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Can A Geek Be A Good Christian? Part III — Straining The Gnats

You know, I’d like to weave an elaborate excuse as to why it’s been a month and a half since I posted, something involving aliens, resurrected Nazis, or some other elaborate, spec fic worthy story of heroics and general derring-do. […]
| Nov 6, 2013 | No comments |

You know, I’d like to weave an elaborate excuse as to why it’s been a month and a half since I posted, something involving aliens, resurrected Nazis, or some other elaborate, spec fic worthy story of heroics and general derring-do. But I can’t do that. I’ll be honest: life swamped me. I lost track of what weeks were mine, usually remembering that I had to post the Thursday afterwards. I apologize for that, folks. I have no excuse.

So let’s get back to what I was talking about before I vanished off the face of the interwebz, namely my slightly tongue-in-cheek series of posts on whether or not geeks can be good Christians. This has been a mixed bag for people. Some have liked this, others haven’t, but hey, it’s all good.

Before we get into this week’s entry, though, I want to make this clear: I’m not saying that the geeky stuff I’m talking about in and of itself is necessarily sinful. But what I am saying is that these tendencies, if writ large through our real lives, can be.

Case in point? Geeky nit-pickiness.

Typically speaking, geeky nit-pickiness rears its ugly head in terms of canon. I’ll be watching a TV show or movie franchise, and I’ll notice something wrong. A new fact or detail will be presented that contradicts the already established backstory. And with geeks, that sort of thing is usually enough to get us wrapped up in apoplexy.

Let me give you an example. It’s my firm belief that George Lucas suffered some sort of debilitating brain injury between filming the classic Star Wars trilogy and the prequels. He dropped a lot of hints about what happened in his universe’s past in the original trilogy, only to contradict just about every single one of them in the prequels. One election year, I decided to make some videos about these goofs, dressed up as a series of campaign commercials:

This sort of nit-pickiness is also the reason why I went into Star Trek Into Darkness with very low expectations. I had heard rumors who Benedict Cumberbatch’s character really was, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how that could be possible given Star Trek canon.

And I know I’m not the only one who does this. Folks who have an affinity for speculative fiction are notorious for their nit-pickiness when it comes to canon and storyline integrity. We’re quick to pounce on the mistakes of others.

Now am I trying to say that we should accept storyline sloppiness on the part of writers? By no means! I’m not trying to let offenders like George Lucas off the hook here at all. Instead, I see this nit-pickiness as a shadow of a much more serious problem that can and does affect Christians, and that’s moral nit-pickiness.

Jesus speaks of this kind of attitude in Matthew 23:24, when He is attacking the Pharisees for their holier-than-thou attitude and practices. He says:

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

A note in my handy-dandy study Bible explains the metaphor quite nicely:

The strict Pharisee would carefully strain his drinking water through a cloth to make sure he did not swallow a gnat, the smallest of unclean animals. But, figuratively, he would swallow a camel—one of the largest.

How often do we do that in our real lives? We’re quick to pounce on another person’s sin, especially if it’s a sin we don’t see in ourselves, but we easily turn a blind eye to our own sin and refuse to acknowledge it. Or, to borrow a different metaphor that Jesus uses elsewhere in the Gospels, we’re quick to go for the speck in our friend’s eye while we ignore the plank in our own.

Now am I saying that we should ignore the sinfulness of others and just accept them as they are? By no means! We see, time and again, that we should be willing to confront sinfulness and try to correct those around us. I think what these passages speak to, though, is the attitude in which we conduct ourselves.

We should never behave as though we’ve never swallowed a camel. We should never act in a way that suggests that we’ve never had a plank in our own eyes. Instead, we should be humble, acknowledging our identity as forgiven sinners, and point people to the one who can strain out both gnat and camel through His death and resurrection.

So there we go. I’m back. And next time, I think I’m going to throw a Martin Luther quote at you. Stay tuned.

John W. Otte leads a double life. By day, he’s a Lutheran minister, husband, and father of two. He graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a theatre major, and then from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. By night, he writes unusual stories of geeky grace. He lives in Blue Springs, Missouri, with his wife and two boys. Keep up with him at JohnWOtte.com.

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R. L. Copple

Life does get in the way, sometimes.

One aspect of gnat straining When I perceive someone is doing that, it usually gives me the feeling they are, perhaps unconsciously, attempting to cover up their own more grievous sins. Instead of resting on the mercy of God, they rest on their own lack of mercy.

I’m sure not everyone, but often seems to be the case in my experience.

Michelle R. Wood

Case in point? Geeky nit-pickiness.

Isn’t that Stephen’s job? 😉

Seriously, though, here’s where I draw the line on that geek tendency: I love debating things, but I don’t like it when people act as if the fate of the world is at stake, even in theological discussions. Why? Because we are not responsible for the fate of the world, only our own individual souls’. I’m all for a good hash out of any canon. Just leave the histrionics and bruised egos at the door.

Julie D

Hmmm… yeah, there’s a line between having fun coming up with theories and blatant nitpicking…not sure I have much else to say about it.