Several commenters on the website and the forum have linked to an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher named Steven Anderson. While that vein of Christianity is the most likely to turn you into a miserable human being, I have to admit that I admire their absolutism. True, every Christian sect is always in the process of secularizing, but in terms of Sunday morning preaching, the fundamentalists (and Eastern Orthodox) seem to be dragging their feet the hardest. 1890s pop-ideology is better than 2014 pop ideology in the same way that being decapitated is better than drowning.
But I’m not here to elaborate on the inherent failures of fundamentalism since that should be obvious. No, dear reader, it is the church down the street I’m here to talk about, even “the good church where the Spirit is moving.” The Dalrock kind of church. Here are five terrible lessons you were taught that will wreck your life. Readers can debate in the comments whether or not these lessons are actually Christian, but most churches regularly teach at least some of them. When I finally left the great circle jerk that has become American Christianity, my friends said, “You’ve only been to a few churches. They aren’t all like that!”
Churches are all the same because churches grow by migration instead of conversion, especially in the southern states. They do all this evangelism, and I swear it’s just a pissing contest to see who is the bravest. Somehow they’ve replaced masculinity with shamelessness. Everybody and their kid brother has heard the basic Christian message in the South, but they’ll stick a pamphlet in the Wal-Mart soap dispenser on the off chance you haven’t.
Maybe evangelism would have more of an effect on people, but most Christians are so ignorant about their own beliefs and history, assuming that they the individual (or the Vatican, for you Catholics) is interpreting the Bible the right way for the first time in 2,000 years. None of us are independent thinkers.
One final introductory note. Last time I wrote an article about Christianity, I had readers email me trying to convince me to become Catholic or Mormon or whatever. Normally, I enjoy reading mail, but let me save you five minutes of your time.
- Jews, Judaism has always been more of a political ideology than a religion.
- Catholics, large tracts of your theology is based on the logical fallacy of equivocation (purgatory, annulments, apostolic succession, basically anything that has touched the Doctrine of Development).
- Protestants, read James 2:24 and 1 Timothy 3:15 and Google “Masoretic or Septuagint.”
- Anglo-Catholics, well, at least you gave it your best shot, but you’re doing just as much guesswork as the above groups.
- Orthodox Christians, Athos is a cult, and your bishops have always been secularists.
- Mormons, Joseph Smith had a criminal record before he founded a church.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses, you take advantage of uneducated and impoverished minorities, hence why I’ve never met one of you who isn’t black.
- Hindus and Buddhists, an impersonal god is a contradiction in terms, and karma is the very lowest level of morality.
- Muslims, Mohammed became a genocidal warlord to compensate for his beta male status.
- Atheists and agnostics, your beliefs give you the same bitterness, anxiety, and arrogance of the average Christian.
- Wiccans, your religion involves more speculation and blind faith than all of the above.
I think that covers all the major religions. All of the ones that matter anyway. Onto the doctrines:
1. “Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds. Only Jesus Heals, and Only Jesus Can Make You Happy.”
Growing up, I had this idea that all non-Christians were miserable people consumed with bitterness, vengeance, and general misery. I listened to “Eleanor Rigby” and assumed the Beatles must have been singing about the emptiness in life that comes from not having Jesus fill you up every day. I never realized that most Christians I met were miserable, arrogant, and morally ambivalent. Then I got older and met non-Christians who seemed to be fairly satisfied with life, although I’ve met very few people of any religion who were genuinely happy.
Jesus may give your life purpose and direction, but he will not make you happy. What will make you happy is a) your approach to life, and b) the conditions of your life. So you can have a just-loving-each-moment attitude, but if you catch your wife in bed with the mailman, then suddenly you won’t be happy anymore. And you can have a lot of close friends and financial stability, but if you are always worried about civil unrest on the other side of the globe, then you won’t be happy.
Nor will Jesus magically wipe away your bitterness, as if you can choose whether or not you are angry. You can choose to dwell on your hurts and hence make them deeper, but generally bitterness is the kind of thing that has to burn itself out. And some wounds are so deep that they will never go away. Imagine a preacher’s kid who was molested by his father. Could he ever truly get past that? Can he just pray to Jesus and make it like it never happened? Which leads to my next point…
2. “Jesus Wipes Away Your Sins Like They Never Happened”
The born again sinners think that just because they are forgiven by God that they can demand forgiveness from others. It’s worth declaring yourself an atheist just so that your parents will quit saying you have to forgive them for neglecting you emotionally as a child. I also find it interesting that those who demand forgiveness the hardest are also the most unrepentant. Real repentance involves asking for forgivenss, not expecting it. My parents’ God makes me want to go to Hell.
3. “A Single Mother is like a Widow, and St. James Says to Take Care of Widows”
And St. Paul says for young widows to remarry. In that same passage, he also says that the church and lay people shouldn’t be burdened by their poverty. The Bible talks about married people and religious celibates, but it offers no instruction for unwed people beyond “Get married soon.” Few unwed mothers today are widows. Most of them made poor life choices and came back to Jesus to feel better about themselves. I’ve always wondered how many nuns had sex “just that one time.”
There is a difference in essence between the widow and the unwed mother. A widow is usually so through no fault of her own. As for divorces, usually each party could have done something to prevent it. If we are really going to be Biblical, then how about excommunicating all the divorced men and women for committing sacrilege? The Bible is very clear about divorce—you can only divorce if your spouse cheated on you, and even then it is to be avoided.
A Bible-believing Christian will not divorce even if there is spousal abuse, addiction, hatred, misery, annoyance, loss of respect, or anything people get divorced for other than “He (or she) keeps banging a co-worker.” Even then, should adultery really be a get-out-of-marriage-free card? Should you throw away your marriage merely because the other made a mistake in a weak moment? Divorce, whether ultimately good or bad, always causes major life damage to both spouses and all children. Show some temperance (a lost Christian virtue) and stick it out if at all possible.
This is, of course, assuming that no Christian unwed mother has a child out of wedlock. If you do meet such a unicorn, most of the commentary above will apply to her as well.
4. “God will Find You a Spouse”
My mother got divorced, became a fat workaholic with a hoarding complex, and said that she would only start dating if God brought someone along. Obviously God never did that, much to her delight. Every human relationship is innately transactional, and you have to bring more to the table than the stars aligning.
God helps those who help themselves. If you work hard at finding a marriageable person while working hard at being a marriageable person yourself, then you’ll find someone eventually. But no, you do not deserve “the right person” by virtue of wanting one, and God isn’t going to deliver you what you want if you merely “wait for His timing.” The careful reader will notice I am using sex-neutral language here, because both Christian men and women fail horribly at this.
5. “A Real Man is Always Selfless and Respects Everyone”
This perhaps is technically true but wildly misinterpreted. For one thing, it is literally impossible to be entirely selfless, and if you try, you will grow to hate yourself and all humanity. Being others-interested oddly involves being self-interested. Also, being selfless and respectful are contradictory traits, since complete selflessness involves a lack of self-respect. And to quote Jesus, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
No one, whether man or woman, respects someone who unilaterally respects everyone else or never takes a stand for anything. People confuse “love” with “not offending.” “Don’t criticize single mothers, because that decision is in the past, and you’ll make them feel like they don’t belong at church.” When your unwed mothers show tears of repentance, then I’ll have show some compassion. Most unwed mothers at church have a snarky attitude, as though they are entitled to Christ’s generous gift of forgiveness.
It’s like if little Timmy fails math class because he didn’t do the homework and everyone says, “He must be a victim of the system!” I want to see an unwed mother realize just how grave a mistake she made and try to do anything possible to mollify it. I want to hear an unwed mother say, “I know I can’t raise these children well at all by myself, and I need a man who can guide them and make sure they don’t turn into serial killers.”
Soon I will bring another installment, since I have another three lessons on my list. Email me if you think of another terrible lesson from church, but if you send me an apologetic for your religion I’m going to respond with, “See paragraph five. [Insert quote about specific religion]”