Engaging CultureChristian Media

Name Calling: Why Do Christians Do It?

We’ve seen it over the years – discussions and disagreements in the Christian community that start out well, but then slide into name calling. I’ve seen it over the “worship wars,” creation versus intelligent design arguments, the emergent church, and more. But even after all that, I have to admit to being a bit shocked at the level of venom the discussion of the Noah film generated. As I mentioned in my posts, there is much to be debated about the movie. I would have made different creative choices, and there are many decisions the director made in the film I don’t agree with. But in spite of that, I simply recommended that Christians see the film – especially before they launch a petition drive against it, create an online campaign, or call for a boycott.

I expected to get a reasoned discussion, and some people did exactly that. From both sides of the debate many people posted serious, thoughtful, and respectful arguments either to see it or not to see it and why. What I didn’t expect was the amount of name calling. Since I posted my original blog on the movie a few weeks ago, and a few others since, Christian readers have called me:

A false prophet
A joke
Pathetic
A fraud
A “special breed of stupid”
A moron
Sickening
A secular humanist
A coward
A shill
My understanding “sucks”
Part of “satanic Hollywood”
I’m working hard for the devil
A heretic
A sell out
I could go on, but you get the idea. A few pitied my “lost soul” and one person emailed me and told me to “Enjoy my 30 pieces of silver.”

All because I recommended Christians use Noah as an opportunity to engage with the culture, not withdraw.  Keep in mind these comments were from Christians, trying to defend their view of the Bible. They also had no issue making sweeping assumptions about me and my motivations (although we’ve never met and many admitted they’d never heard of me before the blog post.)

For the record – I have thick skin, and I can handle it.  I’ve taken plenty of heat for my views over the years, but I’m used to getting them in arenas that are generally more hostile to orthodox Christian thinking – places like the Huffington Post or on secular news programs. And this has been especially frustrating because I know some atheists and undecided readers follow my blog. What must they think when they see Christians ripping each other apart so viciously?

So the question becomes:  Where in the Bible does it encourage us to use name calling in our discussions about our faith? I’m all for passion, urgency, and wit, but in spite of their serious disagreements, did Paul call Barnabas a moron, or Peter a joke? Was Paul a sell-out when he started teaching that Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised? When Peter had a vision of the unclean animals, people argued with him, but I can’t find evidence they called him a coward or a lunatic.

I’m all for vigorous debate, but when did it become OK to call our Christian brothers and sisters such nasty names?  Let me know what you think.

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