Apr 1, 2007

Complaining About a Complaint Free World

I've been noticing signs advertising the "complaint free world," a program developed by Christ Church Unity in Kansas City that believes in "celebrate[ing] the divinity and God's diversity in all." The minister says he initiated the program because people whined about his choice of worship music. He then asked people to stop complaining and criticizing for three weeks, using purple rubber bracelets that are switched to alternate wrists every time a person complains.

What's right with complaining? When is it a virtue? A person forcefully COMPLAINING about injustice seems to reflect the beatitude, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill." Frankly, unless my neighbors had not loudly complained about a 2+ year old problem in our neighborhood, the city would never have fixed it.

Jesus' parable about the complaining widow reflects the occasional necessity of complaining to a superior who can make things right:
Luke 18:1 And he spoke also a parable to them, that we ought always to pray, and not to faint, 2 Saying: There was a judge in a certain city, who feared not God, nor regarded man. 3 And there was a certain widow in that city, and she came to him, saying: Avenge me of my adversary. 4 And he would not for a long time. But afterwards he said within himself: Although I fear not God, nor regard man, 5 Yet because this widow is troublesome to me, I will avenge her, lest continually coming she weary me.
Complaining about little things distracts from real problems, but not complaining when vital things are clearly wrong is a vice. A good Christian cannot ignore evil. If he ignores evil, he is compliant with evil. When no one complains about abortion, or an unjust war, or divorce, or any of a host of evil situations, then I know the people have lost their soul. If nothing is worth complaining about, then nothing is worth fighting for, and people have lost their capacity for righteous indignation.


cranky said...

I'm tired of programs wanting me to be sweet. Moral or holy or responsible? Ok. But not sweet and accepting. I suppose I can accept people as made in the image of God, yada, yada, yada. (Don't judge people. Leave it too God, etc, etc.) But even then there's a boatload of CONCUPISENSE---I really ought to learn to spell that word---functioning in all of us. The problem is there's some evil actions and a whole mountain of utterly ignorant ones to be judged and attacked and ground into powder. (That may be too strong. What would El Curmudgeon say?)

There's a matter of balance to be sought in all this. Complaining as whining should be avoided. Petty carping and belly-aching also aren't mature manifestations of saint or sinner. (They also make rotten advertisements for luring others into the Catholic faith.)

But there's also the complainer who focuses on the issue. He brings that to the awareness of the relevant parties and carries out a well thought through action plan. He proceed relentlessly forward until he achieves justice, satisfaction, or at least a partial victory.

This person prefers victory over defeat, but he personalizes neither. The goal usually isn't a vendetta against some person. The goal is to reduce the impact of an annoying issue. That kind of complaining needs to be done for the common good to be advanced. That sounds like your friend.

Unity Church appears to put baby and bathwater into one overly broad category. That usually proves to be hard on the baby.

Dust I Am said...

Cranky, You've done a much better job than I at explaining why complaining is often necessary and good. Especially noting the difference between complaining and whining. Thank you!

Gregg said...

I really don't think Will Bowen or Christ Church Unity is saying we shouldn't address serious problems. I haven't met Mr. Bowen personally but I did see him speak once and he struck me as a pretty common-sense guy. I think what he's trying to do is get people over the habit of spending all their energy whining, whining, whining about every little thing, instead of taking a generally positive and constructive attitude. Can't see anything wrong with that.