Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Our Gracious Father's Most Amazing Grace In Jesus

My older sister has an old high school friend who has always been "on fire" for Jesus, even way back in the day when we all went to the public high school together. Seriously. The amount of enthusiasm he carried around was unmatched by anyone else I knew at church. He was even more in love with Jesus than my youth pastor. I was never terribly close to "Dave" though I did go to his wedding with my sister some 10 years ago. But he is the kind of person who, if I saw him today, would envelop me in a gigantic bear hug and ask how my spiritual life is going. Perhaps you know similar people.

Somehow, years ago, I got on his mailing list and every month or two I get a kind of "Jesus Pep Talk" email in my inbox. It usually includes an opening anecdote that Dave then ties to some scripture to remind us that Jesus is our All in All. He then invites us to pray with him. This is a typical prayer:

Gracious Father, we are humbled by Your Most Amazing Grace in JESUS that invites & makes it possible for us to be a part of Your Winning Team! Lord, we acknowledge that we often lack the “Winning Attitude” of Your Son. You gave us Your Mighty Holy Spirit to empower us with JESUS’ Winning Attitude that surrenders to You & seeks to glorify You in all things. O Lord, forgive us for not submitting to the Spirit & not trusting in You at times. In 2007, bless each of us with an overriding knowledge & awareness of Your Victory at Calvary. O Lord, You are the Eternal Victor & we are so grateful that You so graciously shared Your Victory with us through JESUS. We submit to Your Purpose & Plan for 2007. Let us not be distracted by the circumstances. Help us to be about abiding in You & being completely Yours! May we be instruments that You can use in any circumstances to glorify Your Son in the Highest!!! It’s in the Name of the One Who is FOREVER VICTORIOUS, JESUS CHRIST, we pray. AMEN.

My sister at some point changed her email address and made it a point not to tell Dave - and made me swear not to give it to him. Now every so often I will forward her Dave's emails and we will share a giggle over it, and she will express relief that she no longer receives them.

But here is the thing: I know this comes from a very heartfelt and sincere place, and I know Dave is just trying to encourage his brothers and sisters in Christ. So why do his missives make me so uncomfortable?

14 comments:

Heather said...

For me, it would be because glorifying God and Jesus seems to require debasing one’s self and those around us. He didn’t say one good thing about humanity in that paragraph. He says that we lack a winning attitude, to forgive us for not submitting and not trusting. He doesn’t praise God for creating people, or for the good that people accomplish. That, and makes God’s glory the overriding purpose, and we usually find people who try and glorify themselves above all else insufferable.
But that’s just my two cents. :)

Slapdash said...

Yes, I think you've nailed it. That is Dave's constant attitude - we suck, God is great, and therefore we need to constantly beg forgiveness for not thinking about Jesus 24/7. Dave reflects and reinforces the dominant message I have heard throughout my Christian life, which created a near-constant state of self-hatred, debasement, guilt, obligation, and despair that I need to be perfect, but I'm not perfect, so I have to constantly examine myself for sin, and constantly confess that I screwed up yet again.

It's a version of the Calvinist total depravity doctrine. Which can mess you up, BIG time. Messed me up, for sure.

marie said...

For me, I think it affects me how disconnected the wording in these types of prayer is with the way we actually live our daily lives...Most of us don't fight epic battles, we sit on our ass eating chips and watching Access Hollywood. So when I imagine someone in America who is a Christian in 2007, I rarely see a gladiator or someone who is contributing to the overall Glorious Victory of an all-knowing, all-seeing Being. I don't know--a lot of Christians are valiant and do do cool and brave stuff in the world, but I doubt their prayers are so ridiculous.

I think prayers like these give lazy people a false sense of meaning--they can be warriors or victorious while they sit on the couch. My parents are like that totally...

marie said...

Oh Slapdash, I dont want you to think that I was meaning your friend was lazy or like how i described, I just think that some people are like that, and I was tooo when i was a christian

Slapdash said...

No worries. :)

Yes, the language is very disconnected, in the way you describe and also just in the way that we are encouraged to paint the world in such black/white stark terms.

It seems like Christians try to make things a heroic struggle or fight when they're just not. Like homosexual marriage - why this has become a threat to traditional marriage is way beyond me. But conservative Christians feel a need to make a big fight out of everything; everything has to be an us/them dichotomy; something is either all good or all evil.

Give me a break.

I am also bothered by Dave's language because it would sound so fake and insincere coming out of my mouth. I couldn't say any of that with a straight face - and that was true even when I was a strong believer! I'm just not a big Jesus talk person.

Heather said...

**created a near-constant state of self-hatred, debasement, guilt, obligation, and despair that I need to be perfect, but I'm not perfect, so I have to constantly examine myself for sin, and constantly confess that I screwed up yet again.**

That is what I dislike about conservative Christianity the most. Under this, you are expected to live up to a standard that you will never, ever reach, and then blamed for failing. It's like expecting a five year old to do calculus, and then blaming him for not understanding. I've heard that the answer -- Jesus -- is provided, so then you're only blamed for not accepting the answer. Except why is the five year old trying to do calculus in the first place?

Clarissa said...

Slapdash, you said on the Loftus site that you had been a faithful Christian for 25 years.

I lack belief in your claim. Someone who, at least at one time, had really loved the Lord would not talk that way about him.

Slapdash said...

Hi clarissa. Welcome, and thanks for commenting.

"I lack belief in your claim. Someone who, at least at one time, had really loved the Lord would not talk that way about him. "

I'm not troubled by your lack of belief in my claim. I know what I believed; I also know where I am today.

That said, could you elaborate on why you believe this isn't possible?

It is an honest question.

Slapdash said...

Actually, that's not true: I *am* troubled by your lack of belief in my "claim" (as you call it).

Why is it so hard to believe that someone once loved the Lord with all her heart could have, over time and through a variety of circumstances, come to question the truth, nature, and eventually the existence of that same Lord?

I grant that my tone in this blog is sarcastic and irreverent. I may be in a phase of swinging too far the other way on the pendulum, as I react to and move away from beliefs I've cherished for most of my life.

At the same time, had you and I met during any of the 20+ years of my active Christian faith, you would not have questioned for a single moment my love for, or relationship with, the Lord. I was, in every way possible, trying to work out my faith with fear and trembling.

So again, I am curious to hear why you think it isn't possible for my "claim" to be true.

Heather said...

**I lack belief in your claim. Someone who, at least at one time, had really loved the Lord would not talk that way about him. **

That's no guarentee of constant "good" comments, though. Think of those who once loved each other, and then fell apart. The language changes to adapt to that. Sometimes the language turns ugly, but other times, it just becomes neutral.

jennypo said...

I also have to admit to feeling a bit squirmy inside at reading letters like the ones you receive from your sister's friend. Actually, I'm not sure if it's just my personality that shrinks from what feels like "gushiness" to me, or if it's the use of grand, sweeping terms without accompanying specifics to ground them that give these modern-day sonnets an air of inauthenticity. The writer is likely dead sincere, (if blissfully unaware) but his foppish writing style gives the impression that he is more concerned with style than with substance.
Then again, I too have struggled with the difficulties of translating personal (among them, spiritual) experiences into the language of the intellect. Is this a cultural thing? Do Christians just get lazy, and fall back on a kind of "code" to signify experiences that others in their community will recognize? Although I am a Christian, I am not part of the Christian cultural community. Maybe that's why I'm not feelin' it...

Slapdash said...

Hi jennypo! Thanks for stopping by.

** it's the use of grand, sweeping terms without accompanying specifics to ground them that give these modern-day sonnets an air of inauthenticity.**

Yes, this is part of it, I think. As I mentioned before, I can't imagine uttering such words verbally myself, as they are just so far removed from my daily life. Then again, I've never been a "Praise Jesus!" proclaimer - it always felt forced and, as you say, inauthentic. For me. Dave actually talks like his letters in person, so he may be one of the few people who can pull this off authentically. Still, when talking to him in person, there's an uncomfortable gap when the other person in the conversation just doesn't use language like that.

Heather said...

Jenny,

**Although I am a Christian, I am not part of the Christian cultural community.** This doesn't surprise me. Much of culture is simply following a path just 'because it's what is done.' For many who say they are religious, they often are that way because they were raised that way, not because of any willful choice, or deep thought. I'm not saying everyone who follows the Christian culture is like that, of course. But you've made the path your own, rather than following where culture decided.

I agree with both of you on the gushiness -- it's very flashy, but I've often found that flashiness tends to disguish shallowness, if that makes any sense. They're the type of people who are all talk and no action. Rather, we should see this type of 'flashiness' in his interactions with others, how he treats those who have wronged him, how he treats the poor and such. It should be a blinding display of love, and yet so often, people substitute the gushy words, because that's the easiest route to go.

Cragar said...

Sorry, you've been tagged.

http://cragar.wordpress.com/2007/06/28/tagged/

Keep up the good posts!