Blog-a-book: Criticize with grace
|by Gina Dalfonzo|
When atheist Sam Harris wrote his 2004 bestseller The End of Faith, a radical attack on religious belief in any form, he was prepared for strong rebuttals from Christians.
What may have surprised him was the vitriol in which many of the emails and letters were couched. The most hostile messages came from Christians (not Muslims or Hindus). "The truth is," he explained in the forward to his latest bestseller, Letter to a Christian Nation, "that many who claim to be transformed by God's love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism."
"How do I know this?" he asked rhetorically. "The most disturbed of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse." Indeed, Letter to a Christian Nation is his response to those vituperative critics and yet another weapon in the armory of people hostile to Christianity.
I'd love to write that passage off as just more anti-Christian bias from an intolerant elitist media. But I can't. Number one, I've seen too many similar letters and other writings from Christians. Number two, the above passage isn't from some prejudiced secular publication -- it's from Christianity Today.
Make sure you don't miss the point of this article. David Aikman is not saying here that Christians are never to criticize -- some things need criticism. What he's saying is that we are to criticize "with grace."
Which brings me to today's blog-a-book post. I was delighted to find a very old favorite in The Book of Uncommon Prayer, a poem by C. S. Lewis that's been on my bulletin board for many years. It contains a truth I struggle (and sometimes fail) to remember, a truth relevant to the Aikman article and to all of us Christians who play any part in the public arena. Here it is in its entirety:
The Apologist's Evening Prayer
From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity
Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.
Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead
Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle's eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.
C. S. Lewis