what i've learned along the way
. . . Have I become intolerant of my former self?
Published on July 26, 2008 By lobsterhunter In Religion

The following definition of Christianese can be found on Wikipedia.

 

“The related term Christianese (or Bible-speak) refers to the contained terms and jargon used within many of the branches and denominations of Christianity as a functional system of religious terminology. It is characterized by the use in everyday conversation of certain words, theological terms, and catchphrases, in ways that may be only comprehensible within the context of Christian belief.”

 

Now before I go bashing on this religious dialect, I would like to set the record straight. I am a recovering Pharisee, and as distasteful as I find the term Christian, I still align myself with this faith system. Without employing too much of the theological jargon I now despise, I simply choose to call my higher power God. I believe that Jesus personified mercy and grace, and today I know that I am broken, but loved.

 

A little background . . .

 

My grandmother raised my siblings and I in a small town Southern Baptist Church. Growing up in a dysfunctional family left me feeling lost and confused. The black and white nature of the Christian faith felt safe and inviting, and for as long as I can remember I loved going to Sunday school and “Big Church”, which was the term I used to define that sanctified eleven o’clock hour. I embraced the dogmatic traditions whole heartedly, and the rules were life saving devices in a world where I was tossed on the waves of instability. A defined sense of right and wrong made me feel superior, and each time my Sunday school teacher put one of those little gold stars on the memory verse chart, I would smile with pride and affirmation.

 

It didn’t take long before I became the president of the “holier than thou” club. As a teenager I mastered the art of condemnation, and I became fluent in Christianese. I acted all high and mighty, judging anyone and everyone who did not live up to my standard of perfection. When I got to college, I purposefully surrounded myself with other believers, and I guarded against the evil influences of the world. I refused to see rated R movies, and I waved my virginity around like a flag. The driving force behind every moral decision was this insane desire to remain “pure” and “holy”. I wanted to “glorify God”, and I this could only be achieved through a sinless life. Of course, I wanted others to be perfect too, so I could feel better about myself.

 

As a naïve sixteen year old kid, I vividly remember thinking about my future children. If they were ever faced with a moral dilemma, and they came to me for advice, I wanted to be able to stand before them and proudly say, “I avoided all the “big sins” like drinking and smoking and sex outside of marriage.” I was hell bent on eliminating regret from my life, which ended up reaping fruitless results. Today I am more ashamed of my pharisaical ways than anything I’ve ever done. I carry a deep sense of remorse for all the times I failed to truly love others.

 

Having emerged from this haze of self righteousness, I now judge those who remain stuck in the place I formerly lived. Perhaps I’ve made no progress at all. I read blogs and commentaries of right wing conservative Christians and I get pissed off. I know they are sincere in their presentation of truth, and I understand that their intentions are pure. However, when I hear the Christianese bullshit that claims our lives will be perfect if we simply follow a set of hard and fast rules, I literately want to vomit. Jesus is not the magic bullet.

 

Christianese divides. The language of the church separates. It makes seekers feel like outsiders, and it feeds the gods of pride and self centeredness. When I hear phrases like, “radiant bride of Christ” or “born-again believer” I cringe. Well meaning folks who spout off theological terms like “propitiation of sin” and “transfiguration” get on my last nerve. I have no tolerance for anyone who emphatically states Christians must act and look a certain way. No one has the right to judge my insides based on outside observations.

 

So, here I am. Still annoyed with my current inability to just let people be who they are. I wish I understood the concept of balance, but I’ve come to accept the reality that I am a pendulum swinger. I desperately want to embrace the ambiguous “grey”, but I am bent towards polarized thinking. Somebody has to be right, and somebody has to be wrong. For now, I’ll bitch about the conservative zealots whose Christianese gets under my skin. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

 

 


Comments (Page 2)
on Jul 29, 2008

I too grew up in a Southern Baptist Church (in Canada, they decided us canucks needed to be evangelized properly by some Texans... go figure!)

Evangelism is another topic of faith that rubs me the wrong way. I spent a couple of weeks as a college student participating in an event that coincided with the Southern Baptist Convention called Crossover Salt Lake. We were taught apologetics, and we were expected to go door knocking all over Mormon country trying to convince these people they were misled. It was the biggest farce I've ever seen, next to Beach Reach in South Padre where we supposed to share the gospel with a bunch of college students who were three sheets to the wind. I'm sorry the Texans polluted your Canadian community with such hypocrisy.

Funny that I sign into JoeUser on Monday after watching the Mandy Moore movie "Saved" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0332375/) which is about the hypocrisy found in people with just this attitude. Decent enough movie, manages to nail the hypocritical attitude.
 

I've actually seen the movie Saved, but it was a few years back, right about the time my disillusionment season began. I remember thinking the movie had a profound message, but I was too blind to see it. My husband and I put it on our Blockbuster queue, so we can watch it again.

He's more of a gradual always-working kind of God.

When I was a little girl one of the deacons in our church who also happened to be a school teacher led the children's choir every Wednesday night. He taught us a song called, "He's Stlll Working on Me". I loved the catchy tune, and I still remember the lyrics today. Ironically, this pillar of the community ended up sexually molesting a student, and the whole incident was swept under the rug because of his position in the church. I think God is a gradual, always working kind of God. I just think the way He works can look different for ever person. Including the child molesting music guy.

Liberal: Perhaps its this way, but it could be that way. Conservative: I like things the way they are and really don't want things to change very much. Fundamentalist: Its this way, not that way, and anyone who thinks otherwise is in error!
 

I'd never seen these descriptions before. Interesting evaluation. I have some residual conservative values, but I'd like to think I'm moving toward the liberal camp. My pendulum swinging habits indicate an inability to choose.

 

on Jul 29, 2008

I live my life based on doing the best that I can do to be a good person and hope that I can be worthy. But I won't deny that I am human, prone to mistakes, exempt from perfection and therefor, as Jesus once said "he who is free of sin cast the first stone", I do not judge people, I simply disagree with their actions.

I think everyone I know is just doing the best they can . . . 

How is disagreeing with other's actions different from judging? Is my participation or abstinence from an activity in and of itself a judgement? I wish it were this cut and dry.

I guess the short version is this...being a Pharisee is about the condition of the heart.

Good point, Tova. I'd like to think God is still in the process of changing my heart. Some habits die hard.

You aren't on my nerves. I like the way you are stretching and growing and sharing all of it with us (me). I enjoy reading your blog and especially your insights.

One of my favorite musicians, Pink, has a great song called, "I'm a Hazard to Myself". I feel this way most of the time, but on good days, I remember I am stretching and growing. Thanks for the compliments.

A true Christian does nothing at all on Sunday, except go to church! Yeah, whatever. If that's what you need to do to rest, that's fine, but other people rest differently from you.

I've become a fan of the Church of the holy comforter on Sunday mornings. Pastor Pillow is great! I agree that spending time with God can look differently for every person. I've attended a few open AA meetings on Sundays, and I hear God more in these rooms than I ever did at church. Of course, I still believe there is fellowship to be found in the local church. I just wish my husband could find a church we "fit" in!

on Jul 29, 2008
I just wish my husband could find a church we "fit" in!


Just remember - every Sunday you're not in church is a Sunday you could have found the one you 'fit' in.

Avoiding fellowship is bad. How are we going to see our own sin if there's no-one to point out the log in your eye? But if you're looking for a church that will accept your sin so you can be comfortable in it, that's no good either.
on Jul 29, 2008

How are we going to see our own sin if there's no-one to point out the log in your eye? But if you're looking for a church that will accept your sin so you can be comfortable in it, that's no good either.

I agree that iron sharpens iron, and I recognize the value of fellowship. Thankfully, I have some long standing relationships with folks from my old church who continue to hold me accountable. My husband and I are in the process of moving, and we are hoping to get connected to a new church in the area we now live.

I'm curious about your comment regarding the acceptance of sin. I think Christians must walk a fine line in this area. Last time I checked, the Bible says we are broken jars of clay, and I am convinced that sinless living is impossible on this side of heaven. Yes, we must help our fellow man grow spiritually, but expecting perfection is fruitless. Growing comfortable in our sin is an interesting concept. I have been on a journey of self acceptance, which includes embracing my many flaws and imperfections. Do I have a desire for growth? Sure, but I also realize I'm a mess! Where is the balance?

on Jul 29, 2008
Do I have a desire for growth? Sure, but I also realize I'm a mess!


That's the balance. A desire for growth and realizing your sins are sins. Some people don't even want to recognize their actions as sins, and instead say that people are 'judging' them when it is brought to their attention that they are doing wrong. God continually works in our lives to eliminate sin - I don't know whether sinless living is possible or not. It may be, but I'm certainly not there yet to verify it. But we're not asking for sinlessness. Just a desire for growth, and repentence when it's called for.
on Jul 29, 2008
I'm not a pastor or anything, and everything I say on Christianity is based on my own personal beliefs.
on Jul 30, 2008
LobsterHunter,

Good to see ya again!

Keep in mind we all speak from a database of experiences. This is populated either by our own experiences or experiences of others.

I had a rabbi explain something to me.

Take an object like a cone. If you look directly at one side you would only see a circle. Another angle you would see a triangle. A third angle would be a circle with a dot. And continuing on with other angles. The point is this.

Maybe we are all looking at the same object but just from different angles (experiences)? If the person that sees a circle is talking to the person that sees the triangle imagine how hard it is for the two to communicate.

The object in question is the bible. There are many angles but we all have the same goal. To better understand what we see (read)?

-----------

I have encountered what you were talking about.

In very short form.... Our Pastor's daughter was sexually molested by the Youth Pastor.
The congregation's response was, "this happened because she didn't have enough faith."

There is much more (including some personal experiences) but that'll do for now.

Anyway it was great to see ya around again.
on Jul 30, 2008
The congregation's response was, "this happened because she didn't have enough faith."


AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH! I hate stupid congregations!!!!
on Aug 19, 2008

You had a right to feel "holier than thou"....you were. Now as far as letting yourself love people, I can't help you there, but you were smart not to let yourself get involved with those who might try to lead you astray. My dear, whether you know it or not, you were the person we all wished we could be. You were a perfect example of what God meant for the rest of us....we all knew it.

There is nothing wrong with living a Godly life, no matter what anyone says. You have begun to listen to the world and not your heart. You said yourself you are angry at yourself and confused. God is not the author of confusion. The truth is inside of you. No, not some mystical we are all one-kind of truth, but the truth that you accepted into your heart all those years ago.

on Aug 19, 2008
You had a right to feel "holier than thou"....you were.


Seriously?
on Aug 19, 2008

You have begun to listen to the world and not your heart.

Do you know me? Do I know you? Your assessment of my current spiritual condition leaves me feeling a bit puzzled. Perhaps you are the author of confusion.

Seriously?

Brandie, I second your comment!

on Aug 19, 2008

LOL, I am thinking, who is this person?  Haha. 

 

Re:  your article

You seem like the kind of person who is always searching for a better way to be.  It's great because you are always growing, but it's bad because you are always giving yourself a hard time.  At least that's my take on it.

*I looked for a cool new icon to put here, but yeah, um, I can't think of one that fits.  Maybe I'll give you a beer, hehe.  *

on Aug 20, 2008

LOL...sorry....didn't mean to sound confusing or condescending or whatever you're thinking. My point was that you deserved to feel that way about yourself because as far as I know, you lived by a standard that most of us couldn't reach (yes seriously) even at a young age. When most kids were testing the waters of sex and drugs, you didn't fold. No, I'm not trying to stroke your ego, but don't dare put yourself down because you chose not to participate in self destruction like everyone else.  Soul searching is a necessity, I get it, but at this juncture I would think you'd be closer to your proverbial roots than ever. I may be the author of confusion, but I'm not the one making statements like: "So, here I am. Still annoyed with my current inability to just let people be who they are."

Life is all about measuring up; to others, ourselves and God. You can have any opinion you wish about others but what really matters is their opinion of themselves. I doubt anyone is losing any sleep because of what you feel about them anyway, so the real question is how do you feel about yourself?

Alta

on Aug 20, 2008

Ahhhh Alta!  I never would have guessed.

I don't think just because someone doesn't do drugs or have sex (and not EVERYONE was doing that, btw) they have the right to look down on others or treat others poorly.  Tenille was a teenager like everyone else.  She's not Buddha or Yoda.  She's not above everyone else.  She has/had different problems/flaws to deal with and her flaws are not superior to those of others...they're just different.

I'm not coming down on Tenille.  I love her dearly.  But she's a real person, not some magical being with super powers of Christianity. 

 

on Aug 20, 2008

I didn't imply that she was superhuman, only that she seems to be exhibiting a self-defeating attitude about her earlier self. Honestly I think once Tenille is able to love that person she was then, maybe she'll be able to accept in other people that part of herself. Does that make sense?

Of course I am biased and always will be

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