Warriors & Whiners

Tullian Tchividjian is grandson of world renowned evangelist Billy Graham and senior pastor of PCA mega-church Coral Ridge Presbyterian. Over at the Gospel Coalition Tchividjian sketches out a chapter from his book entitled Unfashionable that makes a case for what he understands as “God-centered anger.”  The idea, which is really quite popular, seems to be that one is free to express his anger when it is thought that the Most High would agree with him, but not so much when one’s emotions are less than heaven-framed.  As an example to make the point, he writes:

Years ago I was one of five thousand people listening to a panel discussion at a Christian conference. An editor of a conservative political-theological magazine was expressing his frustration with many of the political left-wingers, and doing so in an unnecessarily sarcastic and condescending way. When he finished, John Piper (another speaker on the panel) turned to him, and with utmost seriousness and precision, he said, “For a long time I have appreciated your ministry. You are an astute observer of our culture. I read your magazine every month. It’s always insightful. But there’s one thing missing from your ministry.”

The editor looked at Dr. Piper and asked what it was.

“Tears,” Piper replied.

The world so often senses our anger—but do they ever sense our grief? They think we’re angry simply because we’re not getting our way, but I’m afraid they don’t feel our sorrow over sin’s negative, dehumanizing effects. We fail to communicate our anger in a way that says, “You were made for so much more than this.” They assume our anger is only because we’re not getting what we want. No wonder they tune us out.

Questions about self-expression versus self-comportment aside (since nobody really seems interested anyway), is it true that crying at those with whom one disagrees is better than yelling at them? It is said that even smiles have teeth.  And from my experience, it would seem that weeping is the device used by those who have figured out that their temper tantrums haven’t exactly worked. It is simply another tactic used to manipulate another into sympathy. Anyone who has children knows how this game is played. The child wants something she knows the parent will refuse because she knows both are on different terms. The first tactic is to display her anger at being refused. The second is to manipulate the parent into thinking, by way of tears, that this breakdown in relations is hurtful for all involved, that it is in everyone’s best interest to see it her way. It is a fairly clever, and very often more successful tactic than simply displaying anger. Any parent can attest that to be convinced that one is hurting his child, as well as himself, is highly persuasive.

But the question remains, is what is on the table for negotiation a good and agreeable proposal? This is how adults are conventionally expected to relate to one another.

Interestingly, Tchividjian follows D. James Kennedy into Coral Ridge’s pulpit. Does such a transition signal how culture warriors simply morphed into cultural whiners? And have they, in their shifting from temper to tears, done very little to quell the suspicion that, contra Calvin’s own prayer “not to be too tied to the cares of this world,” revealed that they perceive the culture to be king?  And does all the remaining obsession with wearing emotions on their sleeve put much distance to the suggestion that they traffic in more a moralistic-therapeutic deism than historic Christianity?

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6 Responses to Warriors & Whiners

  1. Todd says:

    Zrim,

    I wasn’t quite as critical of the comment because I didn’t take it literally as non-Christians needing to see literal tears, but that our attitude would be more Christ-like saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” compared to “we need to stop those God-hating liberals from ruining our country.” Reading it that way I like his point.

  2. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    I took it figuratively as well. But, while I understand that both are relatively sincere, I suppose I’m skeptical that yelling or cooing are essentially any different as tactics when the intent is to win the culture; and both seem equally sanctimonious. Preaching sin is just different from disagreeing on how to order society.

    Speaking of Piper, I don’t think he can decide whether to be righteously angry or cooey. But in the age of moralizing politics and politicizing faith, I’d settle for self-composure.

  3. Joe Brancaleone says:

    hm, yeah that rubs me the wrong way too. How Piper’s response still grants a couple of questionable presuppositions in this editor’s thinking. Namely, to even be having individuals running around and selecting a certain subset of contemporary social issues to critique, and then presuming to speak to those issues not just as a citizen but as a representative of the Christian faith. It’s unwise on several levels, not just the attitude of the individual speaking out.

    It’s unfortunate, because Piper’s point, out of its immediate context, is valid in that we are *never* in a position to evaluate the moral landscape around us by bypassing an honest examination of the moral wasteland within our own hearts, and the blunt reality that anything else that may be found among us is the fruit of the *Spirit*, because of God’s undeserved grace alone. A lack of figurative tears betray’s one having tapdanced past the implications of Romans 2:1-5, et al.
    In any case, I don’t think the answer is to just try and change the *perception* of one’s attitude, but to just go back to the scriptures and more honestly wrestle with what is revealed in your own heart, and let the Spirit does his work.

  4. GLW Johnson says:

    This was Doug Wilson, I believe, that Piper addressed- but, in light of Wilson being invited o speak at this year’s DG conference, it does appear that Piper still had some resevations about him…..but he should have!

  5. GLW Johnson says:

    insert ‘not’ after does.

  6. Zrim says:

    Gary,

    So I guess the message is that it’s more important for Wilson to cry more in his cultural quest than clarify himself on confessional Reformed orthodoxy.

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