I actually got the idea for this list from a post on a blog titled “Friendly Atheist”. The author apparently goes to different churches as an observer and compiled a list of “20 Things That Christians Do in Church That Annoy Me“.
This list is comprised solely of my opinions and viewpoints, and is not intended to be an indictment or judgment of any person. Martin Luther said we are “weak, puny and sinful” beings and that includes me!
I am guilty of doing many of these things more often than I care to recount. I am actually going to print this post out and affix it to my bulletin board at home and in my desk drawer at my office (see the first item) to serve as a reminder to myself to adhere to these principles.
1. Attempting to convert co-workers.
There is a time and place for everything and it is most inappropriate to proselytize in the workplace. Sure, if you happen to know that one of your colleagues is a Christian, it is acceptable to mention your shared beliefs at lunchtime, during breaks, etc. so long as the conversation takes place in appropriate locations and does not interfere with other folks’ rights.
2. Judging others.
We’re all guilty of doing this from time to time because it is human nature, but I really hate it when I hear Christians judging other people, especially when they go so far as to speculate that another person is not a “true” or “real” Christian or question where the person in question will be spending eternity. We are commanded to “judge not, let you also be judged.” Along with this goes Number Three . . .
3. Displaying an attitude of superiority as compared to other religions.
Too often Christians act as though they have “a lock” on the truth and everyone else is so ignorant that they don’t deserve to be treated as equals. Our truth is just that: Our truth as we understand and believe it. I am a firm believer in John 3:16. But I also believe that, as Jesus commanded, I should strive to maintain an attitude of humility at all times, even when it comes to the fact that I have discovered what I believe to be the truth. And right in line with this item and Number Two is . . .
4. Displaying an attitude of exclusivity rather than inclusivity.
Jesus hung out with society’s undesirables. He was not with the “cool kids” at the “cool table” in the cafeteria.
o where do Christians get off deciding that they are only going to associate with other Christians? How are you gong to go out and make disciples, as Jesus instructed, if you only hang around people who think the way you do?
Too often I see Christians forming cliques — within and outside of organized religion — from which they actively and purposefully exclude people they perceive as not meeting their expectations or standards or being different from them. Next time you find yourself in a social situation, make a deliberate attempt to hang out with the people who don’t seem to be “in,” rather than trying to fit in with those who are.
Seek out that person standing alone in the corner of the room watching the party go on around them. Start up a conversation. Introduce yourself to the quiet couple on the sidelines whose names you don’t know. See how it feels. I think you’ll find it to be a very liberating and fulfilling experience.
5. Denying the inherent truth of the Gospels.
At first glance, this might seem like a contradiction of above items. But it is not.
I have actually heard Christians say shocking things like, “Well, I don’t believe in hell” or “I don’t think there really is a devil.” In my opinion, if you are going to adopt the label of “Christian,” you must embrace the core concepts of the belief system without reservation.
The most basic tenet of Christianity is set forth in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He also said that no one will come to the Father except through Him. Therefore, as we understand the truth, the possibility of eternal damnation for those who reject those basic tenets is real. Christians are called upon to proclaim the Gospels boldly, not shrink from their message because it is unpopular or unpalatable to some.
6. Believing that their style of worship is the only one that is acceptable or pleasing to the Divine Creator.
Lutherans call Pentecostals “holy rollers” and Pentecostals call Lutherans and other traditionally conservative churches “the frozen chosen” and on it goes . . . There is no single style of worship that is comfortable and appropriate for everyone. It is entirely a matter of personal preference and what one becomes accustomed to.
If people want to yell out “Hallelujah” in the middle of a worship service, that’s their business. If people want to sit in the pew looking at the hymnal, following along, but not singing, that’s their choice. As long as the worshiper comes before the Divine Creator with a truly repentant and open heart, I don’t really think it matters whether the worship is loud and raucous or restrained and quiet.
I once had a music director tell me that people were not worshiping if they weren’t singing the hymns during the worship service. Such a statement is infuriatingly obnoxious and ignorant. Case in point: My father never sang a note in church his entire life, but he had the hymnal open, followed along, and could recite the words to many hymns. He just didn’t sing because he did not feel that he had a good voice and preferred to listen to others making music. Nobody is ever going to convince me that my father was not worshiping — he was just doing it in his own way.
7. Emphasizing or focusing on the negative aspects of Christianity.
Our relationship with the Divine Creator should not be based on fear. The message is called the “Good News” for a reason! We are commanded to make a joyful noise, after all. There are plenty of reasons to be joyful and thankful. Just take a moment to look around you and you can find some with very little effort if you just think carefully about it. For instance, if you are reading this, give thanks that you can read and for the teachers and parents who taught you to do so. Are you reading this while indoors? Hey, it’s cold outside, so give thanks for being inside and having shelter!
Yes, it is just that basic and simple, folks. Think about it.
8. Quoting the Bible sans historical context with an insistence upon literalism.
The Bible must be read and understood with an appreciation of both its historical context and literary styles. Genesis is an allegory. I doubt very seriously that the Divine created the heavens and earth in seven 24-hour days. Evolution and creationism are not inconsistent theories.
9. Attempting to influence the beliefs and behaviors of other people’s children.
It is up to parents to decide the nature and extent of their children’s religious education. Bluntly, other people need to back off and butt out. If the parents are not teaching the children about Christianity in a manner with which you approve, pray about it. But do not inject yourself into the equation. Grandparents, this includes you!
10. Failing to use the resources provided to them by the Divine Creator.
The old cliche is true: The Divine Creator helps those who help themselves. You have a brain, so put it to work. Reason. Analyze. Evaluate. Deduce. Be good stewards and use your talents and abilities while listening for the still, small voice. It is speaking to you.
11. Accusing the Divine Creator of not answering prayer.
Garth Brooks sang that “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” That’s entirely wrong. There is no such thing as an unanswered prayer. ALL prayers are answered. It may just be that you did not get the answer you sought.
A turning point in my life was my attendance at a class on prayer a couple of years ago which was facilitated by a layperson who had studied the subject of prayer in depth for many years. She made the point that we should always pray for the result that is consistent with the Divine Creator’s Plan. For instance, if a friend or loved one is ill, we immediately pray for the person to be healed, to get well, right? What if that is not the Plan? What if it truly is that person’s time to cross over into eternal life? We are bound to be disappointed if we have prayed for the specific result that we seek and it is not in alignment with what is meant to be. Which leads to . . .
12. Accusing the Divine Creator of having a “will” that allows bad things to happen.
“Well, it was God’s will that [insert horrible event].”
“I don’t know why God didn’t cure him, but chose to let him die.”
“I just don’t understand why God lets wars go on if He is all-powerful and loving. Why doesn’t he put a stop to all the horrible things that keep happening?”
You’ve heard Christians say those things and many other similar remarks. Maybe you’ve said them yourselves.
I do not believe the Divine Creator has a “will” that allows bad to happen or come to us. There is a Plan and everything that happens is in accordance with it. For me, that is conceptually different than the “will” that people insinuate drives the Divine Creator to sit back and do nothing in the face of catastrophe.
Look, I don’t know why bad things happen any more than you do. There is evil in the world. It is everywhere and our angels are battling it for us all the time. Ultimately, it will be defeated. In the meantime, this is a broken world we are living in.
Trust me, I have a lot of questions that I intend to ask when I meet the Creator face to face.
13. Failing to give thanks in all things.
I’m still working on being thankful every moment of every day in all circumstances and about all events in my life. Are you?