Last night I got some Christian hate mail, which was completely unrelated to yesterday’s mission trip post. I was pretty excited at first, but the more I read it, the more I realized I had a serious concern – I couldn’t tell if it was real. It seemed so over the top that I started to worry that it was just one of my friends teasing me. I know some sarcastic folks and I thought one of them might have created it.
So I showed it to my wife and she said it was real. Which started this long debate of how you can tell if Christian hate mail is real. And I realized something even bigger than the first realization in the previous paragraph – no one has written a definitive guide on how to write really good Christian hate mail.
I mean, I’m sure you can piece it together using a variety of angry blogs or brochures or perhaps limericks, but has anyone ever sat down and said, “You know what? I want Christian hate mail to be the very best hate mail it can be?” Probably not, which is why today, instead of the post I had originally planned, I decided to write myself the kind of hate mail I’d like to receive. I decided to write:
The Christian Hate Mail How to Guide
Always sprinkle your Christian hate mail with some facts.
“Jon, your grammar sucks and this site is riddled with typos.”
Good Christian hate mail always balances fact and opinion. It’s a fact that I am miserable at grammar. A handful of readers have been kind enough to help me fix some mistakes but for the most part, despite my attempts at quality, it’s not difficult to find errors and typos on Stuff Christians Like. If I was going to write myself some hate mail, I would reference my terrible proofreading skills because I know that when I opened the email I could not help but think, “Uh oh, this person went to the trouble of getting some facts together, let’s see what else they have to say.” By dropping in a few simple facts I’ve increased the chance of my Christian hate mail getting read by 19%.
Respect your opinion enough to explain it.
“Jon, you are so wrong to compare Andy Stanley to Batman and here are four detailed reasons why.”
Maybe I’m right. Maybe my reason for writing the Christian hate mail is well thought out and legitimate and although expressed negatively, an idea that needs to be heard. But if I read a 1,400 word post about something I disagree with and in response I tell the author to “Get over it,” then it doesn’t seem like I really care about the issue. The amount of time and energy I put into Christian hate mail is a great indication of if I am really concerned about a particular issue or if I just have a backpack of mean I carry around like Johnny Appleseed, spreading seeds of grump across the blogosphere.
Speak the language of the person you are attacking.
“Jon, your site is whack! Your ideas are horrible and to quote the rap group, the Black Sheep, ‘You can get with this, or you can get with that. I think you’ll get with this, for this is where it’s at.'”
Christian hate mail is like any other form of communication, if I really want to get my message heard, I have to know my target audience. I wouldn’t use Spanish on a French blog and expect to change someone’s opinion. Same goes with this blog. If I really wanted to criticize with the hope of tweaking someone’s idea, I would use the language they already know instead of forcing them to learn mine. So if I was going to hate on Stuff Christians Like, I would make sure I dropped several references to 80s rap, Skittles and side hugs. It’s definitely harder to do that, but remember, this isn’t a list of how to write easy Christian hate mail. This is a list of how to write quality Christian hate mail.
Research. Research. Research
“Jon, your early posts sucked. The ideas weren’t thought out and feel rushed.”
Amen. That is so true. I don’t love some of the early stuff either and if I ever got that comment in a Christian hate mail I would hug my computer screen and probably sing Terence Trent D’arby’s “Wishing Well” to it. (“Wish me love a wishing well, to kiss and tell, a wishing well of butterfly tears.”) I would just be so happy that someone else noticed and cared enough to put some research into their Christian hate mail. I think the “early stuff sucks” point is the best one to make about this site and it works for every other blog too. Hopefully, as you continue to write and find your voice and have God shape what you are doing, it is going to get better. The early stuff will pale in comparison. You will mature. The flipside is that it’s a lot easier to write well when no one thinks you’re special and if you get drunk on your own buzz your later stuff will suck instead of your earlier stuff. It will be interesting to see what happens with this site.
Focus on the idea, not the individual.
“Jon, I thought your idea comparing televangelists to rappers was really superficial.”
This is just a remix of the adage, hate the sin and love the sinner. Sometimes it’s tempting to read a short post about someone’s personal opinion about the awkwardness of massages during church, hypothetically speaking, and decide, “I hate that person.” I understand that. There are other writers I disagree with and form an opinion about from reading something they wrote. Then I’ll meet them and they’ll blow up my ill formed, judgmental opinion I made not just about what they wrote but who they are. I was wrong. I insulted the person by reducing them to an idea on a blog or in the page of a book and I insulted God by pretending I could capture, analyze and pronounce judgment on a uniquely complicated, beautifully crafted heart He made just because I read a few words that person wrote. So let’s focus on the idea. Let’s beat the idea like a piñata of ridiculousness, but realize the person is composed of so many other things than just that idea.
Weave a rich tapestry of Biblical generalities and specific verses.
“Jon, you treat the Messiah and the Bible too casually when you write about Jesus playing ultimate Frisbee with the disciples and here are five verses that show that.”
Anyone can dig out a single verse and throw it at something they don’t like. Even the devil did that. That’s why if I ever decide to write Christian hate mail to Stuff Christians Like, I am going to make sure my use of the Bible is both general and specific. The truth is, that comment about me appearing casual about my handling of the Bible could definitely have some merit to it. I do regularly sarcastically deal with Biblical topics, which could be interpreted as me being casual. But if I get ugly in writing my Christian hate mail, then I’ve also treated the command of loving others really casually, so it’s a classic Christian catch 22.
I wish Christian hate mail was an oxymoron. I wish Christians were known universally as being the most loving people alive. I wish I had an office pony named “Fletcher” that I could ride to meetings at work and keep in an empty cubicle next to me and feed him handfuls of oats and teach him how to collate memos. But I don’t. That pony is not available and we Christians make mistakes. We get it wrong sometimes. We mess up. Whether that’s someone sending out Christian hate mail or me blowing it by writing a post that completely violates lesson number 5 and comes off as a mean spirited discussion of someone’s persona
l life. We are not done. We have not figured it all out. We fail, but fortunately, we serve a God that doesn’t.
I hope I keep getting emails and posts from people that disagree with me. When they are honestly written, they challenge me to change and mature. Real criticism is a gift and although it’s not always fun to accept and I sometimes fail at receiving it, I can’t help but thank you for loving me enough to help me grow. And when it’s not, when the words are hateful, it just encourages me to keep writing this site. Because the goal of this site is to clear away the clutter of Christianity that prevents us from seeing the beauty of Christ. And hate is the biggest type of clutter there is.