Christian slander

How easy it is to slander other Christians, to paint them in the worst possible light. We see something out of place in someone’s life and repeat that story to others. While it may be a true story, does it really capture them in totality? Does it provide the best review of their value and personhood? What do we gain by repeating these true but incomplete stories?

In my world, it is very easy to do this with public figures. I find myself tempted to do so when I see a public figure giving a terrible lecture or training. I want to point out their superficiality, their mis-representation of either psychology or christianity. And while I do believe there ought to be room for critique and wise review of public works, it is easy to cross the line into slander.

How do you evaluate whether you are giving a careful critique or have lapsed into slander? APA format in writing allows us to make a statement about another and conclude it with a “citation.” For example, “Monroe (2009) believes that Christianity and psychology are one and the same.” Note that I do not even need to give real evidence in my citation. I only have to cite an entire book. You can take me at face value and conclude I’m a lunatic.

Where I struggle is when I am critiquing with substance what I believe to be a problem in someone’s work, how do I do so without vilifying their entire body of work. Someone may indeed write heresy. I can call it out but does the reader get the impression that I believe that everything the person has said is suspect? The same goes for a preacher who is later discovered to have been in an affair. Does this invalidate his prior sermons?

Tough questions. Few answers. My impression is that it is so easily possible to do good and do evil at the same time. That our motives in pointing out others’ mistakes are of utmost importance. So, I can be right in my critique and entirely wrong in my doing it.


Filed under christian counseling, Christianity, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership

8 responses to “Christian slander

  1. Phil, Great post. I like to think of it in terms of a “Corinthian mentality” that is divisive, judgmental, camp-building, against, etc.; versus a “Berean mentality” that rightly divides the Word without wrongly dividing God’s people. I especially see what you are talking about being done in Christian/biblical counseling circles. We place someone in a “camp,” create stereotypical views of that camp and that person, quote the person out of context, use our definitions instead of the person’s definitions, etc., and build a case against…

  2. Jess

    “My impression is that it is so easily possible to do good and do evil at the same time.” Wow… so very true. Great sentence, Phil.

  3. Phil- I think Brennan Manning really speaks to this issue very well. He says we are both holy and sinful as well as a combo of so many things all at once, kind of like Jungs *shadow side* I think a point you make which needs more discussion still is why we shoot our wounded so much still. Tony Campolo told the story of when he was serving as Bill Clintons pastor, either a conservative congressman or pastor said to him, that man does not deserve the grace of God!!! Say what??!!?? I think your post shows a tension between grace/justice that should be a huge discussion.

  4. White Horses

    So what about the scriptures that state that we are to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but are instead to expose them?

    If a person in ministry is violating scripture, do we say nothing so we don’t “slander” them?

    • White horses, I curious about what you read in my post that suggested saying nothing when someone says something that is wrong. I was trying to communicate that how one goes about criticism is about as important as whether one criticizes. Too often individuals assume that they have a free shot at those they disagree with if their opponent says something wrong in public.

  5. White Horses

    No, you didn’t say anything. It just made me evaluate something recent in my own life. I think you made some good points. It is easy, though, if someone does something or says something that is hurtful, to only focus on the hurtful part and not on the good parts of the person. That’s when I suppose the hard feelings can turn into critiquing and then to slander and then, as you said, painting the person in the worst possible light. For some reason, the natural instinct to do this is very powerful. If someone says something we don’t agree with or that hurts us, we have this tendency to want to point out that they are wrong and we are right or that what they did is an offense. It’s a matter of denying self to move on from that and not allow what was said or done to have that much power over you. Critiquing and then slandering only adds fuel to the fire and can make your feelings even worse.

  6. Lou Buses

    My mom used to call this ‘throwing out the baby with the bathwater’. Scripture simply calls it ‘condemnation’ (Lk 6.37).

    We do it to others. We do it to ourselves. Pride provides the energy for the system in both instances . Ergo, watch the motives, as Phil so aptly points out.

  7. CP

    Thanks for the post. I read a really good article on the topic, titled “Calumny on the Blogosphere.”

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