The internet has provided us with an incredible ability to check facts and trace sources. It has democratized the office of whistle-blower. But there have been some very deleterious effects on our ability, as a culture, to be grateful. We can no longer appreciate and admire that which is less than perfect. This is because we have all been turned into auditors. The auditor comes in and doesn’t seek to produce anything. The auditor comes in to find error and nothing else. His whole raison d’etre is to uproot and not to plant. Producing and building is foreign to the auditor. Beauty and goodness are categories that are completely irrelevant to the auditor for his search is for that which is flawed and inconsistent. Auditing certainly has its place. Straightening out misinformation has its place. Blowing the whistle on the lies that are stinkin’ up the joint has its place. But when we become enamored with finding fault and searching out error, we lose our ability to produce and build. Our palate becomes trained to enjoy the taste of tearing down, and has forgotten the joy of gratitude and the thrill of being productive.
The anti-religionists incarnate this principle when they hunt down all the news stories about the pastor caught in adultery and the abortion-doctor killer. The Glen Becks and Rush Limbaughs of this world do this day in and day out when they enlist the full force of their media presence in crying “Fie on you!” to all the Democrats and their policies. But someone might respond, “Well someone has to inform the public of the errors and inconsistencies of the other side!” And while this is quite true, the internet has led us to believe that it is everyone’s job to audit each other. So there are no more heroes… no more stories of valor… no more beautiful histories… no more brightness of human ingenuity. Life turns out to be merely a parade of defect and deception that ends in a great sigh of discontent.
But the question remains, what does an industry of religious and political auditors produce that is of lasting benefit to the culture? When does Rush Limbaugh ever produce a news piece that shows where Obama has accomplished something positive without the story devolving into a back-handed compliment? When does the village atheist ever post a story on his blog of a church sending a team of parishioners to Nashville to help with clean-up after the floods without careening off into a tirade on examples of Christian bigotry? If the conservative news outlet disagrees with liberal ideology on an 80/20 ratio, shouldn’t 20% of their output show appreciation for the other side of the aisle? If the atheist disagrees with Christian ideology when it comes to proselytizing and agrees when it comes to disaster relief efforts, shouldn’t the atheist either be bound to produce stories where the atheists are doing it better or at least where the church is doing it well?
Now, if we dwell in a culture peopled by auditors, it might be asked by some inquisitive folk how we got here. And to that I would say this – as the Christian Church goes, so goes the culture. That’s right. The watching world has learned its word-strangling posture from us. We are so well practiced in knowing how to stand against something that we are ill-practiced and ham-handed in standing for something. The Church knows how to stand against same-sex marriage but has lost her way when it comes to adorning heterosexual, biblical marriages with lasting goodness and beauty. The Church knows how to stand against euthanasia but has lost how to value the wisdom of the aged and care for the infirm. The Church knows how to oppose the abomination of abortion mills but lost our ability to parent and love our covenant children well. Ben Wikner in his essay “Raising Children in Christ-Centered Truth, Love, and Beauty” says much the same in the following: “A false priority of being against certain evils will in the end be personally unfruitful and unsatisfying, and produce a spirit of hatred, spite, malice, and bitterness.”
I am quite aware of the potential for irony here. But the goal in this post isn’t to multiply the scrutinizing power of the internet. It is, at its core, to encourage the Christian church to be about the business of producing and planting, to concern itself with beautifying and making music, to learn again the art of being family-loving statesmen and grateful cathedral builders. In a world where the Church is adorning herself according to the rule and reign of Lord Jesus, the auditors will pitied indeed.