My essay “Christian: You Are Upset About the Wrong Things” on Patheos certainly sparked a lot of interest, views, and social shares. I don’t normally respond to the comment section on Patheos as it usually ends up being counter-productive (from what I can tell when other authors have done so) and can end up in a time-wasting back-and-forth. And, frankly, I just don’t have the time to respond when there are over 800 comments. So, I like to let my words on Patheos stand for themselves and let the conversation/comments go where it will without my responding (I am much more free to respond here on my own blog and will try to do so for most my posts). I’m certainly aware people will sometimes like, dislike, love, hate, be indifferent to, or misunderstand my writing. Oh well.
Still, in this space, I’m going to take the time and respond to the two most significant misunderstandings I see in the comment section to that essay since it has now been viewed and shared by so many.
The first misunderstanding had to do with this paragraph:
If you become upset when you see people smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, but you are less upset when you see people over-eating, knowing the health effects of such, or wasting food, knowing that people go to bed hungry every night: You are upset about the wrong things.
Several of those commenting thought I was shaming or criticizing people who are over-weight or struggle in that area. I was not. What I was trying to communicate there had nothing to do with being over-weight, fat, or weight issues at all. In fact, what I note in that paragraph would apply to skinny people, slightly over-weight people, or any weight, body-shape, one cares to name. Some of you will note that in the same essay published here on my blog, I inserted the word “gluttony.” My point was that (regardless of weight or body size/shape), one has no business eating to excess (gluttony) or wasting food, when people go hungry each night, while at the same time being more upset with people who smoke or drink alcohol. And obviously I didn’t mean people who drink and drive—I meant simply what I wrote—people who drink alcohol. This misunderstanding is a classic example of “reading into” rather than taking the writer at his word.
Just to be clear: That paragraph/passage had nothing to do with shaming or criticizing people who are obese, over-weight, or struggle with weight issues. Gluttony is a human sin problem, not a physical/weight problem.
The second misunderstanding is the idea the main point of the essay was to criticize fundamentalist Christians who don’t do enough about poverty or starving children. This misunderstanding is just a reading comprehension issue I think. To think that is what I was doing is to totally misunderstand the essay. The essay had nothing to do with that idea. Zero. I really want to believe those people didn’t read the entire essay and that is the only way, I would hope, one could come away with such a mistaken reading. The essay has nothing to do with the fundamentalist Christian response to poverty or starving children beyond moving us to the main point (and Campolo does it brilliantly), which is, making us think about what it is we should truly be upset about over and above the things we are commonly told we should be upset about—from Christian fundamentalists.
So, I hope that clears things up a bit and speaks to those two misunderstandings.
I should also note that many others who commented, in response to the noted misunderstandings, very nicely made the same points I do above, and for that, I am grateful. I think the great majority understood the point of the essay and that gives me some satisfaction, knowing as well, there is always room to improve as a communicator.