I’ve noticed several very strange things about the unfolding of this phase of the Dehlin Affair. First, no one I’ve seen has actually criticized the substantive content of Greg Smith’s articles. No one that I have heard of has claimed that Greg got it wrong. The only claim is that he is incomplete. Second, some of those who criticize Smith’s article do so with a litany of ad hominem insults. Greg (and even more so, his editors) are bad people who have done a bad thing. For some of Dehlin’s supporters, this is a personal vendetta, not a rational discussion of ideas and their implications.
Everyone needs to realize that the article is not about Dehlin as a person. It is not personal. The article is a review of Dehlin’s ideas and practices as reflected in Mormon Stories. That’s it. There is absolutely no reason to personalize this, and neither Greg nor his supporters have tried in the slightest to personalize it. We want the discussion to be about ideas. Dehlin and his supporters have consistently cast this as a war between Good Dehlinites, and Bad Danites. (In fact, one Dehlin supporter sent me an email saying he was going to war against me. Really?) It is Dehlin and his supporters who have consistently ignored ideas and attacked personalities.
Imagine if professor X wrote a book about the Roman army. I write a review of his book saying he misunderstood the nature of the Roman army, and give a list of a dozen serious errors in his book. Then imagine that professor X’s friend began to object that X is a really nice man, who volunteers at a homeless shelter each weekend, and is a loving husband and father. The friend then says I am a vile and nasty man for criticizing X, while not mentioning X’s good qualities in my review of his book on the Roman army. My reply would simply be that X’s marvelous character has precisely nothing to do with whether or not he is right about the Roman army. This is, in fact, the reverse ad hominem–to argue that because professor X has many noble and endearing qualities, we should not criticize his book on the Roman army. And it’s hogwash.
Some people have criticized the article saying that it does not present a full picture of Dehlin. That’s very true. But the article never claimed to. And there is not reason to think it should have. Dehlin may be a marvelous and loving father. But this has nothing to do with the review. I’m sure Dehlin sincerely believes he is trying to help people. But this has nothing to do with the review. Dehlin may be a veritable saint among men, but it would still have nothing to do with the review.
Greg did not set out to write a complete biography or intellectual history of Dehlin. If he had Greg would certainly have included things about Dehlin’s wonderful qualities. But, the article is not about Dehlin as a person. It is a critique of Dehlin’s ideas and practices on Mormon Stories. The abysmal failure of many of Dehlin’s supporters to separate ideas from personalities means that their only response is about the wickedness of Greg and his supporters.