Are you guilty of righteousplaining?

There is a trend in the Christian community that drives me bonkers. It can be applied to an infinite number of ways, but it has the same logic structure.

  1.  I am a Christian.
  2.  I have thoughts.
  3.  Therefore, my thoughts are Christian Thoughts.

Note that the implicit extension of point 3 is that if you don’t agree with said thoughts, you’re not Christian. Or, at the least, you’re not thinking Christian thoughts. We’ve seen this time and time again with all sorts of issues. Whether it be the issue of suffering, immigration policies, war, poverty, Kanye West – just wait a day or two, and you will see a flood of articles written by pastors, music artists, and devo debbies who proclaim that they have searched the scriptures and come away unequivocally with what the correct Christian Response should be. This would all be well and good, if there weren’t an equal number of articles from different camps of Christians claiming they have the real insight into how the entire kingdom of God should respond to a particular issue. They all are, in effect, righteousplaining.

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This is where the chaos and confusion lies. People from all sorts of different nations, cultures, political ideologies, family structures, moral upbringings, intellectual strengths, and personalities are drawn to the character of Jesus. They make a decision to follow him, and usually get involved in a local church of like-minded people. They talk about their faith with those people, and how it influences how they see the world. Then, they begin to see these opinions and views as representative of Christianity. Then they feel bold and brave enough to righteousplain the Christian Response. Then Christians from other backgrounds get offended and outraged, because their faith is being represented and applied in a way that is foreign and offensive to them.

It’s a tricky thing, because our faith has very bold, well-defined tenets (e.g. love your neighbor) that demand action. But, different people have very different ideas about what those tenets look like IRL. For example, one camp might say “I love my children, so I would never strike them because that is a violent, aggressive act.” A different camp may say “I love my children, and if I see them tottering towards something dangerous I will smack the crap out of them to keep them from harm.” Both of these groups have heard and received the concept of love, but they have different ways of applying it.

So, in light of this, I advise against public proclamations that your response to the societal problem du jour is The Christian Response. Obviously, you are free to explain how your Christian faith motivated your current position, but I urge you against concluding that opponents are workers of the devil. In some issues, they just might be, but in some issues your opponents may simply be the tricep to your bicep in the body of Christ.

Let’s leave righteousplaining to Jesus! Woo!

 

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

My sister wrote a post that was similar in nature – check it out! WWJD: Who Would Jesus Diss

 

Nothing in Christianity makes sense except in the light of relationship

Let me begin this post with a profound quote-*

Nothing in Christianity makes sense except in the light of relationship.

-C Gallo, 2019

The relational aspect of Christianity is the overarching story that ties all the aspects of the Christian faith together. If you try to understand any piece of Christianity without it, you will have misguided ideas of how Christian theology should be applied to your own life. Your faith will be stunted.

Maybe this was obvious to every other Christian, but for me it was a game-changer. I don’t want to overstate my own knowledge, but I have a good grasp of Christian theology. I understand the big stuff – the trinity, the fall of mankind, redemption, etc. I even enjoy getting into the weeds of more nuanced theology like eschatology** and predestination. But often, the more I pander to my brain the more my heart checks out. My faith shrivels.

How or why does the relationship aspect of Christianity matter to me?

Relationship gives life to my faith

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Christianity as a religion is boring, oppressive, and constraining. It is often harmful and can be used to exploit people. Christianity as a religion will not help you better yourself (for long). It will not give you warm fuzzies (for long). Christianity in terms of relationship, though…! The wildest but perhaps most important claim of Christianity that we claim to actually know – have a relationship with a spiritual being. THE spiritual being. It isn’t a neat and tidy abstract idea, and it’s not a flawless system of logic. It is [or should be] crazy and scary and exciting.

Relationship affects how I think about oppositions to my faith

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I sometimes encounter people who insist on badgering me about my faith. All of them look triumphant if I don’t have an instant answer to any of their misgivings about Christianity. They express dismay at my lack of open-mindedness and refusal to be in a perpetual mode of discovery. I will tell them something like “I’m not sure how to answer that, but this doesn’t necessitate me abandoning my faith ,” or “I’m really not in a place to effectively research every opposition or issue you’ve brought to my attention.” Some have implicated that they pity me a weak-minded, brain-washed child who won’t (or can’t) contemplate all the mysteries of my faith on a flip of a dime.

If they were challenging the conclusions of my last published research article, they would be perfectly justified in this attitude. Scientists should always be open to new discoveries and be the harshest, most vigilant critics of their own theories and data. But Christianity is more than a theory or data points. It’s a relationship. It grows. It involves experiences that build on each other. At some point, a trust is formed. Those experiences and that trust transforms the way you think about all new data.

For example, I have been dating someone for about a year.*** When we first started dating, if someone had come up and told me “I have good evidence that your new guy is a major flake and you really can’t trust him to do what he says,” I would have taken their words seriously. I would have launched an investigation into whether or not that was true. I would have considered halting all romantic activities until I settled whether or not I could trust him.

Now that we’ve been together for a while, however, it would be crazy for me to take them seriously. I wouldn’t waste time reevaluating every interaction my boyfriend and I had in the past year. I wouldn’t ask for us to take a break while I investigated. I wouldn’t even ask him about it. I simply know that they are wrong. Even if the person who told me that believed strongly in their statement, I would conclude that they misinterpreted his actions in the past. It’s not that I’m brainwashed or in denial of any potential flaws, but we have experiences together. At some point, a trust was formed.  I have seen him in bad moods and good moods, around his parents and around his friends, extremely sleep-deprived and well-rested, very relaxed and under an enormous amount of pressure. During all of this, everything he’s told me he would do- he’s done. Every event he’s told me he would come to- he’s been there. So it’s not that I’m stupid or blind, it’s that we are in a relationship. And the relationship itself has changed how I view any new information or perceptions any one else might have about him.

Just the same, I’m not going to approach all objections to God in a purely objective or abstract way. I can’t. That does not – I repeat, does NOT – make me a brainwashed buffoon.

Relationship affects how you think about being good

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This is probably one of the most misunderstood features of Christianity – the “good deeds” issue. It’s widely recognized that Christians should, in theory at least, be good people. Yet a major tenant of Christianity is that humans are already so deep in the pit of imperfection that no amount of good deeds could ever pull us out of it. So if we can’t earn good standing and we’re putting every single egg we have in the grace basket, what’s the point – why do anything good at all?

Strangely enough, I have found great insight into this issue from the movie The Breakup. In one scene, they’re having a huge fight about how the boyfriend Gary is never doing the good deeds that Brooke asks him to do.

Gary: “Fine, I’ll help you do the damn dishes.”
Brooke: “That’s not what I want. I want you to want to do the dishes.”
Gary: “Why would I want to do dishes?”

Gary would want to do the dishes if he cared more about making Brooke happy than he cared about making himself happy. He should do the good deed because he knows it’s something she cares about and would bring her joy – no more, no less. It’s the exact same thing with good deeds in Christianity. We don’t do good deeds to prove we’re better than other people, or because it comes easily to us, or because we think we’re earning some sort of spiritual brownie points. We do good deeds because we have reason to believe they are important to God and bring him joy – no more, no less.

I don’t think God wants us approach good deeds like, “Fine, I’ll help you do the damn dishes.” I believe he wants us to want to do the dishes.

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— EDITORIAL —

*Phraseology stolen from Theodosius Dozhansky, who thought evolution was the overarching story that tied all of biology together. ( “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light if evolution”). If anyone tried to understand any piece of biology without it, Dozhanksy claimed, they would have misguided hypotheses. Their scientific discovery would be stunted. This post isn’t about evolution, but I have a compulsion to provide the source of my thoughts. My deepest fear is getting caught in a scandal that involves accidental plagiarism. BUT I will say that if you are curious about how the Genesis creation story relates to current scientific thought on human origins, I highly recommend reading The Lost World of Adam and Eve by John H. Walton (amazon link here). It greatly influenced my thoughts on the subject.

**the ONLY reason I dropped the esch bomb was to be a Pretentious Pretentierson.

***No one knows for sure. It is currently a hot topic of debate by many scholars.

I don’t care what you believe if I don’t like who you are

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why exactly I’m a Christian.* And I don’t mean I’ve been thinking about why “one” in the general sense would be a Christian, I mean why have the faith. So, I’m not going to present a hole-proof outline of all the philosophical or historical arguments for Christianity. Those are important,  but when it comes down to it… my reasons for believing are rather idiosyncratic, with a smidge of touchy-feely. But hey! I betcha if you had to break down specifically why you loved your bae specifically, you would get pretty touch-feely, too. So cool it!

Anyway, a large part of why I believe is the character of some of the people that I know who believe. Not all of them are perfect, and to be sure some of the people who I know are Christian – whether nominally or “for realz” is beyond me – are not particularly encouraging to my faith.

*But* there are some people who I just can’t not believe when I think about them.

Why?

1) They are smart. They can use logic. They aren’t overwhelmed by complexity. They can understand and consider the merits of opposing views even if they ultimately reject them.

2) They are wise. They use their resources appropriately, without crossing over into (paradoxically) self-aggrandizing asceticism. They frequently have and facilitate conversations that lead to reconciliation, instead of stubbornly and foolishly escalating every conflict that comes their way.

3) They are kind and joyful. When they smile at me, their eyes reflect the warmth straight from their lil’ cinnamon bun hearts. I always feel encouraged and more energetic after I talk to them.

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Bless their ooey-gooey, warm, sweet hearts! (pixabay free image)

 

4) They are good. I feel like “good” can be seen as a weak word, but it’s absolutely perfect for these people. It’s unassuming, yet solid.. and true. The output of their lives is just … good. Or put in negative terms, the output of their lives is NOT bad.

5) Their families thrive. I don’t know if I can emphasize this enough. There are so many people who are super impressive in various ways, yet the people who are closest to them – who are most affected by the day-to-day decisions of their lives – are miserable train wrecks.** But these people’s families are – although far from perfect – functional, balanced, healthy.

There’s probably more, but my attention span is wavering, and I’m the one writing all of this! My point is, all the 5 points above coalesce into a loveliness that makes me… long. Yes, long! I want to be like them. Not in a jealous, creeper way, but in a hopeful way. Seeing them live this way — inspite of our world being an absolute shoot-hole sometimes — is very bolstering. And lo and behold, what drives this sort of behavior? Well, they would say their faith in Jesus.

Now, I’m sure there are also some Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, etc. who are also admirable. So here we get into an phrase that is used ad nauseam in academic circles – neccesary but not sufficient. Good character is necessary, but not sufficient, for me to be open to hearing their world view. Does admiring someone’s character mean that I have to accept their entire worldview? No, I s’pose not. But it does mean that I will at least be open to listening to and considering their worldview, and find out what’s driving their amazingness. THEN I will also look into things like logical consistency, historicity, etc.

On the flip side, if someone is living a life that seems out of control, toxic, and damaging to the people around them, I don’t particularly care to hear their spiritual or theological musings. I may listen respectfully for a few minutes, but at the end of the day I’m kinda like, “It’s nice to know which underlying worldview makes you a jerk.” That may sound kinda harsh, but… amiright?!

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I’m going to wager a guess that this chic doesn’t have the character clout with these dudes to tell them nuffin’! (pixabay free image)

 

Why I wanted to write about this is two-fold. One, it’s convicting. Am I living a life that is attractive to people, that they would even want to hear what I believe? Or are they thinking, “Yah ok, let me know when your Jesus helps you not be a self-absorbed a-hole.” Two, it’s clarifying. With all the worldviews and opinions being thrown around, sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed with which one(s) is/are true. My advice is to “clear the field” of ideas*** by focusing on the beliefs and claims of people that you actually admire and want to emulate. TRUST ME, there are so few that this will free your time considerably.

Alrighty! Go find yourselves people worth ‘mirin’! And Holy Spirit, help us be people worth ‘mirin’!

 — EDITORIAL NOTES —

*It would be a lot easier for me if I wasn’t. Neuroscientists are not exactly impressed by Christianity. Also, dating would be much smoother.  #sacrifices

**Not that everyone should be held responsible for all the actions of their children, spouses, close family members, etc., but if  practically everyone close to you is in a state of chaotic self-destruction, that’s should be a huge, blinky-light sign that there is some sort of toxicity in your interactions. Conversely, if practically everyone close to you is flourishing like strong, well-nourished alabaster trees, it’s a perty good indication that you are creating environments that enable people to be their best.

***Remember I’m talking about general worldview / theological / spiritual beliefs and opinions. Obvs, someone with terrible character is quite capable of having brilliant insights into how brain networks interact to support memory, how isolationism affected the U.S. economy, etc., and their ideas on these sort of subjects may be worth considering.  even if you want to punch them in the face afterward.

 

 

BREAKING: It’s okay to take a break from constantly questioning your faith!

I dated a guy a while back who took DTRing to a new level. We were talking about “us” before we had time for an us to grow. No jokes, our dates were like listening to a live commentary on our dates, by us. It was disorienting and exhausting.

I don’t say this to be ungracious to a former Gallolover (lolz), but to make the point that as essential as DTRing can be, it is not essential at all times. In fact, sometimes it’s plum inappropro. Most times, it’s nice to enjoy each other at whatever stage the relationship happens to be in. If you constantly have to bring everything to a screeching halt to pick apart, analyze, and forecast future directions for your relationship, true intimacy will shrivel like a salted snail.

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Let your intimacy be a healthy, thriving snail! Ewww! Nm. You get it. (image from pixabay)

Now, let’s pivot from romanticals to Jesus-lovin’.

Theological investigations are great. Especially if you’ve been in the church since birth and have been following Jesus since you remember having conscious thought, it’s important to update your theology as your knowledge grows and your capacity for critical thinking develops. Yes indeedy – sometimes my faith hasn’t been able to “move on” until I gain some sort of enlightenment on a theological quandary that has been bothering me.

That being said — if I stay in the questioning or conceptual mode for too long it’s like being in a constant DTR with God, instead of just enjoying who He is and living out what I do know and understand. My intimacy with God shrivels like a salted snail.

I don’t want to discourage honest inquiry, and I definitely don’t think your intelligence should be laid aside for some sort of vague mysticism that doesn’t clearly delineate a spiritual experience from indigestion. I do want to encourage you to create space in your life to enjoy who Jesus is and just… rest.

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Kermit gets it. (image from pixabay)

Selah.  

 

 

Staying butthurt at the church will do little more than hurt your butt

Because this is my blog, Ima be real and tell you all that I have been through many spiritual funks… especially in the last 5 years.. especially with the church. There were times I adopted this ‘tude like, “Hey! I’m a wounded spiritual animal, and until the church or God steps​ up their game to win me back, I’m going to stay at home and sulk.” Then I sought out the company of other butthurt Christians so we could commiserate about how crappy or annoying other Christians were.

— I say all of this with zero formal theological training, so if you see anything that looks like the Gospel According to Galloswag, 1) please let me know and 2) please discard it from your mind. Far be it from me to lead someone astray with my own rambles! —

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This little guy kept a grudge at the church, and look where it got him. (pixabay free image)

Because this is my blog, Ima be real and tell you all that I have been through many spiritual funks… especially in the last 5 years.. especially with the church. There were times I adopted this ‘tude like, “Hey! I’m a wounded spiritual animal, and until the church or God steps​ up their game to win me back, I’m going to stay at home and sulk.” Then I sought out the company of other butthurt Christians so we could commiserate about how crappy or annoying other Christians were.

But guess what? The silent treatment doesn’t work with God and the church. I couldn’t emotionally manipulate them into screeching to a stop so they would pat my head and apologize for all the grievous acts they had committed. Nope, they marched on merrily without me as I stewed away like a persecuted pot roast. I get it, y’all. I’ve been one of the Butthurt Brethren. But I beg you, DO NOT stay there.

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This pot roast may feel persecuted, but I would still eat it. (pixabay free images)

If you’re currently butthurt at your church, the Church, &/or God, here are a few thoughts I have from my own experiences. Hopefully they will be helpful.

  • Don’t romanticize your rebellion
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What it looks like to smooch with your rebellion, smh (pixabay free images)

Sometimes my butthurt was just pure contrariness, and I would find comfort in romanticizing my rebellion as a “spiritual journey” or something equally cheesy. But I wasn’t journeying, I wasn’t theologically confused, and I didn’t lack clear direction. The bible is devastatingly straightforward for the most part. The problem was that I was 100% sure what I was (or wasn’t) supposed to do, and 100% sure that I didn’t want to do it. The struggle was actually against myself: knowing what I knew, feeling what I felt, what would I do?

  • Don’t project your spiritual dryness
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When I’m a dry little pile of leaves, the life of others gives me the crankies. (pixabay free images)

You know how when you feel ugly, the beauty of others is offensive? So it goes with spiritual beauty too, it would seem. When I feel spiritually “bleh” because of my own choice to distance myself from God, the blasted perkiness (aka joy) of others makes me want to screech in frustration. When I feel insincere, I doubt the sincerity of others.

  • Do extend the grace shown to you to other Christians

Now, there have been times when I had legit grievances against the church. I’ve encountered blatant racism, blasphemy, and deception there. In fact, no one has hurt or disappointed me more in the past 5 years than people who I met in the Christian community. So why continue?

On a grand scale, the church is Jesus’ bride*, and I doubt Jesus is impressed when I claim to follow him while trashing His bride. What kind of hubs would be alright with that? On a smaller scale, the church hurts people because the church is people and people hurt people.** Yes, I have the right to be offended at some Christians. But instead of seizing this opportunity for personal vindication, why not seize it to exercise my freedom to forgive? Christians are supposed to set themselves apart by the way we love one another, and love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.***

As a final note, in a strange way the disappointments and hurts I’ve encountered within the Christian community have been great motivators for me to keep pursuing God in word and deed, because I really don’t want to discourage my Christian community the way I’ve been discouraged. Not so I can be built up as some righteous super star, but so they’ll be encouraged to keep the faith, too. Upward spiral!

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SPIRAL UP! (pixabay free images)
  • in toto

I’m not advocating for anyone to bury their bad feels and pretend everything is great when it’s​ not. But for the love of your own LIFE please learn from yer ol’ Galloswag and do not waste time pouting, lest you grow into a bitter, shriveled, humiliated grape. Please don’t make your story be “I used to go to church, but now I go around trashing the church.”

Grapple, rassle, yell it out, but KEEP IT MOVING FORWARD. ❤

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*Ephesians 5,  2 Corinthians 11, Revelations​ 19, 21

**Important​ caveat: if your church is full of false teachers, get on out of there! You expect to find sinners in a church just like you’d expect to find weak people in a gym. But one of the main goals of a gym is muscle growth, so if a gym’s trainers and longtime members are content pumping 2 pounders, somethin ain’t right. And one of the main goals of a church is spiritual growth, so if a church’s leaders and long-time members are content with their habitual sin and are preaching blasphemy, somethin ain’t right.

*** John 13 , 1 Corinthians 13