Sunday, September 7, 2008

FAIR is Fair

Most of my closer friends know that I help edit/create some of the wiki articles for FAIR. Not too many people know what FAIR/FARMS is and some that do think it is bad. Below is a post by one of the other editors that spells it out nicely...

Once the Church Finds Out…

by Allen Wyatt on September 6th, 2008

I’ve been a volunteer member of FAIR for years. It has been interesting to watch the reaction of many people—especially the critics—to the work done by apologists in general and FAIR in particular. Some of the reaction is quite comical and, I believe, shows that some people “just don’t have a clue” (as one of my friends used to say).

One thing I’ve noticed is that many critics express amazement and astonishment at the things that FAIR is willing to discuss and consider. I often see reactions among those who have left the Church similar to the following:

The list could go on and on and on. (Actually, it has gone on and on and on for the years I’ve been an observer.) The Church is nowhere near as dogmatic as some critics believe it to be. Individual members, including leaders, are given quite a bit of latitude in their beliefs. Where there is not revelation, speculation is often rife.

One of my favorites is the inevitable conclusion among some critics that “once the Church finds out what FAIR is really doing, they will shut them down.” I guess ten years of existence, multiple mentions in the Church News, and links on the website doesn’t count for evidence as to whether the Church knows about FAIR. Of course, FAIR has always publicly stated that if the Church asks us to shut our doors, we will do it in an instant—we are supportive of the Church and don’t want to do anything of which the Church would disapprove.

Even prominent critics see “good” in the work we are doing, as they see FAIR helping people leave the Church. Consider this quote from Simon Southerton, made just within the past couple of days on a website popular among critics:

FAIR seems to help many who are struggling to make up their minds to leave. If I had my wish, FAIR and FARMS apologists would be given the opportunity to educate the masses in the church about how mistaken people have been about the Book of Mormon narrative.

Simon’s not alone; I’ve seen similar statements from critics over the years, with some saying that FAIR is doing more to help get people out of the Church than any other source. (Perhaps Simon and other critics would like to put their money where their mouth is and actually donate to FAIR. After all, that will help speed up the good they see in FAIR’s efforts.)

In my experience, people who say that FAIR (or FARMS) helped them out of the Church were one of two types of people: those who were already heading out and just perfunctorily checked FAIR on their way or those who are so black-and-white in their beliefs that they couldn’t handle the uncertainty and sometimes ambiguity of the non-doctrinal areas of the Church. (This conclusion is based on nothing more than observation; there are no formal studies in this area, although one would be interesting.)

The fact of the matter is, FAIR addresses difficult questions and criticisms. That we are able to do so drives some critics crazy. That we are able to do so and still maintain faith in a Church they officially left is simply beyond their comprehension.



AJ said...

Interesting read but I need a bit of clarification. In the bullet list there are claims with links and a sentence exclaiming something afterwards such as

"- Joseph Smith translated using a rock in a hat? I was never taught that!"

Is that latter exclamation the critic or the author speaking? It appears to be the critic but I just want to be sure.

Carson Calderwood said...

That can be a little confusing in the format he did. The first part of the bullet is what FAIR might say, the second part of the bullet is what someone could naively criticize.

the narrator said...

I didn't know you did wikifair articles. I have mixed feelings about FAIR and FARMS. I used to like them, but now I feel more and more that they have given up good scholarship for apologetics.

Carson Calderwood said...

I have definitely seen bad apologetics and tried to correct some with my edits. I like to help keep the pendulum from swinging too far either way on apologetics spectrum.

I've had a lifelong problem of frequent split personalities in many areas of my life. ie-I lay claim to both Sunstone and FAIR as part of my religious personality. Understanding that helps people make sense of me when otherwise those two things are mutually exclusive for many people.