If you are older than 25, you probably remember Dana Carvey's "Church Lady" character from Saturday Night Live. For those who are not familiar, I will provide a brief (and totally unfunny) synopsis. The church lady interviews various celebrities for her "Church Chat" television program. Every interview begins in fairly mundane fashion. That is, until the church lady starts grilling her guests. She inevitably asks a question about some questionable behavior
attributed to the guest. When the guest shows no sense of shame, the church lady smugly replies, "Well, isn't that special?" Then, the
church lady rhetorically asks the audience, "Who do you think could be behind this bad behavior?" Without skipping a beat, she emphatically answers her own question, "Could it be; oh I don't know; Satan!?" At this point, the guest usually tries to offer some excuse for his behavior, but the church lady simply will not let him off the hook. She quickly rejects the excuse and employs another of her comical catchphrases; "How conveeeeenient!" she quips. The crowd erupts in laughter and applause.
Sometimes, when the church lady is feeling especially triumphant, she does a little dance -- a magnificent sight.
Never mind the obvious irony in the title, but I have recently noticed many
critics of Christianity utilizing what I would like to call, "The Church Lady
Tactic." Here is how it generally looks. First, the critic calls into question
some perceived Christian doctrine that he finds inconsistent, illogical, or
immoral. Next, the Christian responds by explaining how the critic has grossly
misrepresented and/or misunderstood the doctrine. Then, the critic simply
dismisses the explanation by saying, "How convenient!" Much like the church
lady, the critic feels victorious. Often times, he will even gloat over the
perceived absurdity of his opponent's response.
It may sound counterintuitive, but I think the best strategy for answering
the church lady tactic is to agree with the critic. You can say something like,
"You're right, it is convenient, but what does that have to do with anything?"
You might also ask, "What do you mean by convenient?" The obvious implication is
that he thinks your explanation is contrived and unworthy of an intelligent
response. Even so, you do not have to take the bait and get defensive. Simply
ask him to explain his problems with your argument. If he is willing, great,
then you are back on track to an intelligent conversation. However, if he is
unwilling, then you simply have to move on.
The truth is that many critics resort to moves like the church lady tactic
because they are afraid to face the explanation that you have provided.
Dismissing it as "convenient" keeps them from having to deal with the
implications. And that principle does not only apply to issues of religion, but
also to friendships, marriages, families etc. When I am obviously and loudly
convinced that I am right about something and my wife confronts me with clear
evidence to the contrary, I naturally want to find a way to dismiss it. The more
obvious my shortcomings, the more negatively I am inclined to react. What
happens next is an even uglier secret. That is, if I react smugly to her comment
and then she snaps back at me, I subconsciously feel like I have dodged the
bullet. Now we are both upset and we are not even talking about the original
issue anymore. It is a vicious cycle, all perpetuated by a form of the church
lady tactic. I pray that you can learn from my embarrassing admission how to
better maneuver in these circumstances, regardless of which side you find