It’s a Christian culture internet phenomenon that has reached viral status many times over, especially among well-known Christian leaders.
Calling your critics “haters.”
It’s the perfect deflection for any and all critique, really. If you are a famous Christian leader, what better way to demonize your detractors than to accuse them of hate – especially in the popular sense of hating on your success because, you know, they’re just JEALOUS. Steven Furtick famously minted this phenomenon in the form of a Nooma-esque video called “Hey Haters!” presented now for evidence:
Now, it’s not that there isn’t legitimate hating out there. It exists. There are trolls and fundamentalists and petty critics who seem to exist for the sole purpose of finding something wrong with everything. But allow me to let you in on a secret – those kinds of critics are pretty rare, and they are certainly not the kind of critics who are typically being shrugged off by defensive online leaders. No, many of those critics are actually something else, something successful leaders have always found problematic – they are prophets.
And prophets – who, by definition, are often engaged in the discipline of critique, empowered by the Spirit – are not haters, but wrestlers. They are called to spar with the powers that be, and not only the powers outside the church but those within the church. This is where judgment begins, after all. Their call is particularly to wrestle the Christian community into a community that gives witness to the kingdom of God, not the empire. And the empire and its ways are what they are particularly angsty about tearing down.
As such, prophets might err on the side of being too harsh at times. They may slip on the banana peel of speaking the truth outside of perfect love, out of anger or passion for justice. And you know what, famous Christian leader? You’re gonna have to deal with that. You’re gonna have to understand that a prophet might show up who calls the rich Christian women “cows of Bashan” and says of so many megachurch services, “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.”
Amos, I guess, was a “hater” in the proper, prophetic sense.
But this is not just a call for leaders to deal with it. I think something more is possible here. Sure, there are gonna be some cases where the leaders really are so corrupt that they are covering up their unrighteous wealth and ungodly abuses. But I believe there are far more cases where famous leaders who find themselves the subject of critique can actually listen, receive, and make friends of their critics.
Perhaps even inviting the prophets to speak the truth in their courts.
That would be a beautiful thing.
Hey, haters and famous people alike – what do you think about this? Is it possible to invite prophetic critique into the church conversation instead of simply dismissing it?