A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of a post on a popular Christian author’s blog, A Slave to Public Opinion. False Redemption and a Jury of your Peers. Here are a couple quotes from the post, to sum it up:
- The truth is, there is one judge, and God does not look around to your friends to ask their opinions.
- My feelings of self worth do not come from within me, they come from an external source. That source was supposed to be God [… but] after the fall, we continue to look for affirmation from an outside source, and that source is each other.
- If [his] redemption would have come from Christ, he could see himself more objectively. But instead, he was a slave to the jury of peers.
- It really is a waste of your time to defend yourself to anybody but God Himself. And it’s even more of a waste of time to claim any defense other than Christ crucified.
Donald Miller is one of the more “liberal” evangelical authors out there right now, but he’s coming across pretty fundy in this post, in my opinion. It’s a bit hilarious to see him diminish the human desire to appeal to others for affirmation — considering that, as human beings, we are COMMUNAL in nature. So rather than appreciate the natural elements of humanity, Miller sees this human attribute as a consequence of “the Fall.” (yikes)
But the hardest part for me to stomach is the last bullet I’ve listed above: It really is a waste of your time to defend yourself to anybody but God Himself. And it’s even more of a waste of time to claim any defense other than Christ crucified.
I take issue with Miller’s contempt for being accountable to critics in an audience. What does it mean to say that the only person you are accountable to is God?
In my opinion, it’s this kind of seemingly solipsistic approach that has made the church so irrelevant in many peoples’ eyes today. If the only person you ultimately need to please is “God”, well then it doesn’t matter who you hurt or whatever criticism is directed your way. You’ll always have an “out” — you can just shrug off legitimate critique and assert that your only audience is God (however you define him/her/it). So not only are you not accountable to the people around you for what you say, but this dismissive perspective also is a backhanded way of silencing people from questioning you in the first place.
So much damage has been inflicted with this kind of attitude, especially in the church’s service. I don’t see Miller’s disregard for human critique as something to be admired. If anything, I think views like his give license to some of the worst forms of religion out there.
Part of what I teach my students is the importance of considering the audience in your communication. Now this isn’t to say that you can always answer everyone’s critique (or that you’re even obligated to in all instances) — but to simply write out any consideration of the audience (or to characterize critical interactions as “a waste of your time”), reveals more about the flaws in your message and yourself as a speaker than it does about the audience you are addressing. That kind of dismissive approach conveys a condescending attitude that doesn’t win over people to your message — whether you’re an engineer attempting to find financial approval for a proposal or you’re a minister spreading the good news.