To See Ourselves as Others See Us

Jonathan Hagger (AKA Mad Priest) posted a piece about the BBC comedy ‘Rev’ on his blog today. I’ve watched ‘Rev’ and have a number of reservation about it, which I’ve found well-summarised on Phil Ritchie’s blog here. In a comment on Jonathan’s blog I said:

But I do think that a gospel ministry will have something more than merely human love to offer. If it doesn’t, then ministry becomes an intolerable burden for the minister. I suspect that’s one reason why I find Adam depressing. He seems to be miserable most of the time. I think people are pretty creative about finding their own forms of misery; they don’t need me to add to them.

To which Jonathan replied:

And yet you continue to give so freely around the Blogosphere whilst keeping to your super Christian persona on your own blog.

My initial gut response to this was to get defensive, but then I thought to myself, ‘Maybe he’s right. I know I comment on a number of blogs, sometimes expressing disagreement, and maybe my comments are in fact perceived as ‘spreading misery’. We think we know ourselves, but often we don’t; that’s why, as Robbie Burns said, we need help to ‘see ourselves as others see us’.

So, I’d like to ask a genuine question of those on whose blogs I comment: are my comments seen as mainly helpful, or mainly unhelpful? Welcome or unwelcome? Negative or positive? I’m trying to be as open as possible to what the Holy Spirit might be wanting to teach me here, so please feel free to respond with complete honesty to this question.

68 thoughts on “To See Ourselves as Others See Us

  1. Tim, I don’t think you spread misery with your comments. You and I have had a good many discussions in which we disagree, but I don’t go away miserable or angry. I can’t say that your comments are always helpful, but neither are mine, and that’s not necessarily what I strive for. Sometimes I want to be helpful; other times I have something to say that I hope is informative or interesting; and at times I disagree. When discussions get heated, I try very hard not to indulge in name-calling, but, at times, I tend to cross the line beyond what I consider civil discourse. 😦

    You’re welcome to comment at my blog, whether to agree or disagree.

  2. Tim Chesterton

    Thanks for this, Mimi. I’m grateful for your welcome, and I’m always glad to see your comments on my blog too.

  3. My bitchy comment was a reaction to your post about which blogs you like in which you make it obvious that you look down on angry, whinging bloggers like me. But the thing is, when you are off your own blog you are as angry, whiney as the bloggers you put down and in fact, far more preachy than most.

  4. As Jack Nicholson said to Helen Hunt “You make me want to be a better man”

    I _think_ that’s a good thing ;o)

    (NB MP – I assumed he was talking about me. I suppose we just have to be careful not to let our own hangups get in the way of seeing clearly)

  5. Well he was talking about me because his complaints described my blog to a tee. It does not bother me that I am as Tim describes (I don’t hide it either) and it does not bother me that Tim is just as angry and complaining when he is commenting on other people’s blogs as I can be on mine. What annoys me like hell is when Tim gets all holier than thou on his own blog, putting down other bloggers, when he’s just as big a curmudgeon as the rest of us.

  6. Tim is English, for goodness sake (which is obvious from the way he praises some to condemn others). So he is fully capable of self-deprecation. If he had started his post with “I know I am just as guilty of this as most other bloggers” he would have followed the correct protocol and would not have left himself open to accusations of hypocrisy.

  7. Tim, your comments on my blog are always welcome, as they are always positive and helpful. But, to be a little bit bitchy for once, it is very sad that some people take praise of others as criticism of themselves.

  8. If Tim was intent on only praising others he would not have listed what he didn’t like first. I respect Tim’s intelligence.

    it is very sad that some people take praise of others as criticism of themselves.

    That is so smug evangelical it should be on Wiki as an example.

  9. You’ve commented at Simple Massing Priest a few times. I only recall one that seemed dismissive – and everyone’s entiled to the odd dyspeptic moment so no harm done. I recall a couple of quite useful and edifying threads initiated by your comments.

    So comment away. my friend.

  10. Leslie

    “To See Ourselves as Others See Us”: History is full of people who conducted themselves as God required and were rejected. And I suppose, large swaths of God’s own chosen people do not see the one he sent as the true Messiah. And personally, after years of substitute teaching teenagers in the public school system, if I spent any time measuring myself against how others saw me… (and she falls silent here while she ponders which asylum would be most palatial should she hand herself over to that…madness)


  11. Tim should be as belligerent as he likes all the while because that is when he is being honest. It is his annoying habit of being belligerent from a position of phoney holiness that rubs me up the wrong way.

  12. Tim Chesterton

    Would you like me to supply you with a list of blogs I read whose authors could just as easily have said ‘He’s talking about me?’ Some of them have already commented here, and none of them takes this as personally as you do, Jonathan.

  13. Whatever. It’s your life. But if you weren’t out to be belligerent I don’t think you would spend so much time leaving evangelical comments on orthodox Christian blogs like mine.

  14. Tim Chesterton

    Jonathan, the fastest way to get rid of me is to stop pouring contempt and hatred on evangelicals at every possible opportunity. Last time I checked, hatred and contempt were not signs of orthodox Christianity.

  15. Oh, I see. Evangelicals are allowed to be hateful to any poor minority that some xenophobic, homophobic, mixedtextileophobic, misogynist cultic priest had issues with 2600 years ago but as soon as anyone has a go back at them it’s passive aggressive city.

  16. Tim Chesterton

    Firstly, those comments are not true of all evangelicals, so when you issue a blanket condemnation of all evangelicals, you are being unjust.

    Second, not all evangelicals who believe that homosexual acts are sinful (which is what your overblown rhetoric is referring to, of course) are ‘hateful’. I know many Christians (evangelical or otherwise) who take a traditional view of homosexuality but who intentionally reach out and try to build bridges with the gay and lesbian communities.

    Third, evangelical attitudes toward homosexuality are not the whole story about evangelicals. Evangelical Christians around the world continue to do an enormous amount of good. Organisations such as Tearfund (which my brother works for in the UK), World Vision (highly praised by AIDS activist former Ontario NDP leader and self-confessed secularist Stephen Lewis), Habitat for Humanity, and many others were all started by evangelicals and continue to be widely supported by evangelicals.

    Fourth, if you think it is an appropriate Christian attitude to meet hatred with hatred, then I’m even more doubtful that your views are consistent with orthodox Christianity.

  17. You really do not understand how patronisingly evil you sound with your building bridges, loving the sinner, hating the sin shite. But I bet it’s why MerseyMike commented that he left Christianity because of people like you.

    No, it’s not good Christianity to meet hatred with hatred but that’s what I do. Mainly because the people I fight on behalf of are too nice and end up being bullied by hateful people who hide their hatred behind evangelical platitudes. It’s a calling and I can spot a fellow evil bastard a mile off, Tim.

  18. Tim Chesterton

    Who said anything about ‘loving the sinner, hating the sin’? You, not me. I build bridges so that I can better understand people.

    ‘Hateful people who hide their hatred behind evangelical platitudes’. That’s me, I take it? I hate gays and lesbians, do I?

  19. It doesn’t really matter how you package it all up with evangelical platitudes you are part of the problem. And there is nothing to understand about gay people – they’re people. They are not another species. And they do not need you and your like to understand them. They just need you to stop poking your nose into their business and forcing people who don’t hold your views to do what you want.

  20. Tim Chesterton

    How am I forcing people who don’t hold my views to do what I want? Name a single gay person who I have forced to do what I want.

    Honestly, Jonathan, you should quit now. You don’t know me, you don’t know anything about my relationships with gay people, you don’t know how the gay people in my life feel about me. Yet you continually spout this abusive nonsense about what a hateful person I am. I think it’s pretty clear to everyone watching which direction the hatred is coming from.

  21. Tim Chesterton

    I honestly don’t know, Jonathan. I used to be sure about it, but now I’m not so sure. It’s going to happen whether I vote for it or not, because in my country conservative Anglicans are a tiny minority. My read of the current situation in Canada is that the question is no longer ‘Will gay marriage happen?’ Rather, it is ‘Will we be able to hold together a checkerboard church, and what will that look like?’

    Okay, now you answer my question. Name one gay person who I have forced to do what I want.

  22. I don’t care what you think, Tim. Or what any evangelical thinks. If you want to refuse to marry gay people that’s your right. But evangelicals want to stop people who do want to marry gay people from doing so. And it’s not just that, evangelicals are acting together to get us all to abide by their belief that the Bible is the word of God. Again, if they want to believe such idolatrous hogwash I don’t mind. It’s their insistence that just because they do, I have to. And it is this attitude that I hate in you. You quote the Bible at me on my blog in such an arrogant, holier than thou way, that it really pisses me off. As I respect your intelligence I assume you do that because you are just as confrontational and belligerent as I am but without being as honest about it as me. But what I hate most of all is that you come out fighting and then act all innocent when people fight back and worst of all start acting all passive aggressive.

  23. Leslie

    As a non-evangelical who studied with evangelicals for several years I have learned one thing about “them”. They can’t help it. They were born that way. And I’m not kidding.
    They aren’t another species (I have sometimes wondered if they are) and their platitudes are inextricably woven into their DNA, put there by God and their ancestors. I am not making this up. As an aside, they have the added disadvantage of being predisposed to dislike socialism. This makes them purely intolerable to people who just want to exist as people with other people without understanding or being understood.

    Evangelicals can’t help that either. They just keep loving the socialist, hating the…

    Evangelicals have tried to change me from my mainline orientation, claiming my soul wasn’t saved until I rebuked my mainline nature and was rebaptized but I just couldn’t change. However I find common ground with them in my admiration of George Bush and James Dobson.

    That said, after reading this comment thread, I label myself confused because I’m unclear as to what the terms evangelical and orthodox actually refer to in this case.

    My apologies to any socialist evangelical exceptions who may come across this and feel misrepresented.

    And I maintain that God enjoys Robbie Burns but doesn’t call us to live by every one of his lines.

  24. Tim Chesterton

    I reserve the right to love Lutherans but not their Lutheranism, Leslie…

    Marci is serving the fish and chips,,,

  25. It is my contention, Leslie, (and Tim knows this) that evangelicalism and the “the Bible as innerant word of God” thing wasn’t invented until the 16th. Century, making it modern revisionism as opposed to those strands of Christianity which view the OT as allegory and a narrative pointing towards Jesus which being from a two thousand year old tradition are examples of true orthodoxy.

  26. My point all along has been that you are all nicey nicey on your home patch but as vicious as hell when hanging around non-evangelical blogs. So you are hardly going to spread hatred at your Bible Indoctrination Club – they might see through the veneer.

  27. Oh, and, snap, Leslie. I was sent to an evangelical ordination college for three years to “stretch my experience of the church,” as well. Only half of what I say comes out of my arse. The rest comes from experience.

  28. Well, I wish you wasn’t hanging around. I’ve been waning to call Tim a fascist all day and haven’t dared because you get all pissy about such things.

  29. Leslie

    Half is fifty percent, MP. This is most certainly true.

    For some reason, the evangelical/orthodox discussion leaves me chased by the thought that one of the deciding factors in the race to the South Pole was that the members of the British team could not in good conscience bring themselves to eat their dogs even after they ran out of food. The Norwegians on the other hand, couldn’t in good conscience consider a race without bringing extra dogs to eat after their stores ran out. What is compassion to some is evil to another. And mixed in between all those high fallooting ethics is the reality that if you’re sitting on the edifice that is the South Pole it is most assuredly “prowling around like a roaring lion waiting to devour” those who aren’t alert and self-controlled.

    Some are devoured; some aren’t.

    And in the end, I hear tell the wind unfurls both country’s flags at the South Pole.

  30. Fine, you eat your dogs and I’ll starve. All I want is for you (the evangelical party) to stop insisting I eat my dogs. And I won’t stop you eating your dogs just as long as you don’t do it while I’m present.

  31. Leslie

    If you pay attention you will see evangelicals are listed first as the preface to the British/Norwegian comparison…this implies an association of orthodox (in this thread) with the Norwegian practice.

  32. This was a very interesting thread and it’s hard to leave without adding at least 2 cents worth………
    A young friend of mine w ho was a Religious Studies major has started writing essays on his web site. The other day he wrote one that really struck home with me. I should add that I worked as a religious educator for the RC Church for over a dozen years, although I had an Anglican background. My friend wrote that we “other-ize” people, In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, we set people a little bit aside, they are o.k. but not quiteeee as “right” as us.

    Now I have to say that I have worked with Charismatics and Evangelicals, or rather worked in the same parish at the same time. Worked with? Not so much! On their part, it is hard to know and hold the “truth” that you know to be the TRUTH, and to not feel that you must share that TRUTH with others on staff and with parishioners. And it just isn’t “right” to help others lead the people and children of the parish astray. And since u must “love” them, you gently “other-ize them and whenever possible, encourage them by quoting scripture and reminding them that you are praying for them. And so on! Being “right” is a heavy burden…………

    I think it is this sweet passive aggrression that Jonathan is chaffing about, a bit like ether, sweet and overpowering at times.

  33. Susan H.

    “I know many Christians (evangelical or otherwise) who take a traditional view of homosexuality but who intentionally reach out and try to build bridges with the gay and lesbian communities.”

    Tim, with all due respect, the above sentence makes my “anti-gay code” sirens go off. When read by a lesbian Christian such as myself, it is simply a restatement of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Jonathan is correct about that.

    Most gays and lesbians who have attempted to remain within the church (of whatever denomination) over the years have become quite adept at discerning all the code words used by those who consider our love to be sin. “Traditional” is one of those words. “Build bridges” and “reaching out” are other phrases of which I’ve learned to be wary. And though you may feel very sincere in using those words, choosing them so as not to offend, many of us have seen them so often that we deduce what is typically meant by them. To me, as Pat says above, such language implies that I am some “other” kind of person, someone different, someone not quite up to your standards. And from people with the “traditional” perspective, I’m not quite up to God’s standards either, though surely they are. Or at least, they are closer to God’s standards than I am. After all, they know God’s standards, rarely hesitate to tell us what those are, and are sure to let us know we are not fully members of the Club.

    I don’t know, Tim. I just have grown so weary of Christians who claim they can remain both of the mind that my loving, committed relationship is a “sin,” yet want to somehow reach out to me with God’s love despite the fact that they condemn me and my wife. It makes me very sad. It’s one of those things that I wish people would either just accept or not accept, black or white, no in-betweens. Because if you try to remain somewhere in the middle, building those bridges just feels like a great big lie. It feels, from my perspective, like someone who smiles and holds a treat out to a child, and then slaps her hand when she tries to take the cookie.

    As to your original question, it’s hard for me to say, as I just don’t spend much time on the blogosphere any more. My blog is now defunct. From what I recall in the past, I have rarely found offense in your posts, though I do have difficulty with your stance on homosexuality and its acceptance (or rejection) by the church. As I’m sure, to be fair, you would have difficulty with my position on that issue as well.

    Just my two cents, for what it’s worth.

  34. Tim Chesterton

    Thanks, Susan. I guess you would need to ask my daughter and her wife, or my good friend Erika Baker, whether they feel that I am quietly judging them. I just feel that there has to be a way for Christians from these ‘Two solitudes’ to reach out and love each other, even if they don’t agree. If there isn’t then Christianity seems to me to be a bit of a waste of time.


  35. I didn’t make Tim’s favorite blog cut, either, but I will strive ever harder in the future to get on the list. What do I have to do, Tim? Whatever it takes…. 😉

    I never do lists of favorites or lists of the top bloggers, because I don’t think we bloggers should be competing with each other, but then, I’m not a competitive type. I was crap at sports when I had to play in school, because I never cared that much if my team won.

  36. Tim Chesterton

    I didn’t intend it to be a ‘Favourite blog’ list, though I can understand why people would take it that way. It was more along the lines of ‘this is what I really enjoy in a blog – and here are some examples’. Although I did use the word ‘Favourite’ for Felix Hominum, which is the blog I admire the most.

    Example: there are some people who use their blogs almost entirely to document their own inner struggles – a bit like a journal, but with hundreds of readers. I like some of those people very much, and have become good friends with a couple of them. But that particular style of blog doesn’t especially appeal to me. That’s not a value judgement; it’s a matter of personal taste, like preferring traditional folk music to singer-songwriter stuff. Some of my best friends are singer-songwriters, but when I really enjoy a folk CD, it tends to be more trad.

  37. We didn’t have kickboxing at my schools, but that would not have been my sport, because my opponent would have kicked or punched back, and I would have forfeited the match. I don’t have a lot of physical courage, but I hope what’s mine would rise to the fore to save another from harm. Not for a game or match, though. My one sports glory was to achieve a shared neighborhood championship at ping-pong.

  38. It was more along the lines of ‘this is what I really enjoy in a blog – and here are some examples’

    Yes, but you proceeded the bit where you explained what you liked in a blog by detailing their negative. Fair enough, but don’t pretend you were not being belligerent.

  39. You mean I shouldn’t live in fear that you are going to thump me at any moment when we are together. Now you tell me. I could have got away with so much more.

  40. I hate these bloody wordpress comment thingies. I always end up with my comment in the wrong thread. It’s typical evangelical revisionism if you ask me. I’m an old school, orthodox blogger. There is only one Thread. Anything else is heresy.

  41. Tim Chesterton

    You mean I shouldn’t live in fear that you are going to thump me at any moment when we are together.

    Far from it – in fact, if you feel at all motivated to spend any of your hard earned pounds on a trip to the Oakham area over the next few weeks, I’d be more than happy to stand you a drink or two at the Grainstore .

  42. Don’t worry, MadPriest, he’s a pacifist. But then he is also an expert with hunting rifles, so don’t wind him up too far!

    Tim, having watched musk oxen and caribou fight on Frozen Planet last night, I think you have a lot of courage to get even within rifle range of them. You may need that courage to meet MadPriest!

  43. Actually I was talking to Mimi when I said the above. Both Mimi and me, being orthodox bloggers, are having huge problems with the wordpress comment system. My apologies for any confusion. Mimi doesn’t have to apologise for her confusion because it’s just down to her advanced years 🙂

  44. MadPriest, I understand your problem with the comment system on this blog. I too struggle with it. But don’t blame WordPress. Threaded comments are an option which Tim has chosen to enable. Maybe if you ask him nicely, and since I agree, he will disable it.

  45. Tim Chesterton

    Threaded comments are an option which Tim has chosen to enable. Maybe if you ask him nicely, and since I agree, he will disable it.

    Peter, I had not noticed that I could disable it. I will try to figure out how to do so.

    Jonathan, the pint(s) offer still stands. Mimi can come too if she wants. The Grainstore is a great pub and the local brew is excellent.

  46. Jonathan, the pint(s) offer still stands. Mimi can come too if she wants.

    Ha, ha, ha! The clash of the Titans?

    Tim, if you can, do disable the threaded comments. I was hopelessly confused.

  47. Susan H.

    Thanks, Tim. I have wondered in the past, knowing your daughter is a lesbian in a committed relationship, how your opinions might impact her, but honestly that is your and her family business, not mine. I wonder if you feel her and her wife’s love and commitment for each other is sacred and holy, as sacred and holy as any heterosexual couple? I would hope that in your heart, you do honor every relationship that is borne of love and respect to be a holy one.

    I do hope you are right that the different “sides” of Christianity can reach out to each other in love. Sadly, I witness the opposite far too often. All we can do is keep trying.

    Peace to you.

  48. Tim, if you can, do disable the threaded comments. I was hopelessly confused.

    If we disabled everything that hopelessly confuses Mimi, for a start we would no longer have a train network in the UK and Manchester Airport would have been closed down years ago.

  49. Tim, I see you fixed the comments. Thanks.

    To MadPriest:

    I never once got lost at the Airport.

    I never once got lost on the Tube in London.

    I took one wrong train which took me on a ride from Manchester to Sheffield, with lovely views of the Pennines, which I would otherwise not have seen, and stopped at every small village along the way where I saw handsome old train stations and pretty villages. Altogether it was quite an interesting ride, and, if it took me twice as long to get to where I was going, I had a free tour of what? – the Midlands? A mistake gone very right, I’d say.

  50. Leslie

    Tim, I would just like to say that your socialist leanings oppress me and even though you pay lip service to capitalist democracyists and are benevolently intending to advance capitalism by purchasing free market beer for British bloggers with your hard earned money diplomatically converted into British pounds, until you FEEL what I do about property ownership I may ever remain, partially unsatisfied. This is the truth. And I say this even though I own no property. I don’t even own a dog I can eat.

  51. Leslie

    I forgot about my SUV…I do own that. But so far no land.
    I enjoy owning my own words and their definitions. Like the makers of communist linux, I am willing to let anyone use that word if they wish…

  52. Tim Chesterton

    I wonder if you feel her and her wife’s love and commitment for each other is sacred and holy, as sacred and holy as any heterosexual couple? I would hope that in your heart, you do honor every relationship that is borne of love and respect to be a holy one.

    Susan, it occurs to me that in the hilarity between Leslie and myself, I’ve left you hanging here.

    I’m curious as to why my feelings are so important to you? I’ve been much influenced by C.S. Lewis and to me actions are far more important than feelings, because the Greek word agapé (‘the greatest of these is love’) describes action, not emotion.

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