Rather than merely update my previous post on Julie Neidlinger’s essay, I’d like to offer here just a couple of comments concerning something that really bothered me in the comments and replies. It was this: Some felt it necessary to compare Julie’s essay, that is, the content of the essay, to Ingrid Schleuter’s writing or commentary on such same subjects. I’m writing this as a perfect apology for everything that Julie wrote even though, to be sure, I have great sympathy for much of what she said. I am writing, however, to dispel this notion that her work, in this essay, is comparable to Ingrid’s. I have re-read the essay again and I have a least seven reasons why I think Julie’s essay differed and, as such, why it appealed to me. (PS–this post is not about Ingrid per se. It is about the comments that I read from several who said that Julie’s essay was like Ingrid’s in tone and content. Please don’t make this an ‘I hate Ingrid rant’ because that is not what it is. Also, I am not ‘on Julie’s side.’ I am on my own side, partially, defending why I found Julie’s article appealing in the first place.–jerry)
First, Julie actually visited (or had a long standing friendship) with the church she mentions in the first line of her essay. Julie was not sitting back, looking in from a distance, scrutinizing the efforts of the church in an attempt to blister them for being heretics. She didn’t go surfing the web ‘looking for a baby Jesus under the trash’ (Bono). Julie went and worshiped with those people (more than once?); Ingrid does not. That is a huge, huge difference in my book.
Second, Julie did not condemn to hell those she disagreed with, call them apostate, consider them unorthodox, write exposes about the preacher’s heretical teaching, or anything of that sort. She said, quite specifically, “I don’t blame the church; it is my own inability to fit that literally forced me to leave. I don’t really doubt their sincerity, and that many people…etc.” I might take exception to the line ‘I’ve even found, in the past, a few sermons to be interesting,’ but that’s not Julie; that’s me. (That is, as a preacher, I would be highly offended if someone referred to my sermons as merely ‘interesting.’ ) Uh, do I need to actually state what Ingrid (and others like her, do?)
Third, Julie did not act as if her angst was necessarily theological. It may have had theological underpinnings; or not. But Julie was rather clear through the article that her angst had more to do with her own preferences than anything else, maybe even a little home-sickness. This could have bee gleaned by most from the first three paragraphs alone, but it is also scattered throughout. Ingrid, on the other hand, frequently offers up complaints that are decidedly NOT theological, but disguised as such when really they are nothing more than her preferences. Again, huge difference.
Fourth, Julie did not blame the pastor/preacher. “I don’t know that the minister was wrong, though I think he was in some things he said. I am sure parents appreciate the ability to leave…etc…but it annoyed me” (my emphasis.) I appreciated, as a minister, that Julie had the nerve to not place all the burden squarely on the back of the preacher. With Ingrid, that is not nearly ever the case. And maybe there is some justification to Ingrid doing so sometimes, but not always. At some point the congregation full of people needs to assume some of that weight.
Fifth, Julie is not opposed to all things modern. “I’m not going to be one of those starched-collar Christians who, based on personal preference, say that this is a sign we’re going to hell in a handbasket and that all things are wrong unless they are done as they were done with the Puritans.” Isn’t this a huge, major-league, huge difference between Julie and Ingrid? Ingrid is opposed on the grounds of being opposed. Julie is opposed on the grounds that so much of it seems contrived.
Sixth, Ingrid would never, I mean never, quote Kurt Cobain to make a point. Julie would, and did. For that alone Julie get’s bonus points.
Seventh, Julie provided a solution to her problem with the church: She left. This is not what Ingrid (or other AMD types) would do. First, they wouldn’t go to begin with, and, second, they would continue to rail against the church forever and a day thus perhaps robbing some of hope, others of joy, still others of purpose, and perhaps ruining a pastor’s reputation along the way. Julie was feeling angsty so she left. OK. Maybe she was a bit sensitive. OK. Maybe she was being a girl. OK. Who cares? She had a complaint. She voiced it. Some agree and some do not. Julie’s essay was not in any way, shape or form like something Ingrid (or others like her) would publish. Ingrid (and others like her) rarely, if ever, offers solutions to what she sees as (sometimes) valid criticisms. She just criticizes.
From what I can tell, Julie had maybe three complaints and, I happen to think they are valid. In no particular order, 1) fakery/phoniness/lame-trying-to-fit-in-ness/faux trendiness/sameness/faux-coolness from pastors. I agree–it’s like everyone is trying their hardest to look in like Mark Driscoll or Rob Bell physically the way so many pastors are trying to ‘look like’ Rick Warren theologically. Perhaps what Julie wants is for someone to, I don’t know, be themselves? Did you notice how many times the word ‘fake’ or a synonym for ‘fake’ was used?
2) Imaturity among Christian men. Fellas, and ladies, I gotta be honest with you: She’s got a point. One of the best things I did in life was to go to Bible college already married and live with my wife. Talk about having to grow up fast! It was like four more years of high school with all the gossipy who’s dating who and who’s hating who and blah, blah, let’s stay up until four AM playing games and drinking Jolt Cola. I don’t think this is about Julie’s ‘dating-angst’ as some seem to think, but rather about what has been fostered among our men in the church by not encouraging and demanding that they grow up in their faith.
3) Manipulative and trite sermons. This is at the feet of the pastor and I agree. Much of what passes itself off as preaching in today’s church cannot possibly provide hope, courage, or strength to people like ‘Julie’ or people like ‘me.’ It sounds trite and manipulative. It sounds like the preacher doesn’t trust that the congregation can handle a) hearing, b) learning about, c) applying deep theological concepts. So we have to dumb it down. This is her point, I think, about ‘children’s’ church; we are not raising children to be children, but adults. Why dumb it down, for children or adults? I happen to agree with her whole-heartedly. Give the people something eat.
OK. I think that’s about all I want to say. Please remember, this is my impression of her post. I’m not trying to psycho-analyze Julie. I’m interacting with her post and defending the post against those insidious ‘this sounds like Ingrid and so why do you like it and not Ingrid’s?’ complaints that I saw in the comment thread of my OP on the subject. It is amazing that most of this, again, could have been discerned from reading the first three paragraphs of Julie’s post. Have a grand day everyone.