Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Angry apostates

I'll briefly comment on something I occasionally observe. You have professing believers who lose their faith due to personal tragedy. Something terrible that happened to them or someone they love.

But they don't just lose their faith. They respond by conducting a vendetta against Christianity. They may visit Christian blogs and unload on the blogger or other Christian commenters. They raise stock objections of the village atheist variety. 

When Christians respond, they complain about how heartless Christians are. Christians have no empathy for the ordeal which the apostate or his loved one went through. Indeed, this just confirms why they gave up on Christianity in the first place. 

At this point I'd make a couple of observations:

i) Apostates like this don't have a monopoly on personal tragedy. For all they know, the Christians whom the apostate is angrily denouncing for failing to understand what it's like has been through the same ordeal, or worse. 

ii) When apostates act this way, it creates an unnecessary dilemma for Christians. On the one hand, we'd like to be sympathetic to your situation. We'd like to be good listeners. 

On the other hand, you make that very difficult when you use your suffering (or the suffering of a loved one) as a bullet proof shield to hide behind while you fire away at Christianity. 

Frankly, that's inappropriate. You don't have a right to force us into silence by exploiting your tragedy to attack the Christian faith. That's very cynical and manipulative. 

It's up to you how you wish to be treated. We'd rather be compassionate. But if you take advantage of your tragedy to avenge the Christian faith, then you've left us with lesser options. 


  1. Steve, you are mostly right about this, but the problem is that those who bring up complaints often get short shrift; eg the "we're all sinners" and "there's no perfecft church" canards rather than an empathetic and truthful answer. It's a lot easier just to blow-off the plaintiff than it is to face the fact that maybe he was indeed shafted - possibly by the hearer. Thus I'd have to disagree with your statement "we'd rather be compassionate." We *should be* but, alas, we're all sinners and there's no perfect church...

    1. Kirk, what you label as a canard is what a Christian would probably label as a "truism". And I agree that it isn't every helpful to repeat it to someone suffering. But that doesn't make it a canard. On Christianity, the church is a hospital and rehabilitation clinic for the sick.

      You may even say that "all of these people believe that church is a hospital and rehabilitation for the sick. but I don't believe it." That's all well and good. However, it would be odd for you to go into a room full of sick people and expect perfection. Perhaps some of these sick people are rude, and yell all the time, some may bite, but they recognize they are sick, and they are in rehab for that very reason. When you say "why do you people act this way?!" and they respond (if they respond at all) "I'm sorry, I'm sick and I need rehabilitation, that's why I'm here", why treat that with contempt?

    2. Justin, assume that one of your children just nroke one of your household rules; you remind him of the 4th (5th for the Reformed) commandment and are about to apply the board of education to the seat of learning; he protests "c'mon, dad, we're all sinners" to which you immediately reply "you're right" & let him off the hook. That's how it happens at your house, right?

      My point is that people who bring complaints (legit or otherwise) deserve a hearing cum intelligent response; in the case of wrongdoing, that should be acknowledged and if possible remedied. Paul's expressed expectation that Christians handle internal matters to an higher standard than the world was no idle comment.

      I am not contemptuous of those who use the truism of the church as hospital when their actions suggest that they believe it to be merely a needle exchange, but rather tired of the same old excuses - particularly from those who use their canards and truisms at those whom they have wronged as some sort of ersatz repentance. The fact that we are all sinners doesn't excuse sin. Just what are you proposing vis-a-vis accountability?

    3. Rejecting the church because of the hypocrites is like not going to the gym because of the fat people.

    4. You're addressing a different scenario than the topic of my post. I wasn't talking about individuals who (rightly or wrongly) feel they were burned by people at church (which happens), but individual who become apostates because they or someone they love suffers a tragedy. At that point they feel God betrayed their faith in him. God double-crossed them. The promises of Scripture are lies! So they lose their faith in God.

      They are not, in the first instance, upset by what churchgoers did to them, but what they think God failed to do. At that stage, churchgoers may have done nothing to them.

      They then resort to a vindictive attack on Christians or Christianity. It's revenge.

      Some of them challenge Christians by raising stock objections to Christianity. When Christians refute the objections, the furious apostate accuses them of lovelessness because they didn't just sit there and take it.

    5. Understood; not having encountered such a person, are they at at least honest with their audince, or is it just the usual screed?