“To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” Ric Flair
From time to time, Pulpit & Pen will publish a stories that raise the hackles of readers because they critique some evangelical luminary or celebrity pastor. No matter how well-cited one of our stories is and no matter how well-crafted one of our arguments therein is, one retort to our claims is almost certain:
“Pulpit & Pen has no credibility. Ignore their article.”
Sadly, the internet is full of detractors who will instantly run down any Pulpit & Pen piece. The reasons they give to support the idea that Pulpit & Pen has no credibility are almost always logically fallacious ad hominems. They typically include:
Pulpit & Pen has an agenda.
Pulpit & Pen is mean.
Pulpit & Pen violated Matthew 18.
Pulpit & Pen wants clicks.
Pulpit & Pen is Pharisaical.
Pulpit & Pen is a tabloid.
JD Hall was rude to me on Twitter.
Pulpit & Pen has lost contributors
Pulpit & Pen is negative.
Pulpit & Pen is the TMZ of evangelicalism
My retort is almost always the same: “Show me something that I’ve written that contains a factual error.” I’m not a professional journalist but I do seek to use credible sources when I report a story. As a Christian, I want to tell the truth. It’s rare to find a factual claim in one of my articles that isn’t hyperlinked to a supporting document. Two occasions come to mind in which I made a mistake and published something that was not accurate. I corrected both items in a timely manner. I’ve made mistakes but, broadly speaking, my articles are trustworthy. Even professional journalists make mistakes. Consider the religious reporting of the New York Times. The New York Times has variously reported that Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection into Heaven, that Jesus is buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and that the epistle of Romans calls for the execution of gays. The paper had to correct these mistakes.
It’s no secret that the New York Times is a publication that is almost devoid of Christian influence. That there is a liberal bias at the New York Times is hardly a point of contention. Nevertheless, the New York Times is widely considered to be one of the most credible news organizations in the world. Someone would be foolish to ignore its factual reporting simply because they disagree with its bias. Facts are facts no matter who reports them. Where editorial publications are concerned, arguments are sound not because of who makes them but because of the merits of the arguments themselves. This goes for liberal publications like The Huffington Post, conservative publications like The Federalist, and Mormon kook publications like The Blaze. It goes for Pulpit & Pen.
Yet, the ad hominems are likely to continue. The fact of the matter is simple: We report things that people don’t like.
We criticize people’s heroes. We criticize people who are beloved. We criticize people who are popular. We report things that people just don’t want to be true (quite frankly, we don’t want some of these things to be true either). We step on toes. We don’t jockey for influence. We don’t show favoritism in our critiques. We criticize fellow evangelicals. That’s just how it is, but it doesn’t make us liars.
If Pulpit & Pen publishes “bad news” with a strong (or even unassailable) argument, the tendency is for detractors to attack Pulpit & Pen, not the argument. This is nothing more than plain cheap-shotting. It’s easy to say “Pulpit & Pen is mean.” It’s a lot tougher to deny facts. We appreciate readers who, although they may strongly disagree with our stances, appreciate the facts we report. When someone attacks a source rather than a sound argument, he becomes what I call a “Ric Flair” reader. Instead of fighting a strong opponent by the rules, he distracts the ref, hits his opponent with brass knuckles, and scores an easy pin fall. Woooooo! These readers are the dirtiest players in the game.
I’m by no means a “stylin’ and profilin’” high-roller like the Nature Boy Ric Flair but I hereby put my money where my mouth is. For the first three readers who can:
Find a factual error in a Pulpit & Pen article that I’ve written**
Show that I didn’t provide a source link or footnote to support the asserted “fact”
I will donate $100 to either the International Mission Board, the Watchman Fellowship, or the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. If you take this challenge and can’t find where I’ve made uncorrected and unsubstantiated errors, please end your cheap critiques.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.
**Only assertions of matters of fact count. Typographical errors and grammatical errors are not “factual assertions”.