My Online Conversation with Jeremy Runnells

I have never met Jeremy Runnells, although we have far more mutual friends than I realized when I first started writing my reply to his letter. Let me also say again that I have no interest in attacking Mr. Runnells personally, and that I wish him well in wherever his faith journey takes him.

As I continue to inflict my CES Letter Reply on an unsuspecting world, I’m repeatedly asked about whether or not Jeremy Runnells, author of the CES Letter, has read my response and expressed any opinion about what I’ve had to say.

The answer is that I’m not entirely sure. I know he’s aware of this blog, as he made several comments on this post prior to my writing a response to his letter. Those comments may have escaped the notice of those reading my reply, so I thought I’d take a moment to bring them to your attention.

The piece that drew Mr. Runnells to was titled “True and Living,” and it outlined why I will continue to sustain fallible leaders in a church filled with imperfect people who, even though they occasionally fall short, are doing the best they can to emulate the Savior.

Calling himself simply “J,” but using his CESLetter email address to identify himself, Jeremy wrote, “Very eloquently rationalized. But could you sustain a bishop that wouldn’t be as… Open minded as you?”

I replied, “Very snarkily condemned. (And I can see your email address, you know.) As for sustaining bishops, I could, I have, and I will.”

Here is the rest of the exchange, with Jeremy’s words in green:

Jeremy: It’s really, really hard not to be snarky with people who rationalize the death and suffering of innocents. (Sustaining evil is evil.)

Me: Indeed it is! And sustaining good is good. And since there hasn’t been an organization or a person alive, other than Christ Himself, who was purely one or the other, life doesn’t offer us those kinds of binary decisions. (Although I do think sustaining an organization like yours, whose sole purpose is to destroy the faith of others, is generally a bad idea.)

I think abandoning the Church would result in greater suicides and suffering than staying and trying to improve it. Call that a rationalization if you must, yet I certainly don’t think your approach of looking for every opportunity to tear down genuine faith is a better one.

Jeremy: I just hope you can see why so many people are choosing to leave Mormonism, because they see the injustice and unrighteousness and then choose not to follow it. I hope you make the consciousness choice not to shun them and revile them, the way so many Mormons do.

Me: Shunning/reviling is your current M.O., Mr. Runnells, not mine. I’m both surprised and saddened that you haven’t yet realized that bitterness is a pretty miserable foundation on which to build a life.

For my part, I wrote a post about this a little while back, in which I conclude by saying ‘My point is that I will never shun someone who leaves the Church. I will not cease to care for them. I will not cease to pray for them. This includes both friends and family. If my children grow up and decide to be Jehovah’s Witnesses/atheists/carnival folk, I will adore them and do everything in my power to let them know that their father’s love is unconditional, just as I believe our Heavenly Father’s love for all of us is.”

That still strikes me as a good idea.

Jeremy: Desire for Truth=Bitterness. Got it! I just wish all Mormons were as accepting and non- judgemental as you. (Seriously there is no snark in that second sentence.) Agree to disagree on the rest! I’ll be watching.

Me: You’re really quite big on the binary, Jeremy. You claim your motive for devoting your entire life to tearing down the Church is purely a “desire for truth,” while you attack my motive for sustaining the Church as an attempt to “rationalize the suffering and death of innocents” and a penchant for “sustaining evil.” In the real world, imperfect people struggle with good and evil and are a mixture of both, but people are either all good or all bad in Runnell World. In your scenario, then, an imperfect church that isn’t all good must therefore be all bad. No wonder you lost your faith.

And, yes, there’s tremendous bitterness in such binary thinking, sir. That bitterness is plain to see from the tone of your short comments here, but it drips from every word of your CES letter – not just bitterness, but fury, hatred, and contempt. Your magnum opus is not the product of a dispassionate scholar seeking the truth; it is a strident propaganda piece that picks and chooses what the truth is based solely on what you hate. It gives every church critic the benefit of the doubt and assumes the most diabolical motives possible for every Mormon mistake.

So, yes, I’ll be watching, too.


That exchange was the catalyst that prompted my reply.

To my knowledge, Jeremy has not returned to this blog. If he has, he hasn’t left a comment. I received a second-hand account that Jeremy, on another blog, said, “Jim Bennett didn’t answer the questions. Instead, he danced around and made jokes and borderline ad hominem attacks.”

I haven’t been able to find this statement myself to verify it. If anyone has a link to it, or to any other reference to my reply that Jeremy has made, I’d be grateful if you’d be willing to share it.

I do know that many have tried to bring my reply to his attention. At least two people, to my knowledge, have tried to post a link to the reply on Jeremy’s FB page in threads where Jeremy insists that nobody has answered his questions. Their comments were quickly deleted, and the people were banned from being able to even view Jeremy’s page.

It may well be, then, that our brief exchange in my comments section may be the entirety of our direct interaction. I hope that doesn’t remain the case.


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