Occasionally I’m reminded of the mythic attitudes of draconian Christians who make outrageous statements like, “You don’t pray enough,” or “women can’t preach,” or “You can’t wear those clothes here,” or “Some people are ‘more equal’ than others,” and “antidepressants are of the devil.” I mean, where do such relationally divisive attitudes come from? And when I say “mythic,” I really mean, we hear of these attitudes, but rarely do I personally encounter them. But very many covet these attitudes deeper down, which is why these attitudes don’t always appear so prevalently.
1. “You don’t pray enough” – who does? Genuine faith is not about how much we pray, but prayer is still a great indicator of how healthy our faith is. When someone says, “You don’t pray enough,” they are boiling down your problem to something you have caused, when realistically there are always a myriad of potential reasons our faith may be struggling. Grief is just one tremendously valid reason. Surely when we hone in on one thing to the exclusion of all the others we miss the others; we miss the greater portion of truth; we miss the mark, and yes, we sin.
2. “Women can’t preach,” a person says. What, not even the woman who preaches like Rachel Held Evans (1981–2019) or Barbara Brown Taylor or Dr Brenda Salter McNeil? What does different anatomy have to do with the doing of a particular task? It just seems so nonsensical when there are many voices, male and female, who God made to be heard. Surely we set ourselves up to miss out when we exclude 50% of the population, cart blanche. We should’ve learned long ago that blanket rules really don’t work in every situation (or even most situations).
3. “You can’t wear those clothes here.” Of course, we are not talking about someone walking into church wearing only lingerie or a thong. It’s like me toying with the idea of going shopping in my pyjamas — (which I would love to do one day). That’s not what we’re talking about. We are talking about the finer points of special even unspoken rules that are made to exclude people based purely out of what they wear or don’t wear or how they wear it. Nit-picking like this is unbecoming. But it’s the same issue if you insist people wear a particular thing to make them look more cool. Skinny jeans and Converse shoes. The latest hairstyle. Hats. “Put a little make up on...” or, “No you don’t!” There are so many extraneous things that aren’t worth talking about. They take the focus off the more important things. The more important things are about spiritual life and death, releasing people from oppression of spirit, social justice, the least of these.
4. “Some people are ‘more equal’ than others,” is said beneath the veneer of a lot of humanity, and it is birthed in dangerous ignorance and paucity of empathy. You get a lot of this in racial discrimination where white privilege really is a thing. When any human being sees itself as superior to another human being that human being is its own god. He or she is blind, entrapped in the most heinous disability — the inability to love their neighbour. There are many who say they are followers of Jesus who think like this, and perhaps this is one example where Jesus might say in the end, “Get away from me you evildoers” (see Matthew 7:15-20). Of course, the same may be said about those who reject people on account of their same-sex attraction, bi-sexuality, transgenderism, and their lifestyles to these ends, etc. The bigoted are captive to their own spiritual self-elevation.
5. “Antidepressants are of the devil.” Like the above statements, these are not only silly statements, they are downright dangerous. You mean to say that your spiritual opinion is more important than a medical practitioner’s — one who has given 7-10 years of their life to the study of objective medical science? Who owns more truth on this particular stage? I’m going with the physician, the doctor who has the greater portion of society’s trust. Here, we can attest that God owns all the truth, all the wisdom, even the secular wisdom. God owns the science. The science vindicates the truth that we’re biochemical machines who very easily go out of balance. To say such a broad sweeping statement, that certain pharmaceutical preparations are evil, is tantamount to absurdity. Such beliefs are fit for conspiracy theorists, not doctors of the church. I praise the Lord for the many pastors and leaders in the church who have partaken of these pharmaceutical preparations and are advocates for the therapy they give.