September 23, 2020

Mondays with Michael Spencer: August 29, 2016

VT Morning Pond CK

Note from CM: While going through old posts today, I found this gem by Michael Spencer. It ties right in with what some folks were saying in the comments the other day — we Christians tend to live in our own little worlds, don’t even know it, imagine that we’re preaching in such a way that will attract and persuade people outside our “bubble,” and expect them to just to figure out our language and accept the “authority” of what we say because we say they should. It can actually be quite bizarre when you think about it, and Michael is not shy to say so.

• • •

How We Sound to Those Who Don’t Believe
by Michael Spencer

Today I listened to the preacher in chapel. Really, really closely for a change.

It probably wasn’t a good idea. See, God is giving me a gift. I’m starting to hear sermons like non-Christians hear them. I’m starting to feel what they feel, and it’s disconcerting.

It’s scarey. Some of my Christian friends won’t like this, but that may be a good sign.

The first thing I noticed was the insulting approach tactics. The speaker had an object lesson, and took quite a while to work through the object lesson. In someone’s universe, people being forced to listen to a talk will have their minds pried open by these kinds of illustrations. You supposedly totally put aside that you are in church, that you are going to be evangelized, and you just think about the box of donuts or the picture of the puppy, or whatever. Then, while your mind is relaxed….bang! The real point comes flying out of the blue and jumps into your open mind.

This is cool. No….this is stupid. Anyone who is taken in by this sort of thing shouldn’t be subjected to religious appeals anyway. It’s unethical. But this is the way we approach unbelievers that we want to listen to us. We goof with them, and treat them like they have no idea what’s up.

Then it’s assumed we need Jesus. If you don’t know who Jesus is, you are lost right now. But assuming you know what Mel Gibson’s movie was about, you get at least something of what’s going to be the main issue of the evening. The speaker say that you need Jesus more than he says anything else. Over and over. We need Jesus. If you are awake to what’s going on, you know that it’s likely to prove true that anything and everything will be said until you finally admit you need Jesus. Does this seem like trying to get you to “break?” Yes.

There is, behind this appeal, a kind of crass sales pitch that really can make you angry. It’s like being told by the guy in your living room that you need a vacuum cleaner or Tupperware. You can’t help but feel that your “need” is really about this guy’s need to be right, or to make the sale. What you “need” is hardly his business, especially standing up there without really knowing you at all.

It must be insulting to constantly be told you need Jesus by someone who doesn’t know you. Even if you DO need Jesus, how about getting to know me at least as well as a telemarketer? You may even hear this guy say Jesus loves you and Christians love you….because they are telling you you need Jesus.

Gee thanks. I feel warm all over.

Of course, we have the Bible. The Bible is read, and quoted, with authority. It’s the bottom line, the final word on everything. It is the proof that this guy is right and everyone else is wrong. The fact that he isn’t explaining why the magic book is right, and your experiences and thoughts are wrong doesn’t seem to be on the agenda. You need to do more than accept Jesus. You need to accept the way this guy reads the Bible.

A preacher earlier in the week said he believed the Bible was true because it was controversial. Other people say it is just obviously from God. (Explain that please.) Or it’s full of proof by way of prophecies. Or the change in lives proves it. Or the sheer number of Bible-toting Christians proves it.

Is anyone else bored? This preacher was no better or worse than thousands of others: the appeal to authority was everywhere, and you are simply SUPPOSED TO ACCEPT IT. If you don’t, that’s proof you are on your way to hell. If you are going to heaven, you buy this without serious questions.

The content of the message? I have to admit, listening to it as an unbeliever might, it was so irrelevant I can’t imagine why anyone would listen. It would make sense to Christians, but to anyone else? Would anyone else ever start to find it interesting or worth believing? It was just a way to spend time yacking. Logic, reality, honesty. Not on the radar screen. We’re talking about filler for the weakened mind, and nothing for the serious thinker or seeker.

The real point is always the same: You need to accept Jesus. You need to accept Jesus. Whatever the heck that means. Best I can tell, you tell the preacher that you accept Jesus, and they say you accept Jesus, and from then on you get to tell people that you accepted Jesus. Say some religious things, do some religious things and join the Jesus team. Be one of the bunch that is sitting there nodding.

Perhaps nothing stands out as much as the total submersion of every word and action in the sticky-sweet, sappy overtones of being RIGHT and “You better listen to the guy who is right.” Christians live in this so much they can’t see it. They make absurd, ridiculous, bizarre, almost insane, fairy-tail statements as if they are run of the mill.

“Now when Jesus spoke to the Apostle John…”

What!! WHAT!!!!

Well, we’re not even stopping. That’s baby stuff. Have a miracle. Or some answered prayer. Or an incredible story. Or a Biblical example. Or a “can’t fail principle.” Or a talking snake, fallen angel or vision of heaven. These people have the book, they read it right, and they have the answers. They know what you need, and what everyone around the world needs. They will do the talking, and if you are smart, you’ll accept Jesus.

Is this the way it sounds most of the time? Are we really so insulated from real communication that we don’t realize how we come off?

In a future post, I’ll respond to this as a Christian communicator. Right now, I’m going to sit down and ask myself how I’m going to change as a result of listening to one sermon the way an unbeliever does.


  1. Michael Jones says

    I lived in a comprehensive evangelical world once. No real friends outside of that world. Now I live in a world that is mostly non-Christian (few Christian friends). It is incredible how things look from the outside as compared to the inside. Michael nailed it as usual. What we thought was clever, appealing is seen from this side (through the eyes of my nonChristian friends) as disingenuous, uninformed and hateful.

    • Christiane says

      It’s that ‘hateful’ quality that jars people. And it IS there. No, it is not the same as ‘love’, or ‘truth in love’, or ‘love in truth’ . . . . hate is hate, it’s ugly, unforgiving, judgmental, and finger-pointingly self-righteous.

      People in the ‘bubble’ of whatever passes for their version of ‘Christ-following’ don’t seem to care about how it looks to others when women are disrespected and told to be ‘submissive to their husbands’, or when all kinds of books and sermons center on the ‘wisdom’ of beating small infants and children to ‘break their spirits’. It’s hateful and its ugly. That is all it ever could be, in ‘churches’ that see themselves as ‘godly’ instead of hospitals for sinners.

      • It absolutely is hateful. It turns outwards on others who “just don’t understand why it’s actually really beautiful”. And it turns inwards towards those who “just misunderstood/chose to leave”.

        Most of Christianity, at it’s core, is hateful. Truth. But we shouldn’t be surprised, considering it came from just as hateful a religion.

        • An old, old friend of mine, raised by puritanical Irish Catholic priests and catechized into a fire-and-brimstone form of Roman Catholicism which he subsequently repudiated, used to say that “Christianity is the religion of hate”. When I myself wasn’t a practicing Christian, his statement used to bother me to some degree; now that I am practicing Christianity, not so much.

        • –> “Most of Christianity, at it’s core, is hateful.”

          Maybe it’s semantics, but I’ll give you some pushback on that comment. Many Christians may MAKE Christianity hateful (Westboro Baptist at the extreme), but Christianity is, at its core, Good News.

          • Christiane says

            I don’t think this is really the case: “Most of Christianity, at it’s core, is hateful. Truth.”

            because the ‘churches’ I described did not follow Christ. They weren’t ‘Christian’. You can’t treat people poorly and claim to follow Christ.

            Sometimes you can have people within Christian Churches behaving very badly, but that is their personal evil at work;
            but when a whole ‘church’ adopts teachings that are destructive to the dignity of human persons, that is cutting the connection with the Body of Christ in spirit and in truth. These ‘churches’ are drawing on people’s needs to be ‘in control’ and it shows up in destructive suggestions which breed misery and suffering among the victims of that ‘control’.

            As Papa ten Boom once said in ‘The Hiding Place’, ‘just because a mouse is in the cookie jar, doesn’t make him a cookie.’

          • “As Papa ten Boom once said in ‘The Hiding Place’, ‘just because a mouse is in the cookie jar, doesn’t make him a cookie.’”

            But how likely are you to eat a cookie from a jar where a mouse has been? Most people would be inclined to throw them all out. Precisely the attitude of many nonbelievers to the Church especially when the claim is that there can’t be any mice in the cookie jar by definition. If there’s a mouse in the cookie jar then all the cookies are mice! So why be surprised when the nonbelievers take your word for it?

          • Christiane says

            Hi STEPHEN,
            here’s the source film for that saying from Papa ten Boom so you can hear it in context:

            I’m not reading your comment literally, but I think the movie illustrates very well that ‘The Church’ is where Christ is, and when He is present in the lives of people, there is light, even in the darkest of times and places. Thanks for commenting.

      • when all kinds of books and sermons center on the ‘wisdom’ of beating small infants and children to ‘break their spirits’.

        What? REALLY???

        • Yup. Because you must break their will in order for them to be trained in godliness.

          But no, we are not evolved from animals. Little children are just like animals, however.

          • I spent a good part of yesterday driving w/a baby in a car seat who HATES being in a car seat. I’m sure if I had beat her her will would have been broken and it would have been sooooo much more quiet and “godly”…..

            I wonder if there have been any studies showing if 20+ or more years after the training the parents just can’t quite understand why they are not allowed to see their grandchildren…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            The dead are very quiet.
            As several Pearl and Ezzo-trained parents have found out the hard way.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          With SCRIPTURE(TM) and “THUS SAITH THE LOOOORD(TM)” as justification.

          Go over to Wartburg Watch, Spiritual Sounding Board, and/or Homeschoolers Anonymous and search on “Michael Pearl”, “Debi Pearl”, “Voddie Baucham”, “child abuse”, “child training”, “child discipline”, and be prepared to get an eyeful.

          • That Other Jean says

            Don’t forget James Dobson, who beat his elderly dachshund with a belt for wanting to sleep in the warm bathroom instead of its bed in a cold room. He bragged about it in his book, _The Strong-Willed Child_, suggesting that children should be treated in the same way for daring to disagree with their parents.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            “Remember James Dobson? Did a lot of good things before fear of homosexuals drove him over the cliff with most of his constituency in the car.”
            — One of the Internet Monk posts during the 2008 elections

            And I remember on Christian AM Radio in the Seventies and Eighties every word from his mouth were treated as The Direct Words of God.

          • That Other Jean says

            HUG, even Michael Spencer was wrong sometimes. That was one of the times.

      • Wow.
        Christiane you sure seem to have been to a strange church, if you can call it that.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      The banal chorus “Shine” with the cringe worthy line referring to others as “on the outside looking bored”. We reached the apex of Evangelical subculture when such a ‘song’ was felt to be “Seeker Sensitive”.

      That song was one of a constellation of things that caused the EXIT sign to flicker on for me.

      • Thing is, many people like banal; there’s plenty of evidence of that in non-Christian popular culture. They like banal whether they are in the Christian bubble, or outside of it.

        • True, this. Very important not to completely identify truth with aesthetics.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            The chorus is aesthetically banal – but the message is arrogant, entitled, and offensive. Imagine being that being sung the first time you went to a church.

          • Adam,
            Not being overly familiar with the song, I just looked up the lyrics. I don’t particularly like this song, the lyrics are not compelling and rather sing-song-y, as is the melody which I do remember.

            But I don’t understand why you think that it’s arrogant, entitled and offensive on its face. When I heard it the first time in an evangelical church as an adult, and not being from within evangelical culture, I thought none of those things; what I did think was that this is an embarrassing piece of pop kitsch, cloying and syrupy. It made me cringe, yes, because it seemed simpleminded, like a young boy mooning over his first crush. But I felt no offense; though I admittedly didn’t pay attention to the lyrics too closely then, rereading them now gives me no offense either. Could you expand on this?

        • Ronald Avra says

          Very pertinent observation, Robert. I have to confess that I often indulge the banal myself.

      • Whoops, I looked up the wrong song! I looked up “Shine Jesus Shine”, not “Shine”; after having reviewed the lyrics of the song you actually referred to (which I’ve never heard before!) I have to agree with your assessment in its entirely: the message is arrogant, entitled and offensive. Mea culpa.

        • That Other Jean says

          Ditto for “Our God is an Awesome God.” In addition, for monotheists, it’s sacrilegious: ours is awesome: other peoples’ gods (which we acknowledge, exist) are wimps.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I lived in a comprehensive evangelical world once. No real friends outside of that world. Now I live in a world that is mostly non-Christian (few Christian friends).

      Having “no real friends outside of that world” is how Cults guarantee blind loyalty in their followers. Dissidents have no support structure and nowhere to go.

      What got me out of that Shepherding Group/End-of-the-World Cult in the mid-Seventies was discovering Dungeons & Dragons; Dee & Dee introduced me to a new support structure (gamers) on the outside. I had a bolthole to bail out of the Shepherding.

      And if you’re catechized to define Holiness and Godliness in primarily-negative terms, your number-one priority is to keep your nose squeaky-clean to pass the Great White Throne Litmus Test — NO association with Heathens(TM). This is probably what happened to Kirk Cameron.

      Back when I was on the fringes of Cal Poly Campus Crusade in the late Seventies, we had a Billy Graham Crusade come into the area (Anaheim Stadium, at the other end of Brea Canyon). Word went out from CCC to all CCCers to “Invite your unsaved friends to the Crusade and Get Them Saved”. And panic ensued — “Oh, no! I have to make a Heathen friend and get him to the Crusade! What do I do? What do I do?”

      It is incredible how things look from the outside as compared to the inside. Michael nailed it as usual. What we thought was clever, appealing is seen from this side (through the eyes of my nonChristian friends) as disingenuous, uninformed and hateful.

      I have learned from twentysomething years in Furry Fandom and five years of reading bad fanfics that any vibe of “See How Clever I Am?” is an automatic “DANGER WILL ROBINSON!” (This includes everything Jerry “Buck” Jenkins has ever written.)

    • I’ve been reading J.R. Daniel Kirk, lately. I love this quote from him:

      “If someone has to agree with your theological system in order to agree that what you are doing is ‘love,’ then you are not loving your neighbor as yourself.”

  2. There are certain things that we are going to believe and accept that non-Christians simply will not. However, this does not mean that we should pretend otherwise (evidentialism), or treat them (or ourselves) as idiots as a consequence (presuppositionalism).

  3. I had a similar experience in church yesterday, the first time I’d been for a while. The preacher spoke repeatedly about ‘enjoying the presence’ of God, seeking after his presence, and our ‘need’ to worship him. Having spoken about it afterwards with my dad, I can kinda find some reality there, if ‘presence of god’, means ‘awareness’ of something, a detachment from your own interior monologue, gratitude, or awareness of something greater than yourself. But my experience during the sermon was of utter detachment from the language she was using, which to me seemed shorn of all reference to reality.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > utter detachment from the language she was using

      This is a lot of it. I try hard to get past the Christianism of sermons – and Christian podcasts – to hear what is being said; sometimes I can, other times it is too dense/off-putting.

      Sometimes it is amusing/frustrating when podcasts that talk *about* talking/working past Christianism … speak in Christianism. I would be more frustrated if I hadn’t had other experiences that demonstrate how hard this really is; when it is your dialiect/form you just fall back into it. In a completely non-religious topic I sometimes advise people how to speak most effectively to other people; just avoid some terms which are loaded, use term X instead of Y, … And they nod, yes, of course, that’s great – I believe with 100% sincerity. … And then 30 seconds after they start talking… When you are deeply rooted in a dialect it is hard to lose; there is a kind of ‘verbal muscle memory’.

      The best way to get past it, IMNSHO, is to spend a generous period of time Not Talking. Also very hard.

      Damn reality, everything good is hard. 🙂 🙁

  4. Burro {Mule] says

    After being subjected to several “faith-based” films (my wife is devoted to these things when I’d prefer to watch The Walking Dead), I am in a very bad mood. These films spend most of their time telling us that terrible things happen because people don’t listen t the Church People, and the Church People themselves are kind of to blame because they don’t pester people enough.

    Our little Orthodox parish is growing, but it’s all refugees from the crash-and-burn of Evangelicalism, mainline Protestantism, and Catholicism. Every once in a while someone makes the remark that “we need to tell people about Orthodoxy”. I don’t think people are any more anxious to hear about Orthodoxy that they are to hear about God’s Wonderful Plan For Your Life.

    I don;t know what people want these days. Judging by my own heart, I’d say money, sex appeal, and vengeance.

    • Mule, I’m with you! Most “Faith based” films are insulting and full of idealistic triumphalism. “The Walking Dead”, at least, is a metaphor for how things REALLY are!

      Christians have their own subculture which includes a special language and world view. And, if I may be so bold, many of us HERE have our OWN subculture and language with which we pummel “evangelicalism”, whatever THAT term has come to mean!

      We are just as culpable as those whom we castigate, yet we are often blind to what we really are…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Mule, I’m with you! Most “Faith based” films are insulting and full of idealistic triumphalism. “The Walking Dead”, at least, is a metaphor for how things REALLY are!

        A subject which has been handled before at Internet Monk. The search string “jesus junk” should bring them up from the Archives.

        And check the site “Heathen Critique” for an outsiders view of Faith Based(TM) fiction and film. This is truly awful — like something out of Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension.

    • When you think you have something that everyone else needs, you run the risk of becoming a sales rep, looking, thinking and acting like one, unless you’re very careful. When you think you know something that everyone else needs to know, it’s even worse. Then you want everyone to learn to speak the way you speak, to believe the things you believe in the way that you do, and practice the things you practice.

      At this point, I can’t say that I believe that everyone needs Christianity, or Christian faith, never mind the particular form of Christian faith that I have and try to practice. At the same time, I believe that Jesus is Lord of all, which is a very specific and meaning-dense affirmation linked inextricably with a very specific religious language, a language that is not shared by those outside the camp of Christian fellow-travelers: without careful unpacking, it makes no sense to those unfamiliar with the language it’s embedded in. I don’t know how to square these two things, or even if I should; I’m inclined to believe that they can’t be squared, and that it’s not necessary to do so anyway, and I wouldn’t be the one equipped to do it anyway. But that means that I have to learn to tolerate the tension between these two apparently conflicting truths; living in that paradox is a lifelong discipline, and may yet make me humble.

      • But Robert, if you were speaking to a group of non-Christians, I’m confident that you would try to explain what “Jesus is Lord” means, without resorting to the tone deaf screeds Michael describes in the post. That’s pep rally Christianity and not true human interaction, like you and so many others participate in regularly here.

        • CM, I know from experience that, though it is meaningful to me, I’m unable to adequately explain to anyone else what “Jesus is Lord” means. When I’ve tried to explain it (or any statement as theologically packed), not only have I failed miserably and pathetically, but I’ve undermined a certain degree of confidence I have in my own faith, at least for a time. I’ve come to the point where I realize that I can no more adequately translate my faith into other words than I can a poem; both resist complete translation, because they forge or grow new meanings that are not adequately comprehensible apart from their own uniquely developed lexicon and grammar. If you could exhaustively and adequately translate a poem into other words, the poem would not be the act of creation that poems are meant to be; the most you can do is point to some of the overlap that the poem’s language has with other uses of language, and hope that other people can hook into that and travel along with you into the center of the poem,which is a new world. The same with communicating Christian faith, at least in my experience. But this requires a lot of humility, a knowledge of limitations and a willingness to let go of the desire to force things. The problem with working from within the Christian Bubble is not the use of special language, but that the recognition of limitations is treated almost as if it’s heresy.

        • But I have to admit that I’m speaking from within a definition of Christianity largely shaped my mainline churches. I’ve never been a member of an evangelical church (though a couple of mainline congregations I briefly passed through may have come close), so I can’t really speak to the experience of the folks here who have.

        • Christiane says

          “Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary use words” good advice, this.

          People remember more of what they see as ‘example’ than what they hear. Talk has become too cheap, worthless in many cases. But a person’s example gives them some credibility. Even then, the world does not ‘trust’ easily.

          I really like this definition of ‘love’: ‘willing the good of the other, for the sake of the other’. This definition rules out personal gain in favor of selfless love, and the ‘example’ people will respect reflects a self-less giving to others, without need for recompense. It’s rare, but it may be the only way left to ‘preach the Gospel’ in this strange shadow land we call our earthly home.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          That’s pep rally Christianity and not true human interaction, like you and so many others participate in regularly here.

          Has anyone noticed that American Evangelicalism seems to incorporate a lot of shtciks of the dark side of American High School culture?

        • “That’s pep rally Christianity and not true human interaction …”
          I would dare say that “true human interaction” is something that churches and Christian institutions of all brands and stripes have been neglecting and intentionally avoiding for a very, very long time. It’s as vital as air and water when you stop and think about it. Read through the Gospels without the heavy religious lenses, and it becomes obvious (and least to me) that Jesus was teaching people about himself and the Father through just that kind of interaction. No stages or podiums or programs or liturgies or light shows or mood-setting music in the background — just Jesus acting and reacting to people as he conducted a meandering walking tour of the Holy Land.
          So why is virtually no emphasis placed on organic, unscripted interaction between people within the church? Why is so little time set aside for it? We make plenty of time for sermons and well-planned Bible studies and well-orchestrated liturgical shows. Even when we get together informally for a potluck or cookout or bowling night, someone’s always setting agendas and trying to micromanage the moment for everyone else. Talking openly and honestly about our own spiritual struggles … well, you’d be better off just farting really loud.
          Is it a control issue? Is it the fear that if everything isn’t kept well in hand and within comfortable parameters, then chaos and mayhem will ensue? Or is it that (deep down) we Christians really don’t like each other very much and would rather not engage in true human interaction? Just keep it formal, staged, and carefully scripted, so we can do what’s expected of us, feel good about ourselves, and then go home and avoid true human interaction with our families.

    • Hey, Mule, since you seem to me to be someone who does things intentionally rather than haphazardly and I am someone who tends to notice details, I would like to know the significance of the fact that your imonk name includes one bracket and one brace. It implies a certain open-endedness or possible confusion. Just wondering. If there’s no significance, it is nevertheless a fascinating touch.

      Or maybe those symbols are interchangeable like V and W in Swedish.

      I need enlightenment in more ways than one.

      • Hunh.

        I have arthritis. Sometimes I hit the wrong key. The two are different on my keyboard. I think they are SHIFT-ed on most US computer keyboards.

        • Mule, Why are you using the Alt-Right’s “Jew Parenthesis”?

          • Burro [Mule] says

            Read the same article:

            “all Jewish surnames echo through history,” meaning that — and this is Fleishman and Smith again — “the supposed damage caused by Jewish people reverberates from decade to decade.

            So I used it twice, making myself twice as evil, Also, a favorite band of mine is Sunn 0))). I wonder how they would chart with the alt-right.

            It came about in response to looking for meaning in bracketing.

          • But the Jews are not in fact guilty of the evils attributed to them by the Alt-Right; the attribution and accusation is itself a scurrilous, baseless racist evil. That means not only that you are twice as guilty of a non-evil, making yourself twice as guilty of nothing, but that you are inadvertently legitimizing the attribution and accusation, as if you were saying, “You know how evil those Jews in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are? Well, I’m twice as guilty.”

            Evil you may be, but you do them wrong by measuring your evil against an index of the Jewish people’s evil that is nothing but a racist fiction. It would be better to say that you are twice as evil as an especially evil Christian; leave the Jewish people out of it. You only encourage the Alt-Right by using their memes.

          • Robert, he is alt-right… which is why he’s talking like them.

            Sorry, all, but someone had to call it.

    • –> “…’we need to tell people about Orthodoxy’. I don’t think people are any more anxious to hear about Orthodoxy that they are to hear about God’s Wonderful Plan For Your Life.”

      Yes, I get enough inner Christianity conversion nonsense from Calvinists who continue to try to get me to accept TULIP as more important than the Cross.

      That said, as one who’s getting increasingly annoyed with evangelical nonsense, there’s nothing wrong with sharing with others why YOU prefer Orthodoxy.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I don’t think people are any more anxious to hear about Orthodoxy that they are to hear about God’s Wonderful Plan For Your Life.

      As someone who has encountered cage-phase Net Orthodox in comment threads, I Agree.

      I don;t know what people want these days. Judging by my own heart, I’d say money, sex appeal, and vengeance.

      Money, Sex, and Power are always popular. But “Vengeance” — what do you think is the appeal of all those Revenge Fantasies like Left Behind and Atlas Shrugged?

      • Vengeance, masked as righteousness: Nietzsche had fun deconstructing that, when he dissected Christianity as a religion of ressentiment.

      • Burro [Mule] says

        Vengeance comes from a pretty deep place inside all of us. There is kind of an autistic need inside all of us to see the scales balance. As CS Lewis pointed out, if someone takes your seat on the bus, the response ‘If you cruise, you lose’ is apt to spark a fight. Most transgressors will attempt to justify themselves, but the aroma of violence cannot be eradicated until either the victim achieves redress, or abandons his ‘rights’.

        It took me a long time to realize that this tendency was also one of those things which Christ died to eliminate from our lives.

  5. Curiously, one of our associate pastors spoke yesterday and her message was almost the complete antithesis of what Michael was talking about here. Her message was simple and clear:

    -We spread seeds so God can grow fruit.
    -Our seeds are love and light.
    -Our seeds need to be spread outside our walls, among people who are in the dark.
    -How? Build friendships with the lost.
    -Do NOT make these new friends a project. Actually become FRIENDS!
    -LOVE, first and foremost.
    -Let God do the work.

    • Good stuff, Rick. One thing I would add: Some of the people inside the walls are in the dark and need seed spread among them, too. In many, or even most, congregations of assembled Christians, there will be alcoholics, drug-addicts, child-molesters, wife-abusers, business-cheats, etc. And those are just some of the grosser darknessess, not to mention the more subtle ones.

    • “The lost”? Ohman – xtian-speak for “not One of Us.”

      • That’s true, numo. I agree with you there. Not a good word to use, or a good thought to have, in reference to non-Christians.

      • Good point. But Jesus did come for the lost, which included (still includes?) me. The “lost” are found throughout the gospels, be they sheep or coins.

        The point is, love those who need to be loved. All of us, I guess.

        • I really hate it when religion and politics create an Us vs. Them mentality, and unfortunately, it’s rampant in evangelical culture:

          the lost
          the unsaved

          and so on.

          If you weren’t part of that crowd and you heard yourself and/or others referred to in that manner, would you even want to be in the same room with those people? Those terms are used in such a thoughtless and pervasive manner, and they come off as cruel, condescending, humiliating, and are ultimately a way of announcing one’s special “in group” status. It really is alarming. People who use thst kind of jargon (and i once was one of them) are in dire need of a reality check. True story: one of the 1st things i chose to do after a traumatic exit from the evangelical wotld was to make myself speak in plain English; no jargon or churchy catchphrases allowed.

          It is one thing to read of Jesus using the term “lost”; context is vital! All of those who are lost (the sheep, the coins, the son) are “found” again. I don’t think Christ was urging anyone to label others as “lost” (except perhsps for folks who might stop to ask for directions to a particular place 🙂 )

    • Yesterday my pastor ended with a prayer that we become worse evangelists but better friends.

      • Good prayer, and probably more in line with “His will”, eh?

      • Michael Jones says

        Nice. Sounds like something my pastor would say too. In my old days, I would have called it “liberal.” Now I call it human. We were humans before we were Christians. The nonChristian likes humans much better than godly people . . . whatever that means. We use to be friends so that we could evangelize. Now, I want to be a friend because I really like the person.