Dear Christians Who Write Open Letters,
Greetings! I hope you all are doing well on this fine and snowy day. At least it is snowy where I am. Sort of. It’s more slushy now than snowy, I suppose. I like thinking of it as snowy, though, because snow is easier to take than slush; it’s a beauty thing. Scenes of beauty help when what I have to write brings bits of shadow and gloom to my soul. Such is the case today.
I have read several of your letters over the past few weeks, letters filled with biting criticisms and ungracious statements. These weren’t aimed at me; they were mostly for other, more well-known Christians. I’m too far down on the totem pole for an open letter. My stature doesn’t even warrant a cynical tweet.
In the letters that I have read, that you have written, you seem to hide behind the claim that you are merely telling the truth, performing a noble task so that others can hear your sobering take on whatever a person said that drew your attention and ire. Somewhere along the line, though, you forgot that when the truth is proclaimed it should always be accompanied by love. Maybe you didn’t forget this, maybe you never understood this to begin with. I’m not sure which is worse.
Even though your letters, printed in newspapers or posted in blogs, have caused me concern, I have hesitated in responding to you. One reason for my hesitancy is my own unworthiness, my own personal sin. I do not want this to sound like I am condemning you; I am a fellow traveller along with you, not your judge. Another reason for my delay is that I wanted some time to ponder exactly why your letters have disturbed me. This wasn’t an easy task. As an aspiring writer with just the slightest hint of skill and barely enough confidence to expose my ideas to others, I have a difficult time with critiquing the works of professing followers of Jesus who possess the type of talent I hope to some day acquire.
After considering and reconsidering your letters countless times, I have narrowed down my reasons for taking issue with that you have written down to three main items: the who, how, and why of your open letters.
1. Who writes the letters. May I point out something remarkably obvious? Everyone who has ever written an open letter is a sinner, a person who has failed to live up to the lofty standards of our Holy God, a person just like every other person. You have misspoke in the past. You have said and written statements in the past that have been incorrect both in facts and in tone. You are imperfect yet you set yourself up as being morally superior to those you criticize. There appears to be a lack of humility in your words. This is troubling. Disagreeing with others is both natural and healthy; forgetting that we are all together in our human frailties surely isn’t.
2. How the letters are written. Being a jerk is not a fruit of the Spirit. Gentleness, patience, and kindness are on the list; sarcasm didn’t even make the first cut. If you explained your beliefs about certain topics without belittling those you are criticizing, I would be more understanding of what you are trying to accomplish. Instead you choose to throw in personal insults alongside nuggets of wisdom, thus diluting the impact of your words. Truth minus the proper tone devolves into pettiness. I believe that you can do better with the talent that you have been given.
3. Why the letters are written. Claiming that your open letter was written to inform others and to help keep them from spiritual harm sounds good. It also rings hollow. Determining a person’s true motives is a dangerous task, but I don’t think you are being completely altruistic in your letters. Your numerous tweets and teasers about your letters and the controversy that you have jumped into are proofs of this. It is more likely that the real reason you have chosen to publicly call someone out is to attract attention to yourself and more viewers for your blog, website, or book. Self-promotion is one thing; self-promotion disguised as a brave attempt to defend a flock of people from a wolf in sheep’s clothing is something vastly different. Doing this serves to discredit your words and devalue the truth.
Since I have read your letters I know that your main defense is that you are providing biblical perspective, that you are doing good. I believe that you are mistaken. Failing to show grace is never good. Your open letters have helped to put a scowl on the face of the Bride of Christ for the world to see. Sharing your thoughts directly with the person you disagree with would have been better. Praying for the person would have been best.
I’m sure that you will feel the urge to write more open letters; once a person has felt the rush of writing one they will soon desire to write another. When this feeling hits, please reconsider. Put the brakes on. Pray. Breathe. Do whatever it takes to rid yourself of the notion that it will help. It will not.
Thank you for reading. May your day become even brighter as you ponder these words.
The Seeking Pastor
(To those of you who read regularly, sorry for the lack of humor the past few days. It may be because I am sick. Here is one of my favorite posts from a few years ago about something that I still have to do: Biscuit and Mercy.)