I’m Grieving God? A Response to Halee Gray Scott

jaysonheadshotI just finished reading post on Christianity Today by Halee Gray Scott entitled Slammed in the Spirit. It was a response to the tenor of the Christian blogosphere and what she sees as its negativity and cynicism.

As a writer of some of the topics she used as examples, I thought it fitting to respond to some of her questions, points, and criticisms. And from here on out, I will address them to her directly.

A response to Slammed in the Spirit

Dr. Scott,

I was super excited that you started with a nod to Mr. Rogers. I have a very soft spot in my heart toward him. In fact, I wrote a post regarding how his spirit had recently convicted and realigned me. . . but I continue to write some critical pieces about the church and her behavior.

Should we be hiding our dysfunction?

You talked about the grieving heart of God in regards to some of the criticism in the Christian blogosphere.

I totally agree that there needs to be a balance regarding the good, sensitive, and wonderful works the church is doing. It probably is unbalanced. There are wonderful Christians doing good all over the globe.

But if there is negative, hurtful behavior in the church, is God really grieved when we unveil it? Does God really want a dysfunctional family who tells the outside world, “Oh, I got this black eye from walking into a door. I’m so clumsy.”

I recoil at the thought that God is scandalized at us discussing the issues in his body.  If there are bigoted or abusive Christian behaviors, don’t they deserve to have the spotlight pointed at them.

What are we telling the rest of the world?

You wrote:

“What are we saying to unbelievers with all our mud-flinging, with the careless words we toss out to faceless Internet audiences? I’m afraid it may be something like this: ‘Yes, Jesus is wonderful! Come and join us so you can be as miserable as us, so you can have a community you can count on to bicker with and eventually stab you in the back.’”

I would respond by saying that my readership is full of church expatriates, atheists,  and people who would mark “none” on a “which religious faith do you identify with” questionnaire.

You would not believe the number of them who write me heartbreaking emails or send me powerful testimonies about how they’ve been drawn back to the church through my writing or the writing of others like me.

The fact that there are those within the church who have had the same experiences and seen the same dysfunction as they have experienced but continue to stay plugged-in and connected to her ministers and speaks to them

I think that there are those “unbelievers” who read what we have to say and hear, “The church has foibles and problems (some of them terrible), but there are those of us who aren’t afraid of those problems and we invite you to join us. You don’t have to be silent to belong.”

I think within this paragraph of yours is the idea that these “unbelievers” don’t already have ideas or opinions about the church. Trust me, they’re not out there looking at the church with complete objectivity and charity. To have someone on the inside confirm that their experiences are real, tragic, and not the Christian ideal says a lot more to them than simply using misdirection, “Hey forget that, look at the work these Christians are doing over here.”

Our terrible discourse

I am completely on your side about the level of discourse among Christian bloggers. The mean-spirited and cutting attacks can be a bit much. This is an area that I try and steer away from and have spoken out against. If we can’t critique without attack we’re forgetting that how we communicate is just as, if not more important than, what we communicate.

As someone who feels that spiritual formation is at the heart of the Christian experience, I think this is an issue that we should definitely address—and often. So I applaud and give you kudos.

And the heart of God is grieved

I think that this line about the heart of God is the one that I struggle with the most in your post. I, and many of my colleagues, are doing our best to communicate in a way that is in keeping with how we are wired and what we feel we see because of our proximity to God. Part of the problem I see from everyone on both sides in these discussions is about when they speak on God’s behalf—God thinks this, God feels this, God hates that.

In the end, I’m doing my best to pursue God in the way that makes the most sense to how I’m wired. It would be terribly unfortunate for people to take a huge gospel brush and paint over the good that comes out of the Christian blogosphere—right? Other areas of the church are just as open and ripe for critique as the Christian blogosphere.

God isn’t grieved when we struggle and wrestle with the truth, who he is, and our place in the world. I think it is the working out of these issues which humanizes the church and ultimately glorifies him.

I am totally in step with the spirit of your post. Totally. Except maybe in the assumption that I’m miserable or in the discounting and marginalizing of the work I do . . . in which I feel God takes pleasure.

Peace to you!

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