The Muddle in the Middle

October 11, 2007 | 61 comments
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When you put joy first, what happens to your mind?

In college I heard a statement that resonated deeply, that many understand but even more – far more – simply do not recognize. It was, “Liberals are nothing more than conservatives with more friends.”

At the extreme, a conservative says, “I am right; everyone who disagrees with me is wrong.” At the “other” extreme, a liberal says, “Nobody is right and nobody is wrong – except for those who disagree with me.” It’s the exact same position; the circles of inclusion simply are different sizes.

I believe that one of the greatest challenges in life, for those inside and outside of the Church, is the temptation to gravitate to one extreme or the other and fail to grow from the muddle in the middle. Essentially, this challenge is to take full responsibility for the lives we choose to create – the joy we choose to pursue – not relying on others to make our decisions for us. This can be seen in interesting ways, like the following:

The Protestant world, in general, claims all truth has been revealed in the distant past and only through canonized scripture – that if it hasn’t been recorded in the Bible or written into the creeds, it can’t be authoritative; many Mormons essentially take the same position by claiming that all truth is revealed only through canonized scripture plus official church pronouncement and the words of the living prophets – that if it hasn’t been said by a prophet or apostle, it can’t be trusted (and if it has, it can or must – again, echoing the infallible Word of Protestantism).

Our own scriptures, however, tell us to seek learning from every source – defining, I believe, our “claim” on truth as the possibility of an endowment of insight and discernment if we are willing to study and contemplate any particular issue or topic – no matter where our search takes us. It’s not that we “have” all truth, but rather that we can be motivated to access truth in all its manifestations and then recognize it when we find it. Joseph Smith said that any one who understands any truth can find that truth in the restored Gospel. I believe the reverse is true, as well – that the Gift of the Holy Ghost and the attendant understanding of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ allows us the ability to find, understand and accept any truth that currently lies both inside and outside what we currently understand within the Church – wherever it might lie.

For those who have reached a point where they do not doubt in such a way that their foundation testimonies are threatened, I believe the challenge is to avoid the condition of arrogance and pride and hypocrisy and stagnation that was the only thing, apparently, that really ticked off Jesus – of letting themselves become closed to the truth that still lies out there in the world around them and gravitate to their own insulated extreme.

I am fascinated by Moroni 7, because it is addressed specifically to those who accept the Book of Mormon in the last days. The central message I take from the first half of that chapter is quite simple:

“After everything I and my father have written about the apostate condition of the world in the last days, be very careful not to accept evil as good – or get judgmental and dismiss good as evil. Develop charity and discernment, so you don’t become what you condemn in others. Study and ponder and pray about everything, rather than automatically and unthinkingly rejecting what might appear at first glance to be wrong or evil – or automatically and unthinkingly accepting what appears to be right and valuable on the surface.” An implicit claim seems to be that there are many examples of both inspired truth and well-disguised error out there in the world, so we must keep our minds and hearts open to whatever God has revealed to whomever – even if that is outside our own religion or religious tradition.

That’s the intellectual answer for the question of how I strive to find truth in everything around me – to build an intellectual superstructure upon my own foundation of joy. The far more powerful and motivating answer is that I have experienced an uplifting, enabling, exalting foundation (my faith and hope and joy) that allows me peace and security as it drives me to accept the risks inherent in avoiding the extremes and dealing with an ever-changing construction plan. I feel that the Gospel has been restored along with the mechanical organization of the Church, and I am willing to accept the fluidity of the organization and its doctrine (even as it seems to shift around me) in order to have the rock-solid foundation of the joy of the central Gospel principles as my own. I find peace and contentment and joy in the Church and the Gospel, even as I muddle in the middle – trying to make sense of what I experience away from the extremes. The choice is not between two easy solutions (the extremes), nor is it between an easy answer and a complicated one. It is between multiple, evolving, complicated answers – and it never settles into one tidy spot from which I can buy a rocking chair, kick back, relax and – perhaps – sleep.

Nothing is as easy as the critics or the zealots make it seem. I simply choose the path that, while sometimes intellectually and emotionally painful and difficult and “muddled,” allows me to stake out my own position with full understanding that, by avoiding the equal ease represented by both extremes, my life will entail pain and difficulty and “muddling” that the enticing extremes would eliminate. However, I don’t want to settle for the easy life; instead, I have chosen to muddle in the middle of the only journey, I believe, that has brought and brings me the type of joy I desire – and that will bring ultimate, complete and whole joy in the end.

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61 Responses to The Muddle in the Middle

  1. marcus on October 11, 2007 at 8:53 am

    “arrogance and pride and hypocrisy and stagnation that was the only thing, apparently, that really ticked off Jesus” — well, that and changing money at the temple.

    Curtis, this is a brilliant post and mirrors my thoughts and feelings in a lot of ways. What you call the “muddle in the middle” Buddha would have called the Middle Way and described it as the path to enlightenment. I can’t help but think that he too was inspired, if not in his conclusions, at least in his method.

  2. D. Fletcher on October 11, 2007 at 10:41 am

    I thought you were quoting Sondheim from Sunday in the Park with George “The Day Off.”

    What’s the muddle in the middle?
    That’s the puddle where the poodle did the piddle.

  3. Adam Greenwood on October 11, 2007 at 10:53 am

    The Protestant world, in general, claims all truth has been revealed in the distant past and only through canonized scripture – that if it hasn’t been recorded in the Bible or written into the creeds, it can’t be authoritative

    That’s the part of the Protestant world that’s most likely to get in fights with Mormons. There’s also the liberal Protestant world and the world of therapeutic evangelicalism.

  4. Ray on October 11, 2007 at 11:08 am

    #3 – You’re right, Adam. I should have been more clear about what I call the “vocal” Protestant world.

  5. Joseph D. Walch on October 11, 2007 at 11:24 am

    I like how you use the foundation of Joy–very C.S. Lewis-ish. That foundation of Joy, which defies reason and even works against evidence, helps us cling to the hope of the uncertain future that we may inherit if we remain faithful.

    I do, however, take issue with the phrase “muddle in the middle” which to me seems too much like the Aristotelian “middle way,” or may allude to a kind of epicurean life of settling into comfortable acceptance of difficult answers; which, I acknowledge you have rejected:

    ”and it never settles into one tidy spot from which I can buy a rocking chair, kick back, relax and – perhaps – sleep.”

    But, the comfort that there is no easy answer when there very well may be (many have fallen into forbidden paths because of the EASINESS of the way) can lull the patient intellectual into his/her own false sense of security in muddled sophistry (or philosophy and commandments of men, mingled with scripture—having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof).

    The restored gospel, however, paints a somewhat different picture of the path that the disciple takes. The ideas found in the Sermon on the Mount, e.g., were NOT the Aristotelian middle-way; rather, they are truly radical in their nature, at least to any passive observer. The Lord’s extreme commandments require a life of total devotion to the ideas and truths which have brought that foundation of joy, i.e. joy cannot exist in absence of hard adherence to certain gospel truths to the exclusion of all others—a very extreme intellectualism indeed. Latter-day Saints are the ultimate thought police, but not in the way the world sees it, since they are blind to the joy and faith we hold. It shouldn’t be any wonder, then, when the world labels the Church as an anti-intellectual body; they see not, therefore they dismiss hard gospel truths as visions and dreams. That is what really annoyed the Savior; people who claim to know truth and who claim to live by that truth which their actions and even reasoning denies a priori (e.g. Atheist, Elitists, Sophists, and other forms of hypocracy, including trial lawyers–just kidding;-).

    The smart disciple will pick up some truths along the way which were exposed via the world outside the structure of the Church, but these are like grains of sand on the beach of our understanding, and often they don’t add to the foundation of joy. Thus they are qualitatively and quantitatively different than the radical gospel which we live.

  6. Bob on October 11, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Curtis: I have read your post several times. I think you are wrong on this, think I am right. Now, have I put you back on the edge, or are you still somewhere in the Muddle Middle between the two of us? This is only my way of picking on your point, not you.

  7. TMD on October 11, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    “At the extreme, a conservative says, “I am right; everyone who disagrees with me is wrong.” At the “other” extreme, a liberal says, “Nobody is right and nobody is wrong – except for those who disagree with me.” It’s the exact same position; the circles of inclusion simply are different sizes”.

    I don’t recognize either of these as descriptions of either liberalism or conservativism of any sort.

  8. Bob on October 11, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    #7: A conservative is only comfortable only in a room full of answers, a liberal in a room full of questions…don’t put them in the same room.

  9. Jacob M on October 11, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    TMD – then you ain’t payin’ attention!

    That sounds harsher than what I mean, but for most people, if they have certain ideas of what they believe is true, if you disagree with their assessment, they think you’re wrong. This seems especially true for political discussions, which is really ironic, considering that politics is such a complex process. And I think that is partially what Curtis’ point of the post is.

  10. Jacob M on October 11, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    8 – you’re only providing another example of Curtis’ point. We could stand less of the retarded polemics that you just used! Sorry that sounds so harsh, but I am tired of hearing that “liberals like questions, conservatives don’t!” It just plainly ain’t true.

  11. Bob on October 11, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    #10: Jacobs, you clearly have the ‘plainly true’ answers, but you have left me with only my retarded polemic questions!

  12. Jacob M on October 11, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    You didn’t ask a question – you made an assertion. I challenged your assertion. That is all.

  13. Bob on October 11, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    #12: No, you didn’t challenge my assertion (that would have come in the form of a question), You spat on it. That”s why you and I would not do well in the same room.

  14. Jacob M on October 11, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Actually, we could do well in the same room, if we skipped hyperbole. And I didn’t so much spit on it as revile it. I do want to point out it is the rhetoric that I’m bashing, not you yourself. On that note, I don’t want to continue to demolish Curtis’ post, so I will refrain from the threadjack any further. His post is about happily not engaging in the cannon-fire-back-and-forth that we’ve been doing. Sorry, Curtis!

  15. Curtis DeGraw on October 11, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    That’s OK, Jacob. I was sitting back watching people prove part of my post. How could I be upset? *grin*

    Just so it’s out in the open, I intentionally picked a title that might “muddle” the discussion. I have a twisted sense of humor, and I just couldn’t resist seeing what would happen.

    I am intrigued by #7. I have met literally thousands of people on each side of many discussions who fit that description perfectly – those who are so convinced that they are right and any other opinion in wrong that they simply refuse to listen closely enough to see if what someone else’s argument has any merit whatsoever. I have seen it in religion, in politics, in education and multiple other arenas. There is a terrific example of that on another current thread on this very blog. However, I will admit that many people who fit that description have no clue they do so, which is another point of my original post.

  16. Curtis DeGraw on October 11, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    #5 – Joseph, are you saying that there is nothing that brings true joy (or a significantly improved understanding of true joy) outside of the “Church” or outside of the “Gospel”? If the first, we have an area of disagreement.

  17. Bob on October 11, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    #14 & 15 I too repent. (but never of hyperbole or rhetoric). And I don’t think I am always right, but that’s just my opinion against hundreds of others, so I guess that makes me open to change….correct (?) My cross to bear is I don’t come to answers. Any answer given to me, only sets up the next question.

  18. Curtis DeGraw on October 11, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    From my previous post: “I hear someone (anyone – inside or outside the Church) say something, and my first thought is not, “I don’t get it; it must be wrong,” but rather “How can I understand this in a way that is consistent with my understanding of the Gospel – in a way that will add to my joy?”

    Not to single out Jacob and Bob, since I see the same dynamic play out daily in the Bloggernacle, but I think the discussion highlights how easy it is to assume complete understanding and talk past one another. Often, the result of careful discussion is a fuller understanding of fundamental disagreement, but I can’t begin to count how many times I started out thinking, “Say what?!” and, through not dismissing it immediately – by allowing for the possibility that there might be something worthwhile in it – have found an insight I hadn’t considered previously.

  19. Jacob M on October 11, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    Apology accepted, Bob! (Note: said in cool Darth Vader voice! I was going to get a quick clip from Empire Strikes Back, but I couldn’t find it quick enough!)

    Anyway, your notion of any answer setting up the next question is good. I can dig that! (See, I like questions! ((Smile) Couldn’t resist!)

    And yes, this is something that happens frequently, even when someone is trying to avoid it. One of the things I like to think about is how there is no way we can ever understand everything 100% correctly while in this life. That usually helps me avoid making stupid overgeneralizing statements. Of course, by usually I mean on occasion! Ok! Seldom occasion! Which means it only occasionally helps me! Which means. . . oh never mind! (Exasperated sigh ((actually more of a groan))

  20. Kyle Mathews on October 11, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    This post also reminds me of the many quotes from Joseph Smith about the difficulty he had in introducing any new concepts to the saints. They\’d fly apart at any idea that violated their traditions.

  21. Joseph D. Walch on October 11, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    #16, Yes, of course there is good outside of the Church, but the good found in the gospel is both necessary and sufficient for my purposes; all the other goods found outside of the church are simply drops into an already overflowing cup. I like Shakespeare just as much as the next person, but without ultimate meaning (found in the Gospel) everything would simply be ‘dross and refuse.’

    With the knowledge of the Gospel, that dross is only as good as it’s ability to refract and magnify the Light of Christ. TVs ’24′ does a good job at getting my heart-rate up while I exercize, but beyond that, it has very little value for me.

    Without the gospel (and the Church) my life would have very little meaning–if I were an Atheist, I would say that my life is infinitely and absolutely meaningless notwithstanding all the clever aesthetics and logical gymnastics.

  22. Curtis DeGraw on October 11, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Joseph.

    I guess my question, then, is if you think there is anything in other religions or philosophies or perspectives that is worth studying in order to understand.

    That is a sincere question. Your first sentence seems to imply that all good worth spending time and effort pursuing that can be found in the gospel can be found in the church, since you juxtapose it with “all the other goods found outside the church are simply drops in an already overflowing cup.” Is that a fair assessment of what you mean – that it’s not worth it to pursue good outside the church?

  23. Bob on October 11, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    #21: Joseph, I guess I would need to know what you put into your definition of ” What is found in the Gospel “to understand #21.
    Me..I like music and nature, but do not put them in my definition of”Gospel”. I think Joseph Smith had “meaning in his life before 1830. I feel many people have “meaning ‘ and “joy” in their life outside or without the Church.

  24. Curtis DeGraw on October 11, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    To be fair, Bob, Joseph did say, “for my purposes,” “to me” and “my life” – not addressing people outside of or without the Church.

  25. Bob on October 11, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    #24: I am sorry if my question came across as unfair. It’s not what I meant to do. I did read ( maybe mistakenly ) shots at Atheist or those using “clever aesthetics and logical gymnastics, as having meaningless lives. This maybe the second time in one post that I have to repent. I guess I need my nap.

  26. Curtis DeGraw on October 11, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    #25 – At least, you made me laugh, and that is a good thing – no matter the religious persuasion of the laugher. *grin*

    I read the implicit shot, as well, but I tend to parse so much that I can’t overlook the “my life” – despite the implication. I almost added, “Also to be fair, Joseph, Bob’s question is a fair one. Do you believe all atheists essentially have meaningless lives?” I will add that now, if Joseph still is reading this.

  27. Joseph D. Walch on October 12, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Thanks for the honest and discriminating dialogue. It is refreshing when people actually read the words I write instead of their own projections of bias on my words.

    # 22 I guess my question, then, is if you think there is anything in other religions or philosophies or perspectives that is worth studying in order to understand.

    I have found that the Gospel is a lens which is able to refract and focus the light of others and bring more clarity into the topics. That is the great efficacy of the Gospel (and the Gift of the Holy Ghost in particular). ‘The Good’ can be found everywhere, not simply inside of the church. Nature, Science, the Arts (rarely), and so on, all have intrinsic Good. It is always well to understand the Good in other religions, worldviews, etc. Shakespeare lived during a time of Apostasy, e.g., but that doesn’t disqualify his body of works for study, nor does it annul the Good found therein.

    But, all worldly knowledge and understanding is trivial compared to the knowledge of the Gospel. It is one thing to know how to temporally and spatially excise specific genes in the creation of Knockout mice (as 2007 Nobelist Mario Cappechi did), but it is quite another to understand the saving principles and ordinances of the Gospel. The former without the latter is trivial, and I think there will be a lot of disappointed people in the next life who will find that their life’s work will not amount to much. As Elder Maxwell has explained, a Mortician does good work here—especially if he does it with Charity.

    Also, how are we going to interact with people of other faiths, perspectives, etc. if we don’t first try to understand? It isn’t possible, but members of the church shouldn’t be at the feet of other religions to be taught because we already have the ‘fullness of the Gospel.’ These two are different, we already have the big picture, but we also need to understand how to best help others find the gospel through dialogue; reinforcing the Good, and helping to reject error and incorrect traditions. We cannot accomplish that goal if we are unfamiliar with either the wheat or the tares.

    #23:

    #21: Joseph, I guess I would need to know what you put into your definition of ” What is found in the Gospel “to understand #21.
    Me..I like music and nature, but do not put them in my definition of”Gospel”. I think Joseph Smith had “meaning in his life before 1830. I feel many people have “meaning ‘ and “joy” in their life outside or without the Church.

    I think my previous statements are necessary and sufficient on that point. Also, Moroni 7 was quoted in the original post, and a discussion of the Light of Christ vs. the Gift of the Holy Ghost would further clarify this point.

    I did read ( maybe mistakenly ) shots at Atheist or those using “clever aesthetics and logical gymnastics, as having meaningless lives.

    My statement was:

    if I were an Atheist, I would say that my life is infinitely and absolutely meaningless notwithstanding all the clever aesthetics and logical gymnastics.

    This is a hypothetical (note the use of “I” referring to myself) in which I was referring to the rank hypocrisy of atheists. They profess a doctrine, which if they lived by (or supposing it was true), would produce despair and suicide. Obviously the atheist of the world DO feel their life has loads of meaning; writing all kinds of books about that subject, but the fact remains that they have a portion of the Light of Christ sustaining their lives and intellectual pursuits; which they deny a priori, and with great hypocrisy. They do not practice what they preach, nor do they preach what they practice. They do not acknowledge the Light of Christ which DOES sustain their lives—giving them some modicum of meaning. This is rank hypocrisy.

  28. wilt on October 12, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Rather than an inevitable ‘rank hypocrisy’ of atheists, might we also consider aggressive beliefs bordering on blindness on the part of some believers?

    I was an atheist. It was consistent with what I found in the world around me – and after considering the truth claims of a number of religions I saw nothing to indicate an overarching power or deity guiding the lives of humanity. Based on the empirical evidence I was able to evaluate I denied the existence of God.

    After some years, I encountered members of the LDS church. It took 18 months before I could reasonably (pun intended) try a personal prayer. I was baptized three weeks later. I say these things in order to place some context in my next observations:

    Yes, an atheistic view can lead some to despair and suicide. I respectfully submit religious systems and beliefs may also lead to such feelings and actions. While living in Utah I had occasion to work with addicts in a halfway house. More than a few abused prescription drugs and many of them were members of the Church. They felt despair at ever meeting a checklist spirituality.

    I have never been able to understand the plaintive refrain that if a person felt there were no God, they would commit suicide. That there would be no reason to go on.

    I came to a conclusion – reasoned out – that when I died, I would simply cease to exist. I would go to sleep and neither dream nor wake up. That wasn’t particularly pleasant, but neither did it remove the meaning of each day – each hour – each experience. It was simply reality so far as I was able to perceive and understand.

    There is no hypocrisy inherent in atheism. Some atheists are hypocrites. So are some believers.

    The lack of an absolute meaning in life doesn’t remove meaning from life. I didn’t need a heaven in my future before I enjoyed holding a beautiful woman – to relax as I felt a breeze in my face as I walked through the Blue Mountains in Eastern Oregon – to have enjoyed the intensity of playing in a close basketball game – to have looked up at a night sky and wonder at the universe.

    Claiming the presence of the “…Light of Christ sustaining their lives and intellectual pursuits…” as evidence of hypocrisy simply makes a faith claim without substantiation. That may be comfortable in not requiring one to think about the other guy (an atheist) but it also lacks intellectual rigor and some element of consistency itself.

    One may, with full moral and intellectual integrity, see human life – the intricacies of the mind – the beauty of a sunset – and other things in the universe around us – without recourse to heaven, God or the Light of Christ.

    wilt

  29. Bob on October 12, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    #27: In my life I have been both atheist and God believer. I did not find either to be meaningless. Each one, for me, was a searching for Truth.
    Never during these times, did I Feel I was being hypocritical.

  30. Bob on October 12, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    If #28 had been on my screen, I would not have needed to write #29!

  31. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you, Wilt – and Bob.

    I agree with just about everything you wrote, Joseph, both in isolation and in context of your own life, but I also have a huge problem with claiming that atheism is inherently *hypocritical*. Inherently opposed to the Light of Christ, perhaps, but “hypocritical” connotes acting against what you know or believe. Jesus railed against (actually, condemned) hypocrisy, but I’m pretty sure He didn’t rail against ignorance in the same way.

    I had a pretty good friend in Alabama who was an atheist for two reasons: 1) he had a loving atheist father and an arrogant, over-bearing, abusive, vocally “Christian” step-father; and 2) he saw real hypocrisy all around him within the Christian community of that area.

    I think we need to be VERY careful when we use terms like “hypocrisy” about anyone, let alone groups of people.

  32. TMD on October 12, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    8, 9 Bob and Jacob, and Curtis:
    Neither at an intellectual, philosophically descrived level nor in terms mass-oriented belief-system or disposition indexes (all of which I am deeply familiar with) do these things correlate with political persuasion as you say that they do. In some of Bob’s comments there is an element of the ‘authoritarian’ personality type, but there are people with that dispostion not only at the ends of the spectrum, but at all points in between (the ‘common sense’ advocated by the center can imply a good bit of tyrrany as well).

  33. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    TMD, I never equated “liberal” and “conservative” as political terms for this discussion. Re-read #15. I said that I was describing an attitude that exists in all arenas – that “extreme” liberals and “extreme” conservatives are those who equally hold that they understand all truth and those who disagree with anything they believe are completely wrong. That’s not a political designation, so I agree completely that the attitude can exist all along the spectrum. That’s the whole point of my post, actually, that it is the attitude that is dangerous – not any particular political label. All of us have the potential to be “extreme” in this regard with regards to some things – and I chose to focus on the religious application.

    In short, I agree with you. I should have been clearer in the original post.

  34. Bob on October 12, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    #32: Well said…I think. And thanks for the free MMPI! (I am NOT going to repent a 3rd time!)

  35. Jacob M on October 12, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    TMD – I appreciate what you said in 32, however, I must point out that my biff with Bob above was not about the merits of liberalism vs. that of conservatism. It was about being told by somebody else that my political leanings doesn’t like questions. However, as I’ve accepted his apology (while just noting right now that I didn’t offer one back! (Frown) Shame on me! I only apologized to Curtis/Ray! Sorry to you as well, Bob!) and now apoligized, I can put that behind me. I’ve felt for a while that tyrranical thinking occurs across the board, even by those who’s ideas I agree with. And it is so easy to get caught up in the whole “I’m right – you’re wrong” type of thinking. Which was what I thought Curtis/Ray’s point was all along!

  36. Joseph D. Walch on October 12, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    I think we need to be VERY careful when we use terms like “hypocrisy” about anyone, let alone groups of people.

    Oh, the familiar thought policing, how I’ve missed you. I thought we were talking about intellectual curiosity and inquiry. I suppose intellectual curiosity only goes so far, and there are those black curtains in the mind which we must never draw.

    Why is it I should be careful? What other words are off limits? Do these limits apply only to groups of people who are alive, or can I use them in reference to, say; the Scibes and Pharisees.

    Furthermore, I will not fall for the old trick of being drawn into a personal foul (I know the rules of the game here at T&S for comments); even though others have baited me into attacking them personally by calling themselves former Atheists (I know the implication of one’s sharing of personal narratives). Nevertheless, my comments stand; Atheists are hypocrits either through their active rejection of God and Christ, or through their active negligence and ignorance (i.e. to ignore) of the reasons and revelations of God.

    Both sides of the coin are choices–an excercize of one’s agency, however; one is not born Atheist.

    That is the truth about Atheism. I am sorry if there are any Atheist or Friends of Atheist who are offended. Furthermore, the Earth orbits the Sun, and I am sorry if I have offended any Anthropocentrists or 13th century Catholics; actually I am not really that sorry come to think of it.

    That is my challenge to this post. There are certain things which I know are true, and I know that God knows I know are true. I don’t need to be careful about it, and in those instances; I don’t need to ‘muddle in the middle.’ Call me a radical, or an extremist. I don’t believe in any man-made ‘spectrums’ or standards of political or philosophical neutrality. I reject them all, but admit there are parts across the man-made ‘spectrums’ which are good, but trivial compared to the Restored Gospel.

  37. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Thanks, everyone. I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed this conversation.

  38. Joseph D. Walch on October 12, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    I still can’t think of any ways to use the word “Hypocricy” without referring to people. Cats, perhaps?

  39. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Joseph, I am probably as far from the thought police you reference as it is possible to get. Let me make this *perfectly* clear. I live as conservative a lifestyle as anyone I know who is not living on a compound surrounded by guns and a ten year supply of food. When others look at my lifestyle and see my position in the local Church ecclesiastical structure, they often assume I am an “extremist” (both inside and outside the Church, frankly).

    I simply am not comfortable calling someone a hypocrite unless they are acting against what they understand. I am uncomfortable making a judgment that carries connotations of condemnation of anyone about whom I know little – and extending that judgment to an entire group of people concerns me. As bluntly as I can put this, I think we need to be “careful” about absolutely every word we utter – and I think that is taught throughout scripture as an aspect of the perfection we should strive to achieve. I *never* said *any* words were “off limits” – and to make that charge in a post about avoiding extremes is ludicrous, frankly.

    I just got through saying I agree with just about everything you said – at the beginning of #31. How in the world did you take my one concern about calling people hypocrites in such a way as to write #36? Honestly, I don’t understand.

  40. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    and I absolutely don’t understand the sarcasm of #38. I use “hypocrisy” regularly to describe people. I simply don’t agree with the way you used it as a blanket indictment of an entire group of people. I truly don’t understand the reaction.

  41. Joseph D. Walch on October 12, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Oh, I am just having a little fun.

    I am sure I have said the same thing to other people. It is a natural reaction to an uncomfortable idea. to say “lets be careful about this or that idea,” but it also has a somewhat chilling effect on dialogue. There were probably some people in Joseph Smith’s time who thought the same thing when he said that Sign-seekers are adulterers, and I am sure I would have been uncomfortable with that idea, and I would have been careful until I fully understood it. But used in admonition, many have used such language to thought-police.

    Other such phrases are “We need to elevate the dialogue,” or “raise the debate to a higher tone.” We have all heard these things said in political debates. To me all these things are thought policing. I am sure you will see these kinds of phrases used in next year’s presidential ads (to demean the opponents side). I don’t think you purposely tried to do that, but there it is.

  42. Jacob M on October 12, 2007 at 5:47 pm
  43. Bob on October 12, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    #33: What kind of ” spectrum”are we dealing with ? And are you saying people in the middle are more right or less extreme than the ones on the ends? When the Titantic hit the iceberg, some yelled: “We are going to sink!”, others said: “No we are not!”, and I guess some said:”Maybe”. Were they all right? Or, did they all have some type of ‘extreme attitude’? Which of the attitudes was dangerous?

  44. Jacob M on October 12, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    41 – http://scriptures.lds.org/en/matt/5/22#22 That seems like thought police, too. I guess some thought policing (in a personal, not political context) is exactly what the gospel requires. See also http://scriptures.lds.org/en/mosiah/4/30#30

    Anyway, in a political arena the thought police take it too far, so in that sense I agree with you.

  45. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    #41 – One thing you’ll find out about me is that I have no hidden agendas – and I will discuss absolutely anything. I never bait or try to trick someone into saying something.

    As to the use of words, I have no problem using any word in its proper context – even those that most people in our society find offensive – that they incorrectly classify as “swear words” or “curse words.” There are way too many words that are off limits in our society – way too much restriction of speech. I don’t use many of these words in a group / public setting simply because I am not sure of the sensibilities of those who are reading and commenting and listening and participating (because I am “careful” of what I say), but I use them regularly in private conversations, in their proper context, when I know the other person will understand and not be offended.

  46. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    #42 – AWESOME!

  47. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    #43 – none of them was extreme; none of them are dangerous (since it didn’t matter anyway); only one was right. *grin*

  48. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    My take: Thought policing should be an internal action. Period. Word policing should be limited rarely – and I mean rarely. Action policing should be done less than it currently is in America, but it should be done regularly. All should be done carefully and thoughtfully and seriously.

  49. Bob on October 12, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    #47: You must have missed the movie. Those who held the view the ship was going to sink, were looked at as extreme. Those who didn’t think it was going to sink, didn’t get into the lifeboats, (that was dangerous). I believe the ones in the middle played “Nearer My God To Thee” (?)
    (Will the fun never stop?)

  50. Jacob M on October 12, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    49 – Total threadjack, but I hated that movie.

  51. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 6:51 pm

    I saw it, Bob. I just thought it was a bad example. (Just kidding with the last sentence.) What someone is looked at as being and what they actually are – often totally different things, as this thread has proven. *grin*

    I said that none were dangerous because, for the vast majority, it didn’t make any difference regardless of who was right and who was wrong. That’s also why I added the “grin” at the end.

    I hope the fun never stops. The foundation of all of this is putting joy first, so that would defeat the whole thing. (one more grin)

  52. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    So did I, Jacob. The director also is a first-class hypocrite. Oops.

  53. Bob on October 12, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    I think we have reached agreement: We all hated the ‘Titanic’! My only point (failed), was sometimes the extreme position can be right. This WAS an unsinkable ship. ( I hope we haven’t spoiled the movie’s end for those who have not seen it.)

  54. Jacob M on October 12, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    Wait . . . the ship sunk????!!!!!! Wow! I must have fallen asleep by that point!

    Curtis/Ray – at least he’s in the highest class, unlike the rest of us second-(or third- or fourth -) class hypocrites. He does it with Style!

  55. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Jacob, check your keyboard. I think a couple of keys are sticking.

    (OK, I admit I borrowed that one, but I thought it was funny when I saw it.)

    Bob, I don’t think we have ruined anything for anyone – since we are the only ones reading this thread.

  56. Bob on October 12, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    #55: I hope we haven’t damaged our blogging careers by be on this blog with Jacob.

  57. Bob on October 12, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    #57: I don’t know what happened to all the Sisters? They either burned out on Sister Beck, are catching up on their ironing, or working on their Hacky sacks.

  58. Jacob M on October 12, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    Sorry Bob! You probably have!

  59. Curtis DeGraw on October 12, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    #56 – Just think of what we’ve done to Jacob’s reputation.

  60. Jacob M on October 13, 2007 at 12:22 am

    60 – Thanks! Not sure if I had much street rep before this thread anyway. . .

  61. Curtis DeGraw on October 13, 2007 at 12:33 am

    Less now, Jacob. The term is street cred.

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