Yes, I’m Hypocritically Judging Your Judging
You know there may be a lot of hypocrisy in whatever you’re reading when the opening sentence makes a contrast based on the conjunctive “but”. So let me acknowledge my own hypocrisy right from the start and we’ll get it out of our systems, okay? It goes without saying that I am often inconsistent, prone to hypocrisy, and can be very judgemental and intolerant of others. Fair enough? Let’s move on…
Spiritual Discernment is important, but…
Almost nothing wears me down more than hack “discernment ministries”, but I can confidently assert that hack discernment ministries with a martyr complex are like a nail clippers to my nipples. Or, to borrow a thought-provoking image from the genius of John Kricfalusi, like a beaver chewing on the nerve endings of my teeth. Let me clarify three things in reverse order: First, by “discernment ministries” I am referring to individuals or groups of individuals. More often than not, however, it seems to be the individual taking centre stage in an orgiastic subtweet-fest with the unsubtle “haaaaymen!” of their mutually indignant righteous-remnant. The use of the medium of Twitter to this end is a symptom of its own insulated Zeitgeist, fundamentally. And there are the multitudes of dime-bag websites by such people, waving their wares with the best of intentions. But I digress…
Second, by “discernment” I mean specifically the calling one seems to feel to enact the “test every spirit” (1 John 4:1) in a public forum, abstracted from ANY locatable, recognizable ecclesiastical body, synod, or council. I mean to be specific about this because, obviously, there is a place in the life of the Christian for discernment, and moreover, a place in said synod for pronouncing things like heresy, heterodoxy, etc… I won’t go beyond this paragraph justifying my position, and will let it stand that I lean towards a high view of the Church catholic. So when talking about discernment here, I am referring to this amazing idea that with an almost entrepreneurial spirit, and a jaws-clenched but eyebrows-revealing-a-Jeremiah-visage, one may strike out into the wasteland and pronounce declarations over anyone who isn’t Baptist. Okay, okay – I jest: …pronounce their wise declarations over anyone who the lone discerner, standing in proud anonymity behind a keyboard, hair shellacked like a bullet or tied in a puritanesque bun, requerith correction. And usually that correction comes in the form of a barrage of bible verses quickly pulled from memory, and a tone of righteous indignation so glorious as to cause Jesus to put down the whip at the market, and stand staring in awe.
Third, by “hack” I mean that, as well-intentioned as they may be, these folks often lack any cultural, hermeneutical, academic, or linguistic training; ordained or otherwise. They’re all gilded chutzpah, and have seemingly no specific training in interpretation and church history beyond bible college. They are ‘hack’ in the same way I’m a poet, basically. But at least I’m not publicly decrying professing Christians by name, and dragging people through the dirt. And the key-word here is entrepreneurial. There is no better word to describe the state of Protestant churches in America and abroad. But especially in America.
Let’s regroup. Hack discernment ministries are those individuals who use the interwebs to raise alarms and point out the problems in the teaching and lives of those who, in their minds, are in grievous error (insert Vincent Price’s voice-over for that). They take it upon themselves, slinging over their shoulders which are sloped by years of pietistic self-debasement, a cape of scarlet. And dawning this cape, they lift up their chests, craft the most pointed yet sweeping of statements, and “unleash hell” (to quote Ridley Scott’s “Maximus” from Gladiator – one of my favourite scenes ev-er). These statements are often swollen and spiked like a feral tetradontidae, intending to pierce the ballooned lack of “doctrinal sanctification” or personal holiness of everyone they bump into. Especially pesky Roman Catholics.
In short, leave your public discernment ministry to those who are, at the very least, ministers. Modern evangelicalism is ripe with enough buffoonery to make one want to follow Athanasius into exile. The desert is a daunting, neigh, harrowing place. But it’s far better than the diet of baloney-on-white-bread style of discernment that raises it’s inflated face against the perceived threat of “dangerous doctrine.” While I submit to the fact that dangerous doctrine exists (i.e., the entire health and wealth/prosperity gospel bag of shite), Christian doctrine is so inexorably interconnected that it should be left to the doctors of the church (which church? I’ll get to that…) to untangle and announce.
Perhaps I am just tired of Protestantism and her legacy of hermeneutical interpretive dance. Is there a beauty in this I am missing? Perhaps the problems I’ve so… magniloquently (insert self-conscious chuckle here)… expressed here stem from some grave uncertainty in my soul. My sanctimonious passing of judgement is, possibly, just a symptom of the gracelessness to which we are all prone to, to one degree or another. Obviously, though, the hack spiritual-discernment types are a symptom of something. I just don’t know if blaming Protestantism is accurate. Maybe I’m experiencing a form of religious existential crisis, and Protestantism is just such an easy target that, well, who wouldn’t want to take a swing?
The fact is, I don’t love her. Most of the time I mistrust her. I’ve had serious doubts about the whole concept of Biblical inerrancy and Sola Scriptura. These seem to me to be at the heart of Protestantism, and are the stimulus of her multifarious truth claims. My utter disdain is warranted for the discernment hacks who are out there trampling on age-old issues and defining “who’s in and who’s out”. But I have begun to realize it’s a relatively normal human reaction (we’re so afraid to be wrong) which is medicated to its harm by the proclivities of Protestantism.
Editor's Note: This can be found originally at HyberbolicMediocrity. Aaron sent it to me and it is being republished here with his permission.