The fallout continues. Evangelicals of all shades are showing their colors over Obama’s affirmation of gay marriage. The arguments are often predictable and not worth rehashing here. Rather, I’m always interested in the tangential quarrels that arise when we’re all provoked to debate. And many are happening out there, but I thought I’d briefly share just one in particular.

Over at “Ethika Politika,” the blog for the Center of Morality in Public Life, Andrew Haines, president and founder of the Center, takes on Rachel Evans’ massively popular post, “How to win a culture war and lose a generation.” Haines begins his critique frankly, stating that articles like Evans “tick me off.” From there he fumbles around a bit (he says Evans argument boils down to “ignorance and trepidation,” in one paragraph, but then insists “never does defending moral values entitle one to degrade or humiliate another person” in the next) until he finally lands on the brunt of his argument in the last couple of paragraphs.

Haines goes after Evans in much the same way Patrol has been attacked in the past. This line sums it up: “If Christianity is a cohesive and meaningful thing, then it must remain unified in the face of threats and challenges.”

There you have it, the tired, old argument that being critical of Christianity is the actual problem. It’s not, as Evans points out in her post, that we’ve elevated the culture wars above loving people; it’s that we’re not unified “in the face of threats and challenges.” I received this criticism en masse around my response to Jeff Bethke’s “Hate Religion” video this past January. The argument consistently went, So what if he’s not right on every theological point, it’s people like you who are critical of other Christians that show the world how much we suck, or something to that effect.

And here it is again being leveled against Evans.

Then, in his last paragraph, Haines goes one step further in assuring us that his ability to argue with Evans is limited to prepackaged attacks. Evans is not making a stand based on her faith, he claims. But rather, she is “bending to the whim of popular acceptance.” If Patrol earned a dollar for every time we were accused of “bending to the whim of popular acceptance,” no one here would have to work day jobs.

So, here’s the thing, religion is not above criticism, Christianity included. It is an actor within culture, and an extremely powerful one at that. It has the potential to do great good as well as great evil. History has shown us the effect of unchecked religion so many times that it has become the best argument atheists have against religion as a whole.

Further, if pointing out its flaws divides Christianity, so be it. We should strive toward unity, but it is better to be divided, with some people at least moving in the right direction, then to be united and all of us wrong.

No, when necessary let’s disagree; it’s for our own good.

About The Author

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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0 Responses to Christianity is Not Above Criticism: In Defense of Rachel Evans

  1. I agree with you 100%. And, I find it almost laughable (if it weren’t so darn frustrating) that descendants of the Protestant Reformation even have to have a conversation about the place of public criticism within Christianity. C’mon…

  2. Eric says:

    Hear, hear!

  3. Karen Leidy says:

    Mistakes help us grow; criticism builds our character. Nobody likes it, but how we deal with it says quite a lot.

  4. […] editors of Patrol magazine were kind enough to feature my rebuke of Rachel Held Evans on their blog, yesterday. Jonathan Fitzgerald, who reviewed my critique, offered a bombastic yet […]

  5. Jeremy says:

    Jonathan, I don’t think you’re wrong, but with Haines you’ve picked such a caustic and cynical sparing partner, there’s nowhere to go but down. Haines and his merry band of commenters are, putting it delicately, not worth your time.

  6. […] you ready for this? I, Andrew Haines, the “caustic and cynical” ringleader of the “merry band” of EP commenters hellbent on saving faith from the clutches of process theologians, have a beef with […]

  7. […] a few of those pieces myself. But on the occasion of Rachel Held Evan’s post on the matter and Fitz’s and Matt Lee Anderson’s different responses, I think we take a moment to acknowledge how slippery […]

  8. Dan Allison says:

    My arguments are not predictable. Patronize someone else.

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