Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Criticism, love, and finding the right balance.

I’m not a terribly arrogant individual. I’ve been accused of that from time to time, but that’s part of the price one pays for being so darned good looking … people just assume your arrogant. (Note: the last sentence was complete sarcasm….). For one to be involved in blogging, one has to be equipped with a certain level of confidence as well as a fairly “thick skin”. In blogging I tend to be fairly critical of the extremes within Fundamentalism as well as Evangelicalism. More often than not I find myself critiquing and criticizing the whole of Fundamentalism from an insider’s perspective. That’s earned me some well-deserved criticism which has caused me to take a look at what and why I do what I do here at As For Me and My House I’m not at all uncomfortable being lumped in with the ever increasing group of people who have grown more and more dissatisfied with what they see in this movement. However, I dislike being summarily written off as a “trouble-maker” or as a loud dissenter who is questioning just for the sake of questioning. I certainly do not want to put forth the notion that I’m merely looking for ways to justify my own fleshly desires. So I’m going to take a little time with this article to attempt to explain my heart a bit.

During the time I’ve been blogging, and really even before that when I was more involved in other venues on the internet, I’ve taken quite a bit of criticism for some of my opinions, questions, thoughts, and (at times) attitudes. Sometimes publicly and other times in email exchanges or personal conversations. Now I’m certainly not alone in this and I willingly admit that I’m a relatively “small fish” in the blogosphere by any standard; however, I want to offer up a small defense for why I choose to question, point out faults, and (at times) name names.

I want to say from the outset that I realize that I’m not always right. As a matter of fact I’ve been proven wrong on many occasions. My approach to whole Joe Zichterman issue is a good example of this. I called the man a false teacher several times and even constructed an utterly foolish “open letter” to him (which, thankfully, I only left up for a few hours before obliterating the post altogether). There are many other examples of where I’ve screwed up here, but I’m not here to talk about those. I only mention these “wrong steps” so that I can say that I understand that in my criticisms of “the movement” I may not be spot on all the time. Having said that, I do criticize openly and without remorse because I think it needs to be done.

Not too long ago I was called (in a private conversation) a “novice who has not earned the right to criticize Fundamentalism”. In so many words I was told that I should keep my mouth shut and turn the guns on the enemy (presumably, the Evangelicals). This took me back a few steps because I have a great deal of respect for the individual who spoke these words to me, but, after some careful thought and prayer on the matter, I think the individual in question is dead wrong. I’m glad to be part of a growing number of people within Fundamentalism who are no longer afraid to tip some sacred cows. I’ll discuss in a bit why I think I’m justified in my approach.

I should note that I understand my limitations. I’m a 35 year old Bible college drop-out who has never been in full-time ministry. I’ve never been a leader within Fundamentalism, nor have I rubbed elbows with very many of the “important folks” within the movement. While most of the "big names" I have gotten to know personally are still thriving within the movement, there are a handful of exceptions who have either left the movement or are now being cut off from large portions of the movement. The way some of them have been “cut off” has caused me an increasingly high level of frustration with the Bob Jones and Northland “orbs” of the movement, but that’s an entirely different discussion (no, that last comment has nothing to do with Zichterman).

With my limited qualifications, I understand the frustration that some might have with unknowns like myself attempting to “call Fundamentalism to the carpet”, but I think I’m justified in doing so. The fact is that I’m a Christian who has spent my lifetime in the movement and who has seen just enough lunacy to justify a response. Like it or not, much within the bulk of Fundamentalism has done a great deal of harm to the body of Christ and to the cause of the Kingdom – that should be addressed.

It wasn't until 6 or 7 years ago that I began to understand that the Body of Christ extended beyond the boundaries of Fundamentalism. I had this idea that anything outside of the movement was sub-par Christianity at best. I couldn't understand how anybody could think otherwise....I've gotten past that Pharisaical judgmentalism, but I still find that sort of thing to be a somewhat common factor within the fundy movement. I admire Fundamentalism's dedication to separation, but I think we've often gone too far and that our contribution to the Body has been to make it increasingly fragmented. A Christian has, I think, an obligation to call attention to this and to point out the errors to those within his sphere of influence (however small that may be).

If our goals - my goal - in criticism is purely to spew, spit, and get a reaction, then everyone is better served if we keep our mouths shut. However, if the goal of criticism is to foster a conversation, generate positive change, and to lovingly work together towards a common good, then we should encourage and welcome the criticism. I think the key to all this is held in looking at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. If you haven't read them before, I've got a series of posts on that passage of Scripture here, here, and here - the last two in particular are worth a read.

Imagine if all our actions were governed by Paul's description of love in the passage mentioned above. I don't know that we could correct all the problems or even get on the same page on everything. But I do think that we would go a long ways in ending some of the infighting and "fragmentalism" that has become such a large part of the movement.....

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