Monday, November 2, 2015

10 Lessons About History I Learned From Comments on Posts About the CES Letter.

Recently, a few bloggers who are smarter than I am have undertaken to write about the Letter to a CES Director, a document that collects and sums up dozens of thorny historical and theological questions facing Mormonism today.

I don't really care to weigh in on the CES letter in much detail, except to say that the problems it outlines are perfectly valid for discussion, and are, well, exactly as important as your perspective on Mormonism demands them to be.

Who am I to argue with Tim and Bradley?

Instead, I'm more interested in the comments posts like those tend to attract, particularly from the disaffected/ex-mormon side. While I don't think those comments are necessarily representative of exmormonism as a whole, I think I've spent enough time writing about my issues with certain faithful Mormons to shift gears and talk about...

10 Lessons About How History Works

What I learned from comments on posts written about the CES Letter.

With Parks and Rec gifs, because why not.

1. History cannot be problematized or complicated. Attempting to reframe historical questions is a dishonest apologetic exercise and is inherently illegitimate.

 2. History is a science, driven by truth and evidence. It should also be used to make unequivocal normative judgements.

3. Vis-à-vis sacred history, all religious narratives must be interpreted strictly on empirical, which is to say, historical, grounds. Any other method is illegitimate.

 4. The motives and attitudes of historical actors can and ought to be easily discerned by modern readers.

 5. Reddit is a primary source.

 6. It is a grave historical fallacy to interpret a historical actor in terms other than those they presented for themselves. Thus, if an actor posits something as true, historical analysis must proceed solely in terms of affirming or disproving that claim.

 7. Historical debates are won by appealing to the evidence. Not specific anecdotes, stories or data points, of course, but The Evidence, a univocal corpus of knowledge that points to an unambiguous, self-interpreting conclusion.

 8. Questioning, ignoring, or dismissing The Evidence is an apologist exercise, and also unscientific.

 9. Commenting on religious and historical controversies in a manner not intended to affirm or discredit prescribed narratives (see #2) is illegitimate apologetics.

 10. Joking about any of this is illegitimate too.