Sunday, January 30, 2005

I Love Internet Monk!

Now that I got everybody’s attention… ahem…

Found an awesome article yesterday while lurking on The Internet Monk’s site. Okay, so the awesome article is three years old, but, just like good wine, it gets better with age!

Why Do They Hate Us?

I don't really know why someone thought it was necessary to do a poll to see just who were the most disliked groups in society, but the results are in. While serial killers and IRS agents still come in last, hot on their heels are evangelical Christians. Not Christians in general. Not Roman Catholics. Not all Christians, but evangelical Christians.

As I read on, I could hardly believe my eyes, because what I saw corresponded very closely with something I’d written a month ago, before I knew anything about the blogosphere in general and Internet Monk in particular. I cannot tell you how much like an honor and a privilege it feels to realize you’ve written something similar to an article that good. I posted mine on a closed forum where I could discuss it with about a half a dozen of my closest online friends. The post was not intended for public reading, and, as I am re-reading it now, I realize there is no way I can repost it here in its entirety. I will just share the introduction. What I’ve left out is a list of things that annoy me the most about the mainstream, Evangelical Christianity in America as I know it. IM has pretty much covered them all – the legalism, the assumption that everyone around you is going straight to Hell if you don’t convert them, pronto, the total cluelessness about how to deal with temptations and sin in your own life, other than make a happy face and pretend you’re sinless.

Here’s what I wrote (personal examples omitted!)

I’ve had more exposure to the Evangelical Christian circles of America this year than I have ever had before. I have spent this year on a *** forum. I’ve traded emails with my classmate, the pastor, whose church is being sponsored from the US. And, I’ve taken the Purpose Driven Life class, which means I had to read the whole thing. And… I am unbelievably, extremely disappointed. I find myself wondering if I have anything in common with these people or if I will ever fit in, or should I even try. I just hope I’ve been exposed to all the wrong circles. Right now I’m wondering whether I should in any way adjust myself to be more in line with everyone I’ve met, or forget that these people exist and continue as before. BTW I’ve never had any problems fitting into my own parish which is a Greek Orthodox church. So maybe that’s where I should stay. But, I’ll have to vent at you guys anyway.

I haven’t had much exposure to all this until this year. I mean, I knew that America was a predominantly Christian country, but I thought it was a good thing? What I’m feeling right now, is I guess what you’d feel if you grew up in a happy, loving family and always thought your family was awesome, and then 15 years later, there’s a family reunion and you meet all these distant relatives from Nowheresville, West
Virginia, that you’ve never met before, and they creep you out! And you’re sitting there thinking, How can I be related to these people? Is this even my family? Was I switched at birth? Should I leave and cut all ties with my family? Okay, I’m not gonna cut any ties, but I’m very disappointed.

Disclaimer: I’ve met some fabulous people in this crowd this year. But they are exceptions, or, at least, not as vocal as the rest of the crowd.

This is what I wrote last December. As you can see, I was pretty exhausted and disgusted at that point, as well as resolved to stay from this part of American society for the rest of my life. Then the unexpected happened. God led me into the blogosphere and showed me that there is still hope for the Evangelical America. I’m now willing to give it another try. I cannot tell you how relieved I am. It really went against my nature when I made the decision to cut myself off what is a large number of my brothers and sisters in Christ, but at that time, I didn’t think I had any other option. Turns out, things are not as bad as they looked to me back then.

One other thing I have to bring up before I close. In his list, IM actually dug deeper than I did in my own analysis. He uncovered something that, at least to me, is very important:

We take ourselves far too seriously, and come off as opposed to normal life. Is it such a bid deal that Christians are offended at so many things others consider funny? I'll admit, it is a small thing, but it is one of the reasons ordinary people don't like us.

I read an incident written by a preacher to an internet list I monitor. He told about taking his youth group on an outing, when the students began singing a popular country song about a guy who leaves his wife to pursue his fishing hobby. It's a hilarious song. But this fellow's reaction was predictable. He asked them to not a song about a marriage that breaks up, and to instead sing something that honored God. I
routinely hear students ridiculing a fellow teacher who labels much of what students find funny as "of the devil."

These incidents show something that evangelicals need to admit. We are frequently unable to see humor, absurdity, and the honest reasons for humans to laugh at themselves. What very normal, very healthy people find laughable, we find threatening and often label with the ridiculous label of "the devil."

The message here isn't just that we are humorless or Puritanical. The message is that being human or being real is somehow evil. This is one place I can feel exactly what the unbelievers are talking about. When I see Christians trying to rob young people of the right to be normal, ordinary and human, it angers me. I feel threatened. It's hard to like people who seem to say that God, Jesus and Scripture are the enemies of laughter, sex, growing up and ordinary pleasures. Some Christians sometimes seem to say that everything pleasurable is demonic or to be avoided to show what a good Christian you are. Isn't it odd that unbelievers are so much more aware of the plain teaching of scripture than we are?

This quote is priceless! This is what gets me the most. When my friends and I first converted to Christianity in the late 80’s – early 90’s in Russia, we were all about joking and laughter. We grew up on C.S. Lewis. So, when I came here, I had some expectations about the Evangelical community as a society where intellect and sense of humor were high priority. Instead, to my horror, I saw this… unfunny crowd! Is that the way you’re supposed to be if you’re Evangelical? If you asked me a month ago, I would have said yes. Now, after briefly reading IM, JollyBlogger and a few other Christian blogs, I’ll say – no, not really. Thank you folks for showing me the way! (I would say “thank you brothers”, but that would sound too cookie-cutter Evangelical… you know?)

Thanks, guys. I needed that.

The Goldie has spoken at 1:13 PM

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