Tuesday, August 12, 2008
#9 Acting Happy
Christian culture places great value on acting happy. It mandates that if you know Jesus you will know peace and joy, and it parlays these two things into acting as if everything in your life is perfect. (Remember, you are a walking advertisement for Jesus.) Interestingly, the Bible doesn't once mention Jesus laughing. It talks much more about his lamenting than his rejoicing and it says he was a "man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." (Isaiah 53:3)
Children are taught to act happy and be grateful. Refusing to smile for pictures is unacceptable. Being sorrowful or angry is de-emphasized and for the most part is considered somewhat shameful.
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Great note on Isaiah 53. Interesting, that he's not recorded as laughing but was so 'acquainted with grief'. Never thought about that before - and I'm a former PK!
Also, the Osteens photo is so timely and perfect (as they are).
I am reminded of the following exchange from In the Name of the Rose
Jorge de Burgos: Laughter is a devilish wind which deforms, uh, the lineaments of the face and makes men look like monkeys.
William of Baskerville: Monkeys do not laugh. Laughter is particular to men.
Jorge de Burgos: As is sin. Christ never laughed.
William of Baskerville: Can we be so sure?
Jorge de Burgos: There is nothing in the Scriptures to say that he did.
William of Baskerville: And there's nothing in the Scriptures to say that he did not. Why, even the saints have been known to employ comedy, to ridicule the enemies of the Faith. For example, when the pagans plunged St. Maurice into the boiling water, he complained that his bath was too cold. The Sultan put his hand in... scalded himself.
I can almost taste this photo, and it tastes like 12 packets of Sweet 'n' Low
the larry king interviews on Joel are interesting. i love the Sweet n Low comment from Dave...so true.
I'm so happy that you used Joel's photo for this post. He is the personification of the self-worshiping “christian” culture you so poignantly describe on this blog.
She looks like she wants to eat me!
I live in atlanta, ga and take marta. This guy is everywhere. I want to punch him...ha.
1. laughing is fun. 2. laughing is the only exercise i'm consistent at. 3. frowning is bad- it causes deep furrows in your glabella. 4. botox is injected in your glabella. 5. yes, i play scrabble. 6. i look young because i get my laugh on.
As a pastor's wife and a very new reader to your blog I find some of your blog disturbing,unbelievable and some hilarious.
Disturbing because what you say is true. Unbelievable since I wonder where you pulled your info from and hilarious because you are spot on.
As a Christian I simply want to be real. No fake smiles. Just simply genuine.
That's awesome. I can only imagine being a pastor's wife and the pressure or feeling like you might need to act a certain way because at least for me, as a pastor's kid, the pressure was enormous.
I am so much more profoundly 'ministered to' (to use the Christianese :) by a pastor's wife or any Christian showing me their sorrow and grief as well as their happy face. So, thanks for wanting to be genuine. :)
I do love that this post poking fun at Christians pictures two people who couldn't even spell Christian, let alone know what one is.
It should be noted that most "Christians" who think along these lines are theologically, and generally, immature.
Sorry for posting so much, but I'm enamored of this blog. And, as usual, you are spot on. It's almost as if Christians think it is a sin to be unhappy for any reason. My fundamentalist parents embodied this ideology perfectly. Any negative emotions were swept under the rug in favor of an entirely superficial, happy demeanor.
I really appreciate your commenting Roman. I love all comments even the ones that disagree because my hope is to foster some dialogue here.
This is the stuff mental illnesses are made of.
It honestly is, Anonymous.
It is worth mentioning that this is also true of American culture generally:
I knew an ultra happy-acting Christian door-to-door happy Christian book salesman.
I said it was so obvious he was just trying to sell something. It was dishonest to act happy all the time.
"But Mel," he replied with all sincerity, "I don't have the gift of honesty."
I think this is why I ended up with depression.
I think it plays a part in why I have it, too.
You say you're a pk, Stephy, so I'm assuming that you too had to deal with the "I have to be perfect or my parents' ministry will suffer" mentality growing up? I know I did. (mk here) Also, I never felt like I could be real because clearly, who I really was was wrong. :S
I don't mean to mitigate your sense of special self-pity -- well, actually I do -- but these syndromes are not exclusive to PKs or MKs or COAs. I used to blame my trouble on being an EK, but it turns out MKs, FBs, RCKs and MRXCs all suffer the same malady, even if they're not XNs.
Obviously not everyone in the world with depression was a PK or an MK.
Evidently not so obviously, many other types of kids were under similar or identical pressures said to be borne only by the PK or MK. For example, "parenting" or "reputation" can be substituted for "ministry" in the phrase "had to deal with the 'I have to be perfect or my parents' ministry will suffer' mentality." The route to depression is only one aspect of childhood, supposed special, that is actually common. Generally the moral and social development of the P/MK is not nearly so distinctive as many of them seem to think.
The corollary is that P/MKs have a wealth of missed opportunity for growth and solidarity, of overlooked human resources, eg people who can be their friends, supporters, and teachers. Others don't have to be preachers' or missionaries' kids to love and understand them. They can open up and receive blessing from people outside of their presumed isolated tribe.
Shhh, I'm wallowing in my special sense of self-pity.
Mel T, I'm sorry I wasn't more clear when I made the comment to Stephy about having a similar common background. I did not mean to attribute the childhood pressure of perfection from parents and the greater community to something that ONLY mks, pks, etc., suffered. In fact, for me, this sense of needing to be perfect was only part of why I suffered from depression. I would list the other factors that contributed to it, but I don't feel like it would be wise or safe for me to be vulnerable on this forum.
Again, I apologize for not allowing for an extensive rundown on every person who has ever suffered from depression due to enforced rigid behavior as a child. I think it would've taken too long to discuss and would not have had bearing on the common ground that I seem to share with the author of this blog.
Okay. I'll let you get back. To that common ground. That you seem to share.
I agree with what you wrote, but I don't agree with using jewish (old testament) scripture from hundreds of years before Jesus was born to describe him in hindsight.
But Jewish scripture all points towards the Messiah.
had a mom complain to my senior pastor once that I might not be saved since I'm not happy-happy joy-joy all the time. Not displaying the joy of The Lord enough ...
I think it's fair to say that the Old Testament description of "a man of many sorrows" is not inaccurate. It takes a special level of despair to exude blood.
I hate when people expect that someone who is a Christian has to always look or act happy, even in the midst of hardships. I was fussed at a week after my grandmother died because I needed to "just get over it" because it wasn't a Christian thing to still be grieving and look less than peppy. When I suffered from Post-Partum Depression and had to be hospitalized twice after my first daughter was born, I was chastised for not being happy, told I was "choosing to wallow", told that I "needed to be happy and believe and have faith", etc. News flash: it's a natural thing to be unhappy sometimes, it doesn't make you a bad Christian, it makes you human. For those who prefer to look at the New Testament rather than the Old Testament, "Jesus wept". Being a Christian does not strip us of our humanity, and it is not a sin to feel negative emotions.
This reminded me of a time when I was attending my then boyfriend (now husband)'s church... They were all praying for a group of missionaries headed to Mexico (I might add that this was my 2nd our 3rd time attending a Sunday morning service and half of the church was screaming in tongues and it was terrifying to me at the time, I was 16).
My husband had a disagreement with his parents before church that morning so he was wearing a frown, and not actively participating in the huge (scary) show/prayer taking place. The pastor's wife (who was also a pastor herself) yelled at my boyfriend and called him out for not being cheerful. All eyes were on him, in shame. He had been attending this church since he was 5 years old. He wasn't being disrespectful, he wasn't making a scene, he was simply an outsider trying to overcome a personal issue at that moment. We got up and walked out, (I was super pissed) the pastor's son followed us out to the car and basically explained that sometimes even if you're not "feeling it" you need to fake it for the benefit of others.
Let's just say, that this was the beginning of the end for us... We have been together 15 years now, and the toll that church took on my husband is devastating. He has internal battles with himself daily and suffers irreparable damage from spiritual abuse. I love my husband, and it kills me to see him struggle to this day.
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