What? Me, Critical?

In response to yesterday’s piece, Sunday School: What a Drag. Literally!, I got a note from a reader that had the reprehensible quality of compelling me to cogitate. I am anti-cogitation! Cogitation is an abomination of an irritation that brings procrastination if not consternation to the creation and assimilation of my situation.

The thrust of Mr. Communication’s question to me was, “Why are you so negative? First you wrote about how badly Christians treated your wife, then about how your church insisted that you sign an anti-gay statement, and then the thing about the Sunday school teacher. For someone who’s a Christian, you sure do spend a lot of time criticizing Christians.”

So that made me think. Though it’s true that blogging some 25,000 words a month means almost necessarily writing about everything (and if you’re a regular reader of mine, you know I do), a preponderance of the evidence suggests that at least lately I have been about the business of, shall we say, gently rebuking my fellow Christians. So I thought I might think about that fact.

And you know what I concluded? Good for me! (Um … if I do say so myself.) I should be criticizing Christians. I should be doing more of it. If Christians don’t criticize the way Christianity is practiced and presented to the world, then who will? To whom else would we listen? To whom else do we ever listen? (Oh, sure, my book I’m OK–You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop launched a whole rash of books about how Christians look to non-Christians—but to whom else were we listening before that, I mean?)

And just for the record, or whatever, I don’t actually “criticize” anyone. All I do is relay stuff that Actually Happened. I was dragged out of that Sunday school class. I was rejected by my church for declining to sign that No Gays Here document. People at that same church did treat my wife poorly. The evangelist in the orange cap did violate the Great Commandment by screaming at my wife and me. Those aren’t guesses, exaggerations, or fabrications. They’re truths.

I take Jesus’ revelation that the truth will set us free as seriously as I take anything in my life. I think we all do. I think we all understand that lies and pretense are the lifeblood of hypocrisy and corruption. It follows that I’m naturally and viscerally repelled by any form of lie, hatred, or ignorance perpetrated in the name of the Prince of Peace. It makes me isane. It makes me … well, write.

I love and absolutely believe the story of Christ as we have it in the Bible. If I didn’t feel as strongly as I do about Christianity, I couldn’t have poured into the book Being Christian so much of … well, everything I have. I couldn’t have written my apologetic, Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang: Why I Do The Things I Do, by God. I’m OK would have remained a formless idea. It’s true enough that I’m often not thrilled with Christians who dishonor their professed religion by acting boorish, arrogant, and hypocritical. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with them, as, together, we all learn to better and more faithfully follow Christ. (And it definitely doesn’t mean that I’m unaware of when I, too, have acted like a boorish, arrogant hypocrite. Which I pretty much only don’t do when I’m asleep.)

I see every Christian as my brother, my sister, my mother, my father.

I know we’re all in this together—whether, at any given time, we like it or not.

 

 

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://www.todayscoolnews.com Brian Shields

    Whew, at least it wasn't my comment that made you cogitate. I couldn't have that on my agnostic conscience.

  • http://www.todayscoolnews.com Brian Shields

    Whew, at least it wasn't my comment that made you cogitate. I couldn't have that on my agnostic conscience.

  • http://levite.wordpress.com/ Jon Swanson

    you are right. We might as well identify our own logs. There are these things called transparency and authenticity and a mirror, and it is helpful to look into them occasionally. My life as a pastor would be much simpler if i could spend less time apologizing and more time explaining. Of course, to be fair, I am not always apologizing for other Christians. I am frequently apologizing for my self(ishness).

  • http://levite.wordpress.com/ Jon Swanson

    you are right. We might as well identify our own logs. There are these things called transparency and authenticity and a mirror, and it is helpful to look into them occasionally. My life as a pastor would be much simpler if i could spend less time apologizing and more time explaining. Of course, to be fair, I am not always apologizing for other Christians. I am frequently apologizing for my self(ishness).

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Brian: You're such a liar. You know that you being an agnostic means you have no conscience. Quit trying to fake it like you have one.

    Jon: You're right. Surely THE hinderance (sp?) in anyone's journey toward God is this ENDLESS capacity people have for so ferociously needing to be, at every possible moment, entirely right and perfect and wonderful and kind and wise and … God-like. I PRAY for the day when we all just go, "F*** it. We're losers." THEN God has a chance with us.

    Ric: Thanks, but at this junction I think it's unwise to have no compunction about my rhyming dysfunction. I BLAME YOU FOR THIS!!!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Brian: You're such a liar. You know that you being an agnostic means you have no conscience. Quit trying to fake it like you have one.

    Jon: You're right. Surely THE hinderance (sp?) in anyone's journey toward God is this ENDLESS capacity people have for so ferociously needing to be, at every possible moment, entirely right and perfect and wonderful and kind and wise and … God-like. I PRAY for the day when we all just go, "F*** it. We're losers." THEN God has a chance with us.

    Ric: Thanks, but at this junction I think it's unwise to have no compunction about my rhyming dysfunction. I BLAME YOU FOR THIS!!!

  • http://www.todayscoolnews.com Brian Shields

    Yeah but the sweet part is since I don't have a conscience, you can't make me feel guilty for being a liar.

    ;)

  • http://www.todayscoolnews.com Brian Shields

    Yeah but the sweet part is since I don't have a conscience, you can't make me feel guilty for being a liar.

    ;)

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Brian: Well, you may not have a CONSCIENCE—but you (and ESPECIALLY you, you you-centered heathen) have an ego. And that means you want to be admired, respected and loved. But people WON'T feel that way about you if they think you're a liar.

    Now they do. Now you owe me money. We'll talk terms—but, I promise, I'll charge you something minimum-to-fair to … ahem… ressurect (sp?) your name.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Brian: Well, you may not have a CONSCIENCE—but you (and ESPECIALLY you, you you-centered heathen) have an ego. And that means you want to be admired, respected and loved. But people WON'T feel that way about you if they think you're a liar.

    Now they do. Now you owe me money. We'll talk terms—but, I promise, I'll charge you something minimum-to-fair to … ahem… ressurect (sp?) your name.

  • Latoya

    It will take time for all these people to change. The cultures of thought are ingrained, it takes work to get them out

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    Very well said. BTW,

    Cogitation is an abomination of an irritation that brings procrastination if not consternation to the creation and assimilation of my situation.

    At your heart, you are a poet. Apparently a negative poet at that! Good for you! Is there a fan club or site where I could sign up?

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    Very well said. BTW,

    Cogitation is an abomination of an irritation that brings procrastination if not consternation to the creation and assimilation of my situation.

    At your heart, you are a poet. Apparently a negative poet at that! Good for you! Is there a fan club or site where I could sign up?

  • FreetoBe

    Why, thank you, John, mah brothah! Glad to be part of the fam and all 8)

  • FreetoBe

    Why, thank you, John, mah brothah! Glad to be part of the fam and all 8)

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Free: Thank you.

  • http://kansasbob.com Kansas Bob

    I love your response John.. sickly it reminded me of this..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j2F4VcBmeo

    ..not that you are a Colonel or anything :)

  • http://kansasbob.com Kansas Bob

    I love your response John.. sickly it reminded me of this..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j2F4VcBmeo

    ..not that you are a Colonel or anything :)

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    That’s such a great speech Nickleson (sp?) makes. He’s got that crazily intense voice. That’s a great scene; thanks for sending it.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    That’s such a great speech Nickleson (sp?) makes. He’s got that crazily intense voice. That’s a great scene; thanks for sending it.

  • Mark

    I appreciate what you've said. I agree; we Christians need to ask tough questions of ourselves and how we are perceived by the rest of the world who don't know Jesus. But from the comments on these similar posts, it seems that you're more often preaching to the choir, not the ones who would have committed these offenses.

    And I wonder, is it possible some people are not courageous enough to read or certainly post here — simply because their life experiences are so different from yours? If they have not been treated as badly as you have been by the church, then they assume they would not be as warmly welcomed into the discussion? You routinely give kudos to those who agree with you (that's normal, I know), but are sometimes less approachable to those who don't.

    To be fair, this post shows you pay attention and do wrestle with issues that are raised, but yet again, you have re-established your safe place to be proud of your criticisms of Christians. The whole Christian world gets tarred with your brush; we're all guilty by association. And to be honest, for a time you (as an adult) chose to stay at a church that treated you in a very un-Christlike fashion, and you gained even more "evil Christian" stories to recount for your readers. That's kind of a vicious cycle.

    It's a tough balance to find; I know that. Your stories are your stories, and this is your blog; we are simply visitors. And I've probably been unfair and overly harsh in this comment, so grace is needed on my end as well. Thanks for always making me think.

  • Mark

    I appreciate what you've said. I agree; we Christians need to ask tough questions of ourselves and how we are perceived by the rest of the world who don't know Jesus. But from the comments on these similar posts, it seems that you're more often preaching to the choir, not the ones who would have committed these offenses.

    And I wonder, is it possible some people are not courageous enough to read or certainly post here — simply because their life experiences are so different from yours? If they have not been treated as badly as you have been by the church, then they assume they would not be as warmly welcomed into the discussion? You routinely give kudos to those who agree with you (that's normal, I know), but are sometimes less approachable to those who don't.

    To be fair, this post shows you pay attention and do wrestle with issues that are raised, but yet again, you have re-established your safe place to be proud of your criticisms of Christians. The whole Christian world gets tarred with your brush; we're all guilty by association. And to be honest, for a time you (as an adult) chose to stay at a church that treated you in a very un-Christlike fashion, and you gained even more "evil Christian" stories to recount for your readers. That's kind of a vicious cycle.

    It's a tough balance to find; I know that. Your stories are your stories, and this is your blog; we are simply visitors. And I've probably been unfair and overly harsh in this comment, so grace is needed on my end as well. Thanks for always making me think.

  • http://mormonsoprano.com Mormon Soprano

    John – Your perspective and humor is why I enjoy reading your blog. And, I think you are a wonderful example of a true Christian. You have welcomed me into your circle, where many in the traditional Christian group do not.

  • http://mormonsoprano.com Mormon Soprano

    John – Your perspective and humor is why I enjoy reading your blog. And, I think you are a wonderful example of a true Christian. You have welcomed me into your circle, where many in the traditional Christian group do not.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Mark: You just haven't read enough of my posts on this blog to realize what a tiny fraction of them in any way criticize Christians at all. And accusing me of being "yet again proud" to criticize Christians is just … way too snarky.

  • arlywn

    John… you should go and see the 'Haunting of Molly Hartley.' Very amazing take on the whole religious veiw. Fantastic post, and I being one of those you-centered heathens can honestly say I have a conscience. It routinely throws things at me when I start lying. And I have no desire to be admired- I get freaked out just when people know my name….

  • arlywn

    John… you should go and see the 'Haunting of Molly Hartley.' Very amazing take on the whole religious veiw. Fantastic post, and I being one of those you-centered heathens can honestly say I have a conscience. It routinely throws things at me when I start lying. And I have no desire to be admired- I get freaked out just when people know my name….

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    I'm sitting here listening… [don't be sarcastic. don't do it. don't try to be funny at someone's expense... ric, delete that ...]

    Life was so simple BEFORE I died. Did I ever mention how well you handle drive-bys?

  • http://belovedmama.blogspot.com Christelle

    oh praise god for someone going where the rest of us wont- and doing it so eloquently…and humorously ;) OK…maybe I do go there- and in my denomination- I can get in BIG trouble- but I stay- and I write- but I'm not so funny …

  • http://belovedmama.blogspot.com Christelle

    oh praise god for someone going where the rest of us wont- and doing it so eloquently…and humorously ;) OK…maybe I do go there- and in my denomination- I can get in BIG trouble- but I stay- and I write- but I'm not so funny …

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    John,

    Your post (actually your entire blog) had me cogitate on why I come back here regularly and no other Christian websites. The reason I do come back here is because I respect you and know that you are not a blind follower. This is represented by your challenging your 'teacher' on the 'Problem of Evil'. You don't want to 'Know' (in the biblical sense); you want to actually know (in the actual, genuine understanding sense). What I see in you is someone that wants to put a framework to what might have been a tumultuous life … as does everyone else in the world. You adopted Christianity which, ostensibly, worked for you. [as an aside, this means that it is 'effective', not necessarily 'true'] You are troubled, though, with the things and people that you know to be wrong and unjust. You know, for example, that demonizing a homosexual even though they cause no harm is just wrong. You are inquisitive enough and pragmatic enough to disregard some of your adopted Christian framework when you see it in conflict with common sense or evidence (some times any way, an earthquake comes to mind). So here's to you!

    Regarding the 'Problem of Evil' and such matters….

    As a general rule of thumb I operate on the premise that the simplest explanation is probably the correct explanation. Back in the day when people thought the universe orbited the earth, they had to come up with convoluted philosophies and explanations why some 'stars' wiggled in the sky and why the stars moved the way they did. It was incredibly difficult to make the explanations fit their beliefs. Geniuses like Copernicus and Newton (I mean real serious geniuses) figure out the achingly simple and elegant explanation that corresponded with reality…we and the other [now known to be] planets orbit the sun.

    The same is true with the 'Problem of Evil'. I am fascinated by the mental convolutions and gymnastics necessary to 'explain' why there is a hell and why there is evil in the world. To my mind, it merely demonstrates that there is no god… or at least people's understanding of God is so plainly and grossly flawed as to make their belief system casually dismissable. Your Sunday School teacher could only offer you 'Knowledge' when you were seeking 'knowledge'. For that you need actual school, not 'Sunday' school.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    John,

    Your post (actually your entire blog) had me cogitate on why I come back here regularly and no other Christian websites. The reason I do come back here is because I respect you and know that you are not a blind follower. This is represented by your challenging your 'teacher' on the 'Problem of Evil'. You don't want to 'Know' (in the biblical sense); you want to actually know (in the actual, genuine understanding sense). What I see in you is someone that wants to put a framework to what might have been a tumultuous life … as does everyone else in the world. You adopted Christianity which, ostensibly, worked for you. [as an aside, this means that it is 'effective', not necessarily 'true'] You are troubled, though, with the things and people that you know to be wrong and unjust. You know, for example, that demonizing a homosexual even though they cause no harm is just wrong. You are inquisitive enough and pragmatic enough to disregard some of your adopted Christian framework when you see it in conflict with common sense or evidence (some times any way, an earthquake comes to mind). So here's to you!

    Regarding the 'Problem of Evil' and such matters….

    As a general rule of thumb I operate on the premise that the simplest explanation is probably the correct explanation. Back in the day when people thought the universe orbited the earth, they had to come up with convoluted philosophies and explanations why some 'stars' wiggled in the sky and why the stars moved the way they did. It was incredibly difficult to make the explanations fit their beliefs. Geniuses like Copernicus and Newton (I mean real serious geniuses) figure out the achingly simple and elegant explanation that corresponded with reality…we and the other [now known to be] planets orbit the sun.

    The same is true with the 'Problem of Evil'. I am fascinated by the mental convolutions and gymnastics necessary to 'explain' why there is a hell and why there is evil in the world. To my mind, it merely demonstrates that there is no god… or at least people's understanding of God is so plainly and grossly flawed as to make their belief system casually dismissable. Your Sunday School teacher could only offer you 'Knowledge' when you were seeking 'knowledge'. For that you need actual school, not 'Sunday' school.

  • Mark

    Well John, since we're getting down to the word level, you misquoted.

    I actually said that after you wrestled with the issue, you "yet again" came to the same conclusion you had before. (Sort of the "Once I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken" idea. :) That "yet again" phrase was separate in the sentence from the word "proud."

    You're an open, tolerant guy in so many ways; why is it necessary to discount a comment as "snarky" when someone disagrees, rather than deal with the substance of the issue that is being raised? I guess I don't understand that; labels shut down discussion, rather than encourage it.

    And it's true; I have not yet read every blog posting of yours, but will continue to read more to get a better, more fair understanding.

  • Mark

    Well John, since we're getting down to the word level, you misquoted.

    I actually said that after you wrestled with the issue, you "yet again" came to the same conclusion you had before. (Sort of the "Once I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken" idea. :) That "yet again" phrase was separate in the sentence from the word "proud."

    You're an open, tolerant guy in so many ways; why is it necessary to discount a comment as "snarky" when someone disagrees, rather than deal with the substance of the issue that is being raised? I guess I don't understand that; labels shut down discussion, rather than encourage it.

    And it's true; I have not yet read every blog posting of yours, but will continue to read more to get a better, more fair understanding.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Mark: Combining your "yet again" with "proud" was a simple journalistic short-cut. common.

    I discounted what I could discern of your criticism for exactly the reason I told you I did: you're not anywhere near familiar enough with my writing to render legitimate your snarky assertion that I "tar the whole Christian world" with my big, broad brush. And your assertion that I stayed in my church just so I could remain in the "vicious cycle" of collecting stories about "evil Christians" is just absurd.

    I already regret this time I've spent with you. I'm sincerely asking you not to make me regret it more—which I surely will if I have to take the time to permanently block you. You don't have to get off this site, but you do have to get off my back.

    Mormon: Thank you, as ever. Very kind. And of course you're always welcome here.

    Rick: Thanks!

    Christelle: What denomination are you in?

    Brian: Funny! But you still owe me.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Mark: Combining your "yet again" with "proud" was a simple journalistic short-cut. common.

    I discounted what I could discern of your criticism for exactly the reason I told you I did: you're not anywhere near familiar enough with my writing to render legitimate your snarky assertion that I "tar the whole Christian world" with my big, broad brush. And your assertion that I stayed in my church just so I could remain in the "vicious cycle" of collecting stories about "evil Christians" is just absurd.

    I already regret this time I've spent with you. I'm sincerely asking you not to make me regret it more—which I surely will if I have to take the time to permanently block you. You don't have to get off this site, but you do have to get off my back.

    Mormon: Thank you, as ever. Very kind. And of course you're always welcome here.

    Rick: Thanks!

    Christelle: What denomination are you in?

    Brian: Funny! But you still owe me.

  • Mark

    I'm sure it doesn't matter at this point, but I truly did not mean that you stayed at the church to GET more stories, just that you accumulated them by being present.

    I enjoy vigorous discussion, but I sincerely regret conflict.

    Sorry for all the misunderstandings.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    No worries, Mark. Thank you.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    No worries, Mark. Thank you.

  • http://www.todayscoolnews.com Brian Shields

    Christians are now charging a fee for resurrections? Is that the Lazarus Levee?

  • http://belovedmama.blogspot.com Christelle

    I want to be in your small group- where can I join?!

    I think the reason your blog is popular is that you have never put on a mask- you are who you are- so often non-Christians are more free than Christians-

    I am of a VERY CONSERVATIVE denomination, hoping for change- hoping that we will find authentic Christianity and that people will be able to take off their masks… AS of now- alchohol drinkers stay undercover as well as dance lovers and every other happenstance that could send us all to hell- or cause us to lose our jobs…

    I'll keep visiting and sending people your way!

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Burns

    hoping that we will find authentic Christianity

    Well it has been 2000 years Christelle…we must be on the verge of a breakthrough!! :-)

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Burns

    hoping that we will find authentic Christianity

    Well it has been 2000 years Christelle…we must be on the verge of a breakthrough!! :-)

  • http://belovedmama.blogspot.com Christelle

    Mike- I’ll be reading your blog too ;o)

  • http://thesearethecrazytimes-christine.blogspot.com Christine

    John, finally got back to reading your blog!!! Beat you are SOOO excited I am going to be commenting again now I have time :) (no groaning please). I wanted to say I totally respect you for telling the truth, too often christians want to make ourselves look perfect so that we don't put people off church. Too often this is exactly what puts people off church!!! They think that they are a) not perfect enough, or b) going to put up with a bunch hpocrytes. So you keep going with your stories, if it happened then talk about it!! If they don't like it DON'T READ IT!!!!

  • http://thesearethecrazytimes-christine.blogspot.com Christine

    John, finally got back to reading your blog!!! Beat you are SOOO excited I am going to be commenting again now I have time :) (no groaning please). I wanted to say I totally respect you for telling the truth, too often christians want to make ourselves look perfect so that we don't put people off church. Too often this is exactly what puts people off church!!! They think that they are a) not perfect enough, or b) going to put up with a bunch hpocrytes. So you keep going with your stories, if it happened then talk about it!! If they don't like it DON'T READ IT!!!!


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