Friday, January 19, 2007

On Criticism

For many years now, I've considered myself somewhat of a critic. I do not believe that the world is the way it should be, so I speak out against/for whatever I see to be the problem. Lately, however, I've noticed that my criticism--even the non-perjorative kind--has left me with a feeling of alienation and despondency. I've seen this in friends who are critics, whether socially or culturally or intellectually. Anyone who's ever read anything by Gary North knows how critics can sometimes act (the word you are looking for is "snarky"). Critics can be quite Hobbesian: short, nasty, and brutish. I've found myself often falling into that very mode.

The concept that is hardest for critics to grasp is that found in the Gospels: take the log out of your own eye before you worry about the sawdust in your brother's eye. The depression of criticism comes from the fact that you are always pointing out speck after speck of sawdust, without taking the necessary time to make sure you are sufficiently humble for the task. Many critics end up being ***holes because they don't do that, especially religious critics.

The desire to be a prophet, to apply God's Law to everyday situations, is strong amongst Christians: we see that the world is going the wrong way and want to head it off. The prophetic books seem like a reasonable model. But the disconnect between them and us is so strong. The prophets gave up everything dear to them, including life, to bring their inspired criticisms: we continue to live as comfortable Americans, content with our civil religion to rule over our real religion. It makes me a hypocrite and, in many ways, a scoundrel.

I've often believed and said that the only way that the government is going to change is if we start to govern ourselves. If we take care of our local poor, our elderly, our young, the defenseless in our midst. True enough, but if you were to ask me what I've done to make my criticism come true, I couldn't answer. It is easy to speak, but hard to work.

Lord have mercy.

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