I’ve never been to an A.A. meeting.
But my mom did go to AlAnon (a support group for friends and family of alcoholics) for a season, and the parents of my highschool girlfried were A.A. leaders.
I like a lot of the ideas behind A.A. because they don’t just seem to work for alcoholism, but for all kinds of addictions.
- I like that A.A. emphasizes the community as a means and conviction for sobriety. This addiction isn’t just about me, but us.
- I like that A.A. encourages “one day at a time” thinking. I’m can’t stop myself from this addiction in the future, but I can focus on today.
- I like that A.A. recognizes accomplishments and stages of recovery. Beating an addiction isn’t a once-for-all-time event. It’s a slow progression.
- I like that A.A. admits that addictions never really go away. I may have recovered from this, but I’m certainly not cured of this. It’s gonna be a struggle for the rest of my life.
- I like the twelve steps of A.A. They are, in a way, a boiled down version of repentance. No, they aren’t perfect (afterall repentance without Jesus means nothing), but there is something inspired about them. If you’ve never read them before go do it
- But most of all, I like that A.A. recognizes the limits of humanity. Step #1 in A.A. is the recognition, or confession, that we are powerless on our own.
My Moral Inventory
Part of the steps A.A. members take towards recovery is making a “moral inventory” of themselves. I have been convicted, as of late, that I am a jerk when it cmes to discussing theology (and politics, gender, and a couple other subjects important to me, but this is a blog about theology, so we’ll start there).
Jerk: “an annoyingly stupid or foolish person, an unlikable person; especially: one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded If you’ve ever watched me have a theological discussion on the internet, at a pub, at home, or elsewhere, you know that label fits.
It fits because I’ve made theology into something it isn’t supposed to be. Where there should have been love, I put passive-aggressive remarks. I put me being right, before us as the Church being one. I turned “dialogue” into “diatribe”. I dragged theology through the mud by making it an exercise in irritation when we talk about.
The examples of me doing so are pretty endless: There’s the multiple power debates I’ve had at home, with one family member in particular, that has lead to raised voices, stomping feet, a slammed door, and anxious family pets wondering what was happening.
There’s all the times I have let theology talk take over, and kill, a conversation.
There’s the times I have gotten so drawn into a theological debate, that I have excluded people that, frankly, don’t give a damn about the subject.
There’s the untold amount of people that ignore me now, whether on Facebook or Twitter or in real life, because I am one of “those guys”. And by those guys, I mean a jerk… a debater… a contrarian… an intelligenista… too serious… too eager to debate…
The Debates: Theological Minutia and Hurtful Words
I’ve debated about a lot of things in my life, especially theological things. And in all honesty, the arguments I have had weren’t about “big things”. Most of these debates weren’t matters of the Gospel, or how we view God, or ourselves. No, they were things like “is video-screen preaching okay?” or is a “reader-response hermeutic heretical”. I’m actually having a hard time thinking of more examples. I know I have had hurtful conversations about theology, but I can’t even remember what I was advocating for in them. I swear they were important at the time!
My problem isn’t just that I was arguing about the small things though. You aren’t a jerk because you talk talk about small things, you’re a jerk because of how you talk about things. When I debated, I would do so with sarcasm, passive-aggressive tones, and assuming the worst about people’s intention. I would speak assuming people’s motivations (which of course were no good). I wouldn’t talk about the central message, but on the medium they were using, or an entirely too small point they had made.
I said things without restraint, without care, without gentleness or kindness, with cynical presuppositions, with self-righteousness, and with selfishness. I had me at the middle of every heological conversation, instead of the actual truth, and even worse, instead of concern for God or neighbor.
I took Frank Viola seriously and tried to perfect “the art of being a jerk online”.
So with that out there…
“Hello, my name is John and I am a theological jerk. Woe to me, I am a man of unclean lips. Give me grace!”
God, I don’t want to be that person anymore. Keep me from being a jerk!
I want to change, help me to do so. I am not going to be able to change on my own, but only as you change my heart and what it longs after. May I love you more than I love being right or sarcastic or looking smart.
I need the community of God to take account of me, and keep me on track. Bring people into my life that will look to keep me from myself and point me towards you.
In this age I won’t ever be cured, but keep with me as I change. Help me to focus on being a gentle person this day, may I continue to feel the need in the future to repent of this, but at the same time have less reasons to.
Everyday, change my heart to be more civil, kind, loving, in the Truth that you are.
The point of this blog isn’t just to let you into a personal confession. I am not a voyeur. I am a volunteer. I am volunteering this blog as a place for theological jerks to come to, and together with each other and God, get better. I need you, and you probably need me. We need each other, engulfed by the love of Triune God, to recover. Would you please think about how being a jerk, whether over theology or not, has hurt your life and the people you’re around? Would you help me be less of a jerk by keeping me accountable and encouraging me when I discuss well? Would you join Gabe and I in exile, as we hope upon God for new life? If so, I’d invite you to talk to me in person, email me (youtharerevolting at gmail.com), or leave a comment down below about the above?
Grace and peace,
*The original title of this series was a slightly harsher word, that up until the early 90s you couldn’t say on tv, but my blogging partner felt it would cut out a certain section of our readership, so we decided to change it. See, I’m already starting to watch my words.
[[For part 2 of the series, click here.]]