An open letter to Rachel Held Evans

Dear Rachel Held Evans,

I have noted with righteous worry and sanctified dismay your disrespect for one of our cherished Christian institutions.

I refer, of course, to your recent criticisms of the Pious Online Open Letter. I had hoped that you would come to see the error of your ways so that I would not be forced to write this, but I see from this post, and then this one, that you have not repented. And so it grieves me deeply to have to write these words.

Your recent open letter of gratitude to Scot McKnight makes a mockery of the form. Gratitude? Heartfelt appreciation? That’s a perversion of this sacred tradition and it breaks my holy heart to see you stumble in this way.

Such sentiments of admiration, thanks and goodwill are not what Pious Online Open Letters are for. These letters exist so that we can make a show of our own piety, feigning reluctance and dismay while seething with passive-aggressive hostility and indulging in an intoxicating self-righteousness. Just as God intended.

By first criticizing and now undermining this time-honored practice, you degrade the very institution of the Pious Online Open Letter. It’s a slippery slope from there to the horrifying prospect of us Christians having to communicate directly through personal correspondence or even — heaven forfend — conversation.

I have tried such forms of communication and I assure you they are no substitute for a POOL. It’s very difficult to be nearly as tendentious, pretentious and disingenuous when communicating directly. And what would even be the point of such communication when there’s no larger audience? If I write someone a private, personal letter, who then would witness my extravagant exhibition of condescending lamentation?

Why, if more Christians were led astray by your advice and example, such ostentatious performances of self-congratulatory holiness might disappear entirely. And then where would we be?

Again, it saddens me to have been compelled to write this letter, but with deep sadness and a heavy heart, I realized I had no choice. Please remember, as the book of Proverbs reminds us, “the kisses of an enemy are deceitful, but faithful are the wounds of a fellow believer trying to drum up Web-traffic through pompous displays of sanctimony.”

In deepest humility and flamboyantly holy sadness,

Fred Clark

 

  • Eminnith

    It is with holy regret that I must state openly and righteously that it would be terribly wrong and deeply anti-Christian for me or anyone to post a comment here stating that they were “First.”

  • Hth

    I wish I had many more occasions in daily life to use the phrase “flamboyantly holy sadness.” 

  • http://joshbarkey.blogspot.com/ josh barkey

    Amen and Amen! I even read once where this Rachel character tried to get that paragon of humility and Grace, Mr. Mark Driscoll, to stop being an idiot-stick bully. What’s up with that!?!

    The role of a Christian is to be RIGHT – all the time! Without bullying, what in the Sam Hill are we?!? How will we defend ourselves from all those people who don’t have enormously popular blogs and massively over-sized pulpits, but are no doubt scheming with malice aforethought to corrupt us with their tainted, non-Jesus ways?!?

    [insert hyper-inflated imprecations]

  • http://joshbarkey.blogspot.com/ josh barkey

    Let me be the first to concur.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    You know, if I were a Christian I might feel compelled to agree with our host’s dismay regarding this (clearly unfortunate) situation. I might echo his lament for Ms. Evans’ tragic misuse of this venerable institution. I might share his concerns, or at least want to borrow the cloak of piety and humility that he has thrown over his own position.

    Sadly, however, I am not actually a Christian. So, instead, I’m afraid some of our other commenters will be left deplore the sorry spectacle of an unwashed heathen responding to a Pious Online Open Letter. You may, of course, comfort yourselves with the knowledge that I have, at least, never composed such a letter myself.

  • Anonymous

    An Open Letter To Fred Clark,

    Dear Fred

    I would never say that I am more pious and holy than you. Which is why I have chosen to express this sentiment in a non-verbal letter, just as God intended.

    Neener Neener Neener

    Peace,
    Loki

  • Kiba

    I wish I had many more occasions in daily life to use the phrase “flamboyantly holy sadness.”

    Oh, I dunno, I think it would be possible to work into Christmas cards if one wanted to spend a few minutes agonizing about the “war on Christmas.”

  • FangsFirst

    “war on Christmas.”

    Totally derailing here, but I just read this little chunk of insanity and couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on:

    “If it’s December, then it must be time to choose sides in the Christmas
    wars. One camp worries that the celebration of Christ’s birth has become
    too commercial and frantic. Its goal is a simple Christmas season,
    stripped of consumption and flashing lights and endless holiday parties.
    The other camp thinks the problem is that our December festivities are
    practically religiously neutral. They want shoppers to encounter more
    nativity scenes and fewer “happy holidays” banners.

    Source: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2011-12-04/christmas-jesus-holiday-secular/51642322/1

    What in the flaming hell? Now there’s a war between…um…people who think Christmas activities distract from its religious origins, and people who think…it’s not religious enough? Is that even a disagreement at all?

    Do people actually get into arguments about this?
    “You know, all the lights and the shopping and the competing…we tend to forget this is about Jesus’ birth.”
    “Nuh uh! We are just too religiously neutral! It’s all about ‘Happy Holidays’ destroying the recognition of Jesus’ birth!”
    “Excuse me? No way is it about secularism intruding that has caused the decline in religious focus. It’s obviously about Christmas decorations.”
    “Yeah, right. Put up some more Nativity scenes–which are decorations!–and everything will be fine.”
    “Decorations are the PROBLEM not the SOLUTION!”

    Seriously. Please tell me this was a lazy, lazy editorial by a lazy, lazy author. Please tell me this is not real.

  • Kiba

    Seriously. Please tell me this was a lazy, lazy editorial by a lazy, lazy author. Please tell me this is not real.

    Having read the whole article I’m going to go with lazy. 

  • Green Eggs and Ham

    Christmas is at war with me.  It is winning.  However, I will never surrender.

  • Anonymous

    I’m two steps from giving those war on Christmas people an actual enemy.
    Because if my work plays that awful, triggery cover of ‘Baby it’s cold
    outside’, (which is either deliberately playing up the date rape angle or sung by the two most clueless people on the planet) I will not be held responsible for my actions. Just two and a half more weeks of uncountable god-awful seventies lounge singer covers of the same seven Christmas songs. Just two and a half more weeks. I can go that long without strangling somebody with a string of icicle lights. I can.

  • guest

    Maybe it’s just because I’m in conference paper writing mode, but conveniently for me this seems to bear on Robert Hooke’s ‘kindle Cole’ principle, as described in (among other places) OTSOG, which I have just finished reading:

    http://www.isaacnewton.org.uk/essays/Giants
    http://www.amazon.com/Shoulders-Giants-Shandean-Postscript/dp/0226520862

  • Anonymous

    “Flamboyantly Holy Sadness” was easily the silliest song in Evanescence’s catalog, which is saying something. 

  • FangsFirst

    Pretty sure I’m being subjected to Straight No Chaser’s abysmal a capella renderings of various christmas songs. I mean, it’s not triggering, which is way better but…that version of the Grinch song is HORRENDOUS.

  • Anonymous

    Was it just me, or did anyone else hear Robin Williams’ Stereotypical Southern Televangelist voice as they were reading Fred’s letter?

  • Anonymous

    Dammit, now I want to ostentatiously perform some self-congratulatory holiness and extravagantly exhibit some condescending lamentation, possibly while feigning reluctance and dismay and having a good passive-aggressively hostile seethe and intoxicatingly self-righteous indulgence on the side.

    How do I start?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Which is why I have chosen to express this sentiment in a non-verbal letter, just as God intended.

    Non-verbal letter? Huh?

  • Anonymous

    Now there’s a war between…um…people who think Christmas activities distract from its religious origins, and people who think…it’s not religious enough? Is that even a disagreement at all?

    I have never heard the ‘people who think Christmas activities distract from its religious origins’ angle. Ever. I have heard the ‘people who, being nonChristian or being respectful of their nonChristian friends, want Christmas played the hell down’ angle.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I don’t like that Christmas in my culture is largely about excessive consumerism, drunkenness, overindulgence and making lonely people feel like freaks. Does that count? 

  • Anonymous

    At least this Joker is leaving us atheists out of it. Me, I love X-mas

  • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

    Ha! This had me laughing out loud. 

    Thanks for “getting it.” :-) 

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com Michael Mock

    Now there’s a war between…um…people who think Christmas activities
    distract from its religious origins, and people who think…it’s not
    religious enough? Is that even a disagreement at all?

    Judean People’s Front, or People’s Front of Judea?

  • Anonymous

    I have seen the “Christmas activities detract from its religious origins” and “Christmas is not religious enough and is being overtaken by secular atheist pagans” played, simultaneously, by one person. (This was, actually, over Christmas dinner with family last year.)

    I tried pointing out the cognitive dissonance, which apparently means I hate Christmas and am On The Enemy’s Side.

    *sigh*

  • CQAussie

    SIGH.  I am righteously indignant too.  RHE’s stumble is just too heartbreaking for WORDS.  Except in a POOL.  Thank goodness we have YOU, Fred Clark, to hold up the banner of sanctimonious dissent.  Bless.

  • JenL

    I have never heard the ‘people who think Christmas activities distract
    from its religious origins’ angle. Ever. I have heard the ‘people who,
    being nonChristian or being respectful of their nonChristian friends,
    want Christmas played the hell down’ angle.

    Back in the day, some years my church would preach about how all the focus on gifts and shopping and parties took people’s attention off the “reason for the season”…  Of course, they always looked sideways at Santa, because he wasn’t Christian enough.  And the Easter Bunny is flat-out pagan, so no egg-rolls or baskets of chocolate for good members of our church!  uh-huh… That was boring.

  • Hawker40

    Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season.

    We don’t know when Jesus was born.  “Scholars say” a lot of things about it, but we don’t know because at the time period birth days for non-nobility weren’t a big deal.
    We do know that there are a lot of events around December 21st.  Seems that every culture in the northern hemisphere celebrated around the time the Sun started getting higher in the sky.  Early Christians, in a blaze of practicality, adopted the existing holiday season for a celebration of the Christ’s birth.
    So, please, celebrate the season (or not) in whichever way you choose… but don’t insist that I (or anyone else) should celebrate (or don’t) the way you do.  And I’ll be o so gracious as to do the same for you.
    Happy Holidays.

  • FangsFirst

    @LouisDoench:disqus
    When I sat in my breakroom and saw the title, I was afraid that’s what it would be. Again. Being an atheist myself and all. Who has “Christmas lights” up INSIDE, just for my own enjoyment.

  • Anonymous

    I know! I have a 12 building Victorian X-mas village I set up in my house every holiday season. It even has a little church.

  • Joshua

    Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season.

    I like that. I’m stealing it.

  • Anonymous

    This. Thisthisthisthisthis. I work in a little retail store for birdfeeders/seed/houses/etc. Since birdfeeders are becoming popular gifts, we do the whole seasonal busy thing.

    Which means I get to listen to four CDs of Christmas Muzak interspersed with atonal bird chirping, on repeat, all day, SIX DAYS A WEEK. EVERY. DAY.

    *twitch*
    *twitchtwitch*
    ohgodsomeonekillme.

  • Anonymous

    Open letters are not biblical. The biblical way is to twit: Farewell (Person who you disagree with). This is the approved form of communication of His Holiness Pope John Piper I. 

  • JenL

    Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season.

    We don’t know when Jesus was born.
    Oh, yeah, I absolutely agree.  Sorry if I muddled it enough for confusion – I was trying to describe the attitude of the church I was raised in.

    They basically admitted that whenever Jesus was born, it wasn’t likely to have been at Christmastime.  They even admitted that the Catholic church picked that time for that celebration in order to take over the prior pagan mid-winter celebrations.  

    But at the same time, there was a … discomfort … with getting too secularly happy around Christmastime.  We were supposed to celebrate Christmas, complete with gifts and Santa, but at the same time never forget that it’s “really” religious and that Santa is a representation of a pagan idea …   

    Very strange church.  Lots of mental acrobatics.  

  • JenL

    Because if my work plays that awful, triggery cover of ‘Baby it’s cold 

    outside’, (which is either deliberately playing up the date rape angle or sung by the two mostclueless people on the planet) 
    Oh, so that isn’t just me…  That version of that song disturbs me.

  • Anonymous

    Pretty sure I’m being subjected to Straight No Chaser’s abysmal a capella renderings of various christmas songs.

    Blasphemy! I love their Christmas stuff!

    …Alright, yeah, their cover of “You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch” is pretty poor. But they’ve got some really good covers too!

  • Kish

    Non-verbal letter? Huh?

    As opposed to a Howler.

  • FangsFirst

    Perhaps you simply weren’t forced to listen to it over and over endlessly while at work? That’s really what makes me want to kill people over it.

    Sidenote, @jenl1625:disqus and @LectorElise:disqus : Any idea which version we refer to?

    I only ask because I hate to think it’s Leon Redbone. Maybe I shouldn’t ask at all…

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Suddenly I’m very happy I have hearing aids and can switch off when not actively talking to people in shopping malls. :-O

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    As opposed to a Howler.

    But a Howler still uses words. Verbal refers to language in the form of words. Spoken words are oral…but oral seems to have become an awkward term these days ;)