Have you ever met a religious nut? If you are like me then you’ve had more than your share. But what makes one person of faith an inspiration while another borders on the bizarre?
For the sake of authenticity, I better confine my comments to Christians with their particular traditions. Still, I totally know that you can’t talk about such things without treading on somebody’s toes. So, be warned! If they are overly touchy tuck them away. If not… here goes.
Somehow, without meaning to, some individuals turn their sheer enthusiasm into a kind of aggressive zealousness. They don’t mean to drive others crazy. It just works out that way.
You know the genus. Typically they like to name drop God in ostentatious ways (which, understandably, is rather hard to argue) and pepper their pronouncements with more religious jargon than a ministers’ convention. Oh, and throwing in a few thee’s and thy’s often gets attention.
They may claim that God spoke to them about all sorts of odd matters, like the state of the trashcans (inevitably an unholy mess), whether or not to put the cat out (the infernal creature), and all the people that they hate. Unquestionably, it’s a strange mix.
One woman I met declared she was having a chat with God on the way over, gossiping about this and that. Apparently, He told her she ought to buy a certain brand of car (a Ford incidentally), have her hair curled, and wear a particular outfit to school that day.
This continued with which biscuits she should be eating from the staffroom selection and why she needed the floral coffee cup instead of the other chipped ones. Given the way she mauled the macaroons and picked over the pastries at the welcoming function, I coined a phrase to suit this vision. I call it the “God Wants Me To Eat Your Chocolates” phenomenon (“If I want it, then God says I can have it”).
Basically it boils down to an all too public stream of consciousness where God is transmogrified into their running thoughts. This gives the person the power to declare the gravity of their decision-making with none of the responsibility. Plus it sounds strangely impressive.
Now it would be unfair to dump the responsibility for judgmental, overbearing, and gobsmackingly whacko religious types on the Almighty. After all, if they weren’t in Church they’d be driving people crazy about fly-tying, nail clipping collections, or something else esoteric.
Inherently, these people are eccentric, and the way they express their beliefs reflects that. Yet, there is a rather uncomfortable fact attached.
If that Bible thumping, oddball who makes a beeline for you every time he sees you were obsessed about postage stamps instead, you wouldn’t feel nearly as uncomfortable with them.
In a sense, without thinking, the Church does more than accept. It all too easily celebrates zealotry, letting those who ply it wreak havoc in the name of dedication. It shouldn’t, but it does.
Spawned from that unfortunate marriage of Christian calling and a person’s social distortions we get whacko religiousness. Unless people gently but firmly quell such antisocial behaviors, the damage continues. But if such actions draw admiration, the effect is relationally as dangerous as throwing petrol on an open fire.
Despite this damage, the message of faith still brings healing to a great many. People still find profound insights in relationship and comfort through their faith and grow in the process. It’s just that I believe it’s time the Church got tough on whacko religiousness. To pretend it away merely ends up hurting everyone.
For the sake of compassion it’s time for greater personal accountability. Time people of faith (and indeed everyone) reached out with open hands and humility in the name of the love they live for and dared to do better.
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