Sunday, May 10, 2009

Some of the Nicest Things Ever Written Describing Me (Contra Negative Stereotypes of Apologists as Human Beings)


Dave & Judy Armstrong and first two sons (both now over 6 feet tall!): April 1995

I just returned from a ten-day vacation down south (partially described in my "musical pilgrimage post). In the last two days, my family and I visited a very nice woman (Becky) who is a regular on the Coming Home Network forums, where I am the head moderator.

In a recent thread on the forum she has described yours truly and my family in a super-kind fashion: so much so that I was both humbled and embarrassed reading it. I wouldn't even mention it here, but for the fact that it is such a completely different appraisal from the nonsense written about me that commonly gets bandied about on the Internet from folks who have never met me; make no attempt whatever to get to know me as a person, differ theologically, and have axes to grind for whatever reason. I also got a kick out of the comments from a few folks about one recent portrait photo of mine where I had a "serious" expression, and what this suggested about my persona.

I (like everyone else) have many faults: not mentioned in this description of me. I am well aware of them, freely admit them, and make no attempt to conceal what they are. My wife and family know full well what they are! At the same time, some criticisms I regularly receive on the Internet (for various reasons: some mentioned above) are 100% dead wrong, and have not the slightest shred of truth to them. Some arise from personal grudges: from folks who are angry about having been critiqued or whatever (happens all the time in apologetics, unfortunately). Some come from stereotypes of the apologist, or as a result of the limitations of the written medium. Others arise from sad, unresolved misunderstandings, as will inevitably occur at times wherever people get together, as a result of the human condition.

There are many whoppers floating around (recently I had some fun compiling them into a Top Ten list: you'll quickly get the idea of the nature of them). Try to picture yourself being the recipient of this sort of "criticism" and imagine what you would feel like. I'm well used to it (believe me!) and it really doesn't bother me in any serious way, but on the other hand it is never pleasant to be lied about (even privately, let alone publicly).

The current positive description (for what it is worth) at least has the reality of a live encounter in person, with a human being's description of what it was like to meet yours truly, and the impression they had, rather than based on wholly silly, illogically deductive speculation of what a person allegedly is like, often based on the most cynical approach imaginable, for motivations of smearing and character assassination, and defense of one's own party affiliation at all costs, including truth.

Another ultra-charitable and kind post of this nature was written by my friend Pedro Vega (with approval from my friend Pat Madrid; see also my own reaction) when he stopped by the Detroit area a few years ago for a visit, in-between his business dealings. I figure that if I must be subjected to a stream of malicious slander from certain predictable circles, then it is only fair that once in a while folks get to read something different, so they can form a more accurate impression of what I am about. In that sense, it is not improper for me to point out when a nice assessment is made, though I am not completely comfortable doing it, because the motivation can easily be misunderstood, and I suspect that even this post will probably be wrongly perceived (even perhaps mocked) by some of the usual suspects. Oh well: what else is new?

That said, I hasten to add that it would be as unbalanced to read only the nice, positive stuff as it would be to read the extreme criticisms; but comparing both (at the very least) would allow one to draw their own conclusions, per my own constant emphasis of reading both sides of any given issue. Meanwhile, God is my ultimate judge. He knows my heart and all my failings and shortcomings and He knows this about everyone. In that sense we can never be overly concerned with either flattery or stinging, unjust criticisms. If we find a few human beings (even just one) who truly understand the real person that we are: warts and all, and accept and love us, then we're in a good place. But we all can rest in the joyous assurance that God both truly knows and understands and loves us, whatever human beings may think: good or ill. And that is a wonderful thing and a fabulous aspect of Christianity: one of many many such.

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