Wednesday, May 3, 2017

With God, Everything is a Battle and You Can't Just Leave

Person dressed in armor with a shield and sword. Image text: "Put on the full armor of God." Image source.
Here's a post that's worth reading: The Dark Side of Grace. It's about how the whole "Jesus saved us when we were so unworthy" thing looks a lot like an abusive relationship. The abuser wants to make the victim believe they are bad and unlovable, that they are "lucky" to have the abuser, that "no one else will love you like I do," that any small bit of kindness from the abuser is an amazing gift that the victim does not deserve.

And, yes, that is TOTALLY how good evangelicals talk about our relationship with God. (Do go and read the whole thing.)

The part I want to talk about is this, from the end of the post:
I suggest you try getting out from under that narrative for a time to see if the way you see yourself changes for the better. Take a break from this possessive “Lover of your soul” and find out for yourself if maybe there’s another way, a kinder way, to see yourself. One that doesn’t require constantly lowering your own opinion of yourself in order to magnify his glory.

I think you’ll find the world outside of that relationship a more natural fit, if you’ll give it a chance. But I don’t expect you to take my word for it. You’ll have to decide for yourself what you’re ready to do.
The writer, Neil Carter, suggests that Christians take a temporary break from their relationship with God, just to see if maybe they'd be better off without it. And while I understand where this suggestion is coming from, there was no way it would have been helpful to me, back when I was "on fire for Jesus."

First of all, I believed that I couldn't live without Jesus- and this plays out as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pastors and Christian leaders explicitly preach that humans are all incompetent at even the most basic things when we try to do them without God's help. There are many worship songs about how "I am nothing without you." And if a Christian of this type tries to "live without God" for a short period of time, any difficulties they encounter will be seen as EVIDENCE that it was a terrible idea, that it's true they can't live without God. I have heard a lot of testimonies along these lines, actually. "I was trying to do XYZ and it wasn't working, then I realized I hadn't prayed about it/ wasn't relying on God/ was doing it for the wrong reasons. I was trying to do it without God, and that's why it failed."

So if you "try to live without God" but don't change any of the surrounding ideology, then it's only going to confirm "it's true, I can't do anything without God."

But more importantly, the reason it would have been unthinkable for me to step away from my relatinoship with God is that I believed life was a constant spiritual battle. Everything was a big deal, everything was urgent, and I had to submit myself to Jesus every moment. To stop for a second and do anything other than "put God first" would be sin- and remember, any sin, no matter how tiny, is a huge, infinite crime against God. It's a slap in the face of the one who loves me more than anyone else. It's a disease that leaves long-lasting damage in my life.

If you're a soldier in the middle of a battle, can you say, "I'm going to try not fighting for a little while and see how I feel about that"? There's no TIME for that!!! We're trying to save people from hell!!! If you get off track for a second, do you know how much that could set us back, how it could reverse the progress we've worked so hard for?

That's exactly what satan would want you to do. To be deceived into thinking "obeying God isn't that urgent, it's okay to take a break from some of these things and reconsider if it's really good for me or not."

Back then, I was under so much stress because of my devotion to Jesus. Everything was a battle, everything was a big deal. Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. I didn't realize it was stress; I was very happy because I believed what I was doing was extremely important and that God cared about it.

And the problem is, there's not really anything logically inconsistent in that ideology. Back then, I believed that mundane, everyday actions and feelings were all part of a huge spiritual battle- and if it seemed like that wasn't true, well, that's just what satan would want me to think, obviously he has a better chance of winning if he can convince Christians that it's actually not a spiritual battle, and it's fine for them to relax a bit instead of being constantly focused on devotion to God. There's no way to disprove this- it's all logically consistent.

All I can say is this: Do you really think a loving God intends for their followers to be in a constant state of stress like that? Do you believe in a God who doesn't care at all about mental health? That's all I got, the only way I know to argue against this ideology. Because it is logically consistent; perhaps God thinks mental health doesn't matter, and intends for us to live like we are in a contant battle, with every thought and emotion conquered and submitted to them. It's logically consistent, but heartless.

You can advise Christians of this type to "take a break." Actually, I've heard from many atheists that leaving their relationship with God was such a good decision and things are so much better without God. That's good. But for a Christian in the middle of that, who buys into all the "we can't live without God" ideology, who sees every day as a huge battle against sin, this advice isn't meaningful at all.

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