I cringe when I see friends post and share links to Matt Walsh’s blog. Not because I’ve never posted cringe-worthy stuff — I’ve done plenty, even recently. But I cringe because I think Matt Walsh’s writing is usually bad for the soul.
And I’m concerned that he may not be having a good effect on people I love and respect.
If you’re not familiar with Matt Walsh, he’s a young, conservative, religious blogger whose specialty is 1,200+ word diatribes about social issues. He’s kind of a young, male, religious version of Ann Coulter.
While Walsh is articulate and makes a number of points I agree with, here are three reasons why I believe the overall effect of his work is soul-shrinking.
1. Walsh’s writing lacks the fruit of the Spirit, especially love.
With the possible exception of faithfulness, the majority of Walsh’s writing lacks the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
In particular, Walsh’s tone rarely reflects the supreme Christian virtue of love. Now, he would likely disagree and say that it’s loving to point out error, and I agree that it is (which is why I’m writing this). But it’s unloving to point out error in a way that is unloving.
It’s a bit like the street-preacher I witnessed in college who–when challenged by a gay activist about love–shouted, “I do love you, you miserable wretch!”
Consider these Biblical passages and ask whether love matters:
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2 ESV)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5 ESV)
For a Christian to imbibe and celebrate arguments that reflect truth but almost completely lack grace runs contrary to the goal of spiritual growth (love) and the model of Jesus (John 1:14).
[Note: I'm not saying that Walsh lacks the fruit of the Spirit in his personal life--I don't know him. I'm only discussing the tone of his writing.]
UPDATE: One reader wondered if I could cite any specific examples. Here’s one: In a recent post titled, “Police officers aren’t the ones destroying the black community,” Walsh criticized somebody as “a ridiculous fool,” “a liar,” and “a lunatic” with “an enormous dose of idiocy.” This name-calling is mean-spirited and harsh.
2. Walsh’s specialty is making a point rather than a difference.
Andy Stanley was the first person I heard say, “It’s always easier to make a point than it is to make a difference.”
Christians are invited to make a difference in this world. We are adopted by the Father, justified by the Son and indwelled by the Holy Spirit. We are loved with excessive, scandalous, prodigal grace. This propels us to offer our lives as living sacrifices to God, living in ways that are transformed by him rather than conformed to the world. Through love, service and relationship we have an opportunity to make a difference.
Or we can just make a point.
Matt Walsh is all about making a point. And, often, his point is a good one.
My concern is that in an increasingly divided ideological world — where we can always find somebody to listen to who we agree with — Christians will follow Matt Walsh’s lead, thinking that as long as they said the right thing they were faithful, even though little difference is made.
Rather than Walsh’s model, we should follow the Apostle Paul’s instruction:
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:23-26 ESV)
Note that this doesn’t mean criticism (“correcting opponents”) is bad itself. It means that correcting opponents in a quarrelsome, unkind way is a problem.
3. Walsh’s blog confirms all the suspicions skeptics have toward Christians.
In his book, unChristian, David Kinnaman lists the assumptions that many non-Christian people have about Christians that–according to them–make Christianity less desirable:
- Christians are hypocritical
- Christians don’t have meaningful relationships with non-Christians
- Christians are antihomosexual
- Christians are sheltered from the world
- Christians are too political
- Christians are too judgmental
Whether Christians agree about these perceptions, they exist. And Matt Walsh’s tone plays right into every one.
As one thoughtful reviewer suggested, image-management isn’t really the primary goal Christians should have. No matter how faithfully we follow Jesus, we will always be misunderstood and misrepresented.
Nonetheless, Christians should know that publicly sharing Walsh’s posts will likely decrease, rather than increase, the effectiveness of their witness. If you have skeptical friends who follow you online (like I do), sharing articles that lack love and make a point instead of a difference will not help influence friends the way you might think.
Adults will read and share what they want. I have no interest in policing the media that people consume, like and promote. But as a pastor who wants to see Christians grow in their love and make a greater difference in a skeptical world, I’m concerned that reading Matt Walsh will be counter-productive.
Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.