01 February 2012

Thoughts on Blog Comments, Pt. 2

for Emily

Today I’d like to focus on the “All Critique is Bad” commenters. Like the Grammar Correctors, the ACBers live among us. In fact they are the very people my friend Emily was concerned about when she challenged my last post.

This seems to be a plague especially among Christian blogs. Go to any blog right now that mildly to harshly questions or criticizes: The Shack; Rob Bell; Modern Art; Jefferson Bethke; Contemporary Christian music; or Mark Driscoll. Regardless of how well-written/caring/pastoral/scripturally supported the critique is, there will inevitably be one commenter claiming that All Critique is Bad.

The ACBers can be split up into several different camps:

  1. The misapplication of Matthew 18 people. Example: “If you have a problem with The Shack’s depiction of God’s love as a mere fallible human interaction, why don’t you actually GO to William Young. That’s what the BIBLE says to do. It’s right in Matthew 18.”
  2. The “My Goodness! You’ve spent a lot of time on this” people. I don’t feel like this one needs an example. But they all have fabulous other suggestions of how the bloggers could have spent their time (i.e. “you could have been evangelizing to youth in your neighborhood” “you could have been baking goodies for the homeless” and “you could have been spending time with your family”).
  3. The “Wouldn’t It be Better to Pray” people. Example: “What? You think Jefferson Bethke is calling for a general abandoning of the church? Don’t you think it’s a better idea that you pray for him, instead of lambasting him here.”
  4. The “It sounds like you need to get out of your theological box” people. Example: “You believe Jesus was serious when he talked about everlasting punishment. That’s not what Rob Bell said. You should stop seeing the world through your filter.”
  5. The “Judge not lest you be judged” people. Example: “I’m not going to judge you or anything, but religious people like you are so horrid and judgmental.”
  6. The “You are mean” people. Example: “How could you say all this publicly? You must be a mean person. I will pray for you.”

The good news is they are all wrong. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” It’s pretty clear all over the bible that we are called to hold each other accountable, and that God instituted the Church as the guardian of orthodoxy and truth.

The bad news is that they will never ever ever go away. Basically the only way to deal with the ACBer is to find some form of amusement in their comments.

They are correct in being concerned with how we handle critique, whether in giving or in receiving. I am particularly bad at receiving. Part of the human condition, I suppose. I’m pretty good at giving. Also, part of the human condition. What we all should be concerned about is whether or not we are critiquing someone because we care about them and about others they may be influencing. We shouldn’t be concerned with the actual act of criticizing. After all, as seen in the Proverbs passage, it’s something we should actually be engaging in. The motives and not the act should be of utmost concern. With that in mind:

  • The Matthew 18 passage refers to brother to brother (sister to sister; sister to brother; brother to sister) sin. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:15 ESV)This is a private sin. When William Young presented the literate world with a faulty, small, mawkish view of God’s love, he wasn’t merely offending the one pastor that critiqued him. He was offending God. Part of the job of a pastor is to uncover false teachers.
  • I laugh every time I see this one. I laugh to cover up the cartoonish sad trumpet sound that I imagine every time I see this "waah waah waah waaaaah." I guess we are supposed to assume that this particular brand of ACBer is evangelizing, ministering, and/or spending time with their family every waking moment of the day. This is both ludicrous and condescending. Stop using this!
  • Assumption is never a good idea. This brand of ACBer not only would like you to know how pious he is, but assumes he is the only one being pious. Instead of writing a blog attacking someone, he’d rather pray for them.
  • This is a weird one. Let’s for an instant assume that there are a bunch of actual physical boxes and 99 of them contain poison and one contains fresh air…also the world is about to blow up a thousand nuclear plants and we will all die if we don’t choose the right one. Now, assume for a minute that there are a couple people already in the fresh air box and they are telling you to join them, and they give you some arguments as to why you should believe their box is the one to pick. What if you replied, “Well, I’m not going to believe you because it sounds like you are stuck inside your particular box and refuse to leave it.” That would be pretty silly wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t you rather examine their argument to see if there was any truth in it? It’s the same for this ACBer complaint, although usually not quite so extreme. Who cares if someone is firmly in one theological box? Examine the box, not the person.
  • Another misapplication. It’d like to counter it with John 7:24 where Jesus says, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” Yes, Jesus told us to judge. He didn’t say to judge unfairly, and he didn’t say to condemn. He said judge with right judgment. That really ought to be the end of the story.
  • 6. I don’t feel like dignifying this with a response.

Yes, that was long. I would apologize, but the only other option is to actually comment back to people like this and I find doing so incredibly useless. Especially as the comments are on other people’s blogs and I don’t feel like I have any jurisdiction. This was one of those itches that desperately needed to be scratched. Thank you for indulging me. Beware the ACBer!

Just so I don't get any heat for this for the record: I have much respect for Mark Driscoll. I'm not grouping him with the other people, it's just an example of someone people can't allow any questioning of. Also, after hearing some more regarding the views of Jefferson Bethke, I have realized that he is not calling for an evacuation of the church. I just find it odd that there are evangelicals that other evangelicals think cannot ever be questioned. The Shack and Rob Bell I feel no shame over. In fact I don't even feel bad for not feeling bad over not feeling shame.


CrossEm said...

I feel special...you dedicated your post to me. :smile:
I had to go back and reread our comments from your first Blog Comment post.
So, critisizing the critisizer is just as bad as saying nothing if you have nothing good to say.
I'm not very experienced in the world of blog comments, and have yet to be involved in malicious commenting. But I can understand what you're talking about and feel I can agree with what you've said. Be polite and express your thoughtful opinion; that should apply to more than just blog comments.

BerlinerinPoet said...

Well, I should refine that even further. If you are criticizing the criticizer in a thoughtful manner it's also fine. It's just criticizing critique because you think it's all bad in all cases that is the problem.

For example, if I posted the following: "Rob Bell is a stupid stupid-head." You wouldn't be entirely out of line to say, "what are your proofs for this?"

And yes, it does apply to WAY more than just blog comments. I just have to blow off some steam. It's mostly a reaction to the comments on the Gospel Coalition. You read a post and it completely makes your day or you gain a new insight on a text or you are encouraged....and then you read the comments. And suddenly you are angry. One could just not read the comments, but I always try and thank someone for a thoughtful post. I've recently begun scrolling quickly to the end and leaving a nice comment and unchecking myself so I don't get any further updates. This has been very helpful.