Posts Tagged ‘judgmentalism’

I Might Be Insane: The Kingdom Is Not One Of Clothing

February 11, 2013 1 comment

​Clothing is for covering nakedness, keeping warm, protecting skin, and supporting sensitive members. I love clothing for these reasons (there are probably a few more too). I’m a big fan of all the pragmatic uses of clothing. I also love when people choose to express their individuality through clothing choices.

​Clothing has a lot of other social functions that I am not a fan of. Clothing can be a way of boasting about disposable income. Some people convey professionalism and capacity through their clothing. Clothing is used to try to look attractive. Clothing is used to acquire acceptance and respect from others. Clothing is used to receive praise. Social rules which most people understand and accept underly our use of clothing.

​I find these rules to be shallow and limiting of people. The rules divide people based on class, income, social position, culture, power, attractiveness, respectability, career, etcetera. The rules include expectations of “proper” attire for particular places and/or situations. The expectations and divisions of the rules are the source of much judgment of others for the clothing they wear. Clothing is another way for humanity to make presuppositions about others, evaluate who they are, assume things about their life, and judge them for how they cover their nakedness and keep warm.

​Our rules about clothing are silly and unfounded. The only reason these rules exist is because everyone lives as if they do. They have no real grounding in reality. There is no reason these clothing rules must exist, but the rules will continue to limit people, marginalize outgroups, result in judgment, and create division as long as people continue to participate in them and enforce them. For the sake of unity and freedom,  I believe kingdom people should seek to overturn these rules about something as superficial as clothing, but churches participate in these rules as much as the rest of society.

​I was once questioned for my attire (I assure you I wasn’t showing any cleavage or too much leg) at a church by someone willing to have a discussion about it. When I asked him why he believes in wearing a certain type of clothing to church, he said it was to show respect to God. I’m all for showing respect for God, but I don’t know where we got the idea that God feels a lot of respect when we wear a coat and tie. God’s not that petty and narrow minded. In most churches, there is an understood proper and improper attire, but again, these rules are arbitrary, unecessary, promote judgmentalism, and limit expression. I imagine that in most churches if the pastor was to wear footie pajamas while preaching, there would be a negative response from the congregation. Some might think it was just weird, but many would think it was improper. In reality, there is no inherent impropriety in wearing footie pajamas to preach. It’s only improper because everyone is crazy.

​That all said, some people do feel disrespected when someone wears a type of clothing they don’t like. Success in the economic world is often contingent upon clothing choice. I struggle with trying to show people respect and wear clothing others consider befitting for a particular job or circumstance. I can both wisely submit to these rules while acknowledging they are pretend and engaging in non-participation when the opportunity arises. I know and am persuaded that clothing choice is not important in itself, but it is important for anyone who thinks it is important. For if my brother is grieved by what I wear, I am no longer walking in love. Through love, I can participate in the bullshit while still preaching the kingdom of God that is not about suits and shoes.


Unlikely Teachers of Spirituality: Bars

May 26, 2012 Leave a comment

A lot of things happen at bars which destroy spirituality, are antithetical to the gospel, break people, and perpetuate evil. With that said, I believe we, as the church, can learn from bar communities.

Bars are full of hope. A large percentage of people who go to a bar go there because they are hoping for something. Some people go to the bar because they are hoping for a little relaxation after a long day. Some go because they are hoping to fill their felt needs for intimacy and attention from the opposite sex (and others from the same sex). Some go out of a hope for a sports team. Some go because they hope to find some alleviation of their despair. Some go because they hope to be where they can see our troubles are all the same, they want to go where everyone knows their name. There’s a lot of hope in bar communities.

Bars provide a largely nonjudgmental community.* Part of the reason bars are such an attractive community is their provision of a sense of universal acceptance. It doesn’t matter what your character flaws are, what sins are in your life, how you dress, or what words you use, you’re welcome to be there. The lack of a fear of social condemnation (surely in conjunction with alcohol), creates an environment where people feel more free to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do.** The nonjudgmental nature of the bar community also helps people to be themselves and talk about aspects of their life and character that they may not talk about in any other circumstances. Others feel more free to respond honestly because they trust that even if they come across negative, they will still be accepted.

My experiences at and interpretations of bars resulted in questions about church. Certainly some people come to church because they have hope, but a lot of people also attend church because they feel guilty, socially compelled, morally obligated, and the like. How does the Jesus-centered community be a beacon of hope that outshines the alcohol-centered community? When life is stressful, the future looks bleak, people are lonely, or people are broken, why are they so much more likely to consider going to a bar than going to a church? Why does it sometimes feel like there is more hope there than where the presence of God dwells?

I don’t think it is as simple as saying that those people don’t want to change or they don’t believe in God. I think people are very willing to change if they had hope for healing. I believe the majority of people, whether or not they claim any deity as Lord, believe there is hope in God, Jesus, or a higher spiritual power. The most repellant aspect of church is the fear of judgment and rejection. The outsider fears condemnation, being looked down on for sin, and being unaccepted or accepted as a lesser member of the community.

There are many cases where the inside member of the church community feels the same. Despite best intentions, church environments are frequently still places where people are conscious about what they’re wearing, concerned about screwing up or admitting to screwing up, fearful of doing something out of the ordinary and being condemned for it, and worried about someone else seeing their character flaws. The perception of church environments is not that they are nonjudgmental communities centered around Jesus, but that they are condemnatory communities where people come together to show each other how nice their facades look. I believe for church to shine to the world, it is vital that we find areas where our communities are creating an environment of fear rather than love and replace the fear with unconditional acceptance.
*I have been criticized on a few occasions for my aberrant bar behavior. Talking about Jesus usually is just dandy, but not always.

** Admittedly, many times what people do in bars that they wouldn’t normally do elsewhere is spiritually counterproductive.

Pharisaic Little Brats

December 30, 2010 6 comments

I grew up going to churches. By the time I could create memories, my parents were very involved in churches. The majority of my early childhood memories involve being at a church or church activity. I learned a lot at churches. I learned it was okay to talk about people’s sin behind their back as long as it was for prayer or for warning. I learned it was okay to evaluate someone’s spiritual maturity based upon one’s personal judgment of their actions. I learned that liberals were both terribly misguided individuals and far from God. I learned that the consumption of alcohol was a sin and a sign that someone had strayed from God. I learned that certain words regardless of social context, manner of use, and the heart behind the one using them were wrong to use at all times. The mere morphemes that the words consisted of made them sinful and the use or nonuse of these words was an indicator of one’s relationship with God. I learned that smokers were caught in sinful addiction and that they needed to confess their sin and be saved by Jesus so that they would stop their smoking.

I went to a church that accepted smokers, swearers, drinkers, and political liberals into its congregation. My church was a good church and thought of itself as a good church because it accepted people like this. We took the people other churches didn’t want, these spiritual outsiders with their filthy sinful habits, so that Jesus might reach out to them and save them. I remember people at church going outside to have a smoke, alone. I remember people talking about how now they decided to follow Jesus and quit smoking, and in the same breath subtly criticizing those who smoke as sinners precisely because they smoke. I remember one time my mother telling my father she thought she smelled alcohol on someone’s breath and I remember hearing the sincere concern both of them had that this individual had consumed alcohol.

I learned a lot of things in the church I attended, one full of people with sincere hearts, about what it meant to follow Jesus. And I became a Pharisee. I started looking down on smokers. I started thinking of liberals as idiots. I associated alcohol with sin. I assumed that any swear word in any situation was someone spitting in God’s face. I had learned the church law from my church family and I started holding myself and others to this law. Anyone who didn’t follow it was sinful and needed Jesus. I became one who had much judgment and little mercy. It is my own fault, my arrogance, and the sin within me that caused me to become Pharisaic, but I sure wish someone would have taught me what the Bible says.

I recently heard stories from loved ones about a church. The stories were related to dealing with children in the church. Some of the people who were in charge of leading the youth in the church were going to make a rule for other leaders that they couldn’t smoke if they wanted to be a spiritual leader for the youth. The concern was that parents would get the wrong idea and that the leaders should be models to imitate. I heard another story about a young girl who was confused if she should be friends with a person at school because she went to the other girl’s house and found out the father had alcohol in the basement and he drank sometimes. The girl was unsure if it was okay to even associate with someone whose parent drank alcohol. After hearing these stories, day after day I would pray and I would weep.

I was afraid they would turn out like I did. For it seems that they are being taught through example the same lies that I learned from my church. It would be better for these kids to die at 40 with lung cancer than for them to live as Pharisees, believing that their version of the law and the good news of the Messiah were equivalent. I am scared they will become like I did, thinking that the power of the Holy Spirit was given to make us better law abiders. I am frightened that these poor young ones will take the laws they learned from their church and hold others to the same traditions of men that I once held people to. I’m afraid they will learn to judge others’ relationship with God based upon a handful of taboo behaviors. I’m afraid these kids might become Pharisaic like I once was, becoming like the very people Jesus was harshest with.

If we don’t talk about the many things Scripture says implicitly about things like smoking (“Everything is permissible, but I will not be mastered by anything;” Obey the authorities not only because of fear of punishment, but because of conscience; etc.) we won’t really be teaching the next generation of Christ followers how to live as a disciple of Jesus. If we model for them that smoking is sinful, then it is likely they will judge smokers and equate the use or nonuse of tobacco as a way to gauge one’s level of obedience to Jesus. If we are treating smoking as some sign of immaturity, we’re damaging the youth by not talking about the dangers of smoking while acknowledging that through thankfulness inhaling a cigarette can be an act that glorifies Jesus.

We need to teach children that having a relationship with God is not incongruent with smoking a cigarette. We need to teach our children that the Law has died with Christ and no longer has power. We need to teach the future generations of Jesus followers that there are inherent dangers in many behaviors, but what is important is that in all things Jesus is Lord. The kingdom of God is not one of drinking or smoking, but is about something far more significant, life that is truly life. We have to stop stacking laws onto what is necessary to be justified and live righteously before God, or may we be eternally condemned. If we add Law to the good news, we destroy the good news and are left with impotent rules that cannot make anyone right before God.

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