[TELEGRAM] The Adventures of the Aggressively Pious

“How you believe God perceives people will determine how you respond to them.” -Jacquelyn K. Heasley

I see your eyes darting back and forth, and you’re sitting on the edge of the couch again. This is how you get when you sense an opportunity. Relax and let me finish my story. Listen for a bit longer.

I already know what you’re about to say. I’ve heard the pitch. It’s boring the way you sell God to me using someone else’s words. You promise that God loves us intimately but you treat me like a customer. Your approach makes faith feel more like a pyramid scheme. Do you think there’s a heavenly bonus once you preach at a certain number of people?

Please stop talking about your earnest devotion. Can’t I just see God shining through your life instead? Because I rarely see it in you, and I want to see it in you.

**

Are these telegrams new to you? Here’s a little background on what they are, and why.


9 thoughts on “[TELEGRAM] The Adventures of the Aggressively Pious

  1. My favorite reply to those who push their agendas. Red Jacket, Seneca Leader,in 1805 speaking to a missionary intent on converting the savages.

    “Brothers, our seats were once large, and yours were small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon us.

    Brother, continue to listen. You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeable to his mind; and if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right, and we are lost. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given to us — and not only to us, but to our forefathers — the knowledge of that book, with the means of understanding it rightly? We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?”

    • Thanks for the comment. I’ve edited it down because we ask that readers not paste large portions of material not written by them. We’re more interested in your personal thoughts.

  2. Thank you Ian!
    Here’s my rant. 
    What is the Biblical precedence to use Charles Stanley-isms, like: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?”
    What if He doesn’t?
    The Potter makes out of the same lump of sinful clay, some vessels fit for honor, and others for destruction! Ask Pharaoh? (For this very purpose I have raised you up!) Ask Esau? (…they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls)! God say’s that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and compassion on whom He will have compassion. Its not according to mans will, nor his deeds, but, upon God who has mercy!
    One of my life long friends (who confess’ Christ) believes our Loving God would never send good people to hell! (never mind that God says there aren’t any good people! No! Not one! None! Rom 1 etc….)
    This “God loves you” stuff is not the Gospel (though God is Love 1 Jn 4:16) and there’s no Biblical precedence to go around telling people “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
    Spurgeon and others warned that to do so could be disastrous to the soul of the unbeliever, in that it cauterizes the conscience so that one would find no need of repentance from their treasonous rebellion against The Holy God.
    How we want to blow off, ignore, water down, or, omit altogether, the Scriptures that also teach that God hates the wicked!
    ….And the one who loves violence His soul hates.!(Ps 11:5).
    ….You hate all who do iniquity (Ps 5:5). Jacob I loved, Esau I hated (Rom 9).
    After all, aren’t all those who are not found clothed in the righteousness of Christ, “The wicked?”

    The Saint Francis-ism: “Preach the Gospel always, when necessary use words” which the protestant church has picked up.

    What’s the difference between the really nice people at work that never swears, is punctual, polite, works at the food bank, and is a foster parent, and loves his neighbor?
    The Mormon missionaries that mow the lawns, bring groceries, help you load the moving van, go to church 3 times a week? Can’t you see their devotion shining through? Yet they’re heading for destruction!
    We cannot stop short of the message! A Christian must use words! Gods words!
    God forbid that there’s people in hell because I, or Saint Francis, fed, clothed, nursed, and washed the feet of people, but never gave them the Gospel! What love is this?

    A side note.
    Whilst writing this my dog started barking. I went to the door, and a young man was canvassing the hood putting flyers on door knobs, which read: “STRESSED OUT? bills behind? Car broke down? Traffic a nightmare? Yada yada yada
    JOIN US to find rest and peace in God and learn what the Bible says about how to handle stress.”

    I ask the young man if Jesus died to save us from stress? “Yes!” Was his answer!
    Really? Just then the new pastor of their church walked up, another young guy (I’m in my fifty’s they looked 30ish) and I asked him the same thing, and he pretty much gave the same answer (I know that stress wasn’t the whole message, but felt obligated to push the conversation).
    I said something about the American church using gimmicks to draw people to church wasn’t Biblical, to which the said it wasn’t a gimmick (fine, a sales pitch then).
    It got around somehow to the Apostles and early church, how those day’s were different because they were being slaughtered etc…. for the faith, which was my point exactly!
    Christians are still being butchered, tortured, and imprisoned today for their faith in Christ! Do you think that is stressful?
    Paul stated that on one missionary trip: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.” (2 Cor 1:8).

    So, why not tell people the truth? Why not be different? Why not pass out flyers stating that God hates wicked people and is going to judge them, and then who exactly the wicked people are? Perhaps God would start filling the pews w/fearful repentant sinners?
    Then we can tell them that God loves people and has given us a way to escape His wrath! Imagine that! The Law/Gospel principle, as taught in the Bible, by know less the Lord Himself.
    God, saving man from God!
    Let us do good works to glorify God, and open our mouths w/the proclamation of the gospel (which is the power of God unto salvation), in that God would grant the unbeliever repentance?

    Soli Dei Gloria!
    Lamont.

    • There are enough people out there that believe that the Bible is about God’s wrath, and yet don’t put their faith in Jesus, partially because of all the preaching they’ve seen about God’s wrath.

      I struggle with what you wrote, because I both agree, and disagree with points you’ve made. I absolutely believe in telling people the truth and not using gimmicks. I believe that the Gospel is far more than what is often preached in churches today. But if I understood you correctly that we need to preach more about God’s wrath, then there is where I get a bit nervous. This is because most of the preachers I’ve ever seen, known, and heard of who preach the most about God’s wrath are often preaching fire and brimstone and the people first in line to Hell are the homosexuals and liberals. I honestly believe that truth can be proclaimed without preaching judgement and wrath.

      While I don’t know about what Charles Stanley said or where he’s coming from exactly , there is indeed a precedent for God loves us. I hate to point out the obvious, but remember John 3:16, “God so loved the world”. But on the other hand, I agree in that I cringe a bit at the quote you gave, as it sounds more like a sales pitch than it should. Let’s not forget though that “God loves us” is in fact part of the message, but that “love” in that sense refers to sacrifice and actions of love rather than just a group hug.

      A person who says that God wouldn’t send anyone to Hell, is ignoring the reality of sin and the Fallenness of the world. A church that focuses on relieving stress has forgotten to “Take up your cross”. But to counter-act these issues with preaching more about wrath and Hell is in my opinion also doing something that is unbiblical. Hell was mostly preached about by Jesus, and mostly he was preaching this to the religious elite. In all likelihood, if Jesus came back today he would be preaching hell to the church leaders and Christian institutions, not non-believers.

      Why don’t we hand out flyers saying that “God hates wicked people and is going to judge them, and then who exactly the wicked people are?” So who decides who the wicked people are? If we believe the scriptures, we are all wicked at least in some degree. You could include ourselves on the list, but then I’m not sure that would get the effect you meant. And by listing any particular person(s) as the “wicked”, you have then severed any possible communications with that person(s), thus refusing them the redemption found in Jesus.

      I’ll stop here. Like I said, there are things on which I agree with you, but much which I cannot agree. And some issues deserve more of a response than can be easily given here, or that I can give.

      Peace,

      • Great response Andy M!
        Of course, its practially impossible to give a well balanced articulation.
        Perhaps someone can give me an example where Christ, or, His followers gave unbelievers the ol’ “God loves you?”
        They gave them the law and the Gospel (woman at the well, Rich Young ruler). Of course, one who has already been beaten down by the weight of their own sin only needs the gospel, not another foot on their neck! Jesus would not break a bruised reed, or snuff-out a smoking wick! (we must keep that in mind!)

        Whatever is not of faith is sin! Unbelievers are faithless (Rom 1, 2 Thes 3:2), therefore every deed they do, even feeding the hungry, is rebellion against God! They are not doing it for His glory, but for their own.
        To leave the nice little granny who thinks she can stand before God in her own self righteousness on judgement day is certain destruction.
        We are no better! Yet we have been saved and need to warn our fellow human beings of the judgement come, and the grace of God!

        Soli Dei Gloria!

        • Bless you Lamot! Once again I feel I agree yet disagree at the exact same time.

          The idea that God loves humanity has deep foundations in scripture, even in the Old Testament which is supposedly more about the “wrath of God”. It is too deep of a topic to even briefly cover here, but if looked at with a certain perspective, I believe most if not all actions by God in the Old Testament can be understood as acts of love. Though I admit this isn’t always easy to see. Looking for love in the Bible isn’t just looking for Jesus, his disciples, or the prophets going around telling people, “God loves you”. Part of that stems from the fact that many if not most Jews at that time would have assumed God’s love, because they were of course, God’s Chosen Nation. But Jesus spent time with the outcasts, dining with them, which in that culture is about as much of a compliment as you can give someone. Jesus showed his love by his actions.

          The problem is that it seems much of the time that churches today choose one of two options. 1, preach about hell, wrath, judgement, lake of fire, etc, in order to scare the pants off of people so that they might recite the sinners prayer (which isn’t very “loving”). Or 2, we group-hug, sing Kum Ba Yah, and generally look like a camp of hippies without the sex and drugs. (love like that is often not a full expression of real “love”).

          Generally, I would say that how we communicate with people needs to be handled 1 on 1, because one person may need to see the love, but then another person may need to be convicted of their sin (though there are others ways to convict people than through wrath talk). There is no single way to communicate the Gospel.

          But here is a problem. Because of the way Christians have been in the past, are currently, and probably will be in the future, there is a large percentage of non-christians who believe that we are the cause of most problems, not the answer.

          According to David Kinnaman’s book, Unchristian, “the three most common perceptions of present-day Christianity are antihomosexual (91%), judgemental (87%), and hypocritical (85%).” Now, these may be unfair stereotypes, but yet that is the majority perception of Christians in this country. (I will add that the study was of 16 to 29 year olds).

          Now, historically Christians have been accused of many things, but in our culture what this study tells me is that these people aren’t offended by the Gospel, they are offended by us. Even if they are unfair stereotypes, which I tend to think they often are, we all still must deal with the consequences of having such a poor public image. From the study, it looks to me like collectively we aren’t showing people God’s love or grace, only wrath. And that non-christians aren’t seeing God’s transformative power working within the lives of Christians. So I would conclude that maybe what U.S. society needs to see more of from Christians is God’s love.

          I’ll stop here before this gets much longer. I’ll just conclude that we need God’s love, God’s grace, God’s conviction, God’s truth, God’s discipline, but out of all this we most need God’s love.

          Peace be upon you,

  3. Funny you mention Charlie Stanley. Someone sent me one of his tapes when I was struggling with depression and he kept going on about a depressed Christian being the worst testimony. I was really glad he wasn’t Jesus!!!! I threw the tape in the trash as I didn’t want other depressed Christian getting more depressed.

  4. Lamot writes, “The Mormon missionaries…they’re heading for destruction!”

    Perhaps this is the crux of Ian’s thesis – that black and white platitudes no longer work, whether it be casting aspersions against other religions (I’m in – you’re out), or cheapening salvation by reducing it to a propositional belief system.

    An old fundamentalist apologist used to say about people who didn’t believe like him: “they’re sincere, but they’re sincerely wrong.” I’ve come to see that kind of thinking as little more than pride, even religious arrogance. “I have the truth, you don’t. I am saved, you’re not. My understanding of ancient texts is correct, yours isn’t.” I’m long done with that kind of fundamentalist mind set.

    As I get older, I’m becoming more comfortable having more questions than answers; recognizing that there is always more to learn about everything (especially religion, the cross, etc.); that I need all kinds of other people in my life – not just members of my “belief-tribe”; that I need to be more vulnerable around others rather than triumphalistly certain of my religious ideas; that simple love and care for others speaks more than religious sloganeering ever could; that the cross is more about dying to my religious understandings and certainties rather than becoming the expert; and recognizing that all people, regardless of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) are my teachers and my brothers and sisters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail