People are asking me: “Gosh, Aaron if you are saying all these terrible things about other Christians what gives you the right? Don’t you want people to know that you are a Christian? Can’t you say anything nice?”
Criticism is certainly a sticky business. It has many negative connotations and it does indeed influence the acquirement of enemies. Not that Simon Cowell of American Idol is the adonis of virtue especially since what he says is often harsh and rude. Yet what Simon shares is the truth, at least in regard to his opinion. Telling the truth is quite a burdensome task, yet for Simon, Randy, and now Ellen, telling people that they really cannot sing may be painful, but it saves people an immense amount of pain and heartache.
Rather than letting Simon be our definition of criticism, here is what the dictionary says:
1. the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.
2. the act of passing severe judgment; censure; fault-finding.
3. the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality of a literary or artistic work, musical performance, art exhibit, dramatic production, etc.
4. a critical comment, article, or essay; critique.
5. any of various methods of studying texts or documents for the purpose of dating or reconstructing them, evaluating their authenticity, analyzing their content or style, etc.: historical criticism; literary criticism.
6. investigation of the text, origin, etc., of literary documents, esp. Biblical ones: textual criticism.
Remove the first two definitions (being the most widely used ones) and the latter four are actually quite noble in their scope and purpose. Criticism helps bring to light faults and issues in effort to understand them better or to help improve them. Talking to people about their faults helps them to understand themselves better and gives them the opportunity to do something differently. Often problems are difficult to realize without that insight.
Criticism as an Expression of Love
Dare I say that criticism can be loving, even if it sounds completely opposite? If I love someone dearly whose actions are causing them harm, it may be difficult to tell them about it, but it may help them to change their behavior and help them love themselves and others more. Thomas Merton says that love is meaningless if it does not act to the benefit of the one loved.
I have recently made some very firm statements about Rob Bell, Joel Osteen, and Rick Warren. In the process I have also shared beliefs and opinions that are not popular, even to those who frequent this blog. In all those cases my words have been met with praise from some and further criticism from others. Rick Warren blocked me on Twitter, feelings have been hurt in comment threads, and strong personal debates have arisen regarding “Christian” leaders. I have equally been criticized for being to soft and too firm in regard to the exact same post.
In spite of thoughts and perceptions to the contrary, I can honestly and fully state that these criticisms have been launched in love and concern. It pains me that people are being lied to by men and women calling themselves pastors. It is shameful to think that leaders are hurting others and taking advantage of them in the name of God. Even foregoing the apparent controversy that occurs in our dialogues on this blog, the fact that preachers tell people to give them money so that they can prosper is foolish as it is deceitful. In spite of disagreements about issues regarding sin and judgment, I say what I do because I believe that Jesus came to die for all of us, and that he did so before we were believers.
My fear is that going unchecked, other Christians including many pastors will continue to cause more damage in our world and cause more and more people to lose their faith and miss out on the saving grace of God. My concern is also for those who are perpetrating deception. I want to believe that they are doing this innocently, but there are certainly times that it is hard to believe that they can say the things they do without knowing that they are lying. May God have mercy on us all.