Several astute readers have pointed out the seeming discrepancy between my two most recent blogs posted before this one. In one blog I identified the reason for my hesitancy in committing to Xenos- cussing. In the next blog I posted a diatribe written by me while I still attended a church of the institution- and it was filled with cussing (as those same astute readers pointed out)! So why did I cuss at my old church and then come to Xenos and say “I don’t like this church because they cuss”? I am going to try as best as I can to explain. I can’t really explain how but I think I can explain why.
So here’s the final blog of this miniseries, the “one blog to rule them all.”
I’ve been trying to identify the way I was thinking. Sure, it was bad. I was cynical, bitter and unloving ad infinitum.
In trying to pick apart my attitude-in-remission, I can only agree with Keith’s assessment, which he so eloquently posits in a brief comment following the “Harbinger…” blog. He calls it a “Rich Young Ruler Syndrome” and that’s exactly what it is. I probably have a different idea of what exactly Keith means by that phrase but I’ll try to explain what I think he means.
The evangelical institutional church is good for (at least) one thing: educating young people. I have had the Bible read to me, by me and for me since I was a toddler. You don’t walk away from twenty-plus years of Sunday school education without retaining at least something. And I was home-schooled in a conservative Christian home where we regular Bible reading was part of my mother’s curriculum as well! With all this knowledge coming in, I retained quite a bit.
This is a blog about knowledge, particularly my knowledge.
It’s weird- in the institutional church, in the institutional church body, it’s largely a goody-two-shoes type of environment. Can we play cards? Does God have “a beat?” Is drinking beer the same thing as committing murder? Is listening to rock music sinful? Those questions are the hairpin at the heart of the institutional church. A kid raised in that environment spends his entire spiritual upbringing “wrestling” with tough questions like this!
But boy do we know our stuff. We had Bible drills when I was in junior high. They supplied the “game” portion of Sunday School. How would you younger guys like that? An old, tired, gray-skinned and liver-spotted lady at the front of the room says something like “Haggai 2:12” and all the class in unison scrambles through their Bibles hoping to be the first to find the “drilled” verse. This was our GAME TIME.
So you’re raised in this environment where all this knowledge is coming in…but no one is telling you how to apply it to your life. You are frequently at the business ends of mindless platitudes and trite Christian-ese like “Just have more faith,” or “Try to do God’s will.” It’s an environment where you’re always hearing “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). You’re always hearing about how you can “…soar with wings as eagles” (Isaiah 40:31). Everyone in the church is on that unending quest for the next verse that will look great carved in a block of wood and sitting on the mantle at home.
Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge. This stuff is drummed into you from the time you can understand the English language! Everyone around you lives this nicey-nice life where apparently they have overcome every human temptation and recognize sin as something only other people struggle with.
So how the fuck does a Christian teen rebel against all that institutionalized bullshit? He writes cuss words in his diary while sitting in the main worship service of the same church that taught him cussing was sinful, and then feels guilty about it.
In that atmosphere of nicey-nice, you want to be seen as the NOT NICE one. So you might cuss every now and then so all your nicey-nice friends look at you and go, “Ooh, he’s the worldly one…” The other guys’ moms shake their heads when they walk past you in the narthex, muttering to their husbands about how they overheard you say H-E-double-hockey-sticks last week.
So you want to be seen in the institutional church as the “bad boy.”
Then you come to a church where everyone is a rebel and your entire rebellion is dismantled.
The only option is to self-righteously proclaim “What the Bible actually says,” and how you know this because you were raised in the church. You were raised in the church, which means you’re better! You’re not like these, these, little filthy-filthkins and their cussing.
You fucking Pharisee. You fucking god-damned Pharisee.
You couldn’t fucking love your way out of an empty fucking room.
This is why my blog is called “I Incriminate Myself.”