Criticism or Critique by Jim Henderson
Criticism or Critique
by Jim Henderson - Executive Director of Off-The-Map
Context: Question – with the "anonymity/cover or social distance" provided by the internet (the impact of caffeine and other energy drinks, succumbing to the need to be cool by cruel, and rationalizing the irrational behind the veil of smug self-righteousness), what sort of viral movement can be initiated to create a broad coalition of users who come together to make it known that they are proponents of a better way?
The saying I find myself quoting most often is something I heard my friend Brian McLaren say several years ago “ We need to stop comparing our best with their worst.” I use that in conversations almost daily when trying to explain what I mean by fancier phrases such as – “sitting with difference” or “non reactive presence” or “ the spiritual practice of being curious”
Brian’s phrase (he may have heard it somewhere else – I don’t know) creates a mini movie/emotional experience and is much faster than my more intellectual sounding lines. My lines make you think but Brian’s make you feel. They make us feel our duplicity, they make us feel our hidden agenda, they make us feel our non Jesusy stuff. That’s why I love Brian’s phrase – it rapidly puts me in my place and makes me think twice before I open my mouth to “go after” someone in person or for the purposes of Bill's question in writing.
We have all learned by now that it is far easier to be a “tough guy” hiding behind a blog post (btw- please don’t double down on your duplicity by using anonymous – man up and give us your real name –and if you don’t want to do that they maybe the Holy Spirit is telling you to chill) Anyway – it is definitely easier to say something mean spirited in a blog than it would be in person. I know because I have done it myself more than once. And it’s especially true online where those of us who lack power can tell those who hold power exactly what we think of them. All done of course in a manner that allows us to appear to be holding the moral high ground.
Having said all that I need to own that I am a huge fan of critique! In fact I, along with my partners run a website called Church Rater www.churchrater.com where we encourage it. Consequently we find ourselves on a learning curve to distinguish the difference between criticism and critique. We get all kinds of comments posted on Church Rather the vast majority of which are over the top self promotions by Christians and often my pastors themselves. It’s amazing what people will say about themselves (we’re talking Christians here) when you give them 5 stars to play with (by the way, we know there is no such thing as a 5 star church ).
When trying to draw the line between criticism and critique (something the founder of our movement engaged a fair amount for sure), here’s my rule of thumb:
I am practicing criticism:
If I am talking about you or your idea and the intention of my heart is to hurt you.
If I am talking about you to someone and secretly hope (even after asking them to keep this confidential) that they pass it on to someone who might say it.
If I pray against you, your church or your idea with another person.
I am practicing critique:
If I talk about your ideas, practices or motives and own my own biases and issues.
If I use or refer to your writings, art, music or speeches for the sake of helping others learn to distinguish what I consider to be good, bad or average.
If I acknowledge that I strongly disagree with your position, ideas or practices but refuse to attack you personally.
These are the ingredients I use when trying to bake Brian’s “stop comparing our best with their worst” cake.
Off The Map
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Seattle, WA 98175