Visible Holiness

I mentioned my theory of the “Holiness Shelf” back when I had about ten readers (but curiously could attract 31 comments on a trivial post).

The Holiness Shelf is a dedicated space on a public bookshelf. Typically at eye level. The idea is that people judge you by the books in your collection, and your music and DVDs. If the first thing they see is overwhelming holiness manifested in your well thumbed “Gospel and Kingdom” or “The Cross of Christ” they’ll judge you positively.

It’s a tactic I recommended to many single guys, while I was myself single. I’m not sure it works.

Ali makes a good point in this post that people are now judged by their online presence. Facebook has replaced the bookshelf. Which is why it’s important to list good bands and intelligent books in your Facebook profile (I’ll post a list of impressive books for your profile later). Christians are pretty bad at judging each other on the basis of faith and holiness too – so the availability of information like what books, movies and music you like opens you up to all sorts of questions from others. Should I tell everybody that my favourite movies are Fight Club and the Godfather (both R rated)? Or should I pretend I love the Passion of the Christ (which I’ve never seen), and Amazing Grace (which I did like)?

The personal “brand” we build online opens us up in a new way to Christians who may or may not be weaker brothers, and may or may not be the judgemental type who emphasise the “not of the world” part of “in the world, but not of it”. This raises questions about what you should and shouldn’t blog about if you’re bloggingly inclined. You should read Ali’s post, and join the discussion there.

I post just about anything. I’m not sure I’d want people making an assessment of my holiness on the basis of that which appears in the right hand column of this page. Especially the bits about toilet paper.

I don’t want to be more discerning about what I blog about, it would take away half the fun. But nor do I want to be judged solely on what I blog about.


simone r says:

Nathan. I don’t judge you solely by what you post on this blog. My judgements also take into consideration your fb page and the comments you put on the other blogs I read.

You’ll be pleased to know that our kids think that the online-you is fantastic. They are still laughing at the vindictive ‘no reward’ missing bike poster (as I am). They also approve of the St. Eutychus name change.

If I were a better mum, would I let them read your blog? Hm.

I don’t know. I feel mixed things. Maybe I’ll formulate a post. I just think there’s a pretty big difference between a crude, silly but essentially harmless post about something like toilet paper, or 50% of the dumb stuff I post about, and say, something you do yourself, but feel others would judge you harshly by, in a surfaceful way.

As I’ve now said a few times today, for me it’s music. I just don’t know where to draw the line with this. You know I love metal, but I guess I don’t really share the extreme sort of stuff that I like. I know you’d look at it with horror. I don’t really buy the most extreme stuff I like, but I listen to it alot on Youtube while I work.

I am still unsure whether this is right or wrong. There’s a strong case for it being unwise, certainly. For me it’s a strange issue, because in other areas my conscience strongly speaks, and I act accordingly, whereas with this music I don’t feel such strong conviction.

An example is that I also really love horror movies, but there is some stuff or subjects in them that for me just feel like the tipping point, and I don’t watch that stuff because it makes me feel bad.

So why don’t I feel that badness with music?

Nathan says:

Ben – I really think conscience is important. Biblically important. I think many of these things become issues like eating food sacrificed to idols. And I think the idea of people standing around judging you harshly for something is more an indictment on those people than on the action.

Unless these musical pharisees are listening to only the Sons of Korah I’d say they don’t have a moral leg to stand on and you should ignore them. But that’s just me.

Simone – I’m glad your children think I’m funny. I don’t have too many pangs of conscience and I don’t, ultimately, care too much what people judge me by. As I said in the comments on Ali’s post – I’m an “audience of one” kind of guy. Actually, I’m probably, now that I’m married, an audience of two kind of guy.

queenstuss says:

I want a sign on my bookshelves that says ‘the contents of these books are not necessarily the opinions of the owners’. (Either that or work out how to sneak out the things I don’t like?)

For the record, my son now thinks your blog is funny too. He saw the man with the tetris hair.

Tim says:

I had a friend who had a Heresy shelf as well— right on the bottom row- he said that it showed that he was intelligent enough to look at both sides of issues right or wrong and hence file his books accordingly

Anika Q says:

I never let anyone look at my bookcases without a personalised tour. (“Oh, and yes, that’s my collection of Muslim works. One likes to keep informed. And *that* is a stupid book and just because a lot of Christians like it doesn’t mean that I do.”)

Ali says:

Thanks Nathan. I only know you from your blog, and I think you’re a good bloke – so somehow that’s what comes through in the balance. (And I don’t think loo paper amusements is likely to lead people off in to serious errors :) … the mind boggles at what those could be).

Ben, I agree with Nathan, and with Simone’s idea over at my blog, that people have their own “poisons” and it sounds like music isn’t one of yours, as in, it’s not the thing that’s going take you places you shouldn’t go. How, or if, you take into consideration those for whom it might be is more tricky.

I like this bookshelf tour idea! I have some stuff hanging around that needs an explanation. At eye level I discovered a Hebrew Bible, which looks most impressive, but I can’t read a word of it! Then there’s a book called The Angel and the Octopus, full of obscure essays that someone gave me.

I’m looking forward to Nathan’s book suggestions! :)

kutz says:

Nath, just between you and me, I reckon the fact that it would be far too incriminating to allow people into your pre-marital house to start with would make a holy-bookshelf a tad redundant in impressing lady-types…


Nathan says:

Kutz – what are you saying?

Are you suggesting something about other factors that may be involved in impressing the lady types where I might be lacking?