Well, M* has found itself in the middle of another controversy. Some people did not like Bryce Haymond’s post (see below). Here is my take on the issue.
Within certain limits, the most charitable attitude to take toward a post you don’t like is to politely disagree, using factual, on-target talking points. If you really don’t like it, you don’t have to read it. What is not going to fly on this blog is suggesting that the entire post is silly, unpalatable to your friends, involves unacceptable political thoughts or should not have been written in the first place. We are trying to create a different atmosphere at this blog – one of respect for bloggers, commenters and most importantly the Church. We are also willing to explore ideas that are perhaps different than at other blogs. We don’t always succeed in being respectful (mea culpa) but we continue to try.
There are all kinds of opinions I find incredibly silly. The idea that Barack Obama will somehow magically end the Iraq war with dignity is absurd (Barack himself is admitting these days he won’t be able to do that) – yet all kinds of intelligent people seem to believe it. I personally find the idea that you can support the Church yet actively work against one of its most important current initiatives (stopping SSM in California) also incredibly silly. But the point is that this are my OPINIONS – all kinds of intelligent people have different opinions, and the point is that blogs are forums for people to express their ideas, refine them, consider them and defend them.
There is a subtle kind of censorship in the Bloggernacle that really bugs me. That censorship is that only a certain range of ideas can be expressed. People get incredibly offended if you say, “well, in my view, the Church says we should do this and that, and the scriptures seem to say you should do this and that, so I really think members should do this and that.” Nothing seems to set off flame wars more than daring to express an opinion of this nature.
Well, guess what? It is the writer’s opinion. In a free country, he is allowed to express it. If you really disagree, you can write a polite retort. Or you can go read another post on the blog that doesn’t offend you. Or you can go read another blog or go spend time with your family or get back to work. What you can’t do (at least on this blog) is insult the writer or try to intimidate him/her through a barrage of harassment to not express his opinions anymore. That, my friends, is called fascism. Mob rule by tyrants. It happens a lot these days in certain settings (college campuses, for example), but it won’t be happening at M*.
I certainly don’t intend to offend anyone. A lot of people are saying right now, “wait, did he just call me a tyrant and a fascist?” Obviously no one sees himself or herself that way. But I really want people to take a step back and think: if you don’t like somebody’s opinion, why can’t you just disagree politely and then move on? Or, guess what: you can avoid reading what that writer writes if you really hate it (may help your blood pressure). What is it that drives you to write snarky links implying that anybody who has an opinion like that is a complete idiot, that the post is silly, worthless, never should have been written, etc., etc. Could it be that you truly are trying to suppress ideas that dare to disagree with yours?
There is an incredible amount of hypocrisy in the old “the blogger is claiming I’m not righteous” complaint that we see all over the Bloggernacle these days. I have seen literally hundreds of posts and comments in the last five years claiming in one way or another that you can’t be a true follower of Christ is you support the Iraq war/war on terrorism/Guantanamo. Yet I have never seen anybody on the opposite side say, “you are claiming I’m not righteous – how dare you!” It may have happened, but the point is that the politically correct position in the Bloggernacle is to never, ever question somebody’s righteousness when they question the Church’s position on, for example, same-sex marriage, but it is completely okay and indeed expected to question somebody’s righteousness when they support the Iraq war.
As a supporter of the Iraq war/war on terrorism/Guantanamo, I can tell you why I have never written indignantly “how dare you question my righteousness!” when somebody claims I am not a true follower of Christ: I could care less what their opinion is. Really. My righteousness is between me and God. I could really care less what anybody else thinks, except my wife, my bishop and my stake president.
So, when Bryce has the audacity to use scripture or quotations from Joseph Smith to bolster his opinions on environmentalism, and you disagree, you can respond in several ways. You can politely say, “well, I don’t agree with your interpretations of the scripture and here’s why…” You can stop reading the post. You can go turn on the TV. But what you can’t do, at least with any integrity, is say, “he’s questioning my righteousness!! How dare he!!” If you don’t respect his opinion, then who cares what Bryce thinks (unless he is your spouse, bishop or stake president, and I think there’s only one person who is in any of those categories).
I will agree that certain posts are beyond the pale. You won’t see racist posts or sexist posts or, of course, posts insulting Church leaders (these are the posts I personally find most offensive). But you will occasionally see posts saying, “The Church says we should do this and that, the scriptures seem to say we should be doing this and that, so I really think Church members ought to do this and that.” If you don’t like it, I would suggest, in the kindest way possible, that you write your retorts politely and cogently and keep on topic. The fact that you didn’t like the post doesn’t mean you get to suppress a writer’s opinions.
One last point for all those offended by Bryce’s Wall-E post: I don’t know Bryce personally, by I highly recommend his web page:
He is doing some great work there defending the Church. I would also like to point out that roughly half the people who commented on Bryce’s post agreed with his take on the issue. There are a huge number of mainstream people who believe that 1)Wall-E represented a dangerous form of environmental extremism 2)environmental extremism is a false religion for many and 3)it will even lead people to do crazy, Satan-inspired things like sterilize themselves and have abortions to “save the planet.” Yes, from a cynic’s perspective, you could say it seemed silly for him to get so offended by a cartoon. But, again, that is his opinion, and he defended it well, and a lot of smart people agreed with him. If you don’t agree, hey, that’s certainly your right. But you don’t have a right to try to censor his opinions or insult him. At least not on M*.