hope who shows struggling Mormons the Truth and how to find wholeness and health by leaving the church.

  4. "I simply don't buy it."

    Well there's some solid logic right there.

    Why not talk with people who have interacted with John directly? I can give you hundreds of names of people who have interacted with John and listened to his podcast who have stayed in the church when they otherwise would have left because of John's work.

    Myself included. I contacted John directly while dealing with the fallout from learning the church had not been very forthcoming about its messy history. He always stressed to me doing what was right for me. If staying in the church was what I felt was right for me, he told me he would help me do that in the best way he knew how. If I wanted to leave the church, he told me he would point me to resources that would help me have as soft a land as possible.

    When I decided I wanted to stay, he was not only supportive, but enthusiastic about my decision. He not only gave me resources to help me stay, he actively encouraged me to help others who want to stay as well.

    I see a lot of armchair quarterbacking here. What I don't see is a lot of people taking the time to actually get to know John and interact with him on a meaningful level, because when you do, it becomes perfectly clear that he cares first and foremost about people.

    But that just doesn't make for a great excommunication narrative, so you'd rather paint him as an evil pied piper whose only goal is to lead people out in droves and destroy the church.

    I wonder why that is.

    • "I wonder why that is."

      Gee, I don't know. Maybe the fact that Dehlin himself has said "I would guess that many more people have left the church than have stayed because of my Internet work" raises a red flag or two.

      More to the point, my post doesn't dispute that Dehlin has told people to stay in the Church if they want to or leave if they want to. The purpose of my post is to address what I think is a rather ridiculous claim, namely, that Dehlin has no intention of influencing people by sharing his opinions or material that validates his worldview (while consciously suppressing those which don't).

      But you raise a point I hadn't considered. You see, there's more to this than simply Dehlin telling people to stay or leave the Church if they want to. It's about what Dehlin is teaching people about the Church to begin with. It's about what kind of material Dehlin is promoting (CES Letter, MormonThink, the Tanners, Grant Palmer, Simon Southerton, etc, etc.) and what kind of material he disdains (FairMormon and other "apologetic" material, Conference talks from GAs that don't jive with his progressivist agenda, etc.) when it comes to crafting a narrative about Mormonism and the Church. And it seems really clear to me that he wants to influence members of the Church to accept and disdain the same material he does, so as to accept the image of Mormonism he's promoting. Hence his gushing praise and effusion for and his promotion of the CES Letter and Grant Palmer and his well-poisoning against FairMormon and those nasty "apologists." It's more than just sharing his opinion. It's sharing his opinion with the hope that others will be influenced to see things more his way.

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