This morning I found this Non Sequitur cartoon in my files. And it got me to thinking how often I’ve engaged in Christian baloney where I’ll say something not because I intend to do it but simply because saying it is the right and proper social expectation to fulfill. A few years ago a friend of mine living far away was in the midst of a divorce. So I sent him an email of encouragement. At the end I thought about saying “I’ll pray for you.” But instead I wrote: “I would say ‘I’ll pray for you’ except that I probably won’t. So instead I’ll pray for you right now.” He emailed back his deep appreciation that I was honest. He had heard countless Christians throw out the old “I’ll pray for you” in a cavalier way that suggested it meant no more than “I’ll see ya later.”
Here’s another great example of egregious Christian baloney. Some years ago my friend “Steve” confronted a former pastor at a Starbucks. The pastor, a charismatic fellow (in both the Pentecostal and personality senses of the word), had committed adultery with a couple congregants and had left the church in disgrace. But now he wanted to return for a visit. Steve had come to recognize that the pastor was a master manipulator and as a leader in the church Steve took it upon himself to meet the man at Starbucks and inform him that he was not welcome back. After a frank and confrontational discussion the pastor stood to go. Furious, he turned to Steve and said through clenched teeth “I love you Steve.” “No you don’t!” Steve retorted. And he was clearly right. The mouth said love but the scowl and clenched fists said hate.
There’s a lot of Christian baloney out there and it typically is a pious posturing that Jesus would have fingered as pure hypocrisy. (I remember a pastor admitting to me that he prayed five minutes a day. Unfortunately enough, statistically speaking that is quite typical. What was untypical is his frank honesty about (and dissatisfaction with) the fact.)
Another friend was interviewing people for a position at a Christian organization. He always enjoyed asking them what they thought their greatest weaknesses were. Everyone would carefully craft a baloney response like “I’m a perfectionist” or “I tend to commit to an organization too much.” Then one guy answered “Greatest weakness? To be honest, I have none.” At least he gave his honest opinion!
Needless to say, Christian communities would be far better off if we set aside all the social role playing (e.g. prayer warrior, loving pastor, perfectionist etc.) and instead were straight with people, letting our yes be yes and our no be no. Social image is nice, but truth is far better.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to engage in some “carpet time” interceding for the nations.