Monday, August 18, 2008

#25 Asking Someone "How's Your Walk With God?"

This question is as acutely personal as asking "How's sex with your wife?" and yet many Christians feel entitled to casually ask it of each other.

Settings in which you are likely to be asked "How's your walk with God?" include:

—men's prayer breakfasts

—ladies' weekend retreats

—a pre-dawn prayer group that meets weekly and involvescoffee

—if you have just tried to be vulnerable with someone and discuss your recent hardships with them.

When this question is asked, any of the following may legitmately be assumed:

—that the person asking this is saying it as a Christian culture version of asking "how are you?" and is not super interested in your honest answer.

—that the person asking it wants to hear you say something positive because that will be more comfortable for them.

—that if you tell this person that you don't know what a walk with God is, they will feel a mite superior to you, then feel the need to "minister" to you.

—that if you tell this person that your walk with God plain sucks, they will not know what to say and could possibly want to get away from you.

—that this person believes that if someone's walk with God is good then their life will be easier.

—that this person thinks a good walk with God involves a sort of formula.

So what does constitute a good walk with God? Well, it was rather nebulously defined by Jesus as "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:36-40) But that is kind of vague. People prefer formulas. So Christian culture made some.

Chistian culture's formula for a "good" walk with God (based upon man-made strategies and qualifications for what "a good walk with God" means) includes:

—regular "quiet times" or "devotions"

—a daily regimen of ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication)

—being consistent in meeting with your accountability partner and/or spiritual mentor

—attending your weekly Bible study or MOPS group for some fellowship

—memorizing scripture (preferred methods: the Navpress TMS or 2:7 series)

—striking up conversations with random people in Starbucks for the purpose of "reaching out" and eventually asking them to your church

—spending time with "uplifting" fellow Christians and not very much time with non-Christians (they can drag you down with their non-Christian worldview)

—displaying a positive exterior (see #7 Acting Happy)

—no masturbating!*

*Not masturbating is big in Christian culture. It is discussed almost exclusively and with great fervor amongst the male sector and is generally assumed that girls don't do it so they don't need "outreach" for it. The feverish attention lavished upon the phenomenon of male lust within Christian culture will be explored further in a future post.


Magnus said...

Legalization and codification makes things so much easier.

Anonymous said...

So Stephanie, I get it. I've seen the hypocrisy first hand. I get it, I too was a (step)son of a preacher (luckily not by blood, his kids were really screwed up). But what I don't understand is throwing the baby out with the bath water. I've seen the real deal in a VERY small percentage of church goers, that's what I seek, that's what I yearn for, a true relationship with Christ lived out minute by minute. Not sure I'm going to find this in the Christian culture at large, which is a conversation I've had repeatedly during the past few years with anybody who seems like they want to listen. Anyhow, good luck to you in whatever you're searching for, I think anger is an reasonable response to the religiousity around us, I just think the core is pure.

By the way I homeschool, and homeschooling has strange bedfellows. Kind of interesting to see people with headcoverings sitting around talking with treehuggers in the "secular" group we belong to. It's actually pretty interesting to find people that are counter-culture but politically/religiously diverse coming together.

So, that's it for now, should give you some stuff future posts. Maybe I can be #26, "Guys who get it but still aren't disillusioned". Say hi to David, where's his blog?

Simone said...

Bryan, I think this blog is all bath water. The bath water is pretty murky though, and I think Stephanie is presenting us with a much cleaner baby at the end of all this.

Snap to it! Sanp in time! said...

This is my new favorite bookmark. It's dialogue-making! But not during lunch, please.

stephy said...

Hi Bryan G,
you're missing my point, which is that Christian culture doesn't have anything to do with Jesus himself. But people in Christian culture feel that doing many of these cultural things are imperative to relationship with him, and they're not. Also, Christian culture is a way to avoid true relationship and a way to "play house" if you will, little rituals and mandates not decreed by God yet they make us feel like we are closer to God. Anything can be used to avoid relationship of course, we are endlessly creative in finding ways to avoid it, because true relationship is messy and reveals things to us about ourselves that we'd rather not see. Christian culture is a very pervasive thing that isn't clearly addressed and I think it should be. So I'm writing about it.
xo, s

Anonymous said...

Steph. I'm with you. It's a great club for those who know how to adapt. Some of the people that I respect the most in life (for their faith in God) have stopped going to church due to some of the things you describe. On the other hand, I know some in those churches, immersed in the culture, who I respect just as much. I'm pretty straight shooting, a spade is a spade. There's problems, there's issues. And in the end, it's just me and God, the culture doesn't really matter. Whether the guy next to me attends more Sunday School, knows more catch phrases, it doesn't matter. Blessings on your journey.

Telmarine said...

Those who do satire must deal with this quotation:

"Sarcasm is the protest of the weak." - A Separate Peace

Its easier to satirize than it is to offer an alternative. I'd much rather be with naive and slightly awkward Christians who ask me about my "walk with God" than smart and cynical Christians who are afraid to talk about their spiritual life.

Simone said...

Telmarine, you are right in that sarcasm is a place to hide. It's something I am trying to conquer myself. Stephanie is also working on this which you can see in her other blog

Lastly, to expose the triviality of something and to laugh at is not sarcastic. It is possible to laugh while getting to the truth. If people are afraid to assess the fluffy elements of their culture and not get to it's core, then they too are avoiding something as much as the sarcastic.

minortough said...

telmarine- stephy is hardly the type of person who is "afraid to talk about" her spiritual life. so you best check that assumption at the door. this whole blog is about they things that christian culture deem as "good" but really have nothing to do with a relationship with Jesus.

Snap to it! Sanp in time! said...

Hardliners never accept the questioning of their beliefs. They see it as either an ad hominem attack (which I would validate if they knew what that meant) or your heresy. From Communists to fascists, strong left to strong right. Politically, they have said that liberals have questions, conservatives have answers. Religiously, I would suppose the parallel doesn't sit. But, it says something when you question faith (or at least faith-practice) openly, people will doubt you and question your own belief. I find that disheartening. A steadfast attachment to belief ensures longevity, but it narrows the eyes and placates the heart.

Anonymous said...

I like your post script to this post. That is true. One good thing about being an Evangelical Christian girl is that no one assumes you're masturbating. And since the "it's wrong" talk is never geared towards you, you never feel like you're doing anything wrong!

Tony said...

Hi! I discovered this blog thanks to Rod Dreher.

I must be the Wrong Kind of Christian (H/T to SWPL), because nobody ever asks me this. But if they did, I hope I'd have the presence of mind to say, "Terrible. I'm a sinner."

Jessica said...

This is a real pet peeve of mine, and was even when I was part of that culture. I remember my academic advisor (at Oral Roberts--I was REALLY part of the culture) always used to ask me about my 'quiet time'. Then fairly recently another ORU alum contacted me on facebook, and one of the very first things he asked me was how was my walk with God. Hadn't seen me in years, and we were never close to begin with. And you're not allowed to feel offended because the idea is that if you have "a right relationship with God", then you have nothing to be offended about. I'm trying to learn to laugh and shrug it off, but no matter how it's phrased, I guess I don't like anybody appointing themselves my mentor, spiritual or otherwise. I kinda like to pick my own.

Also, a note to a previous poster: Satire and sarcasm are not the same thing, and I think both have their place. That said, I also value sincerity and earnestness, and I think that's also evident in this blog.

Anonymous said...

Another girl raised Christian here, just wanting to say that I also kind of appreciated that I never got the "no masturbating!!" talks. However, I not only felt ashamed, I also felt like a TOTAL FREAK, because what kind of girl has a sex drive?? OMG.

Of course, it also meant that my dad assumed that he didn't need a porn filter on the net because he only had daughters. Ha! I've never told him otherwise. :)

ChrisInHawaii said...

This post made me sad. I've been a Christian for over 20 years, and I've asked that question (how's your walk?) and been asked that question many times. It was never about any of the things you listed in this post, we were just Christian friends supporting each other and encouraging each other to build that relationship with God.

I guess it all comes down to intent. All these comments above clearly show that there's a lot of Christians being shallow and fake about it. I'm sorry to hear that so many of you guys were treated like that.

Anyways, I found this post to be so thought-provoking that I was inspired to write my own post on this idea...not as a defense against this post or even as a response to it, really, but more as a wake-up call to my fellow evangelicals to open their eyes and see how we look to others. We need to be aware of how we come across to people.

There's no excuse for hypocrisy or legalism in our churches, and I thank all of you who commented above for sharing your experiences on here.

Here is the post I wrote as a spin-off to this one:


Unknown said...

Most Christians, who inquire about your walk with God are not really interested. What they don't have the guts to ask is "are you being a good follower of Christ?" With the thought that they are saying in a backhand manner "I don't think you are doing well as a Christian". My response is "God and I are friends and you have no business asking how strong is that friendship." Had a preacher tell me once "you're not supposed to cast doubt on someone's relation with God" and I agree with him.

Nerd Nerdlingly said...

When someone asks me "How's your walk with God?" my answer is usually "Long and loose and fulla juice." They never ask me that again.