I have been thinking about criticism over the last few days… after highlighting the fact that Salvation Army’s “ISB120” festival had received it’s fair share of attacks from folk who didn’t get it.
One voice in particular has come to my attention. This voice comes from a person on twitter who goes by the handle of “[twitter]skeleton_army[/twitter]” who is being very vocal with his/her views on the Salvation Army.
Now… I can hear you shouting “don’t give them publicity, Thomas”… and “remember the Streisand Effect”… and yes… I understand by naming this individual I am giving them attention and the oxygen of publicity… but I have nothing to hide in this because I can see the value in his/her criticism and I won’t dismiss him/her nor try to ignore him/her.
In this case, what he/she has to say has value but the manner in which he/she is expressing him/herself it is reducing and diluting the effectiveness of this value.
Firstly… by posting anonymously on twitter in a passive-aggressive manner… he/she is diluting the value of the points he/she is raising. It may be easier to hide behind anonymity… and yes, their approach has gotten the attention of the Salvation Army’s twitterati… but it is not effective in the longer-term when you are seeking to out wrong and bring transformation.
Why..? by doing so and remaining anonymous he/she risks coming over as a deranged, unhinged and cowardly ranting troll who isn’t prepared to stand for what they believe. Anonymous people do not stand up, out and by what they believe, in my opinion… and I think this opinion is shared by the majority of folks on the Internet.
Secondly… by refusing dialogue with representatives of the point of criticism, he/she is again diluting the effectiveness and value of his/her message. Transformation can only come through relationship.
Why..? If you don’t engage in dialogue then you are shouting into the wind… and change will not come that way. People genuinely want to understand and this understanding only comes through conversation and engagement. Dialogue, not monologue, is what’s needed.
One thing I am mindful of is that I have been more than forthright of my criticism of the Salvation Army in the past… but believe I have the freedom and, dare I say, the right to express my views because I am part of the movement… albeit on the fringes. Effective change doesn’t come through walking away but by fighting from within for what is deemed to be right and necessary. I am part, I am a participant and I hope to continue. The Pharisees haven’t broken me yet 🙂
Thirdly… in generalising their situation and experience as being representative of “the whole” he/she risks further diluting the value of his/her message. No one has the monopoly on absolute truth… everything is seen through the lens of subjective perception. Whilst the experience expressed maybe the opinion of him/her it is only part… and we must respect this… it is not the whole story.
That said… this isn’t all one-sided. We need to consider our manner in this… and how we approach our critics is of vital importance. We need to, at the very least, be gracious to him/her. I have witnessed people, obviously riled by what they have read, attacking him/her. This is wrong for two reasons:
Firstly, this person is speaking from his/her experience… and his/her experience is of equal value to yours or mine. You may not like what he/she is saying but you shouldn’t attack him/her for saying it. The ability to freely express an opinion is what makes the West a wonderful place to live. If you take away the right of someone to express themselves, however repugnant or malicious that expression is, you become an oppressor… and oppression is not the way of Jesus.
Furthermore, we must be mindful that in responding we are putting forward our opinions and, similarly, we can not make sweeping generalisations because we too only have part of the picture.
Secondly, as followers of Jesus, we are called to love and to love with everything we have. In fact, we are to be known by our love. If we act in any way other than with kindness, patience, graciousness and self-control then we lose something of our love. Let’s not stoop to the personal attacks of our opponent but love them… after all aren’t we meant to love our enemies? This isn’t optional.
In addition… we shouldn’t be dismissive and write off the concerns expressed as being simply the musings of a troll looking for attention. I have given the points raised the prayerful and introspective consideration they deserve and every member of the Salvation Army should do so too… just as critics of Christianity should be given the respect of being heard and, more important, listened to and not dismissed outright.
I would love to see some resolution to this. I believe there is value in what [twitter]skeleton_army[/twitter] has to say and I pray there can be some form of dialogue.
In fact, if [twitter]skeleton_army[/twitter] would like to air his/her views on this podcast, then I would be more than happy to blether with him/her. I am reaching out to him/her… let’s do this right… let’s be constructive rather than destructive… and work together to build a better Salvation Army.