Twitter, Angels and Imposters

“I wish I had a list of all the most perverted and private sins of the most venerated saints of church history,” my friend mused. I agreed, “Yeah, I would flip immediately to the 21st century.” To judge? No. To belay my deep-seated sense of what is increasingly being called “imposter syndrome”—“Having to live with a nagging fear of being ‘found out’ as not being as smart or talented or deserving or experienced or (fill-in-the-blank).”

To all “imposters”—the very least we can do before we judge our community is to be honest with it. We would be remiss in our responsibility to God and ourselves if we did not at least shed some light on what we think makes us unwelcome. If there is any such trend in evangelicalism to hide sin and polish the images of Christian leaders, then the only definitive way to change that trend (if it exists) is to start practicing what we feel is lacking—whether authenticity, confession or the space to be in process and say that which would often incur being pushed a few rungs down on the social or institutional ladder. That may be paranoia—it may be imposter syndrome, illegitimate, ungrounded, false. Let me practice honesty in the face of my own imposter syndrome by publicly naming a particularly acute sin of mine, as of late.

I’m a Jerk

I have been a jerk on social media lately. People may own up to that one perfunctory way or another—“Yeah, I was kind of a jerk.” No. I’ve been stubborn, recalcitrant, biting—with a profoundly unguarded tongue and an astonishingly guarded ego. And I’m sure some have noticed. Why? I could supply a ton of reasons—in my life, in other people, in the importance of ideas, in the fact that being kind to others on social media is not part of any job description I have. … Oh right, except it is part of the human duty of the Christian life: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). I’m not a jerk because of things outside of me, or because of any sort of pathology. I’m just a sinful guy. But I’m more than “just a sinful guy.” That’s a cop out, too.

In the TV show Friday Night Lights, a middle-aged protagonist, Buddy Garrity—a pillar of a Texas town community—continually repeats this refrain to his kids to explain his string of adulteries: “Your dad’s a sinner. I’m a weak man.” It’s a manipulative way to trade points of reputational capital in order to gain permission to continue with an act. “Ah yes, I’m sinful now. We know this. And I may continue on with this sin.” It’s a common trope among addicts.

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Paul Maxwell
Paul Maxwell (@paulcmaxwell) is a PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and philosophy professor at Moody Bible Institute. He writes more at his blog, paulcmaxwell.com, and pretends to like coffee.

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