A New Religion Website, Patheos.com

A guest post from Ben Spackman:

Hi. I’m Ben Spackman, the new Mormonism Gateway Manager at Patheos. It’s something I’m excited for, and not just because it means employment for someone with arcane degrees. If my name sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve been around the Bloggernaccle since the early days of T&S, and have blogged here and there since then.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about the Gateway (Gw) in the last week, so let me address them here. All Gws at Patheos are  written primarily for and by adherents of that gw’s tradition, but in such a way that it’s accessible to outsiders. The intended result will be a mixture of  Mormonism for Dummies, Gospel Doctrine class (as taught by Jim F or Julie-in-Austin), and By Common Consent.  I think such a mix is possible, and I’m a good person to make it happen. I have pretty orthodox bona fides (lifetime Mormon, BYU grad, European mission, temple-recommend holder, taught Religion and Hebrew at BYU for a few summers, Nibley Fellow, some involvement with FAIR, long-time volunteer Institute teacher, etc.)

But I also have another foot in more academic, less correlated places which enables me to understand various perspectives and draw on people from different LDS backgrounds. I did a MA and PhD work at the University of Chicago in Semitics, reading Islamic and Judaic texts in Arabic and Hebrew. For what it’s worth, I’ve spent my whole life (barring undergrad) in places where LDS are a definite minority, including Chicago and Brooklyn. For my senior Spring Break in high school, I went to Cancun with a small group of close friends- two LDS, one Jew, two Catholics, and two Evangelicals.  I count  Kristine Haglund, the new Dialogue editor, Jon Stapley, Ronan Head, Mike Reed, and Kevin Barney among my friends. I frequently consult my New Mormon Studies cd-rom. I know Mormonism’s history is messy, that doctrine is not always black-and-white, and that many questions remain unanswered, but I also believe that none of those things represent an insuperable barrier to being an active and faithful Latter-day Saint. So, while the Mormonism Gw isn’t correlated (one extreme), neither will it be a wilderness of fringey, cynical, or purely academic content (the other extreme). We hope to accurately represent the Mormon experience, which really means, Mormon experiences.

On a related note, one person has asked me already why Sunstone has an ad on the site. Well, Patheos requires funding, and that means advertising. I expect to see Dialogue there soon as well. This is not because Patheos seeks to echo the Sunstone/Dialogue perspective (as if it were monolithic) but because they are more active in advertising. I’d love to see ads as well from other groups within the broad umbrella of Mormon institutions.

The Mormonism Gateway will be written by Mormons, and we solicit contributions. If you have a piece you’d like to see get out in broader circulation, or something that is particularly representative of Mormon thought, by all means, send it along with a note. In the meantime, we’ll continue working on the back end to make Patheos one of the best sites out there for study of Mormonism or by Mormons. We have a lot of good resources in the pipeline, including a good verse-by-verse index to the LDS scriptures, an interactive historical timeline, interviews with LDS from around the world, teaching aids, scripture round-tables with LDS grad students, and more. Of course, we’re open to ideas as well. Feel free to post comments here or email me with feedback and things you’d like to see.  bspackman at patheos dot com

13 comments for “A New Religion Website, Patheos.com

  1. June 5, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Are you interested in both reflective personal essays and academic (broadly defined) articles?

    Ben, this is exciting. Thanks.

  2. Steve Evans
    June 5, 2009 at 10:46 am

    I like to think of BCC as for dummies in any event.

  3. June 5, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Chris: Yes, we are. It will take us a while to find our voice, I think.

    Steve: “BCC for dummies” is obviously tautological ;)

  4. June 5, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Deseret Book will surely jump at the opportunity to advertise next to Sunstone.

  5. June 5, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Nice work Ben. I hope things go forward very well. I like to think of myself as a hyper-conservative member, though; so I am not sure if I add to your street cred at all (grin).

  6. June 5, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Scott, I really hope DB and others do advertise next to Sunstone.

    I think certain kinds or “brands” of LDS do themselves (and the Gospel) a disservice by limiting their exposure. In doing so, they essentially leave all shaping of the story and perception of Mormonism to others who don’t share their perspective, instead of participating in it.

  7. June 5, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Interesting to compare Patheos.com to mormonmatters.org.

    Wish you the best.

  8. June 5, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    How so Stephen? That’s an awfully elliptical comment.

  9. Adam Greenwood
    June 5, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    I always thought an elliptical comment was one that flew around its point while never getting to it, like an elliptical orbit. Now I wonder if its really a comment that trails off into a metaphorical ellipses without ever getting to its point.

  10. Justmeherenow
    June 6, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    My interpretation of what Stephen M said (my noting that some obervations are concrete points of commentary, even polemics, while others merely draw interesting parallels whose interpretations are quite open to paradox/ambiguity(?)) is that he is trying to draw some kind of parallel between what Patheos’s Mormonism gateway is trying to accomplish and broad accomodation Mormon Matters blog tries to offer a broad spectrum of active LDS who are anywhere between the extremes of complete “correlation” eg the folks of Nothing Wavering and the underground scepticism of eg the New Order Mormon blog(?)

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    June 13, 2009 at 6:58 pm

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  12. June 13, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Hmmm. Maybe I could hire him to take out Juvenile Instructor. Waddya think?

  13. June 18, 2009 at 6:42 am

    Very interesting… thanks.

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