Some Reflections on My Brief Foray into Reactionary Writing

TypewriterTwo weeks ago today, I was frustrated. The Christian twitter / facebook / blog world was in an uproar over a controversial conference that seemed to be all-consuming to many. I let it get to me too.

So on that particular day, I gave in to my frustration, and I posted a controversial blog post. Whether or not it was right, it was emotionally charged and reactionary. And a couple of my friends reminded me that that’s not who I am, so I deleted the post.

Since then I’ve been thinking a little bit about that little ‘foray’ into reactionary / controversy-stirring kind of blogging. Here are some of my thoughts as I’ve reflected.

1. Things rarely need to be said so fast

I rarely say anything best when I think of it quickly. As I said some time ago, one of the temptations to sin in a social media world is instant publication for instant gratification and instant vindication rather than long-term and wide-ranging edification. I gave in to that by speaking quickly.

The temptation, of course, is to think that we need to ‘strike while the iron is hot.’ We think, ‘people are thinking about this now, so now is the time when I must be heard!’ But the reality is that those who have ears to hear will hear regardless of timing. If someone is honestly desiring to learn truth, they’ll hear it whether or not it’s trending on twitter.

2. Things rarely need to be said by me

There are typically much better people to say what I’m thinking. I thought ‘there are better ways to engage this debate!’ and someone smarter than me and more eloquent than me wrote about that. I thought, ‘This preacher is going to lose his credibility in large portions of Christianity … and I don’t want him to!’ and someone wrote about that better than I could. I thought, ‘Someone scholarly needs to review this stuff’; and someone far more scholarly than I could ever dream of being did.

It turns out that I’m not necessary at all.

3. There is rarely more light than heat when I’m being reactionary

If I am feeling worked up about something, people who disagree with me feel that I’m worked up quicker than they hear what I’m trying to say. They react to my reactionary voice rather than to the logic of the words. One of my great concerns is that people weren’t thinking clearly, but in fact, I contributed to that problem with my own reaction.

4. There are a lot of warnings about quarrels over words and engaging in controversy

Probably not coincidentally (read: in God’s providence) I was just recently reading through the pastoral epistles. I was reminded that one of the chief refrains given to men in ministry is to not engage in foolish controversy and quarrels over words. The aim of the charge of preaching the gospel is love; the end of controversy is quarrelling and strife. The two are not complementary.

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. (2 Tim 2.14)

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. (2 Tim 2.23)

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. (Titus 3:8-9)

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (Titus 3:1-2)

To those you could also add (1 Timothy 2.8; 3.3; 6:4-5; and 2 Timothy 2:22-26). One of the most significant passages, to me, is 2 Timothy 2.22-26, where the ‘youthful passions’ (‘acting like boys’) is actually associated more with engaging in controversy and quarrel than anything to do with sexual immorality or the like. It is ‘boyish’ and not ‘man of God-ish’ to be characterized this way. And I fear that I contributed to it.

5. A lot of ‘hits’ and even ‘likes’ does not equal a lot of positive influence

There was more of an instant reaction to that post (and there typically is) than there is to an average post reflecting on something I’m learning. But the people who come for something like that are looking to find those who agree with them or else to feel offended and self-righteous, and then condemn those who disagree. The ‘likes’ add up quickly, but the increase in godliness is not necessarily correspondent. I need to lead the way in ‘not being quarrelsome’.

When I’m being reactionary, the things I say aren’t being dictated by what the word says, what the gospel is, or what my people need to hear. Rather, I’m letting someone else import their problem into my world — and then I’m blaming them that it’s a problem in my world. But that’s my fault. I need to be a positive influence in my sphere, regardless of what garners the most attention.

So Why Did I Do it in the First Place?

Honestly? Here’s part of the reality: it’s fun, exhilarating, and puffs me up. It makes me feel important. It’s like a Christian soap opera and I get to play a role. It’s the heat of battle, the ‘fight or flight’, the quick-on-your-feet responses to arguments that get us excited.

But it makes me think that if we’re consistently engaging in this with other Christians, it’s probably because we’ve stopped fighting the real battle. ‘No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him’ (2 Tim 2.4).

We please the one who enlisted us when we fight the battle he wants us to fight in the way he wants us to fight it. Not by reactionary-blogging and stirring up more quarrels. I need to let that sink deep into my heart.

3 thoughts on “Some Reflections on My Brief Foray into Reactionary Writing

  1. We've all been there. Your first point reminds me of the difference between newspapers and magazines. A newspaper has to get the story out the next morning. A news magazine can take up to a month to offer analysis. It's better to have the perspective that comes with reflection; although sometimes, a highly-charged piece brings out things that might not surface without the attached emotion.

    (Pause while I wait to send this lest I am being reactionary!)

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