The Life of a Critic
Let me get the caveats out first: there is nothing un-Christian about criticism. The Bible is full of criticism for false religion and false teachers. Jesus himself, right after instructing us not to judge (Matt. 7:1), insinuated some of his opponents were dogs and pigs (Matt. 7:6). Through the history of the church, criticism has helped to shape Christian doctrine and guard against heresies of every kind. We should not try to shut down criticism simply because it is criticism. Besides, if we fault the critics for being so critical aren’t we ourselves being critical?
But not all criticism is warranted. Much of it is a waste. Worse than waste, it is self-serving, hurtful, and needlessly divisive. That’s what makes this ending scene from Ratatouille so powerful. After learning that his delicious meal, one he loved as a kid, was cooked by a rat, the harsh foot critic Anton Ego reflects on his life as a critic. His review, especially the first few sentences, reminds us how much easier and safer criticism is than the risky, hard work of creating.
Again, criticism is acceptable, and sometimes even called for, in the Christian life. But living the life of a critic is no way to live. If our identity depends on constantly defining ourselves against someone else or some other group, if our closest friends are always formed by what we mutually oppose, if our first response is to find fault, if we tear down without ever attempting the hard work of building something up, if we only criticize leaders without ever having led, if put downs bring us more joy than praise, then we are likely making a lot of people miserable, including ourselves.
In which case, it’s time to take a hard look at Ego. Both kinds.