The Fruit of the Spirit

I have been reading articles on the Orthosphere and Zippy Catholic‘s blog for a few months now. Both of these websites represent a brand of Christian conservatism (or perhaps more accurately Christian anti-liberalism) that would be considered a bit extreme by most people. Their contributors and commentators in large measure seem to think that freedom and equal rights are actually misguided pursuits for governments to concern themselves with and that these pursuits are in fact responsible for all the evil manifested in modernity from political correctness all the way to Nazi death camps.I must say that in certain small  instances they make compelling or at least logically consistent arguments to support their eccentric points of view. I cannot say that I am totally convinced by most of their arguments but they do make some points worth considering.

However, more than their position there is something about these blogs that disturbs me which for some time I have been having trouble putting my finger on. More and more, however, I can see that it is the underlying spirit of negativity, judgment and arrogance behind the content that is the cause of this feeling.

Recently, a contributor named JMSmith wrote a piece on the Orthosphere entitled “The Israel Fetish” which I think illustrates the point I am trying to make. Mr. Smith works in higher education and from what I have read is not all together satisfied with his professional experience. This seems to be a common thread among the contributors to these blogs by the way. Many work in academia and are unhappy with the present state of the world for which they blame liberalism. In his article JMSmith fixated upon a promotional message he recently received for a student trip to Israel. He quoted some of the language:

A trip to Israel is in essence a rite of passage for every Christian—a pilgrimage in the truest sense. The origins of both ancient Biblical faith and of a modern-day miracle intersect here. The land and the people of Israel have a story to tell. By coming to Israel this summer, you make Israel’s story part of your own story.”

Mr. Smith took issue with this advertisement on several levels. Primarily he rejected its incorrect use of the terms “pilgrimage” and “rite of passage.” He explains,

The traditional Christian understanding of pilgrimage is that it is (a) an act of penance, and (b) a symbolic expression of the belief that we are pilgrims (literally foreigners) on earth…

Certainly a strong argument can be made that the author of the advertisement did not use the term pilgrimage correctly. But one gets the sense that this improper use of the term is representative of some deeper and more general corruption of society as well as his fellow Christians. He continues:

I well understand that Christian “pilgrims” have often been very silly people, and that Christian “pilgrimages” have often been larks, junkets and sight-seeing excursions…  But this does not make a sight-seeing excursion into “a pilgrimage in the truest sense,” even when the destination is, indeed, holy.  Rather, I submit that such an excursion is a pilgrimage in the stupidest sense.

Mr. Smith then articulates his problem with the improper use of “rite of passage” in the article:

Nor, I think, should one call [the advertised trip to Israel] a “rite of passage.”  … A rite of passage is a scripted ceremony in which select members of a society pass from one social status to another… A rite of passage ceremony publicizes the change of status to the relevant community, and this change in status entails real changes in a person’s rights and responsibilities… When the phrase “rite of passage” is used to denote nothing more than a “life-altering experience” at the personal and psychological level, it is being used in the stupidest sense.

Clearly this advertisement touched a nerve with Mr. Smith. This advertisement which incorrectly employed the terms pilgrimage and rite of passage both “in the stupidest sense” touched upon his disappointment with Christians in general which he described in the following language:

My real complaint is that we Christians are such everlasting saps and suckers and simpletons.  My real complaint is that we are the Rubes of the Universe, the easiest marks ever to shamble down the street, ready to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

Okay. Clearly Mr. Smith has a problem with the present state of Christianity which I assume he believes to be corrupted by liberalism. This corruption has turned his fellow Christians into the “Rubes of the Universe” who are taken in by the incorrect usage of the terms “pilgrimage” and “rite of passage.”Now it must be said that I do not have a problem with the general premise of Mr. Smith’s argument. The spirit of pilgrimage and rite of passage have been largely lost in our modern culture and this loss hurts us all.However, I do have a problem with the snarky, arrogant, snobbish and judgmental attitude in which the argument is made. It seems to me that this is not in line with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Galations:

[T]he desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh…  Now the works of the flesh are evident: … enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, … and things like these. Gal 5:19-21

It seems to me that this sort of judgmental commentary is conveyed in a way that is contrary to the Holy Spirit. In other words the energy behind this commentary is working according to the desires of the flesh.By contrast Saint Paul describes the fruit of the spirit:

[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… Gal 5:22-23

I must say that I do not see these qualities in any of the posts or comments on the Orthosphere or Zippy Catholic. And that really is my problem with the Orthosphere and its daughter blog sites. Although they may raise legitimate points about how the current state of modern society is contrary to Christian principles they do so in a manner that is contrary to the Holy Spirit. For this reason I hold their contempt and judgment of their fellow Christians suspect. Accordingly, if they intend to hold themselves out to be the last bastions of true Christianity perhaps they should reconsider the spirit behind their message. And if the spirit behind their message cannot be reconciled with their message perhaps they should reconsider their message.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “The Fruit of the Spirit

  1. JMSmith

    Winston @ Thanks for taking the time to read, consider, and so thoughtfully comment on my recent post. I don’t actually lay all the evils of the world at the doorstep of liberalism, although I do think even the good parts of liberalism are not so fresh as they were one hundred years ago. You are not the first to suggest that the fruits of my spirit are a little too tart to be of the holy spirit, and I take these remarks seriously. (I am not nearly so bold in life as I am in print, by the way). In my defense, and in defense of the pugnacious tone of the blogs that you censure, let me suggest that pugnacity may be itself one of the gifts of the spirit. At the risk of drawing a presumptuous analogy, Christ did not mildly offer to help the moneychangers move their tables to a more appropriate location. Gentle kindness is certainly a Christian virtue, as is turning the other cheek and going the extra mile; but Christ also instructs us to set out with “a sword.” When wielding my “sword” of acerbic language, I generally try to indicate some joy in the task with what are meant to be expressions of humor. Describing today’s Christians as “Rubes of the Universe,” for instance. I understand that this won’t strike everyone as mildly funny.

    • That’s a good way of putting it. The fruits of liberalism are not so fresh. I suppose to a certain degree this is inevitable. I do hope that the fruits can be renewed or made fresh again. Albeit less hope since the election of Donald Trump.

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  3. mickvet

    Winston, you accuse the Orthosphereans of judgementalism, but are quite judgemental yourself in laying this accusation.l

    • Yeah. Hard to get around that one. I guess I would say that I am not holding myself out to be a representative of authentic Christianity. Not that JMSmith made this assertion but it seems to be a general theme on these blogs.

  4. donnie

    Without excusing poor decorum, I think it is important to bear in mind that the Orthosphere and it’s associated blogs are, well, blogs. Their raison d’être isn’t necessarily to convert liberals (right or left) to their particular worldview, rather it is provide an outlet where the author can unburden himself of his opinions, without which he may be liable to chew the ear off of someone who would rather not listen, or even someone who may be less inclined to let him get away with such thoughts.

    I don’t think either of us should be surprised that egocentrism, humorlessness, and a lack of self-criticism can be found in the posts and comboxes of such places. It’s certainly true of some of them. It can also be found on many blogs whose views fall well within our contemporary Overton Window.

    If we all met in person and discussed our views face-to-face, I doubt you find us as negative and humorless as the tone of our writings may often suggest. After all, these days you need a pretty solid sense of humor to even consider being a reactionary.

  5. Terry Morris

    Humility is the sincerest form of bragging. Or so I hear tell. 🙂

  6. To the extent that writers fail in their own pursuit of holiness and sanctification, they should repent and ask for God’s grace to do better in the future.

    To the extent that what they say is True, even if how they say it is bad, others should repent of the falsehoods they hold dear and embrace the Truth.

    Though I will admit that because the doctrine of the transcendentals says that Holiness is Goodness is Truth, lacking holiness is, in a way, lacking truth.

    Over the internet people tend to read things in a more argumentative/harsh tone than is warranted, especially if they are reading something they disagree with. There are no smiles and pleasant body language to indicate jokes and goodwill in comment threads.

    In modern American mixed-company person-to-person interactions, the tone of voice and word choice available tends to be extremely feminine, for myriad reasons. However, as the old internet adage goes, “there are no girls online.” Thus blog debates, particularly these blogs, are conducted in highly masculine vernacular, resulting in an apparent harshness that is easily mis-interpreted as “negativity, judgment and arrogance.” When you’re used to constant affirmation, even mild disagreement can seem to be “snarky, arrogant, snobbish and judgmental.”

    Also pretty sure Zippy doesn’t work in academia.

    • I agree with most of what you said about the nature of blog debates. Although I certainly do not count myself as one who is used to constant affirmation.

      • I read through your understanding the alt-right series and can see that you are legitimately trying to engage, which is very rare, and even keeping a largely level head and polite tone, which is rarer still. Congrats.

        (Though I still think you fundamentally misunderstand the argument against liberalism)

      • I would like to understand. Please tell me where I go off the rails.

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