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.