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neurological dryer lint

dirty deeds... and the dunderchief


take me where i cannot stand

yesterday's psp post was made possible by the japanese 2.0 PSP firmware, because the US 2.0 build isn't out yet. the browser is pretty sweet, with a surprisingly good interface.

scott duebber sent me an article from relevant. i can't find a link to it anywhere on their site (hook up the RSS guys) so i'm posting it here:

For almost five years, I didn’t go to church. It was only me and Reverend Bedpost most Sundays. I’d get inspired or guilty once in a while and church shop for a few weeks, but soon I’d be back to hitting the snooze button. I was attending seminary at the time, so I convinced myself that I was getting enough religion during the week. I thought my friends were enough of a “faith community” and I didn’t need to practice some banal
weekend ritual. But I had another reason for playing hooky from Church that I never told anyone: I couldn’t stomach being around other Christians. I thought Christians were completely full of crap.

I’m serious. Imagine us through the eyes of a nonbeliever who didn’t grow up in a religious tradition. We do a bunch of weird, ridiculous and sometimes stupid things. That’s on a good day. On a bad day, we’re downright mean.

Let’s begin with the weird part. For starters, we have our own language. We use words like “fellowship,” “sanctify” and “discern” in about a hundred different ways. When we pray, we’re over-fond of the word “just” and doubling-up on God’s name (“Lord God, Lord Jesus, Jesus Lord,” etc.). And this is only what garden-variety evangelicals do. Some Christians get downright bizarre, especially when they worship. It’s a wonder that we haven’t scared away all sensible nonbelievers.

Then there’s the ridiculous. First, we have a preoccupation with hokey costumes. Whether it’s big hair on TBN, big hats at the Vatican or the mandatory cropped facial hair for male leaders in the Emergent Church, Christians feel compelled to don uniforms that distinguish us from the rest of the world. It’s silly and pointless. It’s almost as ridiculous as how we behave while singing praise songs. Ever notice that people don’t stick their hands in the air because of the words? It happens at the chorus or the bridge of a song, when the music switches to big major chords. I bet you could put the words to the Alphabet song along with the big crescendo in a worship song, and you see just as many palms in the air.

The stupid and mean things flow together on a continuum. On the stupid side, Christians get their tails in a knot about the most irrelevant things. Harry Potter? Please. The whole continent of Africa is getting flushed down the toilet, and the Pope and a bunch of high-profile preachers are worried about a bespectacled British kid on a broom. But stupidity just passes the time for idle Christians. If you cross us on a serious issue, we get mean in ways that would make Michael Corleone blush.
If someone offends our moral sensibility or tries to change a law that’s close to our hearts, we set an entire cultural machine in motion. We have money, politicians, lobbyists and corporate giants at our disposal. Christians on the ground picket with angry slogans, while Christians in the high-rises of power write checks for lobbyists and politicians. We have no problem thumping pagan skulls when the culture moves in a
direction we don’t like. As a result, much of the world not only hates us, they’re afraid of us.

So why on earth would I want to hang out with these people? I love Jesus with all my heart, but I find His flock annoying. During my self-exile from church, I was picky about the Christians with whom I did “fellowship,” and often preferred the company of nonchristians. Why would I want to go to church with a bunch of people so full of crap?

Because I’m even more full of crap. When God revealed that to me, I started going to church again. God had to go out of His way to remind me of this through some humbling experiences, but the proof was there all along. I just got snobby and didn’t bother to look.

If Christians use weird language, I need look no further than my job to realize that I do the same. I’m a psychologist. That means I use convoluted, condescending and confusing ways to describe what’s common sense and simple. Worse than that, I’m prone to using profanity when I’m out of earshot of anyone who might get offended (and sometimes when I’m not). I’ll go out on a limb and say that puts me in no position to judge folks who insert “just” into every other word of a prayer.

I’m also guilty of the ridiculous. I always shop at the same two stores, though I could probably get clothes of the same quality cheaper somewhere else. I get obsessed with video games, even though I’m a 36-year-old man with a wife and four kids. I’m also one of these dorks who’ll look for movie spoilers on the Internet months before a film comes out. But I’m perhaps no more ridiculous than when at a rock concert, especially U2.

Remember how I slammed other Christians for raising their hands in worship because of a change in the music rather than the words? I do the same thing. I’ll stick my hands in the air like a Pentecostal during a rousing point in a U2 song, though I have no idea what the heck Bono is singing about.

I’ve got stupid and mean down, as well. The stupid part is a sort of reverse-dogmatism. I’m real big on not judging someone, unless I think someone else is judgmental. I’d be willing to extend grace to violent criminal on death row, while passing harsh judgment on a good person whose beliefs I consider too rigid or dogmatic. But that’s just when I’m being stupid. I can get mean, too. I’m not talking about “having a bad day” orneriness—I mean vicious. If someone is rude to me on the freeway or in the supermarket, I have no problem retaliating with vigor, sometimes using the aforementioned profanity. I’m good at it, too. I can get nasty and
aggressive in ways that few Christians could imagine and none could justify. Though I want to throttle Christians who use terrible names for people when they don’t like their lifestyle, somebody needs to throttle me when I give a look that could curdle milk to a stranger who took “my” parking place.

Once God revealed my hypocrisy, it made going to church easier. Church is a good place for people who are full of crap. Being a Christian means that you realize that you’re full of crap and that you need help. In fact, we should change the passing of the peace from “Peace be with you” to “You’re full of crap and so am I.”

Mike Yaconelli once said that church should be a place where we look at each other and say, “What are you doing here?” None of us is good enough to be there. Not one of us is righteous. Progressive types like me give more conservative Christians a hard time for being too “exclusive,” but we’re just as bad. We get just as easily annoyed and turn our backs on other children of God who don’t share our views. It’s so much easier to be snide than vulnerable. It’s much safer to be sarcastic than expose my
heart to someone I don’t like. But once I stopped thinking of myself as too cool and took the time to get to know those I’d been judging, I made a shocking discovery. I like other Christians They might act nutty during worship, they’re beliefs might be too stinking rigid, and thy might even dress goofy, but I love those folks. They made me laugh, brought me joy and showed me love. That last one humbled me big time.

Yes, Christians are irritating. We can all be weird, ridiculous, stupid and mean. I’m a good example. That’s why we have to rely on God to clear our vision, change our hearts, and stop us from being ridiculous, stupid, and mean (I don’t think God cares so much about the weird part). If we let God fill us with His love rather than trusting our own assumptions, we will begin to love those who annoy us. We can go from being full of crap to full of grace and love. We get over ourselves and the little things that divide us, learning to see each other as God does. And God loves that person who irritates me just as much as He loves me. If I can remember that, maybe I won’t be so full of crap.
sound like anyone you know? here was my response:
...this sounds like something I would write. And it's completely accurate. With the exception of the church stuff, but I don't doubt that if I were in a church that wasn't filled with people that thought like me, I would have the same sarcastic, superior reaction to them.

I will hide my cruel, vengeful, angry side behind my willingness to be open and vulnerable about my flaws, thinking that it justifies them. I feel like judging stupid Christians like Pat Robertson is OK, as long as I don't judge unbelievers. I got Galatians 6:10 backwards: "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."

I've been visited by this internal conflict a lot - conviction about my quickness to judge 'bad' Christians and to get unreasonably angry and label it 'passion'. I usually shove it back down with some of the rationalizations I just mentioned. But it's important to face. To be just as honest - I know that I do this and I have a hard time caring, because it feels good to be self-righteous and judgemental to people that I think are misrepresenting Jesus. And I think that the only way my heart budges is when friends like you email me a mirror to stare into.
i'm grateful to scott for sending me this - he wasn't attempting to point anything out, but simply show me something interesting - but it reminded me of how quick i am to finger-point and get outraged. but i'm just as quick to judge 'bad' Christians as i think they are to judge people who don't agree with them. i don't think this means i need to be silent - in fact, i don't know really what role this means we should carry out when we see stupid Christians acting stupid.

i have this inner urge to yell at them for alienating the world outside their bubble and making Jesus and his followers look like morons. but i hear Jesus telling me not to judge others.

one more month until serenity! who's with me to go watch this?


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