I don’t think you know the same Jesus I do.
I first learned of your writing from seeing respected friends and family members posting links to your work on facebook. When I arrived at your homepage I saw the fresh face of a passionate scholar, husband, father and Jesus follower. The description noted that you are a “professional truth sayer” with an apparent affinity for alpacas. Your humor and confident writing voice drew me in.
Things started innocent enough. I admired the way you called out societies inability to focus on important issues for longer than a click-bait minute. My heart melted at your loving posts about your wife and kids. The satirical piece on your son working for his grandmother made me smile. I wanted to be on your side. You were a conservative bad boy, calling it like it was.
You should know something about me, the girl you swept off her feet: I too am a scholar—a year away from graduating with a Bachelor in English Literature—and a Jesus follower. I am a wife and a feminist. As a twenty-three year old Christian conservative unafraid to get informed and stand up for my beliefs, I was your target audience and you were everything I thought I wanted.
We didn’t agree on everything, but who does? In fact, in this letter I’m not even going to address every opinion of yours I disagree with. The list is too long and at the end of the day you’re entitled to your opinions just as much as I am entitled to mine. I’m not going to change your mind.
Still: I was hooked. I was on your side. You set out to woo my hearts longings and so you did.
But just like many ill-fated romances, the breath of fresh air didn’t last. Mixed in with innocent photos of your kids and posed questions worth thinking critically about were posts filled with hate and judgment. But you were just being honest, right? You’re a “professional truth sayer,” after all. You were just being passionate. I was making excuses for you just like I would for the boyfriend my friends warned me would break my heart.
I fell in love with your honesty. Except now you weren’t being honest anymore. You were trying to manipulate me.
I took a creative writing class last semester. My professor did a lecture on unreliable narrators. The premise is this: as readers we instinctually trust the narrators of stories. When a narrator tells us “Sally was late for dinner because she went to the pond with Tommy” we believe that Sally was late for dinner because she did, in fact, go to the pond with Tommy. Why would the narrator lie?
Another way this is done is by feeding your readers tainted information to force assumptions down their throats. For example, a narrator could write “Sally’s short dress brushed her upper thighs, her eyes dancing playfully. Tommy watched her closely, knowing she didn’t care if she was late for dinner. Sally was always inviting boys to the pond.” As readers we read that and go, “Sally is a little promiscuous.” But is Sally’s dress actually that short? Maybe she just wanted to show Tommy a duck. Maybe Tommy is being a little skeeze.
Unreliable narration is a great creative writing technique. It can make stories incredibly complex and thought provoking. The informed reader and critical writer can appreciate the craft. But you are not a creative writer, Matt. You write opinion pieces about real things happening. You share information, statistics, principles. People expect you to be well informed and honest with them. To tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. After all, that’s what professional “truth sayers” are supposed to do, right?
Matt, you are an unreliable narrator. The worst part is you know you are you. Your narration and writing style is not cavalier. You know exactly what you’re doing. You use an unreliable narration to manipulate your readers. Here are some examples for your consideration:
“The truth is, Beyonce’s music, like a lot of pop music, is weird, aggressive, sullen, whorish, egomaniacal, vaguely satanic and deeply stupid” || This sentence is filled with manipulative language. You could have said “Beyonce’s music discusses sex frequently” but instead you call it “whoreish” which makes the idle reader instantly associate being a “whore” with Beyonce and anyone who listens to that music.
“This is feminism for you. Look upon it in disgust and dismay.” || You just called everything feminism stands for ‘disgusting.’ That would include equal rights, equal opportunity, etc. You are perpetuating the falsehood that feminism = extremism. Do your followers know that Jesus himself was a feminist? Furthermore, you tell your readers what to do. You’re not allowing them to decide. You could have written, “disgusting and disappointing,” a personal opinion. Instead you told them how to react to it, that they should “look upon it in disgust and dismay.” This is manipulative.
“Hey public school parents, is this the kind of "education" you had in mind for your kid… They are not learning anymore. They are being broken down, manipulated, and destroyed.” || Again, you tell people what is happening and how they should react to it. Who are you to say they are not learning simply because you do not agree with one specific thing they were taught? Who are you to tell parents that their kids are being “broken down, manipulated and destroyed.” You don’t know their children. You do not get to decide what is best for them.
“Dear Target, thank you for being so "inclusive" as to allow men who identify as women to use the rest room…Some people believe safety, privacy, dignity, and reality are more important considerations than political correctness, but it's wonderful to see you taking a stand against those bigots…Now, since we are in an era of acceptance and tolerance, I feel comfortable revealing that I have, for quite some time now, self-identified as a South American spider monkey.” || There are so many things wrong with this particular post that I found it difficult to highlight the few sentences I did without copy write infringement. First, you just told people everywhere that women lose their “dignity” when a transgender individual pees in the stall next to them. You just told the transgender community that they are not living in “reality” and compared their struggles to that of you being a monkey.
You broke my heart, Matt Walsh. God gave you this incredible passion, talent and platform. You could have stood as the voice of a generation, passionate and unwavering, graceful but just. Instead you stand for everything the Christian community has done to wound the world in the name of saving it. You are judgmental, hypocritical and so, so painfully manipulative.
It’s okay to be passionate and unwavering. Did Jesus shy away from turning the temple tables when he saw how they hindered the work of God? No! He got angry. He flipped the tables and his voice shook the temple. So let your voice rise and reverberate through facebook, twitter, your blog and speaking engagements. Let your voice spread the word of God but let the words you speak be rooted in love.
You don’t have to use derogatory, manipulative language to express an opinion. You can be respectful of other points of view without compromising your own. You can communicate clearly and passionately to those around you without weakening your own argument.
I believe that when we go to heaven and stand accountable for everything we did here on earth, our mighty savior is going to embrace us in his arms and tell us that we are loved, loved, loved. And when he reflects on the moments we judged, disparaged, condemned and destroyed, his heart will break.
I have such a powerful visual in my heart of God holding me in his arms, a tear rolling down his cheek as he says to me in a voice that has moved mountains and soothed the storms, “Do you have no idea of the breadth of my love?”
Matt, I hope you come to experience the breadth of Christ’s love. I hope that it envelops and overwhelms you. I hope you learn to love, love, love. I hope you know that with grace we can have it all: unwavering love for this broken world and a passion to lead it into the light.
I don’t think you know the same Jesus I do. But I hope one day you do.