"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

In the Burned-Over Bloggernacle

You listen to old Mormon Stories podcasts...

...the way your coworkers binge on new seasons of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. For you, every Sunday night has become like a General Conference Sunday. But instead of MoTab and the Brethren in Salt Lake City, it's high profile ex-Mormons and trendy "Middle Way" types guest-starring on podcasts, played in and out by hip LDS recording artists. You hope Mormon Stories podcasts will help you work through the whole "What the heck happened to my faith?!" thing. Nevertheless...

You feel like you've missed the party...

...which, according to the gospel of anecdote, started around 2002. Thoughtful, inclusive, helpful websites sprung up, all with the mission of assisting people doubting their Mormon faith. 

By 2005, the Bloggernacle was a thing, a dynamic community of thinkers, advocates, and mentors. In 2005, if you found yourself struggling with your faith, suffering severe stress, lost sleep, bouts of dread, lonely moments in locked bedrooms and bathrooms crying... well, if you were feeling all that in 2005, you no longer had to feel it alone. An unusual excitement on the subject of Mormonism was general among all the sites in that region of LDS culture. By 2005, you had the Bloggernacle. 

But 2005 was 10 years or more after your crisis of faith, and 3 or so years after you transitioned out of LDS Church activity. So you missed the party. 

And by 2008 or so, when a well-meaning Home Teacher finally introduced you to the Bloggernacle, you'd already gone through your research phase, written your courageous letter to Church leaders, come out to your loved ones, lost your fiancé, and declared yourself agnostic. By 2008, when the Bloggernacle was in full swing, fellowshipping there seemed like a step backwards. So you didn't bother.

Lo and behold, your old Mission President apostatized and...

you were taken aback. He was someone who only Joseph Smith and your parents could claim to be more significant than, in shaping your spiritual development. 

So you grab a 4-pack of Starbucks frappes and stumble home after dark on a Sunday night. You take yourself back to 2002. Back when you binge-read hardcover Mormon history books into the wee hours. Back before you started drinking coffee, when you stayed awake by pacing back and forth in your dorm room while reading Arrington, Brodie et al. That was what? 15 years ago? That was the last time you'd needed to know so badly where Mormonism stood with you. 

Now it's 2017, and you're older. Now you have to drink coffee AND pace in your apartment to stay awake as you binge on the Bloggernacle. Yet, now you want to be at the party, to revel in the excitement of 2002, when doubting Mormons began crying "Lo here!" and others, "Lo there!" Something for everybody. Devout? Doubting? Defending? Destroying? Pick a pseudonym and raise your Title of Liberty .org. But...

...the Bloggernacle isn't a party anymore.

Now it is full of seasoned bloggers, trained advocates, and non-profit networks. It's no longer Pentecostal Kirtland. Now it's bureaucratic Nauvoo. It's still a place with lots of good people and good opportunities. But the party is over. And you missed it. Or worse yet, maybe the Bloggernacle still is a party but...

You'll never do more than sit in the corner of it, having the occasional awkward conversation. And maybe you can't blame it on your old Mission President. Maybe you're only on the Bloggernacle because after a decade or more of being away, you still haven't found a new "right place" that's a better fit for you.

Granted, you know as much about LDS Church history as any given guest star on Mormon Stories, but you lack trendiness or novelty. You're not divorced, never even married. You don't have a cool career. And nothing you've ever posted online about the LDS Church has gone viral. What is more, you haven't spent years setting up an organization that truly helps people through crisis, or at least gives them comment threads on which to vent via pseudonym. (I wonder if DarthKimball1836 is taken.) Bottom line: even if the Bloggernacle is still a party, you aren't worthy to be the life of it.

Does the Bloggernacle feel burned over? Or just you? Either way, the bonfire that started it all, with the fellowship and the marshmallows, that party's over. You're just another unremarkable apostate. Regardless, you slam back some coffee, press play on an archived Mormon Stories podcast and start pacing your apartment after 11 PM on a Sunday night. You listen to an episode where audiences discover that feminist Kate Kelly didn't die from excommunication. She survived. And she's back with a cool new career, fighting for Planned Parenthood, which you admire. What can you say? Eat your hearts out Netflix fans. Even so. Amen, and Amen.

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