I read Ann Voskamp a few times a month. What impresses me is that she is so unremittingly inspiring, so high-minded, so noble.
Hmm. When I began to write a Christian blog, my goal was that every post of mine would be a blessing to my readers. My strapline said something like that.
Within a few months, there was a damaging and public case of spiritual abuse in the Charismatic church I was attending. I satirized this abuse of power and their neurotic high-control strategies in a series of blog-posts called, “The Screwtape Lectures.” The Rector visited, and asked me to take them down. The Warden called and asked me, “How can these posts be a blessing?”
So I was faced with a serious writing question. Should I only write “what is helpful for building people up so that it may edify those who read?” Do I myself want to read a blog written purely to edify me? Well, if it’s John Piper (well, the majority of his posts) okay. But on the whole, I would avoid such a blog. What I am interested in, you see, is the truth and the whole truth.
I changed my strapline. I don’t want to promise my reader that every post will be a blessing (though that would be nice) but that every post will be honest and truthful (insofar as I can discern truth).
* * *
I’ve lived in England for 11 years now, and it seems every Christian’s mum used to tell them variations of “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.” Or “Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true?”
Well, take it from me, people who follow this rule may be very nice people, indeed, but it’s unlikely that they are going be very interesting and gripping bloggers.
Why? Well, if I were only to share my inspiring thoughts in my blog, and not my questions; only my heights of faith, and not my fears; only my joys and not my sorrows; only the times when I love church, not the times I am stricken and wounded by it; only the times when I am wide-eyed and optimistic and full of wonder about the nobility and loveliness of Christians, and not the times when I feel very sceptical and cynical indeed—well, that would be like skipping every third or fourth page of the story of my life.
That would make for annoying reading, wouldn’t it? I cannot read blogs which do this. Where everything is upbeat, everything is edifying and preachy, everything has a neat lesson. I feel they are concealing something: the truth.
The truth of what is really like to be them. To be human. To love. But to struggle to forgive hateful behaviour. To love the church, but to be back-stabbed, slandered and betrayed by members of your church. To love Scripture, but struggle with its elementary precepts like love and forgiveness.
As a Christian blogger, we have two gifts to offer people—our real selves, mess and all, and Christ. If you really trust someone, you will follow his treasure map to the buried treasure in Himalayas. If not, not. By being honest about ourselves, our readers grow to trust us.
Yes, one can be unpleasant and use strong, cutting language and yet be a true Christian. See Paul: Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. Phil 3:2 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (Gal 5:12)
In fact, one can be unpleasant and use strong, vivid, biting, cutting language, and be Christ. Matt 12: 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? Matthew 23:27 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.
Jesus and Paul. They didn’t have anything nice to say, or anything kind to say, but they had something necessary to say, and they said it.
If no one speaks out about spiritual abuse, it will continue. If no one speaks out against people who “fleece” God’s sheep for financial gain, that too will continue. Things change because people speak.
I wondered if yesterday’s post was too snarky, and then I thought, “Why should I impose this burden on myself that I be always nice?” Why, Paul was not always nice, and he was a Christian. And Jesus, our beloved Jesus, was certainly not always nice, and he was, well he was Christ.