A culture of criticism?

Some further thoughts about our propensity for evaluation. Is it only my perception or have we become a culture of critics? In past generations, we overlooked the flaws of others to maintain the looks of stability, honesty, and integrity. Now, we love to out leaders (sports, religion, politics, etc.) when they are immature, foolish, or downright evil. And the advent of the cellphone camera and blog means we can catch it on tape and share it immediately with the world.

I’ve noticed that this culture of criticism extends to the local community–even the church. Stand around with neighbors. How long does it take to hear your first gossipy complaint? Stand around at coffee at some churches and you might just hear a complaint about the sermon, the way the youth leader operates, a question about how the budget is being formed. Recently, I was at a function (non-church) of friends and I was surprised to hear catty complaints about whether or not others brought enough food or the right kind.

Why are we inclined to talk this way? What do we gain by pointing out the flaws of others? Pride? Self-righteousness? “Reasons” for why we can overlook our own sins? 

One more thought. Do we take greater pleasure in noticing the brokenness of the world than pointing out the good?

I am all for speaking the truth in love; for standing up against injustice and incompetence. But the repetitious meditating on what is wrong with others (including systems) seems to tear down more than it offers a way up.


Filed under Christianity, church and culture, conflicts, Doctrine/Theology, Psychology, Relationships

7 responses to “A culture of criticism?

  1. Lou Buses

    Rom 1:29
    They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips…
    Mat 15:18
    But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a person.

    Where’s the suprise?

  2. Actually, I wrote ‘culture of criticism’ in a response to a comment on my blog this morning. I must have seen this title in bloglines shortly before I checked my own blog. I thought it was original thought.Really my complaints were directed at “mommy bloggers” and homeschoolers. The homeschoolers I know in real life mostly ignore my family. A child with behavior problems doesn’t fit into their understanding of sin. Keeping their children away from kids like my daughter may have been a catalyst for many of them to start homeschooling.

    But online? It seems that a quick email message or a hastily worded comment on a blog can be clicked off without any concern about the person on the receiving end. There doesn’t seem to be much thought given to whether the response is respectful, friendly, and approachable. I wonder if this learned behavior is just starting to spill over into real life.

  3. What a short but “right on the money” comment! We are so totally blessed with a church where there is almost NO gossiping and VERY LITTLE griping. Maybe because we are so small and we can hold each other accountable – maybe because our pastor and his wife really hold a “corporate culture” appropriate to our Lord’s bride.

    I love your blog. When are we getting together? 😉

  4. Emily

    I do wonder, however, where the line between “speaking in truth” and “gossip” lies. If someone genuinly didn’t like the sermon, are they simply supposed to keep this to themselves? When is the line crossed between telling someone your opinion on a sermon you heard at Church and activly gossiping about it?

    • karenestelle

      Maybe this is too simplistic, but to me, the difference is if you don’t like the sermon, it’s truth if you talk to the pastor about it, it’s gossip if you talk to other people about it. Even if you are just “getting their opinion”. I also think it’s all about your heart. Anything you say to a friend should be what you would be willing to say directly to the person you are talking about. It goes back to what your mother probably taught you: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. 🙂

      • Good comments here. I think that we ought to be able to have good conversations about sermons, ideas–iron sharpening iron. But, Karen, you are right. If we would be embarrassed to have the pastor overhear what we have to say, then we probably shouldn’t be saying it. There is something wrong with the attitude. In one of my small groups from the past, we would discuss the sermon from the week. It was a public discussion where we pondered the points made and application to our lives. On many evenings one of us would disagree with something. But these were ideas we batted around, not critiques of preaching style or that kind of thing.
        What I was getting at in this post was our propensity to evaluate everything from afar. It allows us to be untouched (in a bad way) by the Gospel.

  5. Dave Smith

    If criticism leads us down such slippery slopes, then how should we respond to the Frankfurt school and it many emanations? Critical theory, though challenged by post-structuralism and post-modernism, is a main stay of most schools of Education in US Universities. It is also prominent in the English, Philosophy, Religion, and Humanities departments of many of these same Institutions. Most students go through one or more of these departments in their educational adventures resulting in a constant re-energizing of the culture of criticism. I realize that there are alternatives even in the secular world, such as Kegan’s Language of Transformation, but it remains that most of us experience a unabated deluge of the culture of criticism. I would even suggest that post-modern thought is a natural consequence to critical theory. If everything is bad, then nothing is good.

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