Theology Fanboys: A Rant

If there is one thing that is a major stumbling block for me, it’s fanboys. Ugh…fanboys. Just writing that word leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

Some of my readers may not be familiar with the term “fanboy.” One of the definitions offered by the Urban Dictionary reads:

An extreme fan or follower of a particular medium or concept, whether it be sports, television, film directors, video games (the most common usage), etc.

Known for a complete lack of objectivity in relation to their preferred focus. Usually argue with circular logic that they refuse to acknowledge. Arguments or debates with such are usually futile. Every flaw is spun into semi-virtues and everything else, blown to comedic, complimentary proportions. [source]

The most common usage for the word “fanboy” generally revolves around science fiction universes, superheroes, anime, and video games.

For example: Star Wars. Some people just like Star Wars because it’s entertaining; others like it because it’s a fascinating universe from which to draw inspiration. Both of these are perfectly legitimate reasons to enjoy it. Yet there are those out there who will defend any criticism of the saga to the death. If you say something objective like, “You know, I didn’t like Episode II all that much – the acting and pacing was just poorly done,” they will react violently and defend against every small point you make. What’s more, they’ll attempt to turn it against you as if your dislike of something is a personal fault. Even if you say something reasonably harmless like “I don’t hate it, I just dislike x, y and z,” they’ll react as if you just said “I really despise that movie and hope everyone involved in it and their immediate family dies.” They might not even respond to your argument at all – they might throw a cliche, tired argument out that avoids everything and simply say something shallow like, “You just don’t get the art!” Most of the time it’s not even worth speaking to these people, because even if you clearly demonstrate your point to be valid or their arguments to be fallacious, they will nonetheless continue on with their shallow reasoning, much like the emperor adorned with his “new clothes” continuing the parade.

As suggested before, fanboys can be in many circles, not just science fiction or comic books. As one ventures into the realm of theology, they may find that, indeed, there are fanboys there as well. I might divide these into two groups:

Firstly, there are the cultic fanboys. These are the ones who basically equate disagreement with a minister or a ministry with disagreement with God Himself. This is pretty self-explanatory, I think.

Secondly, there are the passive-aggressive fanboys, who from now on shall be referred to as PAFs. Why do I call them passive-aggressive fanboys? These are the typical fanboys in denial. That is, they will often open up their responses with, “I don’t think this ministry/this minister is infallible, but…” and proceed to treat the person as infallible. PAFs may deny that they are upholding a person or ministry as equal with the word of God so as to avoid falling into the trap of cultic fanboys, and yet their attitude and inability to accept any legitimate criticism says otherwise. A PAF may even argue “I’m not necessarily supporting this individual, but…” and proceed to not only support the person or ministry, but to support them to the death. Just like the PAFs mentioned before, such PAFs will refuse to listen to reason or give direct responses to your arguments, and holding discussions with them will end up simply debating in circles.

Let’s now examine how an agreement avoiding fanboyism could play out between two brothers in Christ:

Christian A: “Have you ever read Pilgrim’s Progress? It’s a classic.”
Christian B: “I dunno, I couldn’t really get into all the analogies Bunyan used. It’s just not my thing.”
Christian A: “Ah, I can understand that. I personally think he did an OK job, but then again I’m a sucker for that kind of thing.”

See, wasn’t that pleasant? Now let’s see it through the lens of a cultic fanboy:

Christian A: “Have you ever read Pilgrim’s Progress? It’s a classic.”
Christian B: “I dunno, I couldn’t really get into all the analogies Bunyan used. It’s just not my thing.”
Christian A: “You’re such a Pharisee. Don’t you know how many people God saved with that book? You need to rethink your position, or you will face severe judgment for your attitude.”

Wow, that went downhill quickly. Now let’s look at it through the lens of a PAF.

Christian A: “Have you ever read Pilgrim’s Progress? It’s a classic.”
Christian B: “I dunno, I couldn’t really get into all the analogies Bunyan used. It’s just not my thing.”
Christian A: “What do you mean you couldn’t get into the analogies?”
Christian B: “I dunno, just not my thing is all. The delivery was like a kid’s book to me.”
Christian A: “Christ used analogies. Are you saying his work was bad?”
Christian B: “No, not at all, I just mean the way Bunyan used them, I couldn’t get into it.”
Christian A: “Could you get into the parables? What’s wrong with you.”
Christian B: “Nothing’s wrong with me! I’m just saying Pilgrim’s Progress wasn’t my cup of tea is all.”
Christian A: “Bunyan is a well respected author. Who are you?”

All right, that’s starting to get painful. I think I’ve clarified my position, any way. Now, least I cause anyone to stumble by confusing fanboyism with simple defense of a topic, let’s review this situation again, but through the lens of someone attempting to defend John Bunyan but not in a fanboy-like way.

Christian A: “Have you ever read Pilgrim’s Progress? It’s a classic.”
Christian B: “I dunno, I couldn’t really get into all the analogies Bunyan used. It’s just not my thing.”
Christian A: “Really? I think they’re pretty well done. I like them.”
Christian B: “It just reads like a kid’s book to me, I suppose.”
Christian A: “Well, keep in mind Bunyan was trying to convey something child-like, so that even the layman could understand what he was trying to convey. However, if you don’t care for that kind of use of analogy, I might suggest Bunyan’s more straight theological work. They’re work reading, and might be more up your alley.”

See? Christian A defended Bunyan, but didn’t treat Christian B’s opinion like it was the result of some great personal fault. Now, just for good measure, let’s see an example where accusing the other person of being a fanboy is actually itself wrong.

Christian A: “Have you ever read Pilgrim’s Progress? It’s a classic.”
Christian B: “Yeah I did. It was the dumbest, stupidest, stinkiest thing I’ve ever read.”
Christian A: “Uh…well I mean, Bunyan’s not perfect, but I didn’t think it was that bad…”
Christian B: “Quit being such a Bunyan fanboy!”

In this example we see where accusing someone of fanboyism is actually incorrect. Having an appreciation for something – even to a high degree – does not by itself make you fanboy. The reader might refer back to my original example with Star Wars: some like it, maybe even love it, for specific reasons that are perfectly legitimate, but do not sink to the level of fanboyism. Merely liking something does not equate to being a fanboy of it.

At this point I think I’m starting to have too much fun with the topic. End of rant.

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