Donald Miller recently wrote a blog post on his Storyline blog which is connected to his Storybrand marketing firm (if you never heard of him, fine, skip this post). His post was about why he does not “go to church” very often (an act that Elaine told Nona was basically impossible the other day, since we are the church).
When he “went to church” (still impossible) the music team was great, but he loved the music more than the worship. He just doesn’t relate to God that way. He says: “As far as connecting with God goes, I wasn’t feeling much of anything.” Then he highlighted, “ I used to feel guilty about this but to be honest, I experience an intimacy with God I consider strong and healthy.”
These are such “Miller comments” and such influential wormthoughts that I want to answer back. He keeps saying:
- What I feel is paramount and defining.
- I used to feel guilty.
- My own estimation of my experience is how I decide what is healthy.
There is a lot to protest here, but you can do that as you please. I’ll just note that these thoughts are apparently supposed to be liberating. (They certainly are s&#! Americans say!). Miller has been “liberating” evangelicals all over the country for years as he wandered around finding himself and selling books. He made some good points in his youth, but then he became a philosopher and created a marketing firm to keep us listening to him. Somehow, his experience is supposed to be important to everyone he professionally tries to loop into his constituency.
He was really just dashing off some musings about how people learn different ways to feed his blog machine. But he couldn’t resist being a theologian when he told people to Tweet an incendiary phrase that would draw people to the blog; it was sort of a Christian version of Orlando Bloom getting naked so people will remember he’s an actor. He said:
“But I also believe the church is all around us, not to be confined by a specific tribe.”
I doubt that more than 10% of Christians on the planet believe anything else. Why judge them all with your supposedly “personal” belief (shared by billions) that also sets up parameters for a special tribe who believe it like you (you more enlightened person that you are)?
He got what he wanted. A lot of people (like I am doing) responded to his post. So he wrote a follow up to defend himself. He began by apologizing for being “naïve” about how many people he might upset. He said, “All I can offer is my perspective, which I do not offer as an answer, only a contribution to a discussion” — the same kind of argument your husband gives you when he doesn’t dare disagree with you to your face but is going to stonewall you. This is all in the name of openness, of course.
He then proceeded to go on a LONG theological rant about people who exhaustively teach “tribal” theologies, setting up all sorts of straw people to knock down. I honestly did not read it carefully, since I fall into a category (ironically) of a person who learns more by doing than by lecture — he wrote that he doesn’t listen to others because he’s not feeling it, but boy can he lecture!
I write mainly to protest the “gospel of me” that is the basis of Miller’s theology. His anti-consumerism consumerism. His anti-marketing marketing. His ex-evangelical but still principle-based teaching. His anti-pulpit pulpiteering. His brand-judging branding.
He’s just so judgmental in the name of being non-judgmental! The blog posts I reference drip with judgment, all in the name of being self-disclosing and so free from any accountability to the larger audience from which he profits. He is on a long list of people who have somehow managed to get a lot of people to care how they feel while providing almost no relationship of any merit that would warrant such a connection.
I long for true alternativity. Genuine faith. Real community. Actual caring. Devoted prayer and mission. I think we are going for that. Miller doesn’t help. I’m sure he has said something, somewhere that is great. But I am sure someone in your cell or your pastor voiced a similar, contextualized, unpackaged idea at some point that you could touch, and dispute, forgive and apply together. That’s better.