flirting with Vonnegut
There are two types of Christians: those who like Kurt Vonnegut, and those who don't.
I suppose I should have known about the latter group, and I should have known that they make the former seem teeny-tiny by comparison. Somehow, though, I think I'd blocked it out. I mean, how can anyone not like Vonnegut, amiright?
But a couple weeks ago a woman I've been seeing told me that she's known a bunch of Christians who are super-offended by Vonnegut's existence; and then yesterday, after I referenced Vonnegut in my post on how I'd Just As Soon Be a Rattlesnake, some random woman I don't know got super-offended and told me on facebook that my whole post was unloving, and that I was being rude and judgmental. Granted, she wasn't exactly saying that she doesn't like Vonnegut, but since I was trying my darndest in that post to channel Vonnegut's snarky, cynical, hilariously-satirical voice, well... I think it's safe to bet that she's a Vonne-hater.
She got me wondering, though... Am I a big, judgy jerk?
It's not the first time someone's accused me of that. It seems, in fact, that every time I write anything that's particularly effective at skewering some nonsensical act of hypocrisy I've noticed in the faith community to which I've loosely tethered my little dingy, there's always someone who'll come along to tell me I'm "being judgmental." Are they right?
I don't know, mostly because I don't know much of anything.
Still, I don't think so. I think, rather, that ever since Jesus famously said, "Judge not, Lest ye be Judged" (back when he used to speak Olde English), people have been using his words as an easy way to dodge what might or might not be legitimate criticisms of something they're fond of.
In responding on facebook to my Detractor's initial point that she didn't think insults were ever going to convince anyone of anything, for example, I asked her these follow-up questions:
- If you see a man punching a small child and you call him an abuser, is that an insult?
- Do you have to feel bad for tackling him to the ground, instead of trying to convince him to stop being insensitive?
- Furthermore, if insults are always a bad idea, then why did Jesus himself sometimes use them?
- And if Jesus used them, is there room in the life of a follower of Jesus to insult people?
- How would anyone know where that room might be?
- And lastly, if someone writes something that he thinks his hilarious, and someone else sees it as "offensive," is the writer responsible for the other person's feelings?
I love questions. My Detractor apparently doesn't, because she didn't answer even one of them. She just accused me of "vitriolic speech," told me I wasn't being loving, and suggested I was using my post to beat down anyone who didn't agree with me.
I tried again. I asked her if she really thought she really knew my motivations, and made an attempt to explain that my blog post wasn't intended to be read by the Koch brothers (who, yes, I totally insulted), or even those people who love War-for-Oil, are into Capital Punishment and pissing on the environment, and think Obama is a Muslim terrorist. Rather, I wrote it for people who are as offended by that sort of thing as I am, because I didn't want them to give up on Jesus just because of people who I think are just weaselly little opportunists who appropriate Jesus' name in a bid for power.
She responded by saying that, yes, she knew my heart, which was obviously black as the sin in which I was obviously wallowing. Well, she didn't exactly say that, but I get the feeling she was thinking it when she left the conversation with a loving, Christian, metaphorical middle-finger in my direction.
So -- not a Vonnegut fan, amiright?
I mean, a real Vonnegut fan would've noticed my tone and the stuff about how there should be a multiple-choice test you have to pass before you're allowed to call yourself a Christian, and they would've laughed.
A real Vonnegut fan would know that everybody judges everything all the time, and that anyone who pretends that they don't is presenting a false veneer of equanimity because they're unwilling to admit to anyone (probably including themselves) that to live is to judge.
A real Vonnegut fan would assume that Jesus wasn't talking about the critical faculty with which and through which we approach the world, he was talking about pronouncing judgement on someone, in the manner of judges. Which is to say, operating under the pretense that we understand the whole truth of a situation and are therefore qualified to mete out punishment.
I'm no judge - not even of the Koch brothers, who for me are more just a convenient punchline than anyone whose house I'm going to bother egging. I just don't see the harm or the shame in expressing my opinion of their warmongering ways, and using that as a funny side-note to convince people to read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew Chapter Five (which was the actual point of the piece).
A real Vonnegut fan wouldn't get offended, because they'd know that getting offended is BORING.
How about you? Are you a Vonnegut fan, or the sort of person who thinks Vonnegut fans are flirtating with the devil? Because if you're the latter, well... I gotta tell you, you're seriously missin' out.
What about Christians who used to like Kurt Vonnegut but don't anymore? I loved Vonnegut when I was in my early 20s, just graduated with my BA in religion and headed off to seminary. Not so much now that I just turned 58. I can still appreciate the "concept" of Vonnegut and I liked Breakfast of Champions as much as the next guy. Still, there are hundreds of books I'd rather re-read before I would think about reading Vonnegut again. So it goes.ReplyDelete
Weeell... I GUESS we can let you into the kingdom, John :-)Delete
Forsooth, I can only ever take Vonnegut in localized time-doses. He's so intense and so unrelenting. But I shan't give him up just because this or that person finds him irreverent.
Judge... schmudge. A matter of semantics would be to say you weren't judging, but rather, discerning. At least your facebook detractor gave you enough material to write a new blog post. ;-) I suppose every now and then it's good to ask the question: "Am I a big judgy jerk?" Usually the people who ask that of themselves are the ones who are NOT judgy—and the ones making the accusations are the ones who are. At least that's been my experience. Judgy jerks aren't much for self-reflection.ReplyDelete
Mayhaps you speak truthily. I'd rather not become the person who writes reactive blog posts, but I do sometimes wish people would disagree with me more often and vocally. I actually found the whole thing a smidge hilarious. I say tomato, she say "How dare you call me a potato!?!"Delete
I mean, I know this sort of willful misunderstanding leads to WWIII, but laughing is easier than crying, so there you have it.