Friday, December 3, 2010

Publicly Criticizing Public Pastors: Helpful or Not?

Recently, I have heard people at what seems like every turn profusely praising a particularly public pastor (like my alliteration there? :) ). Their praise is often presented in ways that indicate they assume everyone else would agree that this man is holy.

However, I disagree. And many people I know disagree. Yet they are in different circles than those singing his praises. I've had an urge to send a Tweet or a blog post or something voicing my passionate disagreement with this individual. But I'm not sure that's wise.

Frankly, most of the time, public criticisms of others (by name) just turn out badly. People misinterpret the criticism, and there's rarely an opportunity to clarify what we mean.

And honestly, how often does such criticism change someone's mind? I've talked a lot recently about how we need to be less worried about changing people's minds and more focused on celebrating Christ.

Here's some of my thoughts as to why it could be good to voice disagreement:

1. I don't like others assuming what I do and don't believe. It's good to clarify one's own perspective and remind people not to assume. At the same time, this again doesn't always really do a whole lot of good.

2. It could be an opportunity to remind everyone that not everyone agrees, even when it comes to "biblical" ideas. People can honestly and biblically disagree.

3. It could provide validation to others who are surrounded by supporters of that individual (or concept) who disagree, but feel like they're alone.

4. It could provide an opportunity to expose people on the fence of ideas to alternative perspectives. So often, ideas (especially religious ones) are presented as THE one and only viewpoint. I think it's really important to inform people of other faithful interpretations.

5. In my opinion, this person's ideas are more damaging than helpful, and frankly unbiblical, in my opinion. It's frustrating to see so many people mindlessly following him. Could voicing disagreement maybe make a couple of people take a second look?

While these may be my motivations (and assuming they're generally good motivations), I'm not sure it would be wise to publicly criticize an individual, even if they have a very public persona. In addition to the points raised above, doing so can damage relationships, making supporters of that person feel personally criticized or attacked.

So what do you think? Is it ever wise to criticize a pastor (or anyone frankly) publicly? I've done so in my book reviews, but try to refrain from it in other contexts (I'm not always successful :) ). Those contexts seem different...


  1. I would say that it's hardly ever useful to publicly criticize a person, as it's easy to claim disagreement with someone from afar without ever actually dialoguing with the person -- oftentimes, pastors, especially highly visible ones, get turned into "sound bites" for controversy in the media, and even amongst other pastors, who may not listen to hear the context. To me, this is right up there with taking Bible verses out of context. As Christians, we are meant to be a brotherhood, and attacking or declaiming the beliefs of a person through Twitter or blogs is more harmful in most cases than simply having an honest discussion about beliefs with that person. You mention that you don't like for people to assume what you believe, so I would be careful in saying things about other people "mindlessly following" a leader if you haven't actually discussed it one-on-one -- you never know what you might be assuming about their beliefs, or even about the beliefs of the leader that they follow. It is not a bad thing or a wrong thing to disagree, but it's important that we handle disagreements in a way that shows respect for the other person, where we encourage both sides to actively listen to each other, and don't expect them to change their minds at the end of the conversion. In the end, I find it more beneficial to encourage a person using specific verses to continue their own Bible study and come to their own conclusions, rather than focusing on rebuking them for not sharing yours, which is not to say that different opinions and interpretations can't be shared -- it just means that believers each have the Holy Spirit as a helper and guide to allow them to examine God's Word and to be directed in their beliefs as the Holy Spirit prompts through the Scriptures, rather than being prompted by man through argument. Just my thoughts. :)

  2. Very well said, and excellent points. I would agree with you completely. Thanks for your ideas!



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