If you haven’t noticed already, I’m a big fan of Don Miller’s writings. I don’t always agree with him, but I always find myself digesting what he writes, and then finding my way to some kind of understanding, no matter how tentative, that makes me feel like I am growing as a person.
So some days ago Don posted a blog on filtering relationships. You can read it here:
I was straddling the proverbial fence while reading this particular one. On the one hand, I have heard that we’re supposed to love everyone. But on the other hand, life has taught me there are certain people who do more harm than good, and I’m better off walking away.
The longer I thought about it, the more I agreed with some of Don Miller’s thoughts. And I particularly liked how he identified “false victims,” “bullies” and “overly religious people” as the kinds he keeps at a distance. That I can certainly relate to!
So I decided to write about it. And I’m lifting his “overly religious people” and starting with that. Not just because it resonates with me, but also because I had a conversation with my sister S some months ago about this and I’ve been meaning to write about it.
Say Amen to Everything, Sister!
To be sure, some people most likely think I am overly religious because I talk about Jesus a lot. But there lies the difference—I talk about Jesus and not my religion. I’m a Baptist, Southern to be exact. But that’s just my affiliation. I am Southern Baptist by preference, but my Jesus transcends my denomination and belongs to everyone who truly loves Him. So I don’t consider myself religious at all (but I can see how that’s debatable depending on where you’re coming from).
I’m going to try to describe what I think is being overly-religious…
I know someone, and maybe you do too, who likes to post some pretty controversial religious stuff all over the internet. In my least charitable moments, I imagine this person sitting on a high chair stroking his/her chin, and as soon as an idea comes up, he/she types down quickly and then proudly hits “share”. The post goes out to the world, and he/she would sit back and wait for the reactions to come in.
Now, to be honest, I agree with most of the person’s posts. I just don’t like how this someone seems to measure the rightness of each post by how many protests it gets from the non-church-going community. It’s as if the measure of truth for each post is directly proportional to the amount of negative reactions it gets from the “non-believers.”
(This is a sticking point for me, and I’ve always wondered if I should say something. But then, that someone does put out a lot of truth out there. These just aren’t worded in the way I would prefer. But then again, why should they be? And maybe I’m just jealous. Because that someone gets a lot of pats on the back from the church-going community while I get most of my bashing from the same.)
The other thing I like to rant about (you can ask my hubby about it) is how so many of the activities churches come up with these days pass off as “ministry” when they are nothing but indulgent schemes that are given the cloak of righteousness by adding a prayer, a short “devotion” or a holy-sounding purpose to it. Let me say this as loudly as I can: Jesus gave the blueprint for how we’re supposed to reach out, and it has always been about going somewhere uncomfortable.
Marshall Allman, an actor from Prison Break, True Blood, and Blue Like Jazz, tweeted the following: “if your love ain’t real, no one will believe your God is either.” That’s all it is about. But there’s a busload of drama that goes with this idea in a church that doesn’t think this love should go beyond the borders of their small, pre-approved community.
When we keep to the things we like to do, but add a dash of church-speak to make ourselves look good, we’re like those merchants in the temple. And we deserve to have our tables turned upside down before us. Because we’re being overly religious, and not really Christian.
And yes, I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: No, I won’t click share on your post. And no, I am not ashamed of God. And I will not pass along your feel good stories, even if it means losing out on that something good that you promise will happen to me if I do. Even if you add a Bible verse, mostly taken out of context, to add credibility to your words. I’ll take my chances.
Being overly religious is easy, it’s just one click of a touchpad away.
Next, and this may come as a surprise but I don’t think life will ever be perfect this side of heaven. The reality is, when someone is sick, struggling or impoverished, it doesn’t always mean they have some hidden sin, lack faith or even need to pray more. It’s just the way life is, and when we face life the way countless Bible heroes have, these challenges can prove to be good things.
The prosperity gospel is a big lie, and in many ways, it is used as a front for man’s greed. Overly religious people are in it for what they can get, because overly religious people look out for themselves first.
Lastly, I’ve always wondered why the book of James is never really one of those that gets quoted often? And why is it that it’s okay to have expectations of people in other areas of life, but never when a person professes faith?
A person admits he loves to surf, and people assume he can swim.
A couple gets married, people start asking about when “the little one” will come along.
A nursing student graduates from college and people ask what hospital the graduate will be working at.
A little boy says he’s learned to ride his bike, and his parent encourages him to demonstrate.
One plays the piano really well, and they’re asked to play at an event.
You post a picture of a dish you made on Facebook and people ask for a taste.
You become known as an expert in a certain field, and people approach you when they need help.
So why is it that we hesitate to expect that people who claim to want to follow Jesus change in ways that reflect that decision? It’s almost like a thorn in my side, as I have been called all sorts of descriptive words (oh you know, judgmental, critical, and the like) for standing up for this biblical truth. But I never meant that we be confrontational (although this week I did hear from one amazing lady about how being in-your-face about this is sometimes a necessity). I’m simply convinced it is wrong to take a backseat and allow people to go through this life thinking they are headed for heaven when in reality, a rude awakening is all they’re going to get. For eternity.
Being overly religious is much like joining a club. It becomes just another thing to add to what defines you, but it rarely changes who you are.
Drama Queens. And Kings. Yes, men have drama too.
I posted a status update on Facebook once, and it was meant to keep these amateur actors away: “I majored in journalism, not drama.” I was greatly amused by the reactions I got.
One good thing about logging off Facebook for Lent is being spared the drama that goes on between status posts and the resulting comments. It’s mostly amusing, but it can be vitriol as well. I mean, how many of us have woken up suddenly in the wee hours of the night and started obsessing over a passive-aggressive statement someone posted, agonizing over whether it was meant for you and what you could have possibly done to deserve it? And should you apologize? But what if it wasn’t mean for you? Wouldn’t that make the other person suspicious?
Unfortunately, we can’t log off of life. Nor can we “hide” a person without them knowing. Which led me to agree that it is perfectly fine to filter relationships, especially if it’s the only recourse left open when faced with a drama king or queen. Because you know, insanity is not a viable option.
Moving on—I’d include people who walk around with a neon “VICTIM” sign flashing above their heads here too. Miller calls them “false victims,” I call them cowards. And that’s only because I’ve indulged in this self-destructive emotion a few times too many, and I saw myself for what I really was. A coward—afraid of life. So instead, I spun my own dramatic version of how I was emotionally crippled by so-and-so. And I hid under the “victim” tag and waited to be rescued. Only, knights in shining armor are few and far between, and even they can’t help me out of the pit. I had to climb out myself.
I know someone who wallows in this pit. And as much as I’d like to help her by giving her a big kick in the pants, I don’t know if she”ll ever get out (although I’d love for God to prove me wrong). She’s getting so much attention and she’s loving it too much to look beyond the shallow sentiments her so-called friends share and realize she’s become some form of cheap entertainment for them. It’s hard to look away from a train wreck.
A train-wreck. That’s exactly what drama is, and the people caught in the show are two-bit actors who thrive on any kind of attention they can get from their audience, ignoring the reality that their stage is set only in their heads.
And that’s all I’ve got. I stay away from those two kinds of people, and the ones who fall under the sub-headings.
Ironically, these same people consider me snobby, judgmental, and a killjoy. When it comes to their opinion/s, the prideful part of me considers them as compliments while the better part of me feels the hurt. It’s a tension I experience constantly, but one I must go through if I want to keep running the good race.