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Speaking as an anabaptist, I think that the more "liberal" elements of our faith can be passed on. My daughters seem to accept the idea that it doesn't really matter if these stories are true or not. One has just turned 8 and she is more than happy putting e.g. Jonah in the same category as The Good Samaritan. They could both be referencing factual events, but that's not the point.

Alistair McGrath wrote, as an evangelical, that Liberalism is a vulture that feeds off of conservative Christianity because it cannot get its own converts. I guess you're making the same point.

However, I'm not sure if it has to be that way. I'm thinking of the likes of Brian McLaren who (though some evangelicals think he's a liberal or worse) seeks to move beyond that polarity. And he - and many who seek to learn from him - is intensely interested in mission and making disciples. His book 'Finding Faith' is a great example of how a non-conservative might follow in the footsteps of 'Mere Christianity' and suchlike.

Graham, I'm not sure you noticed, but I put up two posts discussing McGrath's book The Twilight of Atheism. The links are below the thumbnail of the book's cover, on my left sidebar under Religion Books. I thought it was a fine book.

Well, I was going to comment on merely throwing a tantrum and got to the end of the comments and found they were closed.

So, since I was going to comment on this topic, here I am.

Having recently visited Paris (for our 20th, with my wife) one thing that is striking is the transition from the liberal religionists of the 1960s to the post-Christian nature of France today.

It reminded me of a friend who noted that her son's Bar Mitzvah group was broken into two classes, the atheists and those who were not and another dear friend whose son's Bar Mitzvah group wasn't a group, if that makes sense (instead of a congregation of over a thousand having lots of young men in the age group, it did not seem to have enough to have a group preparing together).

I think there is a definite result to teaching that the core of one's religion is really just a useful fable.

Dave: This is an interesting post, but strictly speaking it is asking a different set of questions than the one that I put up at Times & Seasons. The reason for this, I think, is that you offer a much more expansive definition of "liberal" than I did. It seems to me that you are labelling anyone who makes any modifications to a kind of idealized conservative fundementalism as a liberal. The problem I see with this definition is that everyone to one extent or another becomes liberal. It seems to me that this conceptual move purchases legitimacy for the word liberal at the price of depriving it of much in the way of useful meaning.

I also think that the dicotomy that you set up between the creation of "religious clones" and those who respect the autonomy of their children is overdrawn. It seems to me that here you are simply trading on the rhetorical value of certain individualist shibboleths in a way that obscures the interaction between parenting, choice, and community.

Nate, I thought I tracked the issues you raised in the second paragraph of your T&S post fairly closely, but you did frame the general issue more broadly. I don't really see the "liberal Mormon" label as applying very broadly. If one in twenty LDS fall in the category, I'd be surprised. Like I said in my post, I don't think anyone ever plans to be a liberal Mormon, it just happens to some people. Not that there's anything wrong with that ...

As for how parents want their kids to turn out religiously, I think that is just a specific case of one's more general approach to parenting and there's a whole spectrum there. And kids, of course, often have a mind of their own, regardless of the style or desires of their parents. While "religious clone" has sort of a negative ring to it, I think almost all LDS parents, of whatever perspective, want their kids to remain in the Church, so don't read anything sinister into my reference. It was just a catchy term that popped into my head.

"I think it is simply accommodating the conservative Mormon beliefs one acquires as an LDS youth or as an adult convert to the facts of history, science, and human nature."

While you backpedal on this a bit later in the post, it tends to portray a very common attitude of "liberal" mormons towards those who are more conservative, and I think it's part of a wider trend in rhetoric built around the words liberal and conservative by those who consider themselves liberal. The idea is that anyone in a conservative position is simply not thinking about the real issues. They are willfully blind. I consider myself pretty conservative, at least for the bloggernacle, though of course my students would probably call me liberal because I don't dismiss such words as feminism and colonialism out of hand. Whatever the case, I do believe in a thoughtful conservatism, though perhaps that isn't the point. In fact, the point is that only critical thought, prayer, faith, and reliance on the spirit can bring us to truth, and it is this that I would like to teach to my children. The difficulty with children is that it takes them quite some time to develop the sorts of critical thinking skills, habits of study and prayer, and spiritual maturity to really think through the issues. In the mean time, we teach them, giving them what leeway we can and trying to keep them from making any decisions that could have a serious negative impact on their futures. Making some of the decisions for them about issues that they can't yet understand, simply beacuse they have not developed the ability to do so, is not teaching them liberalism or conservatism. It is simply giving them the necessary protection they need to safely develop the ability to make those decisions when the time comes. This, in itself, seems to me to be a fact of human nature . . . children need guidance until they can learn to do things on their own in their own way. Cognitive and spiritual development is part of what we must accommodate ourselves to.

I really do think that it makes a world of difference to grow up actively involved in the LDS church, but in a home with Signature books and issues of Sunstone and Dialogue on the bookshelves and coffee tables. People who are raised in this environment may well choose to become different kinds of adults--but they can be expected to have a substantial predisposition toward arriving at a liberal LDS belief system.

Dave, under your description, aren't all those at FARMS or FAIR liberal Mormons? I tend to think they'd balk at that. (As would I at the label.)

Steve and Clark, I tried to avoid painting liberal Mormonism as the one true accommodation and other approaches to accommodation (like FARMS and FAIR) or non-accommodators as flawed or just ignorant. I thought I was being pretty generous in depicting liberal Mormons as (1) being a distinct minority; and (2) occupying a middle ground, never a strong logical position. Compromises achieve practical ends, not strong and defensible positions.

For what it's worth, I don't know a single "liberal Mormon" in my ward or stake. They may be there, but they don't advertise. And I use the term loosely: there is no formal definition, but most people have a pretty good idea what you're talking about when you use it.

I agree that you point out that "liberal" mormons are not the majority, and as I said, you back off of the statement I quote. What I'm pointing out is something I see as an unacknowledged tenet of "liberalism" in all its forms when it identifies itself as such, the idea that the only way for people to be of a "conservative" viewpoint (read mainstream view I object to) is to be willfully ignorant. So as not to entirely threadjack a post that is really about passing on liberal views, I will post at Splendid Sun.

I must've missed those articles, Dave! Thanks.


Can a person believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon as it claims to be (angels, plates, etc.) and still "take history and science seriously" as you talk about in your post?

Danithew, of course they can. And it's not like science or history are monolithic -- there are differences of opinion on every important question in every discipline. Just like there are differences of opinion on religious doctrinal and historical questions.

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