Monday, September 1, 2008

#41 Exclamation Points

by guest contributor David Drury

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Many evangelical Christians carry a terror inside their chest that if they appear less than happy all the time then they will have violated the terms of some sort of Jesus Marketing Contract. (Why would lonely and searching people want to know about Jesus if I don't display ecstatic fulfillment at all times?) To this end, Christian culture puts an emphasis on positivity. How's your walk with God? Awesome! How is your marriage? A blessing! How did that Cowboys game turn out? God honored their hard work! What about the game they lost? God is really teaching them some great lessons! Sorry to hear about your miscarriage. It was in God's will! I heard your mom has cancer. God has a better plan!

It seems many an evangelical Christian is on a mission to convince nonbelievers of the white hot joy that comes with being a Christian (all the time and forever). They may suppose that their pagan friends will one day say:

"Something is different about you. Why are you so happy all the time?"
"I met Jesus!"
"I want what you have!"

And...scene.

15 comments:

Deborah said...

Stephy,

As a recovering lifelong church lady (ala Dana Carvey), I am glad to have found your blog. It's so strange that I spent decades of my life portraying Jesus and his followers as caricatures. Even better, I was completely unaware of it. Over-spiritualizing is a way to avoid reality and feelings while deluding ourselves into believing that others are impressed by our so-called Christlikeness. All the while, the only ones who are impressed are the people who are just like us. Great work here, Stephy and Co.

stephy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simone said...

As a non believer, the ultra happy fa├žade is a real turn off and seems like an overt lie. It just looks like those types are ignoring real truths about their lives and themselves, and that's a huge disadvantage if one wants to be the best person they can be. We can't improve ourselves unless we acknowledge our faults and problems.

I do like to use exclamation points though, I must say!

I'm off now to rob a liquor store, buy and shoot some heroin and then commit adultery with the first person to take my fancy because that's what us atheists are naturally inclined to do without being enlightened. Hope your day is as fulfilling!

mme. bookling said...

i love this blog.

Robert Louis Stevenson said...

Don't be stingy with that heroin, Simone!

I started laughing out loud when I got to the stuff about the Cowboys. By the time I got to the silver lining in mom's cancer I was dying.

Please don't sit on the same pew as me at church anymore because I'm sometimes afraid I'll break into uncontrollable laughter if I look at you. Which reminds me of the holy laughter phenomenon -- something I experienced first hand at junior high camp.

Simone said...

I'm stuck on #41 and not doing so great. Get on it with it, church lady!

my girl hazel said...

my mom swears by this. i can't count the number of times she's said the exact scene you wrote. she'll keep talking about it years later. kinda makes me sick.

Steve said...

All that "God's will" and "God's perfect plan" stuff just make me go EEEWWW.

thisistemporary said...

I was asked recently by a Buddhist that walked into our church (because he liked the music!!!!!!!!) whether or not I was happy. Really happy. I had to pause - and then I stumbled about but basically said, "Through it all, Jesus is my foundation, he's what I stand on." I admitted I struggle with depression, so it hasn't been a walk in the park, but his question made me realize Christianity isn't about happiness, it's about knowing Christ. That's what the difference in my life is now... I know God. And that really is ... it. That is enough.

thisistemporary said...

one other thing - that check list may seem like a bit much, but when I went to counseling, I got given a lot of things like this. the purpose of things like this is more to re-construct the narratives in our mind that affect our behaviour.

fear, anxiety, and stress over the little things - they really are learned behaviours that can be unlearned.

Bleu said...

stephy wrote:
I heard your mom has cancer. God has a better plan!

My mom was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. While struggling with grief over her diagnosis, my uber-fundie sister (I love her) said things like "Who are we to question God's will?" and "It could be that He is using her cancer to stop her from being gang-raped or something in the future."

While my family was sitting in the chapel in disbelief over the unexpected diagnosis, sobbing uncontrollably, my great-aunt said, "The Lord just needs her more than we do." I had to leave the room before I caused a huge rift in my family.

Later, I was speaking to my sister and her even more uber-fundie husband, and I said that even though I no longer believed in Christianity, I had found myself falling back into the habit of prayer for my mom. He replied, "God doesn't hear you. He doesn't hear the prayers of a sinner."

Well, I had to ask how people 'got saved' if God couldn't hear prayers of sinners. Apparently *that* prayer gets through. LOL

Anonymous said...

Damn. By the time I was twelve years old, I was so clinically depressed that I often contemplated suicide. The church just made me feel worse; if God was making everyone so fulfilled and blessed, then why not me? It took me so long to realize that life is just a series of ups and downs and that God isnt always the answer for everyone. 21 years later, Im finally happy and peaceful with a healthy dose of anti-depressants, a clear understanding of the genetic pre-disposition to mental illness that runs in my family tree and a full life with good friends and family.
The constant pressure to be deliriously happy is so unsettling, not to mention unnatural. (Im being Anonymous here for obvious reasons)

Anonymous said...

I have, in fact, been asked that very question. And at the time I was one of those "on fire" believers. But apparently not enough, because I kind of mumbled a "I don't know, it's just that I am." and kicked myself for years for not mentioning Jesus, because the person who asked me that was my Witnessing Target #1. (Seriously.)

R-Tam said...

I just found your blog and I love it!

And as an unbeliever as well I have to agree with Simone - this forced and constant cheerfulness is unsettling. Negative emotions are part of being human and denying to feel them is... unhealthy. It's... well, the best description is "Stepford Smiler"

It gets even creepier if this smiling person declares in a bright voice that certain kinds of people are abominations and are gonna be tortured forever and ever and deserve it...

QuakerOats said...

So true...

Growing up in the church, I've been told, countless times, that we need to live in a way that makes people ask, "There is something different about you," so we can point them effortlessly to Jesus. Purely through being happy.

They seem to forget the whole "weep with those who weep" bit.