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Miniblog #144: I Hate Faux Thinking

by Carson T. Clark on November 9, 2012

Have you ever been listening to a preacher who said something painfully obvious and the people around you responded as though it was some sort of profound insight or hard-fought wisdom? I’m not talking about a creative, fresh re-articulation of something known well or an unusual angle on a mundane fact. Nothing like that. What I’m talking about is when the pastor says something that has arguably attained cliché status11.Something like, “A church is the community of people, not the building where we meet.” and men around you quietly grunt an approval with a subtle nod while women close their eyes, make that spiritually approving “Mmmmm” noise, and then whisper something like, “So true.” Meanwhile, I’m sitting there flummoxed, looking around and honestly wondering what it was they’d just heard that was so inspiring.22.This has been happening to me since I was a kid. I remember one occasion in which the pastor paused and then slowly, for rhetorical effect, said, “Jesus… JESUS!… loves all the little children of the world. Can you imagine that?” All the men and women did those culturally conditioned church noises, and I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Uhhhh. Yeah. That’s not too hard to imagine. What’s the big deal?’ This sort of thing happens all the time in church, of course, but in one form or another it exists in most all areas of society–politics, film, business, education, sports, etc. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what was going on. As I said, I was flummoxed. But a couple months ago my wife nailed it. It was like this giant piece of the puzzle snapped into place. Suddenly the world made sense. What did she say? “You hate faux thinking.” I asked for clarificatin. “Fake. Imitation. Appears to be the real thing, like faux wood flooring.” I asked her go to on. “It’s when people are so unaccustomed to actually thinking they mistake the imitation for the real thing. The quality isn’t there but they don’t know it. It only appears to be real, meaningful thought.” Bingo. Faux thinking is when self-evident realities, half-truths, or even mindless drivel is passed off as genuine thoughtfulness if not borderline brilliance.33.As my wife suggested, it usually results from a kind of long-term cognitive atrophy. This train of thought immediately leads to a big problem, though. Don Marquis perhaps summarized it best when he observed, “If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; But if you really make them think, they’ll hate you.” To channel my inner-Strong Bad, crap for crap. I’m in for a lifetime of trouble.

  • Derek Rishmawy

    My favorite example of this is meme-wisdom. The unattributed quotes set on a pretty background saying something trite but supposed to profound. Modern day proverbs for the shallow.

    • Carson T. Clark

      No doubt most are shallow, but I’ve seen some solid ones.

    • Derek Rishmawy

      True. I’m thinking mostly of the ones posted on pinterest by girls between the ages of 15-28. Also, their middle-aged moms.

  • J. Byas

    Well said! As I came to this reality as a pastor I realized part of my task now is to minimize my cynicism and get to work trying to be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove, truly but subtly helping them to think for themselves without being arrogant and condescending. I have found that to be a monumental task.

  • Carlton McDuffie

    Had an intense barbershop convo about this very topic in the wake of the poli(trick)al hash slinging environment of recent weeks. My thing, if you’re gonna really hate either party’s candidate (since hate really is an intense concept & all) @least have a truly developed thought process as to why you do. Don’t HATE anyone because the CNN talking heads convince you w/minimal effort to do so….own your own perspective. Which is gonna take REAL thinking…. I think some of the patrons ‘hated’ me for sharing.. go figure. I ‘hate’ it when that happens…smh

  • SamHamilton

    I find myself thinking this when I listen to sports commentators on TV. They say things like: “To win today, they’ve really got to hit their shots.”

  • nakedpastor

    right on!

  • Maureen Kennedy

    Oh dear. You and me both, Carson! I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about, and it irks the crap out of me!!

  • Mike Weaver


    I’m going to share a part of this with my freshman composition class. I’ve been trying to stop them from doing this kind of thinking all semester but I couldn’t quite articulate it. My thanks to Sarah!

  • Ang

    Very well articulated! And doesn’t this happen in every church?

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  • Rondall Reynoso

    Brilliant! I so agree.

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  • Morgan Guyton

    Sounds like a Steven Furtick sermon. Sorry. I guess I shouldn’t name names.

  • James Coder

    Thanks for this article. Yes, “bingo.” This has been a very, very irritating phenomenon for me as well. Especially amongst pietist-leaning Evangelicals who tend to reduce things to a subjective attitude or intention. Strong feeling and vehement affirmation replaces thinking (which when you come down to it … isn’t always aided by a noisily vehement affirmation of something).

    Imitation of thinking … plus also, responding to a “hallowed” truth … one a society needs to structure itself … like for example, the nods you get from people when you utter some sort of platitude about human rights or democracy. “Mythological,” ritualized behavior we engage in when we face our own myths … (whether the “myths” be “true” or simply constructions which help us live together and understand things).

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