CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Really Dumb Posters and Quotes

Mar 13, 2012

Facebook users may have noticed how recently the social networking site has allowed folks to post bigger pictures in their posts. So there has been a huge increase in all sorts of pictures, illustrations and art works being posted. Also included are various posters with different sayings, quotations, remarks, and so on.

Now a lot of the quotes and phrases found on these posters are quite good, and this new feature can be put to good use. I have even used it myself. Unfortunately however many of these posters happen to be rather dumb, to be honest. They are often filled with moral mush and intellectually shallow silliness. They usually reflect sentimental and sappy humanistic thinking.

Now that is not surprising of course if sappy and sentimental humanists are posting these quotations. But my problem is that so many of the folks posting these things are Christians. That is a real worry. Those who claim to be biblical Christians really should not be promoting all this mental and moral mumbo-jumbo.

I have seen so many of these lately that I have started to record some of them. Here then are just a few of the many posters making the rounds on FB and elsewhere. Again, as far as non-Christian thinking goes, they are probably what we would expect. But to have Christians pushing this stuff is another matter altogether.

Quite a few of these have to do with the issue of judging. They reflect the faulty postmodern notions of tolerance and acceptance which have nothing to do with the biblical understanding. Indeed, passages like Matthew 7:1 are among the most abused and misused texts around, even by Christians.

Now I have written elsewhere about these quite mistaken understandings of judging. For those still in the fog about what the Bible teaches, I recommend these articles:
billmuehlenberg.com/2008/10/08/thou-shalt-judge/
billmuehlenberg.com/2007/06/14/jesus-and-judgment/
billmuehlenberg.com/2008/06/17/it%E2%80%99s-time-to-start-judging/

But let me look at a few of these quotes on judging. One rather popular one which appears in various versions goes something like this: “Walk a mile in my shoes, see what I see, feel what I feel, THEN maybe you’ll understand why I do what I do, ‘till then don’t judge me.”

Now this really is a pretty inane comment. To see just why it is so very unhelpful and misleading, simply start putting it into action. Start applying it to any number of situations. Clearly if it cannot stand up in actual application, then we know it is a lousy moral maxim and not at all worth passing around.

For example, apply this to the rapist, or murderer, or paedophile, or arsonist. I am sure there are plenty of child molesters out there who really do feel that they are being misunderstood. “Hey, you don’t know what it is like for me to be this way. Walk a mile in my shoes, see what I see, feel what I feel, THEN maybe you’ll understand why I do what I do, ‘till then don’t judge me.”

Yes, who are we to judge those poor paedophiles? They must have a good reason for doing what they do, and since we have not experienced what they have, who the heck are we to judge? Let’s show a bit of tolerance and acceptance here, instead of all this harsh and unloving judgment.

Two other quotes making the rounds are these: “Judge less, love more!” “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” The second one is being attributed to Mother Teresa. Whether or not she said it, it still needs to be looked at more closely.

Both quotes commit the logical fallacy known as the false dilemma. They expect us to make a choice: either we love people, or we judge them – but you can’t do both. But who says you can’t do both? The Bible sure does not say this. In fact it says just the opposite.

Of course I suppose it depends on what you mean by judging. As I state in the articles linked to above, the sort of judging Jesus condemns in Matthew 7 is hypocritical judgment – it is criticising others when you are doing the same thing. That of course is hypocrisy and is just not on.

But Jesus and the biblical writers everywhere tell us to judge, to discern, to make moral differentiations, and so on. Thus if you really love someone, you will tell them the truth. You will make moral judgments and assessments, and you will not shy away from loving confrontation – even a word of rebuke.

Just consider a few Proverbs about all this:
Prov 14:33 Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning
Prov 20:8 When a king sits on his throne to judge, he winnows out all evil with his eyes.
Prov 27:5-6 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Prov 28:23 He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.

Or consider just a few passages from Paul:
1 Co 2:15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things.
1 Thess 5:21-22 Test everything.
2 Tim 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage
Titus 2:15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority.

But I discuss all this much further in the articles I mention above. If you love someone you want the best for them. And that may mean giving a loving rebuke, or offering a word of warning. That is not ugly judgmentalism, but love in action.

Here is another saying making the rounds: “It does not matter what you have done – God forgives.” Well, yes and no, of course. Yes God forgives, but that hardly means we can do whatever we want, or that our actions do not matter. For example, I can go out and shoot someone dead, and then ask God to forgive me.

If I have genuinely repented God can indeed forgive, but it sure does matter to the dead person and his family. And such loose advice can so very easily become just an excuse for license and antinomianism. ‘Hey, I can live like the devil, because God is a gracious and forgiving God!’

Sorry, it does not work that way. Indeed, Paul dealt with this very issue. This is what he had to say: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2). We dare not presume upon the grace of God. As Bonhoeffer taught, we must always beware of cheap grace.

Or consider this silly quote: “Your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your behaviour does.” Sorry, but any Christians proudly posting or reposting this one ought to be ashamed of themselves. Nothing could be further from the biblical truth.

Throughout the Bible behaviour is intimately connected with belief. If we believe wrong things, we will likely do wrong things. Proper beliefs (sound doctrine, teaching, etc), have a very real connection to proper behaviour. Orthodoxy and orthopraxis are intimately connected in other words.

We dare not ignore the numerous warnings found in the New Testament about abandoning or downplaying sound teaching, sound doctrine, and proper beliefs. Thinking right is the biblical basis for acting right. They are never divorced in Scripture, so why any Christian would want to promote such an unhelpful and unbiblical saying like this is beyond me.

But I have discussed this in more detail elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2008/10/31/959/

Another real loser is this: “Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.” This is just New Age mumbo jumbo. Of course plenty of Christians have bought into the ‘name it and claim it’ teaching. Many have embraced a decidedly unbiblical ‘believe and receive’ theology.

But try telling this to Jesus on the way to the cross. Or to Paul as he lists his numerous hardships, persecutions and overwhelming trials. Try telling this to the prophet Jeremiah, or to Christian martyrs throughout church history. This ‘everything will just be rosy’ mindset is not in the slightest bit biblical.

Indeed, I have written about this before as well: billmuehlenberg.com/2010/09/29/problems-with-the-positive-confession-movement/

One final quote: “Choose being kind over being right, and you’ll be right every time.” -Richard Carlson. Again, this is just more humanist nonsense, certainly not biblical truth. It is not even coherent. What does he mean anyway? If I am trying to be kind while being quite wrong about flying an airplane, it will do me no good at all. It will just result in a crash landing.

And try applying this to Paul. He constantly stood up for right doctrine and publically rebuked those who were in the wrong, theologically speaking. But according to this guy, Paul should have just been ‘kind’ – whatever that means – and not worried about being right in regards to truth and doctrine.

Again, we expect sentimental New Agers or humanists to come up with such tripe, but certainly not biblical Christians. So if believers want to encourage others by posting quotes and sayings, please go right ahead. But please make sure your sentiments are biblically-based, and are not just humanistic mush devoid of any biblical truth.

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23 Responses to Really Dumb Posters and Quotes

  • Another great article Bill!
    Manfred Sollarz

  • Spot on Bill, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my disgust of so much trite tripe that is bandied about by Christians. Once I actually questioned such a friend’s quotation of some supposedly notable woman who said something along the line that the “impact of a person is not what they say that’s important but the way they make you feel that counts”, citing some examples from the NT in opposition to this fallacious statement, only to have other (supposedly Christian) people excitedly jump down my throat calling me judgemental and a perfect example of what the quote was referring to.

    I concluded that the scriptures are very correct in saying that some people just don’t like hearing truth and would rather be pleased and feel good than to face up to truth.

    Garth Penglase

  • Actually, I’d say most people…

    Garth Penglase

  • Yes quite right Garth

    Often when you try to point out the rather unbiblical nature of their quotes, they get quite upset – even intolerant – about it! And that is usually after they have just posted something on tolerance!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I know a couple of books that parody those warm fuzzy, pithy affirmations.

    Ross McPhee

  • Two comments on this:
    1. With regard to some of those pictures, quotes etc, I frequently resist the implied guilt trip for not repeating it.
    2. Jesus gave us the best guidance on judgement with the woman caught in adultery. He didn’t judge her as a person, he did judge her behaviour.
    John Bennett

  • I’d go so far as to question as to whether indeed such people have found the Truth, if, when confronted with biblical truth are very close-minded to truth and respond so strongly against it. Sadly, many Churches seem to be full of such people.
    Garth Penglase

  • So often when people tell us not to judge them, it is because they know they are guilty of doing something wrong and want to justify their actions.
    Ian Nairn

  • Yes quite right Ian.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Incredibly, for what it is worth, one of these really dumb sayings which I discuss above has just been posted on FB again! Arrgh! I am ready to pull my hair out – or at least what remains of it. And if I try to gently challenge such people, I will likely either be defriended or will face their wrath. Oh well….

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Ross, which books are those? And Bill, maybe you can combat this by creating your own sayings and publishing them…
    http://www.despair.com/viewall.html
    http://bighugelabs.com/motivator.php
    If nothing else it will keep you sane with a good laugh.
    Garth Penglase

  • Thanks Garth

    OK, if you mean more of the same variety, then how is this for starters:

    “I will absolutely not tolerate any form of intolerance!”

    Or some such thing…

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The thing that strikes me is the duplicity of all this ‘who are you to judge ?’. You never hear anyone of a ‘liberal’, neo-marxist or ‘tolerance thumper’ persuasion howl ‘Who are you to judge ?!’ when ‘liberal’ Christians condemned apartheid, capitalism, racism, ‘homophobia’ or support left wing causes. Strange how those instances of judgement were applauded and never challenged. Of course the basic weakness in ‘I judge that “Who are you to judge?” never registers on the discernment radar of the accuser.

    Doug Holland

  • Haha, precisely, Bill. Or under the title
    “No Judgement”…
    We should all refrain from judging others, especially those intolerant hate-mongering bigoted right-wing fascist fundamentalist Christians.
    Garth Penglase

  • Hi Bill
    Talking of truth, how about the one-liner that underpins postmodernism – “there are no absolute truths”, a statement that is an absolute!
    This whole philosophy is based on a logical inconsistency so why would we expect any logic elsewhere?
    Roger Birch

  • The grumpy old man told the nice young happy man he’s got it wrong.
    Daniel Kempton

  • Love the article Bill!

    Neville Schoof

  • Kind and loving parents teach their children the truth about right and wrong. They are honest and consistent in that teaching, and forgiving as the children fall short of the mark in their struggle towards maturity. They don’t, however, deny those truths when the children stumble. They allow the consequences of early, small wrong choices to lead to wisdom rather than allowing endless misguided compromises and rescues to lead to ultimate disaster. I’m glad I am a child of the Heavenly Father whose infinite wisdom and kindness I trust to teach, correct and guide me.
    Anna Cook

  • I love it Bill! 1 Thess 5:21-22: “Test everything.” Says it for me!
    Jamie Bowman

  • So glad to know there are others who see the subtle infiltration of Humanism and New Age everywhere!!! I thought it was just me getting annoyed with all these dumb posters and quotes we’re bombarded with.
    Great article Bill. I really appreciate your ability to say a thing how it is. Love it!!!
    Keep up with the good work and may God continue to Bless you and your family. Praying for you.
    Anneline Elliot

  • Many thanks indeed Anneline.

    I really appreciate the kind words, and the prayers especially. Bless you,

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I actually came up with a bumper sticker a little while back.

    “Prefer sin over righteousness?
    Take a guess where you’ll be spending eternity”

    Mario Del Giudice

  • So true! On Facebook today there are so many of these picture-quotes teenagers are obsessing over because they ‘capture their life’. I think often they are posted because they initially sound ‘cool’, rebellious, new age, deep and insightful but I doubt they are looking into the implications of the words and living them out in their lives.

    Suddenly we have teens with these quotes, attitudes and ideas planted in their heads and living them out and letting the form their identity.
    And if they’re Christians it’s even worse! It forms a sloppy reputation and belief system.

    Alana Shone

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