Right off, I’d like to say: I am a blunt communicator within the realm of digitaldom. I’ve experienced the gamut of couched rebuke tossers, passive-aggressive high road takers, and even the occasional vein-popping ‘them’s fightin’ words’ pugilists who express their distaste for both my style and content. However, I am quick to give credit where it is warranted…just as quick as critique. Unfortunately, for Jon Acuff–the self-proclaimed rip-off artist (Check out post #1 Putting a God Spin on Popular Secular Ideas) behind the successful blog ‘Stuff Christians Like’–credit and critique are mutually exclusive…or at least morally irreconcilable. This is demonstrated by following material from a few weeks back (he blogs one entry a day) where Jon reprints a critical statement I entered several months ago. Mr. Acuff goes so far as to create an entire post around my very short (although obviously pithy) opinion of his methodology/motivation in creating ‘SCL’. The sad part is, Jon completely misuses my comment to illustrate a point about backbiting (a ‘phenomenon’ he likes to label BHHS or Bless Her Heart Syndrome—I’ll stick to the biblical category, though, which places backbiting as sin). It is neither inappropriate nor backbiting to publicly express an opinion concerning a matter of taste using emphatic language. I really do believe that the blog ‘Stuff White People Like’ by Christian Lander is better fare. To state that the blog or the book Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions is simply more original, then to go on to urge Jon Acuff toward greater ingenuity within his own demographic must have hit the target. If so….here here! I require no recognition, however, I believe that clarification is warranted. The public and pointed nature of my comment is the antithesis of Mr. Acuff’s BHHS. Unfortunately, Mr. Acuff is content in his sympathy garnering tactics as opposed to cries for self-examination. To make matters worse I’ve been completely brushed off by Mr. Acuff both in the thread proper and through e-mail communique when making the important distinction I proffer here….again:
- Hi,My name is Nathaniel Ruland. I’m that guy. The hater. The seminary student who had the gall to make a pointed and acerbic comment concerning your (self-admitted) ripoff artistry. Nice post Jon, that was a while ago, I must have really gotten under your skin. I’d have to agree with one of the comments which noted the ‘brilliance’ of your retort…and with another which noted a hint of passive aggression.But, at the risk of poking the anthill further…the ‘bless her heart’ phenomenon really only applies when you’re talking about someone else. I aimed my comment directly to you. I meant what I said (even the ‘I’m sure you’re a nice guy and I hope you do well bit’) and the comment was neither sinful nor backbiting BHHS . I critiqued your work…I did not personally attack you or slander your character in any way.
However, I’ve certainly enjoyed the conclusions that your supporters have proffered concerning my person, character, motives, etc. Some good points were made all round. Perhaps you’re fans may enjoy judging someone as glaringly judgmental as myself. So be it. However, they don’t have the luxury of doing it anonymously anymore. If you (or they…as one concerned redhead made it known) desire further dialogue with me they can feel free to check out my website http://thegreycoats.com or even e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
At any rate, here is the post where Jon gets his revenge on the hateful seminary student whom he still refuses to name…all in the name of pacificm as you will see.
There are a number of things I’d like to dissect in that comment but to do so would just perpetuate the cycle of “Christian on Christian Web Violence.” But there is one thing I can’t let slide, if only because I am guilty of it too. I am referring of course to the second to last sentence in that comment, “I’m sure you’re a nice guy and I hope you do well.”
That is such a great example of the “bless her heart syndrome” (BHHS) that I can’t leave it alone. For those that didn’t read the original post, BHHS is when you verbally slam, gossip or attack someone else and then try to save face by throwing in a comment like “bless her heart.” In the south I’ve heard it called “giving someone a piece of vinegar pie.”
The fake kindness in comments like that is easy to point out, but the reality is that sometimes other Christians are better at disguising it. Sometimes people, including me, will be a little more subtle at executing Bless Her Heart Syndrome. Here are four other variations you need to watch out for:
1. “I don’t mean to be ugly”
Sure you do and you know you’re about to be ugly or else you wouldn’t have thrown out that disclaimer at the start of the sentence. Often, if you have to explain why something you’re about to say is not hateful, you’re about to say something hateful.
2. “In Christian Love”
Most of the time people do the BHHS behind your back. But sometimes, they’ll drop some BHHS right in your lap. For instance, if anyone says, “I hope you can receive this in Christian love,” get ready to be hated on. Seriously, no one ever says, “I hope you can receive this in Christian love, but you’re doing a really good job leading that ministry” or “I find the dresses you wear to church to be both appropriate and awesome.” It’s usually an insult thinly veiled as advice or love. Not always, but usually.
3. “God laid this on my heart”
Oh snap, you just threw God under the bus. (I find myself saying “Oh snap” a lot lately, perhaps as a tribute to Biz Markie?) You just prefaced something mean you’re about to say about somebody by blaming it on God. And although I do think that sometimes God gives us messages for other people, I have a hard time believing He ever asks us to gossip about other people, “I need you to be a jerk for me. I need you to be my rod of punkitude. I need you to be my vessel of gossip.”
4. “I’m just concerned”
This is the one I am most guilty of. Sometimes in order to look smart or wise, I’ll gossip about someone else’s problems, give my insightful solution and then try to gift wrap the whole gossipy mess with the phrase, “I’m just concerned.” But the truth is I’m not concerned about the person I’m talking about. If I was, I would be talking with them, not about them. There’s a huge difference between those two words.
I think there are probably a million other variations of the BHHS. But please tell me that if we’re ever in a conversation and I tell you that “I am concerned about this other blogger…” please immediately respond, “No you’re not, you’re just jealous and now you’re trying to disguise that jealousy in nice words that make you look smart and kind.” And then give me a handful of Good n’ Plenty candy. Those are disgusting. You think they’re going to be delicious like Good n’ Fruity, but they’re not. They’re just sad little pieces of licorice wearing a candy coat shell that tastes like pepto bismol. It’s the only way I’ll learn.
Have you ever experienced Bless Her Heart Syndrome?
Or, have you ever committed the sin of backbiting? Because, that is the reality of Mr. Acuff’s category…bless his heart. In conclusion, yeah I’m a meany, but, I’m not a backbiter…and the moral of the story is…wait for it, wait for it, yesssssss! Choose your own ending (to continue with the pomo trend of reader-response meaning) as follows people: “BHHS is real and seminary students practice a sophisticated form of it”, “BHHS is something Christians like”, or maybe, “Cool Christians who bookmark ‘Stuff Christians Like’ aren’t mean”, or maybe simply, “Christians shouldn’t be mean”, or (final option) “Christians shouldn’t say WHAT they mean.”