Not a Troll (Perhaps a Hobbit)

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

We live in the age of trolls. The internet allows us to maintain a certain level of detachment, so we go for it. We noisily air our opinions and blast those who dare to disagree. Through the relative anonymity afforded by the keyboard, we say the words that may never actually vibrate in our vocal chords and exit through our lips. We demand, cajole, proclaim the things that we may never actually have the courage to say out loud.

Am I one of those trolls, those vaunted keyboard warriors?

Why do I write about politics? Theology? Mental and physical illness? Why do I write about the things that make you angry? Why do I fail to adopt a soothing, socially-acceptable voice? Why do I persist in making you uncomfortable?

Because I care.

A lot.

I may not cry often, but I am incredibly passionate. I am tenderhearted. If I write about something that makes you squirm, I don’t do so for the sake of making you squirm. I do it because I can’t stand what’s passing for Christian teaching and living throughout our country. Of course that’s generalized. Of course there are people who are doing their absolute best to love God and others. Still, the overall trends toward prioritizing temporal power over Gospel preaching and fluffy, gunky, crap “doctrine” over thoughtful doctrine and study…ugh! Blergh! Argh!

Cue Darth Vader:

For real. Sometimes I want to tear my hair out.

Sharon Hodde Miller says it best:

The pressure to be nice competes with the calling to be prophetic. … For every article about making money with your blog, or having a better marriage, we need leaders who are leveraging their authority with their particular audience to call people to rugged faithfulness. We need teachers who are targeting the idols of people-pleasing and politics and worldly success, and helping us to be the actual people of God. And we need pastors engaged in the kind of spiritual formation that resists cultural influence, and prepares believers for loving self-sacrifice.

Last year Brueggemann summarized our prophetic failing this way: “I believe the crisis in the U.S. church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common, generic, U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence” (A Way Other Than Our Own, p. 3).

…we are witnessing the fruit of inadequate spiritual formation. When our spiritual formation winks at, or embraces, cultural idols, we will produce individuals who are totally unable to resist the culture. That is why we are in dire need of prophetic leaders with the courage and clarity to name our adulterous loves. It’s hard work, and humble work (since ranting should not be confused with prophetic teaching), but we need it now as much as ever.

No, I’m not saying I’m a prophet (and neither is Miller). “Prophetic” here is used in a way that points to challenging the status quo because it needs to be challenged. It’s John the Baptist in his camel-hair dress shouting, “Repent!” in the wilderness. It’s Jesus quietly telling the woman at the well that He is indeed Messiah. It’s Ananias taking his life in his hands and approaching Paul, who’s just been knocked off his donkey and struck blind. It’s thousands of men and women around the world today who dare to praise God in cultures that would see them dead for it.

I love you, dear reader. I do. Again, perhaps not in a way that you would quickly recognize. If we were to meet, I probably wouldn’t give you a big hug. I might ask you some random, weird question about your favorite historical era because I’m awkward like that. But I want so much, so desperately much, for you to know Jesus. I want you to really follow Him, even if it costs you something – and it will. I want you to embrace the cost, knowing that this life is but a breath and far greater things are up ahead.

I’m not perfect. I don’t always get this right. I have, in no way, “arrived.” I’m right there in the middle of this thing with you, tugging your elbow, hoping you’ll tug mine when I get distracted by the shiny stuff. Because we all get distracted. And that’s why we need the gruff voices, the ones that don’t fit into neat boxes, to call us back and keep us moving forward.

There’s a time for gentleness and a time for bluntness. The one is not more loving than the other. James wrote some harsh things in his epistle, but he was not uncaring. He was not mean. He wrote them because he loved his readers. He wanted the very best for them.

If you are challenged by me (or others), if you find yourself clicking away from this site (or others) because you feel anger, pause for a moment. Take a step back. Getting your toes smashed is never fun (I’ve had mine stomped on plenty of times), but it’s often necessary. Let’s learn to accept that discomfort. Let’s learn to sit with things that challenge us. Let’s learn to listen to the hoarse voices.

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2 thoughts on “Not a Troll (Perhaps a Hobbit)

  1. This was the first post of yours that I’ve read. So I don’t know what you’ve already written that people may consider controversial, uncomfortable, or not politically correct.
    Here’s some thoughts:
    In Psychology, there appears to be an Incredible amount people who, online, share and overshare (is it a compulsion?) just how depressed, “sensitive”, “broken” they are, almost as of its some sort of badge-of-honor. Why? It seems to follow one of two pathways:
    1. They either do next to nothing at all about it—and stay right where they are. Nothing changes. or–
    2. They even “defend” their mood, sickness, sensitivity, ailment as if it somehow makes them—special.
    But either way, the dont get better. They’ve been this way for months. They may even make up politically correct or euphemistic names for ailments or “sensitivities”. The new fad of labeling one’s self an HSP comes to mind as a big crock of garbage. How do these ultra-cushy folks get through life? I’m not buying it. They belong in a covalescant center. What *doesn’t* overwhelm them? To me, it sounds like the total opposite of an overbearing Narcissist. This is more like the opposite end of the scale where they play the super-gentle “sensitive” one and get everyone to make 14 accomodations to them to show we “care” because they’re soooo sensitive. If I’m not mistaken, this “condition” is currently NOT recognized in psychology’s DSM manual.
    “mindfulness” is another passing fad. 20 yrs ago we would have simply called it, maybe, meditation, or “centering yourself” or “being aware”. But now, just slap a new label on an old “thing”, call it Mindfulness and sell a boatload more books. Slick! It’s not that there’s anything particularly “wrong” with it, but lets just be honest and admit there’s nothing new here.
    In Christianity—Joel Osteen is wrong. This isn’t religion. This is motivational speaking masquerading as Christianity. It’s “positivity gone wild”. But some Christians may recognize this. What many of them wont examine is the rampant teaching of “once saved, always saved.” I believe this is false. (And I dont even go to church, but I’ve read the new testament 3 times in 3 different translations). The Apostle Paul talked about fighting the good fight and running the race. He did NOT “get saved” and then just coast-into-heaven. It was an ongoing effort. But try telling that to Christians today. (Wear your suit of armor). Even many of their pastors will defend once saved, always saved. It’s “better for business” that way. More “positive” and less for christians to DO means more money in the offering plate. But what about a love of Truth? “Apostasy” is a real thing. People CAN “turn away”. Or “fall away”. Backsliding is real. and people might NOT repent of their sins. But who even reads their own bible anymore? Even that may not be any guarantee as some new Bible translations may simply edit or “revise” passages that may “convict” or “offend” people. But people dont look at history of how things may have been different 2 or 3 generations ago. Too many people think that whatever is current, is accurate. but that may not be the case. Nowadays, churches have super-magnified the idea of “grace” and you can hardly tell a Christian from a carnal, worldly person.

    Like

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