But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
–3 Nephi 12:22
And the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
–1 Corinthians 3:13
I’ve been ambivalent about blogging for a long time, and I have to admit that on the balance, I have found it spiritually destructive. Not because I found any dirty little Mormon secrets that shattered my faith; for whatever reason–perhaps sheer intellectual laziness–Joseph Smith’s amorous adventures and nineteenth-century English in the Book of Mormon and the Mountain Meadows Massacre and institutionalized racism, while they do disturb me, don’t fatally damage my commitment or conversion. I suppose I figure that prophets are human, that God has to work with what he has–us–and that moral complexity is an inevitable part of life, even life in the true and living church. Blogging has breached years of loneliness and helped me come to terms with questions that at times I’ve barely had the courage to admit to myself. I blog, in some measure, to know I’m not alone–intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually. Online conversations have sharpened and complicated my thinking, advanced my understanding, and broadened my perspective.
But while I don’t think belief and intellectual conviction are spiritually trivial (a complex subject that merits its own discussion), I also doubt that, beyond a certain point, God much cares whether I’m radical or reactionary, whether I think the lost ten tribes will emerge from a singularity in the earth’s core or whether I’m a Marxist Mormon plotting the overthrow of the military-industrial complex in the name of the United Order revolution in permanence. The hardest and truest trial of Christian devotion that no purity of ideological commitment can evade is how I live, what of my heart I offer the people I know (and, for that matter, to what extent I bother to know the people I know)–with what interest or indifference, what generosity or self-absorption, what mercy or contempt I treat my fellow human beings.
On the whole, I’m not doing so hot. (This is not news, of course. I’ve never done all that well at Christianity. But I have to ask myself if blogging is making that vital work of receiving the love of Christ by the grace of God, of becoming purified even as he is pure–the only thing of life that endures when everything else falls away–harder.)
I’ve come to feel a great deal of affection and respect for many of the people I regularly encounter online. But I also go online in black moods to troll for my own demons, seeking contrary views precisely for the perverse pleasure of noting that they–and, by implication, the people defending them–are (astonishingly!) muddleheaded and morally offensive to exactly the degree I knew they would be. It’s like the sick fascination of picking at a wound and watching the blood slowly flower.
We all have our wounds, of course, and the deepest sink through layer after layer of us, forging dark jagged channels among the intellectual, moral, and spiritual realms of our being. We’re probably all drawn irresistibly to those wounds we cannot seem to heal. But something’s wrong when I find myself going online in order to give my wounds the names of other human beings. I’ve always been quick to anger, and then bitterly regretful when I have to confront the damage I’ve done in the form of someone else’s crumpled face.
I know what I have to do. Somehow in those moments I have to learn to take back my wounds and reclaim my demons, and develop the moral imagination to see the faces of my enemies–unguarded, open faces that somehow still me to the core, at a stroke dissolving all my petty, irrelelvant rage.
I have a long way to go.