Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ashamed of Christians

Servants, be obedient to those who according to the flesh are your masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as to Christ; not in the way of service only when eyes are on you, as men pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is bound or free.
Ephesians 6.5-8, World English Bible

I've got nothing against God,
it's his fan club I can't stand.
— Unbelievers' slogan

This is not an easy article to write. Here I am on vacation, the place to myself, and I'm running all over chasing after shiny things instead of actually writing it. Then I had to walk away to think and pray. Once you read it, you will see why I had difficulties. Although I do not set out to irritate people on this Weblog, I am certain that people on both sides of the chasm will be annoyed.

In previous posts, I have taken Christians to task over several things (and tried to encourage people to get into the Word and live according to God's purposes in our lives).  The verses at the top are somewhat out of context. In modern usage, they illustrate a principle for employees to realize that their ultimate employer is God and to work to please him most of all. I believe that this principle is valid for all we do as followers of Jesus, that we should strive to do our best in all things.

If we are going to identify ourselves as followers of Christ, we must live and act like it (Rom. 15.5-6, Rom. 12.1-2, 1 John 1.5-6, 1 Peter 2.12 NIV, James 3.13). Our conduct, as well as our words, are supposed to be part of our testimony to the lost (1 Peter 3.15-16 NASB). Those of us who take the Bible seriously enough to share the gospel have enough difficulties already from getting tongue-tied, having interruptions and distractions, trying to make the most of our opportunities, people finding excuses to disbelieve and more. We do not need liberal church-ians ("Christians" who use church-going as a religious social club and a "Get Out of Hell Free Card") making things more difficult with their attitudes and conduct! Nor can we have Bible-believing Christians giving in to their weaknesses (Gal. 5.16-21), either.



Listen, everyone is going to have bad days and foul up. I get that. I do that. We need to repent of our conduct and attitudes, and not make excuses for them. Worse, we cannot make a lifestyle of such things. If we do that, what good are we to God?

I came across some comments, and obtained permission to use them here (without identification). The first commenter said:
So, I really don't like the "Church Crowd." (The people that go out for food and such right after church.) We were at [an area restaurant] yesterday (awesome) and it was just filled with all of these well-dressed Sunday types. OK, that's cool, just waited in line.
But then, all of them one after another just kept treating the staff like crap because their food was taking longer than usual (busy day, duh!) and just kept downtalking them and whispering to one another basically agreeing that everyone other than them were a lesser being. Basically they all just go from being all fake-nice at church, and then immediately show who they really are once outside the doors. So thank you for validating one of the main reasons I don't go to church in the first place. (The other one being that MOST-not all- people there are always so conceited and full of the "I'm better than you" attitude. That's the stuff.)
Here is a reply:
Having worked in food service for [many] years, I appreciate your observations. I hate working Sunday mornings for the same and have formulated my own theory on this Sunday behavior.

People will go about their whole week being cordial towards one another unless otherwise provoked. When church day comes, they come to their lord with apologetic hearts and minds to be degraded by their pastor for being sinners. They endure this mass humiliation for nearly 2 hours, having become convinced that they are scum, leave their church to take this new self-loathing out on the serving public (who did not go to their god for apology) to feel better about being sinners now that they can live up to the title.
I, too, have been in food service. One of the ugliest things to see is someone who is not getting the food that they want when they want it, "church-goer" or not. But there is a problem here when church people as a whole can bring shame on Christians (and, ultimately, the name of Christ) because of selfishness and bad conduct. All of us can use improvement (1 John 1.9).

My regular readers know that I spend quite a bit of time dealing with logical responses and the lack thereof from unbelievers. These readers also know that I am well aware that we cannot live our lives being analytical all the time and stifling our emotions. We are human, after all.

But we can have some control over our emotions and learn some clear thinking practices. That is one reason I wrote the "Logic Lessons" series. Since I use real examples for those lessons, there are some things I would like to point out in the above dialogue.

First, there was an assumption that this was a "church crowd". This is based on the time of day and their clothing. Although it is a reasonable assumption, it is not conclusive. From the information given, they could have been on lunch break from a convention at a hotel down the road. Still, I will assume the original assumption is probably correct.

Second, "Basically they all just go from being all fake-nice at church, and then immediately show who they really are once outside the doors." Let's see...abusive ad hominem, hasty generalization, appeal to motive, maybe a bit of poisoning the well fallacies. These kinds of things seem most likely to occur from an emotional response.

Third, "So thank you for validating one of the main reasons I don't go to church in the first place. (The other one being that MOST-not all- people there are always so conceited and full of the "I'm better than you" attitude. That's the stuff.)" More of the same. I could give the same approach and say about a rock concert, "Rampant promiscuous sex, un-American values, use of illegal drugs — thank you rock and rollers for validating one of the main reasons I quit listening to rock in the first place." See, this kind of thing is emotional, not substantive. And I wonder about "all of them" being rude.

I have some serious issues with the respondent's comments that followed.

"Having worked in food service for [many] years, I appreciate your observations. I hate working Sunday mornings for the same..."

S/he is speaking from experience, no quarrels there.

"People will go about their whole week being cordial towards one another unless otherwise provoked. When church day comes, they come to their lord with apologetic hearts and minds to be degraded by their pastor for being sinners. They endure this mass humiliation for nearly 2 hours, having become convinced that they are scum, leave their church to take this new self-loathing out on the serving public (who did not go to their god for apology) to feel better about being sinners now that they can live up to the title."

In logic, this is known as a prejudicial conjecture. According to Dr. Jason Lisle,
This is where a person substitutes an arbitrary conjecture for knowledge. He has failed to study the topic in question, and so he simply begins stating guesses based on nothing more than imagination. A prejudicial conjecture is not making a reasonable guess based on the best information available; this is perfectly acceptable. A prejudicial conjecture is where the information in question is publicly available, but the person has failed to do his homework. If he would have simply gone to a public library and done 30 minutes of research, he would know better than to make such an uneducated claim.
In my apologetics work, I encounter this kind of thing frequently. People make arbitrary statements as if they were fact, but if they had "done their homework", they would not make such statements. In addition, it has a straw man argument, hasty generalization, abusive ad hominem and appeal to motive.

(By the way, I have been on this planet for quite a while, and do not know of such places that treat their members with such emotional abuse. Any pastor to acted that way would have an empty church. The problem is quite the opposite, there is too much "feel good now" stuff and not enough respect for the Creator of the universe.)

Again, it is unreasonable to expect people to be analytical all the time. Whether they have a reasonable basis for what they feel, they still feel it. In my experience and learning, people feed their feelings over a long period of time. If you are in a face-to-face conversation with someone who is describing their bitterness, it is not a good idea to list their logical fallacies; this write-up is for your edification and is not a prescriptive method.

Instead, we can take a questioning approach. Questions like, "What do you mean by that?", "How did you reach that conclusion?","Why do you feel that way?" and similar questions. (Asking an avowed atheist, "Why is it wrong for Christians to act in a way you don't like actually wrong in your worldview?" is for advanced students!)

While I was writing this article, I was subjected to a personal attack on Facebook. Again. It is arrogant, condescending, has a disingenuous pretense of nobility, is full of fallacies (a later comment even took a victim approach) and other efforts to provoke and waste time. This is his opening comment. I'll let you figure out the fallacies:
You held true to form doing what almost every religious adherent does who runs these pages. If something is too threatening or you cannot adequate support your position, the pattern is usually throw a fit, then block and pretend like it never happened.

I expect you are young (at least you seem to be by your responses). I only hope that one day you mature enough to be able to reflect upon why you would have such a visceral response to such things. Also, I would hope you one day will be able to admit when you are wrong and actually LEARN from debates. That, to be honest, is the only benefit to such discussions. Otherwise, people only spin their wheels and leave with a deluded sense of victory. Anyway, best wishes and good luck on your journey.

People like this are motivated by hate and pride, and I do not waste much time on them (Matt. 7.6). Their minds are made up. By the way, this troll was been reported to Facebook and blocked. After I took a screenshot.

It is the other people, the ones who had the dialogue that was analyzed, that bother me. Like I keep saying, whether it is "reasonable" or not, they have these feelings. They can be pain, anger, resentment and other things — or a mixture. In fact, there is a wall that they have constructed. We can try to get through that wall through discussion, prayer and a reasonable defense of the gospel (ἀπολογία).

But it is much, much more difficult to do when Christians act like jerks.