Monday, June 18, 2018

Cut Out the Middleman (or, why I am the master and commander of my own life)

Tweet from Timothy Keller (@timkellernyc) from 6/12/18. "You are under qualified for the job of master and commander of your own life."
All right we have to talk about this tweet from Tim Keller. "You are under qualified for the job of master and commander of your own life."

He's saying people shouldn't run their own lives. We shouldn't be in charge- we should let God run our lives instead. We can't do it on our own; we're "under qualified" because we're weak and sinful.

You guys, I really used to believe this. Really, literally. I believed I wasn't able to make my own decisions. Every major life decision needed to be prayed over and I needed to figure out what "God" wanted me to do, because if I decided on my own that would just lead to disaster.

And it wasn't just about major life decisions. Every day I worked on my evangelism, trying to "show God's love" to people and get them "saved." I believed God was constantly active in my "unsaved" friends' lives. God had a plan for them and I wanted so much to be a part of it. I believed God had certain things in mind I could do to help them "get saved."

I worked so hard to try to "listen to God" and do what he (he!) wanted. And it was so hard to figure out! Sometimes I wished that God would just physically take control of me and have me do the actions or say the words, because that's the only way I would be able to do exactly the right thing that God wanted me to do. I imagined there was some perfect ideal set of actions I was supposed to take, that only God knew, and I was the weak link in the chain. I wasn't able to "listen to God" good enough to figure out what *exactly* I was supposed to do. If only God could have just cut out the middleman! If only God could just possess me and control my body to follow his plan perfectly. Wouldn't that make so much more sense? Why did God even give me the ability to control my own actions? I wished he hadn't. I knew I wasn't going to be able to do it perfectly like he wanted.

Keller's tweet showcases the anti-self ideology that forms the backbone of the Christianity I used to believe. It defines the entire thing, and I got the receipts right here. I was taught that Adam and Eve's sin was that they wanted to control their own lives, rather than let God be in control. I was taught that people are weak and worthless and can't do anything right without God. I was taught that you're either a slave to sin or a slave to God- in other words, if you don't have a "personal relationship with Jesus" then you're controlled by your sin and can't choose to do what's right. I was taught to be suspicious of my own emotional needs and my own body's desires- whether it was for acceptance, friendship, safety, food, sleep, free time, my attraction to people- those things might just be my sinful nature trying to tempt me. I needed to "die to self" and obey God instead.

Here's the problem, though: If I'm not the "master and commander of [my] own life" then who is? Well, of course the answer would be God. But which god? See, I would have to pick which version of god to submit to. I pick. It will never not be my choice.

When I was little, Christians taught me all about what God wants us to do. They told me what God's position was on various issues- as if God's rules were obvious and the only question is do we obey or not. But then I found the internet and read things from outside the evangelical bubble. I found out there are other ways to do Christianity. Instead of "God says X, do I obey or not?" it was actually "these Christians say God says X, but these other Christians say God says Y instead, which one do I believe?" And that is a choice I have to make for myself. The idea of giving control of that decision over to God is completely unintelligible. It's logically impossible to let God decide what "letting God decide" means.

And at this point, I believe in a God, but I don't give them control of my life. I control my own life. Because I used to be in a personal relationship with a god, and that relationship steamrolled my own individuality and my own freedom, and I still feel the trauma from that. Because if it's actually me picking which god to follow, then doing what that god tells me to do, why not just cut out the middleman and do what I think is right in the first place?

And all Christians are picking which version of God they follow. Or, if they thought there was only 1 version available, that means they're letting their Christian role models pick for them. So let's be done with this crap about "you shouldn't control your own life." You are important, your needs and desires matter, and you are the best qualified for the job of managing your own life. Don't submit to any god who says otherwise.


You asked and I answered~ In my 2018 Reader Survey, one of the top 5 topics you voted for was "evangelical Christianity." Hence this post. :)

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