Thursday, January 19, 2012

#224 Saying "I'm praying for you"

This is one of Christian culture's very favorite things to say. Whether they actually will pray or not is anyone's guess, but it seems important somehow that you believe they will. Versatile and efficient, "I'm praying for you" can be used in absolutely any situation to cover several evangelical bases and tend to egos all at once. With just four words it's possible to establish yourself as spiritual alpha dog and signal an end to the conversation under the guise of bestowing blessing. Delicious and nutritious!

You may not find a less relational phrase in all of Christianese than "I'm praying for you." When said in response to an expression of pain or heartbreak it often shuts the conversation down. The person sharing can feel as if they've been stiff-armed and kept at a distance by the person they were confiding in so they can be passed off to God Almighty. The confidant can easily say this and remain detached, and if you've said it before yourself, it's that much more painful to hear.

People who are capable of casually informing people they're praying for them can't fathom that anyone could possibly have a problem with it. To their ears it's the most wonderful thing to say and anyone taking issue must be a jaded miscreant who's mad at God. (Anger at God is something else Christian culture does not endorse and does not deem permissible, but that's a whole other blog post.) This is a prominent characteristic of Christian culture: they have no idea how they come off. If anyone feels marginalized or dismissed by the allegation of impending prayer, the pray-er will likely interpret this as disdain for the whole of Christianity and take it as a cue to write that person off.

Saying "I'm praying for you" may be as relational as someone in Christian culture knows how to be. They're so busy Doing Things they may not know how to care and be cared for. All they may know is how to do is say things and remain detached, which definitely has its advantages. Actual relationship is a lot of work. Simpler to hold them at arm's length and avoid holding people's hurt than do the counter-intuitive work of bearing their burdens. When someone carries your struggle with you, the most healing form of relationship is taking place, and relationships are how we will all be healed. But they can be messy. It would be nice to keep this spirituality stuff within tidy boundaries. Which brings us to the hallmark of Christian culture: Doing Things and Avoiding Relationship. Keep this commandment and you will keep all the rest.


LoieJ said...

Yes! I can relate to this as both the receiver and speaker of those words. Better to just pray, right then and there, out loud or silently.

Ray Horton said...

Insightful, poignant, and darkly humorous as always. I'm a product of the evangelical bubble myself (I don't think I even met someone who hadn't "accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior" until I was about 13 or 14), and I have to say--I can relate. I've done this, I've had it done to me, and I've seen how the attitude behind it--as you say, the way it shuts down conversation and keeps relationships detached--can wreak havoc within a community. Surely this is a cultural phenomenon that, whether it's considered "Christian" or not, the Jesus of John 14-16 would not have recognized.

I've been musing over your aphorism about "Doing Things and Avoiding Relationships" (which is spot on, in my experience), and I wonder if, perhaps, this is not just a product of Christian culture, but an issue facing the overall zeitgeist of our contemporary, post-industrial, technophile society. If there's anything I notice every day (whether it's in a church, a classroom, an office, or a restaurant), it's that we're utterly alienated from each other. I think what makes this so striking within Christian culture, in particular, is that CC purports to be something more; it asserts itself as a place of community, belonging, togetherness--a shelter, you might say, from the harsh and indifferent world outside. The problem is, Christian culture rarely offers a prophetic voice running counter to the alienating patterns in our culture. It usually just goes right along with and absorbs those patterns unthinkingly. For a good example, I'm thinking of your post about Steve Jobs in relation to the way technology has hampered our ability to relate to one another. CC reveres successful businessmen (usually just the men...) simply for being successful, frequently ignoring the societal or interpersonal consequences of that individual's success.

Sorry, got off on a bit of a tangent there. But yes, you're right. "I'll pray for you" is a perfect example of "Doing Things and Avoiding Relationships," and I think we would all be better off if we (the church and the secular culture alike) would slow down and truly take the time to encounter one another.

Anonymous said...

This is one of your best articles. So well said. As much as I enjoy your humor and satire, I find this post to be far more profound and noticeable because you curbed the humor here a bit. Instead you are illustrating a grave problem among the Christian Culture quite precisely, and it makes your message all the more clear.

Christians need to take notice. The Christian body is quite sick right now, and the more you and those like you accurately point out why, the sooner the problems can be taken care of. These problems need to be exposed, addressed, and remedied. Well done.

Now let the accusations of 'bitterness' and the 'I don't know if you're a Christian or not' statements begin!

John Mosley said...

i feel the same way when people say 'God Bless You' after I sneeze, as when they say "i'll pray for you". I really like Horton's comment about how church is supposed to be about community, but everyone ends up alienating eachother. That is PRECISELY how I feel when I go to church lately.

LoieJ said...

After reading the post again and the two comments, I remembered some situations that perfectly illustrate " doing things and avoiding relationships ."
I attended several church services at the nursing home where my mother resided. Three were put on by three different Lutheran pastors from a different Lutheran group than the one I belong to. The services were by the book, liturgy, sermon, communion. Spoken in double time to fit the narrow time frame. There was no attempt at connection between the pastor and these people slumped in their wheel chairs.

In contrast, when I have gone with pastors from my church to do a nursing home service, these Lutheran pastors greeted the residents as the children of God that they are. They interact, they show care and concern.They serve. They love. And they allow the residents to love them back.

I mention the denomination only because it is all to easy to paint with a broad brush.

skope said...

I'll pray for you. ;)

AGB said...

I appreciate the cartoon of Jesus is this post. It makes a great point that when Christians announce their prayers for each other, they are going against the Sermon on the Mount.
Thank you for your helpful satire.

Dracula said...

Ray Horton, you're dead on.

Fortunately I think my generation (born in the 1980s-1990s) have noticed the big hole where community used to be and are trying to find ways to bring it back. I could go on and on about why it left in the first place.

Steph, great post. Reminds me of something I saw on another, much more cynical blog: "Yeah, pray for me. Its the absolute least you can do."

Anonymous said...

How true of Culteral Christianity!

This is what happens when Church tries to be like the World instead of being Light to the World. It ends up being a hip country club catering to the flesh felt needs of the lost who think they've been converted because of some prayer, yet never surrendering themselves over to Christ to truly follow Him.

On the flipside, if most were to enter a Church where the people "really did" pray and help in tangible ways, the other aspects of the Church would seem boring and legalistic to the "Cultural Christian" who is more consumed with themself rather that Christ.

Tony D. said...

DING! Another home run! This is why I'm addicted to this blog.

"Now let the accusations of 'bitterness' and the 'I don't know if you're a Christian or not' statements begin!"

Of course you mean, "I dont know if your a Christian or not"...

stephy said...

"Reminds me of something I saw on another, much more cynical blog: 'Yeah, pray for me. Its the absolute least you can do.'"

I have to say, I don't think the above is a cynical statement. If anything it's that person's honest truth — they are feeling as though they are being given absence by the person they're trying to confide in. If they feel that way, then you actually are doing the least you can do.

My friend Scott posted this Nouwen quote on the Stuff Christian Culture Likes facebook page:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
— Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

Annie said...

Stephy, what a great post.

Thanks in part to your consistent "harping" I have cleaned my act up as one claiming to follow Jesus. I really check my words and actions including never telling anyone that I will pray for them. Instead, if I feel it's appropriate to the time/place/their comfort level, I actually do pray for them on the spot. Eyes open, a couple of sentences. And I always ask if I can pray for them first. Sometimes I don't pray for them....for all sorts of reasons, including if I just don't care, to be honest.

Also,on a side note, I actually thought of you today when I was reading how Jesus schooled the Pharisees at the end of Luke 20. He shamed their ways in front of everyone. He didn't mince his words. He didn't care if he embarrassed them or appeared disrespectful to their leadership role. They were wrong and he warned everyone present to beware.
I think you do that with this blog and on FB. You don't allow CC to define Jesus and his expectation for those who follow him. The fact that I thought of you when I was reading what Jesus was saying made me LOL.


Matt B said...

I was just pondering this dilemma the other day. I used to utter this cliched retort all the time. To appease my guilt over not actually putting on my breastplate of prayer (or is it righteousness?) I would often say a quick prayer in my head as soon as I told the other person I would pray for them.

As I realized my prayer life felt less and less meaningful (as in SCCL #104) I stopped saying the phrase altogether. But I do feel a pang of guilt when someone offers to pray for me and I don't return the favor.

One Caveat: There are a few people in my life who do actually listen to me... really listen... and then pray... really pray. And I do feel loved by them. These people are few and far between and generally have a strong liturgical upbringing or sense of humanity that many evangelicals lack.

Anonymous said...

While I've seen the phrase used as Stephy has described here (as a way of making the speaker feel a bit better about a situation without actually having to, you know, DO any-damned-thing); I'd like to point out that the same phrase is also VERY commonly used in the Deep South (where I was raised) as a snide way to get the last word in when someone has just lost an argument or otherwise had a conversation go other than they would have liked.


Fundie-gelical: "I heard that you're an Atheist???"

Atheist: "Ya. Don't worry: it's not catching."

F.G.: (goes into full-on proselytize/apologetics mode and ham-fistedly makes Pascal's Wager...more of less.)

Atheist: (points out that F.G. is making a False Dichotomy after restating the argument more intelligibly and crediting the source.)

F.G.: (Continues to cycle through VERY basic (and long discredited) arguments getting less coherent and more visibly agitated as he fails to score even token points.)

Atheist: (Continues to amuse himself by taking every argument that's given and tossing it back with some spin on it ... it's not like he hasn't danced this same dance 5 times already this semester with other would-be evangelists; and they all seem to make EXACTLY the same silly arguments as if they all saw the same training film at Jesus Camp or whatever.)

F.G.: (having eventually realized that not only is he not going to make a convert of his intended target today but, horror of horrors, he has been making a fool of himself in a public place AND several bystanders are likely being swayed in rather the opposite direction by his less than stellar efforts. He decides to make his retreat with that Classic Parting Shot): "I guess that you're just not ready to see The Truth today: after all 'Many are called; but few are chosen.' ::sniffs:: I'll pray for you."

Atheist: "That seems fair: I'll THINK for BOTH OF US."

Also note that when it's used this way "I'll pray for you" is pronounced to rhyme with "I hope you die in a fire ... OF AIDS!!" or some such ... it's always obvious, often comically so, that the person in question is angry and has exactly zero intention of follow through (unless, of course, it's the prayerful equivalent of poking pins into a voodoo doll) later on.

I've gotten this exact literal response ("I'll pray for you") from coworkers who failed to convince me to vote Republican (God's Own Party apparently); family members who failed to shame me into attending services while home for the Holidays; and on several different occasions when people out knocking on doors invited me to attend their respective houses of worship and I declined explaining that I was a Heathen; after which we 'danced the dance' as indicated previously (I could do it in my sleep at this point); and here in the Southland that's not just Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons BTW: you get Baptists and assorted Nondenominational types knocking door-to-door just as often; but none of them seems to take frank rejection terribly well.

Joshua said...

I certainly agree that SOME Christians will pledge, "I'll pray for you" to others, with little to no intention of ever doing so - and, worse yet, no intention of doing anything beyond praying for those people (or "getting their hands messy", as you say). However, that's not true of ALL Christians. Some of us really DO pray for others - with all our heart. And, if we really follow through on this properly, how could this possibly be "the least that we could do", since only God can truly heal most of the hurts in our lives - and he's opted to use prayer as a major means of bringing this to pass?

I certainly have no problem helping others in whatever ways that I am able - particularly if it's somebody that I know and love, and whom I know is genuinely hurting. However, even on my best days, I'm limited in what I can do for somebody - I'm even limited in what I can accomplish for myself, because I am human. God, however, is UNLIMITED - and he fully expects us to always turn to him, rather than merely to each other, as our ultimate source of help in times of need (though, of course, He's much more than that, too!).

Anyway, I appreciate the point that you're making, but you should also remember that real and consistent prayer to the God of heaven is the greatest source of help that we could receive - and the greatest act of service that a true friend can give. If somebody offers to pray for you - and you know that they really mean it - I certainly would not turn them down!

Benjamin Ady said...



Possibly very much in line with what you are writing about in this post is Lucius Shepard's brilliant novel "Handbook of American Prayer". He has a lovely way with words, and a delicious cynicism. I think you might like it.

Crazily, just looking around right now on the net, it looks like Concord free press is actually giving it away for free right now. Crazy.

Analyst said...

"Christians need to take notice. The Christian body is quite sick right now ..."

The Occupy crowd, for all their faults, are the opposite of this.

Anonymous said...

"Christians need to take notice. The Christian body is quite sick right now ..."

Agreed. And it primarily stems from trying to conform to to a whiny culture of people wanting "a form" of Christianity, but not the genuine deal of sacrifice and commitment.

Still Breathing said...

Nothing helped my wife and I to move church more than the letter suspending us from activities we had been doing for years ending with "I'll continue praying for you." This from a person who can never admit they are wrong, changes his reasons for any action everytime he is shown to be wrong (lies) and is a bully.


Brian said...

Regarding the cartoon accompanying this post: I get the intended satire, but I think it slightly misses the point. I've always felt that Jesus' instruction was aimed at those who deliberately called attention to themselves in public, often in groups ("See You at the Pole" always comes to mind). As a "frozen chosen" Presbyterian, such public displays of religion always bother me. But I don't think one person privately telling another that they'll pray for them is quite in the same league. It may be annoying for its own reasons, but it's not quite what the Sermon on the Mount was referring to.

Tony D. said...

I've always been under the impression that "I'll pray for you" is Fundie-Language for "Go f*** yourself."

Agreed. At least former President Cheney was honest enough to just blurt it out!

brianoverholt said...

"This is a prominent characteristic of Christian culture: they have no idea how they come off."

I suppose it depends on how you define "Christian Culture."

I agree that there are a lot of Christians that are completely clueless about how they come off. But I don't see that being a trait more common among Christians than in any other faith group.

It seems to me the socially inept and insensitive are a fairly consistent percentage of nearly every demographic.

The only thing that sets the socially insensitive Christians apart from their counterparts in the rest of society, is that the christian ones manage to be insensitive while sounding all holy and considerate... or not, really.

stephy said...

I'm confused.

Still Breathing said...

If you aren't confused you have lost touch with reality :)

Jeremy said...


I needed to hear this.

Though I try not to ever say this unless it is a good friend and I have taken the time to hear them out and let them express their feelings, it is still a good reminder to not be insincere.

Ryan said...

Just discovered the blog, and yes this is a very good post. I'm excited to read back through earlier posts, and look forward to when more posts are uh... posted.

I will point out that you may have painted with slightly too broad a brush. Even though I LOVE your insight on this issue and your admonishment to not just say any meaningless shit expecting it to stick - it's important to note - there will be exceptions. I remember many desperate midnight phone calls from an atheist friend in the midst of a really hard time, who was in fact really comforted to hear an "I'll pray for you." Again, when another atheist friend's brother had meningitis and things looked dire, he responded very positively to my "I'll pray for you." Both friends are (under normal circumstances) unquestioning atheists. I think in both cases they were uncomfortable asking for (even a promise of) prayer - but glad to have it.

These experiences lead me to think an effective application of "I'll pray for you" is usually predicated on a pre-existing relationship.

Of course when desperate, some people are glad for any hope. We must use good judgement in deciding if we're offering genuine or false hope, comforting them or comforting ourselves. I totally agree, "I'll pray for you" should never be used as a full stop.

Take-away: there's a time for every commandment to be broken, even this one.

stephy said...

If this is the first post you've read you're probably going to have a problem with the rest of the blog.

Narnia said...

As an atheist, sometimes I wish there were an equivalent for "I'm praying for you". Sometimes "I'll keep my fingers crossed" just doesn't quite convey enough how much I'm actively hoping for them.

Sometimes there are things that are happening in your loved one's lives that you just can't actively do anything about, but you wish you could. Even if it's a stupid as crossing your fingers. That's when I wish there were an atheist equivalent of "I'm praying for you".

It's funny, cause for me "I'm praying for you" means just that. It means how much that person wants to actively do something to help in a situation that they can't do anything other than "wish well". But it sounds like it's come to mean the exact opposite. To instead say, "I can't bring myself to do anything more for you than think about it for a few minutes before I go to bed."

Ryan said...

@stephy - I'm new here, but at first blush this seems like a good place to learn from other people that feel as beat up, ripped-off, and offended by contemporary christian culture as I do. A lot of the anger, sadness, and alienation expressed here resonates with me. That said, I try not to embrace those feelings as defining qualities. I avoid anti-church dogma as much as the churchy kind, try to identify both the good and the bad, "rightly dividing the truth." Heh.

Also it seems a good place to be reminded what kind of Christian not to be.

Now, if by "have a problem with the rest of the blog" you mean occasionally disagree with you, then yeah for sure I'll "have a problem." I hope reading your observations will be challenging and productive. So far that's been true, but as I said I'm new here.

@Narnia - I think you're right on the money. Setting cynicism aside for a bit, an offer of prayer can be a genuine expression of concern and love.

Presumably (again setting cynicism aside) prayerful Christians believe they are appealing to God for the good of the recipient. Even if the prayer is meaningless and ineffective, hearing in essence "I feel sympathy and care for you and out of my helplessness I'll appeal to my God on your behalf," could bring comfort. I've seen it to be so anyway.

Still Breathing said...

A work colleague's young son had leukemia and you should have seen the smile light up her face when I asked if she minded if I prayed for her and her son. She is a Hindu.

buzzalot said...

Maybe their (atheist) friend is happy to hear "I'll pray for you" like when one hears a rambling person take a breath.

Seriously, you needn't ever say it. Even Jesus says something like "don't go around praying in public. Do it in private" which tells me "don't go around spouting off that you'll pray"

I have a couple friends who will say "I'll kill some chickens for you" which, I think, I freakin' hilarious.

Analyst said...

Some of the more bloody minded atheists like to respond to "I'll pray for you", with "And I'll masturbate for you". But maybe not to a nun!

Analyst said...

"As an atheist, sometimes I wish there were an equivalent for "I'm praying for you"."

Try, "I'll keep a good thought for him".

Narnia said...

@Analyst, yeah, that's where I end up going. But somehow it just doesn't seem to have the same level of, I guess, intensity, that I get when I hear someone say "I'll pray for you". I think it's like what Ryan says, "I feel sympathy and care for you and out of my helplessness I'll appeal to my God on your behalf."

To me, "I'll be thinking of you," sounds trite in a way that "I'll pray for you," doesn't.

Maybe it's the culture I'm surrounded by. Maybe it's 'cause everyone around me says "I'll be thinking of you," so that it sounds overused and insincere in the way that "I'll pray for you," sounds to people who are steeped in CC. Whereas, in San Francisco, someone says "I'll pray for you," and it's different, it sounds more like it actually means something. They're almost taking a risk in saying it.

LoieJ said...

In my experience, I DO trust some people I know to pray for me if they say that they will. But they don't say it is a glib way and I know those people really well. And I've known a few people who have kept an extensive prayer list for many years, so I know that they are sincere. But what really bugs me is the common practice among many politicians and other famous people is saying that they are "sending prayers out to ___ (accident victim, etc.). Sheesh. Prayer, by definition, go to God. Maybe good thoughts or "energy" or something might go toward another person. These people mean well, but it always makes me wonder if they actually learned anything in their church, so it sounds really glib and insincere.

mark said...

'I'm praying for you' is meant for you to believe the lie but take off. Sometimes it is even meant as a veiled insult. It is the Pharisaic thing to do.

Judith said...

I've just discovered your blog and I find it very insightful. I will spend some free moments looking at older posts because you have an interesting take on religious blogging.

Anonymous said...

I have heard "I'll pray for you" used as an insult and a conversation ender and I think I have yet to hear it stated sincerely.

In my experience, those who are truly engaged with a situation and truly wish to assist through prayer will ASK if they may pray for the other person - and that usually comes at the end of the conversation after they have otherwise listened actively and offered what other help they can.

I think there is a major difference between the two approaches. One is dismissive as the article points out. The latter is part of an overall desire to help that includes a Christian wish to appeal to God on that person's behalf.

Now, as someone who is mostly surrounded by agnostics and atheists who've heard far too much of the first variation on an offer of prayer, I tend to let people know that I am thinking of them (if I actually am) and then I probably will pray about it.

I generally don't share those plans though because someone who's been hurt (or dismissed) by religious language in the past will not be helped or strengthened by my use of it at their time of need.

LoieJ said...

This last comment, by Anonymous, is the most generous hearted response to this of all. It acknowledges that others may have been hurt in the past, and it acknowledges that some people aren't into Christian prayer.

Since the denomination of Christianity I've been mostly associated with doesn't tend to wear their faith on their sleeves, I haven't run into the snippy snotty types of "I'll pray for you" that some of the commentors mention. Or maybe it is what they have projected onto the speakers. Who knows?

Eli said...

It seems to me that often (not always) this sentiment comes from the place of not wanting to sit in the uncomfortable place of pain with someone. Rather, CC wants to DO something, to fix it somehow (no, it isn't only a CC thing to want to fix it, this is just their way of doing it), when in reality, it doesn't fix it. It just makes them feel better that they've "done" something. Not to mention that it is actually much more helpful (for everyone involved, them included) to be sincere and kind, and sit with the person in their place of pain.

Anonymous said...

I don't typically read or comment on blogs. But I must say in this case: I pity you. I'm a former agnostic, baptized at 23, served in Fortune 500 business, and then went to serve as an ordained pastor. I did not grow up in the Church and thus it engaged me as "an outsider," if you will. Yes, the Church does some quirky things sometimes; I agree with you. But all people and thus all organizations do as well; if you've been burned or torqued by people in Church at some point in your life, join the club.

That said, we can respond by withdrawing and being cynical and bitter ("taking our ball and going home") or by remaining in relationship and trying to improve and work through the situation and build others up; the former is certainly easier, but does nothing to foster and sustain a rich, healthy, and fulfilling life--for ourselves or others. Trust me, I've tried.

I hope when your grandkids ask you how you invested your precious time on this earth, that you can affirm and point to more of the latter. But that might mean getting off the soapbox, putting away the blog, and becoming deeply and meaningfully involved in people's lives, instead.

That's risky. Messy. Wrought with potential disappointments and setbacks. But that's part of life...and life is meant to be lived, not just made fun of safely from afar.

stephy said...

I'm a bit confused; what are you trying to say? And can I ask what your name is?

Anonymous said...

Maybe, just maybe, you shouldn't make assumptions about other people's experience in the church and how they should properly react to them.

Also, perhaps this blog does help people remain "in relationship", but I guess you would know better, since you used to work at a Fortune 500!

Analyst said...

"I hope when your grandkids ask you how you invested your precious time on this earth, that you can affirm and point to more of the latter."

I'm saddened that so many will point to so much time spent on magic spells to an invisible fried in the 'sky' (or worse) and so little time spent actually improving the world.

stephy said...

You're right, maybe I shouldn't make those assumptions. And maybe I should. But probably not. So I'm glad I only speak for my assumptions. I learned this when I was a CFO for a Fortune 500 company. After encountering Christians such as yourself I'm now agnostic. I miss being sure of things. It was really fun while it lasted. I told all sorts of people I was praying for them without actually engaging them.

You might likes these posts too — on calling sadness bitterness ( and posting disgruntled comments as anonymous ( I have to say, I'm really onto something with this blog.

JDM929 said...

It's quite rich that a self-claimed *pastor* is telling *someone else* to get off their soap box. You first, buddy, you first. It's pretty obvious that you only skimmed the article at best, if not only read the headline and a paragraph and go on a rant.

Anonymous said...

I don't typically read or comment on blogs.
Consider yourself blessed that I took time out of my busy day to stop and say all this to you. It's that important.

But I must say in this case: I pity you.
You're going to burn in hell.

I'm a former agnostic, oooh, Missy -- a former agnostic -- this is part of my testimony now, how agnostic I was baptized at 23, served in Fortune 500 business, please take careful note at how God has blessed me -- it's the only way American Fundangelicals know they're doing okay with God -- all the money rolling in and then went to serve as an ordained pastor. I did not grow up in the Church and thus it engaged me as "an outsider," if you will. oooh, street cred -- I'm an outsider -- an outsider. Yes, the Church does some quirky things sometimes; I agree with you.
What kind of quirky things, you might ask? Crusades, Inquisition, Racism, Slavery, Sexism, Homophobia, Child abuse . . . quirky things like that.
But all people and thus all organizations do as well; if you've been burned or torqued by people in Church at some point in your life, join the club. Buck up, Stephy. Life Sucks, and so does Church. That's the point of Church, isn't it?

That said, we can respond by withdrawing and being cynical and bitter ("taking our ball and going home") or by remaining in relationship and trying to improve and work through the situation and build others up; the former is certainly easier, but does nothing to foster and sustain a rich, healthy, and fulfilling life--for ourselves or others. Consider this advice for all facets of your life: Abusive relationships, Co-dependencies, Bullying, Alcohol and substance abuse -- withdrawing from relationships never makes anything better. Trust me, I've tried.

I hope when your grandkids ask you how you invested your precious time on this earth, Can't you just see it Stephy, the year is 2042, and your grandkid wants to know how you invested your precious time on this earth -- Grandma, how did you invest your precious time on this earth? that you can affirm and point to more of the latter. Oh, honey, I stayed in every abusive relationship I ever happened upon, because it's soooo important to improve and work through the situation and build others up. But that might mean getting off the soapbox, putting away the blog, and becoming deeply and meaningfully involved in people's lives, instead. Yes, honey-grandkid, I never ever pointed out that the emperor was naked, I didn't rock the boat, and I never tried to reach a larger audience than those around me. It was much easier to be a doormat in locally abusive relationships, hanging on, and knowing that it was deeper and more meaningful to stay.

That's risky. Messy. Wrought with potential disappointments and setbacks. But that's part of life...and life is meant to be lived, not just made fun of safely from afar. Pointing out the flaws of the culture you were raised in carries no risk.

Kevin said...

Are we not commenting on the fact that SCCL has helped to MAKE tons of relationships?

Are we not commenting on the irony of an anonymous poster telling Stephy that she needs to get involved in relationships?

Or the irony of someone anonymously sniping at Stephy by telling her that she shouldn't point out what other folks are doing wrong?

The problem is, anonymous, it is possible to run a blog like this and also be a christian who goes to church and runs a community. I know that this might be hard to accept, but nobody, certainly not Stephy, took their ball and went home. Stephanie found a way to build a community of people who wanted to heal at the same time that she stayed in relationship with the church.

You, on the other hand, walked into an ongoing conversation, posted a rude comment anonymously, and thought that you could keep the moral high ground.

You were wrong.

crete110 said...

I know this isn't a recent post but I've just discovered your blog (which led me to your facebook SCCL - LOVE!).

I have never experienced any religious trauma like a lot of your readers and the Lord himself couldn't drag me into a mega-lovemymoneyandmyfakepersona church. I did however grow up in a family (bio, not church) with a few of the finest representatives of Christianity I've ever seen. Humble, truthful, loving, etc.

That being said, this whole "pray for you" crap which is like the new LOL on facebook makes me want to stab people in the eye. I know someone (aforementioned relative) who DOES actually stop and pray at that moment. We've passed car wrecks and she'll pray aloud for whoever is involved. And it's SINCERE. (I'm not as great of a person as she is so this isn't something I personally do. Which is why I admire her so much for doing it.) But if all of these lazy "friends" on facebook are actually sending up as many prayers as they claim to be, then this world will be washed clean of all ills, sickness and sin by the blessing of the blood of the Lamb by next Tuesday. Praise Jesus. It's about to get really awesome on planet Earth.

Queen Momma said...

I like what my husband says. "Let's pray now, because I won't do it later."

Anonymous said...

I thinks that right-wing evangelicals are actively treating everyone else as if they were PREY to be devoured. As this essay and website explains.

But then again that is just business as usual, or how it has been seen Christianity became the "official" religion of the Roman IMPERIAL state.

Plus check out Columbus and Other Cannibals by Jack Forbes.

Anonymous said...

I think having someone share their pain with you can be scary, whether inside Christian culture or out. There's that fear of saying the wrong thing, of making it worse, of crossing boundaries, of coming across as an ass, of needing to show that you understand what someone's going through, when you really don't...... Anyway, "I'll pray for you," isn't the only way people shy away from relating and listening. Everyone does this sometimes, especially younger people who haven't lived through as much, but it does seem much more common for my evangelical friends to do this sort of distancing. (It's the Evangelical equivalent of, "Maybe you can talk to a professional;") I'm wondering if it doesn't come from something else you've talked about in the blog: that need to prove that you and your ilk are right, because none of you are ever sad (or poor, or doubtful, or discouraged, or addicted, or gay, or scruffy, or....) at least not without Jesus swooping in to fix it right away. It's like this odd siege mentality - not really justified, in my mind - that sees Christianity as always under attack. And with it goes this sense that if anyone who's already "accepted Jesus" is sad or uncertain - ever -for a second - it's a crack in the foundation that threatens the whole "Jesus chose us for prosperity, happiness, and perfect teeth" edifice. Anyway, I genuinely suspect (and maybe this is me projecting, since I tried so, so, so hard to believe for years, but never could manage it) that a lot of Christians are so scared of relating and so belligerent about their faith because they are nurturing deep doubts. It's just that my close friends and family who are evangelicals work so hard to convince me of the strength of their belief that it winds up having the opposite effect. I start to wonder why they NEED to convince me. I know that I should take them at their word - I'm going to hell, and this makes them sad, so they will pray for me - but I also know these people really, really well, and I have always felt this to be much more about them and their faith than it is me and mine. I have friends with drinking problems who will always push you to have a second cocktail at the bar because it makes their drinking okay, and the proselytizing evangelical who will pray for me feels and acts exactly the same. Also, I love your blog. I know it gets criticized for being anti-Christian, but speaking as someone who has never been on the "inside" of Christian culture (lapsed mainline Protestant agnostic here), I actually find that this blog really humanizes a group of people I've usually found unsympathetic, alien, and way too plastic. It's ironic, because the image that Christian culture wants to project was very off putting. The pamphlets and celebrities and media productions of Christian culture genuinely freak me out (Stepford!!! Stepford!!!). However, if I see evangelicals as just other human people, struggling with the problem of how to live in our world, I stop feeling superior and I start wondering what they have to offer. So thank you. Your blog hasn't made me into a Christian, but it has made me stop and think and be less threatened and judgmental.

Anonymous said...

I don't know whether to be sad, or if it's a good thing that people have so little wrong in their lives that they have time to be offended or concerned about people saying "I'll pray for you." Jesus did not say "Never tell others you pray!" He said don't make a big show of it (paraphrasing obviously). Kind of like the difference between telling someone you're going to the store and telling them how much you spent on everything.
I don't understand how that is worse than "our thoughts are with you." You may not believe in it, but the person is attempting to keep you in mind, lift you up to God, and has heard your problems. If you want them to do something else, ask them nicely, but no need to look down on them condescendingly!!


Soul Cafe said...

My thought is short and simple.If you are gong to pray why not just STOP and pray for them right now?

Anonomouse said...

Saying, "I'm praying for you." is also another way of saying "Fuck Off".

Kari Ann said...

Saw this today on the PostSecret blog and it immediately reminded me of this:

Anonymous said...

I think prayer is powerful and does help and the more we do it the beter. I guess I shouldn't tell people I'm praying for them any longer. I did not know if offended anyone. I hope people keep praying for me.

LoieJ said...

The last anonymous: nowhere does this posting say not to pray. Nor does it say not to do things, or not to care. It does seek to get people to realize that they may be using the phrase "I'll pray for you" as a way to put a wall up between people, or for the Christian who says it to feel good about himself rather than actually enter into a relationship with the other person. Please reread the whole thing.

Joy Devore said...

Hahaha :D This is an AWESOME post! Thaaaank you!!!
I actually used to use that phrase all the time when I was a teenager and, of course, never realized it was even considered offensive until well after I stopped using it. The reason I stopped was because I always forgot to pray for all those people. So now I just offer to pray for them right then and there if the atmosphere seems ok.

Anonymous said...

I HATE, HATE, HATE, HATE the "I'll pray for you" phase because most of the time it's meant as a put down. It's just a sly way of casting judgement without looking judgmental. The people who are actually praying for you don't need to announce it because they've built a relationship with you and know what's going on in your life.

If it was up to me I'd retire that phase in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

Why write a daily blog about things Christians say? That seems more ignorant and contradictory than pointing out how someone isnt as enlightened as you obviously think you are. I wonder what you actually believe about God and the like. If God dosent exist in your world then maybe you should write a detailed article explaining how to understand what you clearly understand. That would be more helpful to humanity than this blog site. Maybe you like creating turmoil or maybe you are just turned off by what some Christians say or maybe you're simply scared when someone makes claims of what they believe and you arent sure what you believe. Its easy to be critical of someone or something we dont believe or understand deeply.....kindof like Christians struggle with homosexuality and the Bible. Nevertheless, not fully understanding or misusing faith isnt a crime, well maybe in some states, but dying without a clue seems like a game of chicken. You should change your blog to "Im not sure about this whole Christian or God thing, but intelligent discussion seems like the better way of developing diverse community rather than painting ignorant broad strokes about people while eluding to some enlightened alternative, but not sharing it with others." Its a long title, I know, but probably more effective than the current one.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of jaded miscreants...

Unknown said...

I have terminal cancer and this is all I hear "we are praying for you". No offers of practical help, may I spend some time with you .....

Nerd Nerdlingly said...

I know this blog is older than the hills but PRETTY PLEASE leave it up forever!! It's become an über classic and a great reference.


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