Sometimes, our wakefulness practice-noticing where the divine is and is not-can be simply in our language. How are we speaking to one another? And even more importantly, how are we speaking to one another about God? What words move your heart closer to compassion, love, mercy, and kindness? What words act as stumbling blocks to you or others? What can we do to intentionally move ourselves into better use of language?
Well, recently Rev. Mark Sandlin, a Presbyterian Minister from North Carolina (go Wolfpack!), wrote an article titled "10 Things You Can't Say While Following Jesus." I think he is totally on point and he gave me permission to reprint the list here. So, here it is...10 stumbling blocks, or...
If any list has been overdone in the Christian blogging world, it's this list.
Just about every Christian blogger has done one and if they haven't, they've thought about it and then thought better of it – because just about every Christian blogger has done one. (See what I did there?)
And yet, here we are.
You. Me. And my list of things Christians shouldn't say. Hmmmm – must be God's will. (And I just realized this list should have had 11 things on it. Oh, well. I have no doubt that it's on one of the lists out there!)
Before starting my list, the editors in my head need me to say a few things, i.e. the requisite disclaimers. I do not consider this to be an exhaustive list. It's just the list of sayings I most want to talk about right now. Also, as I've explained in other posts, in this “10 Things You Can't Do While Following Jesus” series, I'm not saying that people who follow Jesus don't do these things; I'm saying that you can't say you are following Jesus' example when you do them. Finally, specific to this list, I think people who say these things are mostly trying to be kind, grateful and even humble when they say some of them. But if we really do want to be kind, grateful and humble we need to think about these sayings a little more – and then stop saying them.
10) Everything happens for a reason.
Implied in this is a very specific understanding of how God interacts with the world. Specifically, it says God directs all things. So, mass murders? God had a reason for that senseless act of violence. Stubbing your toe on the door frame? I guess God wanted to smite your toe.
This way of seeing God turns us all into puppets. God's little play things who really have no freewill. Do you truly think a god needs toys? If so, do you really think we're the best toys God could make to play with?
God loves you. God loves your loved ones. God is coming for your loved ones.
You think it hurt when God smote your toe? Just wait 'til God rips out your heart. But it's OK. They needed another angel in heaven.
See? All better!
Really? No, of course not. Now that you understand what you are saying, can we just stop it?
8) God never gives us more than we can handle.
Ever tried saying this to a person contemplating suicide? No? Well, of course not.
Why? Because it is just wrong.
It's wrong for the reason that #10 is wrong and it's wrong because factual circumstances of living prove that sometimes this life does bring with it more than we can handle.
7) But for the grace of God, there go I.
Think about that for just a minute.
How about walking in the shoes you're grateful not to be in for just a minute? Are they where they are because they lack the grace of God that others receive?
Does God pick and choose whom grace lands upon, intentionally withholding it from some people?
I know that people who say this don't mean it that way, but that is what they are saying – even if indirectly. Feel free to be thankful for where you are but let's stop heaping coals on other people's shoulders – even if unintentionally.
6) I must be living right.
Have you ever been riding in a car when the driver pulls into a parking space right in front of the store and proclaims, “I must be living right!”?
Sure, they are half joking but keep in mind it's only half joking. Statements like this have their roots in that nasty “everything happens for a reason” thinking.
These are the same folks who ask God to help them win sporting events. I hate to burst the bubble but God doesn't care which team wins or how close to the store entrance you get to park your car.
Plus, go back to #7. When you say things like this, what are you saying about the folks who had to park in that very last spot next to the shopping cart return where the car doors get all dinged up? and for that matter, if you are “living right,” why didn't you take that spot and leave the one up front for someone else?
5) Love the sinner, hate the sin.
The problem I have with this one is the comma. It should be a period.
After further thought, I have a problem with the comma, everything that comes after it and “the sinner.”
Who am I (and who are you) to be deciding for someone else what is getting between them and God? I'm all for doing it in regard to our own lives but in someone else's life? Hands off. Who do we think we are? God?
Now that I think about it, the problem I have with this one is that there's not a period after love.
4) It's okay to judge.
Recently, there has been a rash of Christian bloggers defending their right to judge. I guess it's a thing. All the cool bloggers are doing it.
I love being cool. And apparently it's cool to judge others. So, let me judge them for trying to justify judging others. Don't worry though – I'm loving the sinner, hating the sin when I do it. So, it's OK. Right?
Oh, give me just a minute though. It turns out I've got a log in my eye. I'll need to take care of that first.
3) Because the Bible tells me so (or “it’s in the Bible”).
The King James Bible tells me there are unicorns – 9 times.
I'm sorry, I got distracted. What was it you were telling me about using the Bible to prove a fact?
2) Have you heard about Jesus?
1) There are no atheists in a foxhole.
Really? There are atheists in church and you honestly think there are no atheists in foxholes?
Look, I get that the point is supposed to be that when faced with death we all turn to God. However, not only is that simply not true for everyone when faced with death, it is really bad logic.
Let me demonstrate.
When faced with death in a foxhole – grenade flying overhead and limbs being blown off the person next to me – am likely to soil my britches. It does not follow that I should always soil my britches.
In foxholes there are a whole bunch of people trying to stay alive and they pretty much don't care what the other person believes about God. They just want to stay alive... and possibly a clean pair of britches. (See what I did there?)