Monthly Archives: September 2019

When Parenting is TOO Hard, Part 3

So far, I shared the real-life conversation I’ve been having with my sister, along with her epiphany that children must be TAUGHT how to be adults. You can’t just wait for them to figure it out on their own.

Then, in Part 2, we looked at what happens when Leaders disagree about how to discipline the kids, and so the “Good Cops” start throwing the “Bad Cops” under the bus.

For Part 3, I’m going to peel the lid back on the Leadership Problem in the Church by using actual quotes from real-life pastors/leaders.

Many of these Christian leaders are struggling to accept that their desire to be “friends” with Toddlers actually stunts the growth of the Church–it is NOT the “Bad Cops” who are to blame for trying to talk about Doctrine too early…

Step #1:  “Bad Cop” Pastors Publish a Straightforward Church Creed; “Good Cop” Pastors Question the Need to Upset People

In 2017, several hundred church leaders composed and signed a document clarifying what Christians believe (and don’t believe) regarding the nature of humanity, the purpose of sex, and the scope of inclusion for members of the LGBT community in the Church. They called their creed “The Nashville Statement,” and they intended to combat the cultural Confusion which has crept into churches unnoticed throughout history. (Other famous creeds written to clarify official Church positions during times of confusion include the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.)

Unfortunately, not everyone saw the benefit of the Nashville Statement.

Perry Noble, and many other Good Cop Christians worried that being TOO clear about what we believe could drive the unchurched people away, because it sounds judgmental.

One pastor told me, explicitly, that the Nashville Statment “shut down the conversation” because it didn’t sound very nice.

“The Mean Christian”: How does the Statement shut down conversations? It could be a perfectly good START to a conversation, if people were really interested in a give-and-take relationship…

“The Passive Pastor”:  Everyone already knows what the Church believes about homosexuality. This just comes across as more judgment heaped on homosexuals.

Mean Christian: Which part of the Nashville Statement would Jesus disagree with?

Passive Pastor: Don’t put words in my mouth! I didn’t say Jesus would disagree. I’m just saying it makes it harder for me to earn trust from people who are Unchurched. You have to establish a relationship before you earn the right to tackle those deeper topics.

Mean Christian:  Ah, so even when something is TRUE, it still shouldn’t be discussed openly until…later? (When the Unchurched person allows it?) Wow, it kind of sounds like the Lost people are the ones driving the tour bus over there…

Passive Pastor:  I just want to give people the chance to learn about the love of Jesus! And it’s hard when they’re upset!

Mean Christian:  Just because a person is upset does NOT mean that you or me or the writers of the Nashville Statement did something wrong.

Step #2:  People Inevitably Get Upset Either Way; Bad Cops Wonder if NOW is a Good Time to Talk Theology? (Good Cops Say, “Nope.”)

In 2019, we saw several high-profile cases of former pastors who left their churches and renounced their faith.

Many people pointed out that a big contributer to this problem was the spiritual shallowness of the churches those apostate pastors had helped create. But not all of us were willing to re-evaluate the watered-down, intellectually-starved messages being popularized by Big Brand Churches.

(Note: these are ACTUAL EXCERPTS of a conversation with a Large Church Pastor.)

Mean Christian:  When an ex-Pastor is leaving because he doesn’t agree with the Church’s stance on homosexuality, I’m thrilled! It’s great news! The guy admits he grew up in the Church and still doesn’t have answers for basic Apologetics questions. The last thing we need is for him to keep pretending to understand Christianity for the sake of a paycheck, vanity, or both. I’ll hold the door open for him.

Passive Pastor:  When you say those things, you’re actually making gospel work more difficult for my church.

Mean Christian:  It’s the gospel itself that makes gospel work so difficult.

Passive Pastor: We are trying to walk this situation out with both grace and truth, letting people know that while we do love the ex-Pastor, we don’t agree with his lifestyle. Those who are spiritually mature understand. Those who are newer to faith (which is a large portion of our church) don’t understand. To the less mature believers in our congregation, your words simply substantiate the Ex-Pastor’s claims of being hurt by Mean Christians.

Mean Christian:   I have a really crazy philosophy that a person needs to know WHAT A GROUP BELIEVES before they can decide whether they want to belong to that group.

Passive Pastor: That sounds like a catchy slogan I coined a few years ago, except I told my congregation the opposite: “People Need to know they Belong before they can decide what to Believe and How to Behave.”  Are you referencing that with a mocking tone?

Mean Christian:  Maybe.

Passive Pastor:  (*sigh…) You are right to say that Gospel work is hard simply because it’s the gospel… that’s why I’m asking you, as a brother in Christ, not to add unnecessary difficulty to the work we’re trying to do. I am simply asking you to remember I am trying to point people to Jesus. You and I are on the same team! I can’t fastforward hundreds of baby Christian’s faith and change their points of view over night. I can, however, build their trust over time… grow their trust in Scripture… and hopefully see them trust in Jesus if they don’t already. Your words make it harder for me to gain trust from those in search of truth.

Mean Christian:  I’m glad to hear we’re on the same team! Can you please tell your congregation to stop making my ministry harder? I’ve had a couple dozen of your members tell me I’m not a Christian. I would appreciate if you mentioned to them that I’m not the bad guy. 

Passive Pastor:  ….I can see that it’s pointless to continue this conversation.  Have a good night!

Mean Christian:  That’s cool. I’ll just go talk to the people who have ears to hear.

Folks, if you know that Christianity is full of difficult and controversial tenets, but you’re saving those for later because you want to bribe people with coffee and pizza first, you are the reason babies are being elevated to places of leadership and then falling.  

If you actually say things to your congregation like, “There’s no point in debating” or “You can’t put too much emphasis on Theology/Doctrine” or “You can’t PROVE God to people; all you can do is share your story,” then YOU ARE THE MAJORITY OF THE PROBLEM.

Babies need more than bottles and backrubs. They need to be taught right from wrong. They need to be given clear boundaries (and disciplined when those are crossed).

And babies need to be told NO when they start inviting other babies to “follow them” on a “journey” to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

If certain leaders just want to be the Good Cops, that’s fine. If they don’t want to deal with Tantruming Toddlers, I’ll do it.  I’ll tell those kiddies that their “questions” have been tackled by actual millenia of Church scholarship, and I’m sorry they were so busy singing “You’re a Good, Good Father” that no one gave them anything to fertilize their minds.

I’ll do it.

But I would appreciate if the Good Cops would back me up instead of defending the babies and insisting that Jesus would be just as timid and close-minded and theologically ignorant as they are.

Step #3:  The Passive “Good Cop” Pastors Learn the Hard Way that You Can’t Save Discipline for Later…(or Maybe They Don’t Learn at All).

I’m very proud of my sister, Tabby, for recognizing her temptation to become “passive” and wrestling against it. She loves her stubborn toddler so much that she’s willing do the hard work of discipline, because it’s for the toddler’s own good.

Tabby would love to sit on her hands and avoid confrontation for the next 18 years, hoping that Marci figures out how to be a well-adjusted human without much intervention.  Tabby would LOVE to simply bide her time…”growing trust” and keeping the peace…until eventually Marci trusts Jesus in the exact same, shallow way: blindly and because it feels good…not because Jesus actually has authority and Truth on his side.

But Tabby recognizes that this would harm Marci in the long run.

And, thankfully, she doesn’t blame ME for “making motherhood hard” whenever the Toddler gets upset and they both grow tired of each other. Nor does Tabby ask me to shut up while she’s doing her Special Good-Cop “Gospel Work,” thinking everything would go perfectly fine if I didn’t keep ruining it.

Tabby is an example of a Passive Person who is still open to guidance and ready to put the needs of her child ahead of the child’s wants.

But, unfortunately, there are plenty of “Good Cop” Pastors who aren’t there, yet.

They STILL do not see how their own leadership style is contributing to the perpetual Babyhood of their congregation. (It doesn’t even seem to give them pause when they see their own co-leaders falling!)

They are convinced there is a way to interact with the toddlers so their “relationship” will always be friendly, and they’re blaming OTHER CHRISTIANS for making their job “too hard” whenever there’s a crisis.

 

When Parenting is TOO Hard, Part 2

In Part 1, I described the fact that parenting a toddler is HARD whether you decide to tame their feral instincts at 2-years-old, or if you put it off until they’re 20-years-old.   One way or another, someone has to teach those little humans how to control themeselves, because no one wants to spend much time with a selfish, screaming kid (of any age)…

But what happens when the child’s two parents disagree about how to discipline?

What if one of the child’s parents is more firm/authoritative, while the other wants to be more “gentle” and niiiiiiiiiice?

When that happens, the parents better find a way to get on the same page–quickly! Because those kids will exploit weaknesses and pit the parents against each other if they’re not totally united in agreement…

—-

Back in 2014, I used a Good Cop vs. Bad Cop analogy for a blog post that ultimately ended up in Peter Heck’s book, Strangers.  He titled his chapter “Scared Christians,” which is so relevant to this parenting series that I’m going to repost it here.

Yes–it is a little weird to quote Pete, while he’s quoting me. But the way he covered the subject matter with a personal example of his own fit-throwing daughter is just perfect.  Here, read it:

“Be on guard for an insidious lie that Satan tells loudly and often. It’s the lie that equates telling hard truths with being un-loving. Not long ago a friend of mine, Amanda McKinney, wrote an excellent blog post about what real Christian love is. It stuck with me because both Amanda and I are at the same point in our lives – raising children.

She points out that when you’re the parent of young children you are likely to hear (quite regularly) your kids scream about how you’re a terrible parent and must hate them or something. I caught my oldest daughter Addie doing this on my cell phone camera once, and I use it in various speaking presentations to illustrate the point. Addie was misbehaving, breaking a rule that she knew not to break. My wife got on her about it, and Addie crossed her arms, started to pout, and then said in the most offended voice she could muster, “I guess you don’t love me anymore.”

My wife, always the delicate one, responded with, “Addie, that’s just dumb.”

But it wasn’t dumb to Addie. Since Jenny was telling her she couldn’t do something, there was really only one conclusion her 6-year-old mind could come to: “Mommy doesn’t love me.” After all, if Mommy did love her, she would obviously let her do whatever she wanted to do, right?

The pinnacle of love is complete and utter permissiveness, is it not?

Amanda points out in her blog that if parents actually started believing their kids when they said that–if they started “loving” children the way the kids wanted to be loved rather than needed to be loved–there would truthfully be no loving parents anymore. Why? Because it’s patently obvious that love isn’t always affirming, it isn’t always condoning, it isn’t always saying “yes.”

Christians, we could do well to learn that lesson. The moment someone who isn’t a Christian says they don’t feel loved – or worse, they say they feel ‘judged’ – we immediately begin believing that we did something wrong. Or even if we don’t, we are soon buried beneath an avalanche of criticism from our Christian brethren rebuking us for ‘driving someone from the faith.’ We are pummeled until we sheepishly issue some kind of apology for not showing the ‘love of Christ.’

Go back to that scene on my cell phone camera for a minute. What would have happened if, instead of filming and chuckling to myself, I jumped up and took Addie’s side? What if the moment she proclaimed that Mommy doesn’t ‘love her anymore,’ I flipped out on Jenny and said, ‘What have you done?!’

What if I bombarded Jenny in front of Addie and our other two kids, with reproach and scolding, belittling her and telling her how much she was damaging our relationship with our children? What message would that send to Jenny?

Or worse, what kind of confused message would that send to our kids?

Welcome to the modern American church where believers can’t wait to tag the ‘judgmental Christians’ as they proudly assume the mantle of ‘loving Christian.’ It’s what Amanda calls, “Good Cop/Bad Cop Christianity.”

In my opinion, it’s fine for Good Cops and Bad Cops to work on a team. It’s fine for two parents (or two Christians) to have slightly different styles which complement each other.

…But, if you have a “teammate” who is so afraid of the fit-throwing child that he/she is willing to yell at YOU, then that can’t be allowed to continue.

Theoretically, it’s possible to pull off a Good Cop/Bad Cop routine when a child is behaving incorrectly…if the “Good Cop” actually allows the “Bad Cop” to do the necessary tough-loving.

But, in too many cases, we see the “good cop” parents and Christians preventing the “bad cops” from having a role at all.

In fact, now it’s common for the so-called “loving” cops to tell the “bad” ones point blank: “You don’t sound like Jesus” and “You don’t speak for the church.”

Oh–lookey here.

9.23.19 Doesnt Sound Like Jesus

9.23.19 Doesnt Sound Like Jesus (5)

These are real-life examples of one parent/Christian jumping up to take the child’s side and scolding/belittling another parent/Christian in the name of “love,” exactly as Pete described.

He asked what would happen if he did that to his wife, Jenny?…and, unfortunately, we already know what would happen, because we see it playing out in Church culture with frequency.

The children take over, expecting the permissive parents to defend them from the “mean, unloving” parents all of the time.

This disagreement about how to discipline must be worked out before the Body of Christ will be able to raise strong, mature disciples again.  We cannot keep allowing the permissive parents to coddle the angry children in the name of “love”…

…because the children are the ones who suffer in the confusion.

Parenting is HARD enough, without the firm/authoritative parents being forced to take all the blame when the children do what children do.  The “nice” parents must be held accountable for undermining their teammates and causing chaos.

Stay tuned for Part #3.

When Parenting is TOO Hard, Part 1

I have a niece who is 18-months-old, and let me tell you: she’s already giving her mother (my sister) a run for her money!

Some kids are eager to please the grown-ups.  Let’s just say that Marci is not one of them…  She has always owned a big voice with an unwavering opinion–and she’s ready to fight for what she wants. (And, of course, I relate as a kindred spirit.)

I have other nieces who will shrink and tear up if you raise your voice even slightly while in their presense. But Marci? If you’re going to change her diaper or buckle her in a carseat or–Heaven forbid–take something away that she isn’t supposed to have, you must be prepared to engage in an all-out war.

I’ll admit, I have a special fondness in my heart for stubborn, firey toddlers like Marci…especially when they’re not mine, and I can send them home at the end of the day.

But my heart also goes out to my poor sister, who is not quite as calloused and battle-hardened as I have become after three years teaching in a classroom for kids with behavior disorders, plus another eight years parenting my own fiesty kids.

Tabby, my sister, constantly questions whether she’s doing something wrong. 

The following will be my best recreation of an ongoing conversation I’ve been having with Tabby, while she struggles to interact with her Strong-Willed Child.

The Tabby Mama:    “In Marci’s whole life, she has never once just closed her eyes and slept at nap time. Not once! There’s always shouting and crying and fighting before she finally passes out!”

The “Mean” Aunty:  “Yeah, I’ve had a couple of babies who do that. They just hate the nap process.”

Tabby Mama:  “But it’s getting to the point where I am dreading the next day before I even go to sleep at night! I just don’t want to start another day knowing it will be full of crying and fighting constantly!”

Mean Aunty: “I understand that, too.  It’s exhausting.”

Tabby Mama: “So how do I know that she’s really tired? I keep feeling like I must be doing something wrong!”

Mean Aunty:  “Now, be careful with that. You can’t let her make you think that you’re wrong.  Seriously, it is very, very important that you remember she needs you to set the rules and be consistent. If you start thinking maybe she’s right to be crying and fighting, it will only lead to longer crying and fighting sessions next time.”

Tabby Mama: “But it’s toooooo hard!  After 15 minutes or more of trying to correct a certain behavior, I start to second guess myself.  It’s easier to think that I’M wrong than to wait for her to accept my rules.”

Mean Aunty:  “I know, Tabby. I really do.  You are trying to take responsibility, because you’re able to control yourself better than you can control a headstrong toddler.  Most of the time, it’s good to take responsibility to fix situations, because that’s the grown-up thing to do.  BUT, you really have to resist the urge to take responsibility for Marci’s temper fits, because your job is to teach HER how to be a grown-up someday. It will actually be bad for her if you let her be in charge.”

Tabby Mama: “That’s not what everyone says! I’ve seen articles online that say toddlers aren’t capable of understanding cause-and-effect, or that telling them ‘no’ too often can cause them to feel unsafe and defeated…”

(To offer an example of Tabby’s point, I will pause and link to a story from the Humans of New York page which came to my attention today.  A woman shared her struggle with a strong-willed daughter and how she finally decide to give the little girl some boundaries that she needed.  But, some of the TOP COMMENTS were casting doubt on that decision, saying that toddlers aren’t physically able to manipulate, and when they’re crying, it always means they need something.  If you’re interested to read the Mom-Shaming for yourself, click here.)

Mean Aunty:  “That’s nonsense.  Children NEED to be told ‘no.’  It’s an important part of their development, and a parent who won’t set and enforce boundaries is actually stunting the child’s growth. You’ve already been a child, and you’ve already learned how to respect other people. You’ve already learned to think about how your actions affect others, which is why you’re trying to change YOUR behavior instead of Marci’s. That’s the mark of a mature adult who has empathy. But Marci is still the child RIGHT NOW, and she needs to learn the same thing you once did. It’s your job to teach her that nobody likes to hang around with selfish, screaming kids.”

Tabby Mama:  “Uuuuuuuuugh, I hear what you’re saying. And I know that I don’t want Marci to be a monster.  It just seems like there must be an easier way! It seems TOO hard sometimes!…”

 

These conversations with Tabby have gone on and on for a few weeks, while she struggles with the reality of just how emotionally exhausting it is to parent well. But I’m very proud of her for understanding that “discipline” is not at odds with being a loving parent…in fact, discipline is part of love.

On Sunday, during a conversation with my dad and I, Tabby proudly said, “There was a time I couldn’t wait until Marci was older because I thought, magically, it would be easier… if I just waited a few years, I thought, I would be able to reason with her.  It seemed like I could let nature take its course, and then I would be able to enjoy a grown-up Marci without having to teach her any hard lessons.  But you can’t enjoy 20-year-old Marci without enduring the 2-year-old phase–she has to learn those lessons at some point.”

And–my friends–that’s a truism that’s worth repeating!

You can either teach the hard lessons now, while they are small and malleable. Or you can put it off until later, when they’re even bigger terrors. But, one way or another, you WILL have to teach the hard lessons.   At some point, a child will need to learn that yelling is not a good way to control Mom/Dad. And, at some point, Mom/Dad will have to stand firm despite the tears and frustration that everyone is feeling.

Parenting is HARD.

And, unfortunately, we don’t make it any easier on ourselves or our children by trying to put off the most challenging things for later.

Sometimes You HAVE To Make People Mad

Someone who counsels recovering drug addicts shared this quote with me once:

“IF AN ADDICT IS HAPPY WITH YOU, IT’S PROBABLY BECAUSE YOU’RE ENABLING THEM. IF AN ADDICT IS ANGRY WITH YOU, IT’S PROBABLY BECAUSE YOU’RE TRYING TO SAVE HIS OR HER LIFE.” 

Actually, I just remembered an amazing (short) video by Tiffany Jenkins of “Juggling the Jenkins” which she called, “If there’s any chance you are currently enabling an addict,  please watch this.”

She’s awesome. Watch this four-minute clip:

 

Right off the bat, Tiffany says that dealing with an addict means you have to be ready to “let them fall.”  This seems like a pretty cold/calloused statement, but she goes even further than that.  She says:

“There’s a difference between enabling and loving. Enabling, essentially, is loving people to death. If you love an addict and you are doing things to make their lives easier, you are not doing it to help them. You are doing it to help you.”

Ouch.

How many Christians need to hear that exact, same idea when it comes to “being Jesus” toward those who are spiritually hurting themselves?

Recently, I wrote a post about pastors who are leaving the Church and BLAMING their old spiritual family for making them angry.  They often invite people to follow them, even though they don’t know where they’re going.

And isn’t that classic addict behavior?

Not knowing where we’re going in the long run, but only caring about temporary “fixes” of agreement and encouragement?

Looking for teammates?

Defining “support” based on which people tell us what we want to hear?

Doesn’t it remind you of an addict–the way a person struggling with theological questions may threaten to give or withold affection/approval manipulatively, in order to protect their current beliefs and lifestyle?

Don’t all addicts hate their addiction–and yet they guard it from the people who are trying to empower them to change?  (Because empowerment is HARD and scary…)

The truth is: all of us display addictive behavior at least on occassion.

NOBODY likes to be told they’re wrong and they’re hurting themselves.

Whether we’re sticking a needle in our arm or we’re using spiritual/emotional lies like numbing drugs, all of us will need to be confronted with our bad habits at different times. And, when someone gives us the painful truth, we will have the chance to scream, “I HATE YOU” instead of accepting the light they’re holding for us.

But–if you “love” (and “support”) a headstrong sinner, in order to make them comfortable in their self-injury, then you are LOVING THEM TO DEATH.

When a sinner is happy with you, then you’re likely enabling them.  If a sinner hates you, then you’re probably trying to save their life.

And–to you enablers–I know that it’s hard. I know you’re genuinely trying to do what’s right. I know you’ve been misled and confused by so many mixed-messages preached by ex-Christians who are abandoning our churches, especially when they are former leaders who spread their confusion from their various platforms.

It really is hard to know what’s right sometimes.

However–when someone says “I’m Leaving the Church and it’s Your Fault,” you can either challenge that statement (which will make them mad), or you can agree for the sake of peace.

You can make sure the person stays temporarily happy, in the name of misguided “love,” or you can say what Tiffany Jenkins recommends:  “I love you too much to give you what you THINK will help right now.” 

I could take screenshots of HUNDREDS of comments from Christians who are “supporting” ex-Leaders like Josh Harris and Marty Sampson on their “journey” away from the Church.  They’re terrified that they will be the reason Josh or Marty commits suicide like Jarrid Wilson, and so they double down with even MORE of the same enabling poison that they call love.

I’ve lost track how many times I’ve seen the phrase, “You’re brave” and “You’re beautiful” and “there’s NOTHING wrong with you,” from people dutifully following the Suicide Awareness Script. They are caring people who really think they’re helping.

But they’re not helping.

And then–when the addict shouts, “HELP there’s a Bad Cop trying to put handcuffs on me! HELP!”  they immediately run to the rescue, scolding that mean police officer and telling him he needs to learn to be more loving like them…

These enablers ought to be embarassed that they’re calling themselves the hands and feet of Jesus when, in reality, they’re only helping themselves feel better.   In reality, they’re afraid to do what it takes to help a self-destructive person recover.

They’re afraid to make an addict mad.

I Don’t Know Where I’m Going; Follow Me

Sometimes when you have a lot of thoughts, it’s easy to ramble in confusion rather than select the most important idea and focus on a single point in a single blog post.

I would say this issue of racing thoughts and trouble discerning the Most Important Thing was never more of a struggle than during my fight with postpartum depression and suicidal thoughts.  Everything seemed both worthless and super-important at the same time. All day long (and all night, since I never slept), I struggled to sort out which thoughts were good and true–and which were lies?

I wrote my testimony HERE, so I won’t explain all the various details now. But, suffice it to say, I was confused and hearing conflicting bits of “wisdom” from different places. And all the noise in my head seemed to make it impossible for my poor, fevered mind to rest on something True.

All I wanted was to get some rest. Yet, my ability to discern the Voice of Truth felt broken.

By the grace of God, I had the ability, at least, to recognize the dangerous place I was in. So, I prayed: “God, I know I’m extremely vulnerable to being misled right now. I will probably believe or do ANYTHING, if I think there’s the smallest chance it will stop this horrible suffering. Please intervene! Please protect me from the lies until I’m strong enough to resist them again, because I don’t know what’s true right now!”

That’s the one major difference I see between my own story of battling depression/anxiety and the story of so many Fallen Pastors whose testimonies I’ve read the last few months.

While I was hurting and asking difficult, faith-impacting questions and struggling to discern the truth from the lies, I was not putting myself in a position of leading others. I certainly never had the audacity to wag my finger at The Church for the things Christians are doing “wrong.”

It takes certainty and confidence to tell a whole group of people that they’re not handling my suffering correctly, and I didn’t have that certainty when I was struggling. There was no way I could tell the Christians in my life how to “properly” support my journey, because I WAS AWARE THAT I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I NEEDED.

Yet, this air of certainty is precisely what so many Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing have adopted, as they continue to teach publicly in their Twitter feeds and blog posts.

As they begin to shift away from teaching Christianity, they still invite their sheep to follow them… Though they may claim they “don’t have the answers,” it’s clear they are pretty sure they’re heading in the right direction when they list their reasons for abandoning their old churches.

Many of the Struggling Teachers openly admit they don’t know where they’re going. But, even if their “journey” takes them right off a cliff (who knows?), they still expect “amens” and “attaboys” for putting themselves first. And, of course, they will gladly continue to inform Christians about which politicians they should/shouldn’t support. 

These posts are the worst kind of sermon: the kind that denies it is actually preaching at all!

And, make no mistake, the proud confusion of a Fallen Human leads to death, so I must speak up about it.

See, I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed and hurting.

I know how it feels to have soul-level questions, and a head full of conflicting ideas.

I know the frustration of simultaneously wanting to control my own life WHILE ALSO wanting to curl up in a ball and cry until someone cradles me and spoon-feeds me something–anything!–that will bring the tiniest bit of relief.

But this arrogance that says, “No matter where I’m going, at least I know–for sure–I’m better than THEM!!!”–that’s the arrogance that will kill a Wolf along with all the Sheep being led astray.

There’s not much that can help someone with an attitude like that.

So many confused and hurting people are clinging to the popular, cultural religion that sounds like humility, but on further inspection, it’s actually the seed of soul-killing pride.  When a person is swallowing Lies–and then starts breaking off chunks to share with others–I’m forced to call it out.

A truly humble person is teachable. Humble people don’t just talk about open-mindedness, while refusing to hear any pushback or criticism from “Certain Kinds of Christians.”  A broken, humble person can have honest doubts and serious questions–and those can be a great opportunity for God to show them truths they never knew before!  (It’s not sinful to be confused…to want answers…to be tempted…)

But to grab a microphone and boldly proclaim whatever feels right in your season of confusion? To invite others to join in your self-worship? To lecture anyone who has the nerve to question you? To boldly (and with certainty) defend the lies you’re believing?

That IS a sin for which you will be held accountable.

So many Fallen Teachers only pretend they’re searching for answers, while their sermons about self-love and acceptance reveal what they really think. They take advantage of Soap Box Moments (like Marty Sampson), so they can shout their rallying cries about the Bad Church.  It ought to tell you loud and clear that they haven’t really learned their lessons about faking confidence and leading when they don’t know what they’re talking about…

As always, they can’t help inviting people watch them and listen and follow them wherever they go.

Eventually, I plan to write a post for the many Christians who want to interact with these Fallen Teachers, but they’re not sure what to say.  How can we help someone struggling in the Hell of confusion–when the only thing we’re allowed to say is, “WE LOVE YOU!” How do we intervene, when the Blind Shepherds are hurting themeselves and others, but everyone will just get angry and blame us for being The Bad Kind of Christian if we dare say something off-script?  (I intend to focus that future post on a quote that was shared with me by a Recovery Counselor: “If an addict is happy with you, then you’re probably enabling him/her. And, if an addict is angry with you, then you’re probably trying to save his/her life.”)

But, I want to focus my thoughts on just one, Important topic in each single blog post.

So, for the time being, remember this:

If someone tells you “I don’t know where I’m going,” you should believe them.

Don’t follow a Confused Teacher off a cliff because you think it’s compassionate to “support” them on their journey to self-destruction.

And–if you are the person saying, “I don’t know where I’m going,” then that ought to be the only thing you say.  Don’t keep preaching and teaching and lecturing and finger-wagging in the middle of your confusion, because that is the pinnacle of arrogance. 

I understand being lied to by a bunch of noise in your head. I understand being willing to say or do almost ANYTHING to get some relief and make the suffering stop.  But, in those moments where all the negative emotions are cascading all around you, and you’re not sure what’s good or true or right anymore…then, do the difficult thing and listen for answers instead of thinking this is still your time to speak.

Until you’re sure of which things are true and which are lies, just put down the microphone.

The “Suicide Awareness” Script is Deadly

I got a private message this morning that started with, “I’m not as brave as you!!!! I can’t handle being attacked online. 😳

The writer then shared her perfectly reasonable and perfectly fair observations about the way The Church handles the topic of suicide.

But, despite being kind and thoughtful and deliberately careful, she was afraid to share her thoughts publicly. Make sure you understand that, because it seems like a tragedy that thoughtful people don’t feel free to openly speak.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who has noticed the existence of an unwritten “Mental Health Awareness Script,” which can get you in trouble if you deviate from its course. 

I alluded to the existence of “The Script” in a post I called “Fly High, Self-Murderer,” which I wrote when a friend-of-a-friend took all the pills in his cabinet and eventually succumbed to the internal injuries, inflicted on himself.  (For the record, referring to a “suicide victim” as a “self-murderer” definitely does NOT follow The Approved Mental Health Awareness Script.)

In my post, I describe the danger of repeating Approved talking points like, “He’s at peace with Jesus” and “Fly high!” all while brainwashing people to believe that dying from suicide is exactly the same as dying from cancer…  (Again, you can read the post here: Fly High, Self-Murderer.)

I’ve also written about The Approved Mental Health Script in a post called “Psychiatry–a Western Sacred Cow.” I confessed that I, too, wrestle with when to speak and when to sit quietly, because you’re almost guaranteed to get push-back unless you agree with a few sacred pillars, such as:

“-Mental illness is a disease, just like cancer.

-It’s not a choice, not a sign of weakness, and we cannot blame the mental illness on the individual.

-If you are experiencing depression, you should seek professional help.”

So, all of these old posts of mine were in the back of my head as I processed the news that a pastor took his own life this week, leaving behind his wife and two small boys.

As I began to see the same, predictable Script be rolled out by well-meaning but misguided individuals, the only words I could find to express my frustration on Facebook were:

“When are we going to talk openly about this rampant (and growing) problem? And by ‘talk,’ I mean: when are we going to say what we REALLY think instead of letting the Mental Illness Apologists tell us what we’re ‘allowed’ to conclude? Repeating ‘Mental Illness isn’t a Sin’ over and over doesn’t seem to be helping much.”

 

I understand why many readers wanted me to elaborate… But, as I started going through old blog posts, I realized I don’t have much to add that I haven’t said before.

The Script that was designed to make people feel loved and understood is actually making them feel comfortable with the idea of killing themselves. 

Every, single time a suicide makes the news, it almost looks like we WANT people to believe it’s a valid choice.  (Another post from 2014: Suicide Culture. It’s as If we WANT People to Die )

Somebody needs to get brave enough to ask whether we’re really helping people with our Approved Mental Health Awareness Script…or if all of our “awareness” is actually enabling.


 

Addendum:

Someone drew my attention to this post by Dale Partridge, and I think it’s worth discussing.  This is the only thing I’ve seen, so far, that deviates from the Standard Approved Script. But I would welcome links to others…

 

“…men who are placed in shepherding roles at churches are committing suicide and public apostasy at an alarming frequency. These men did not have secret struggles, either. Nearly all of these recent tragedies were carried out by men who openly confessed their mental illness and doubts of doctrine. The million dollar question is this: Why are churches placing men, who are so candid about their current brokenness, in positions of leadership?

Church, it is not accepting or tolerant or understanding or compassionate to hire a man to shepherd a flock of God’s people who is openly struggling with mental illness. It’s unbiblical, it’s reckless, it’s dangerous, and as we’re seeing, it’s an easy target for the enemy to reign down national tragedy on the church. If your pastor has admitted to a state of mental illness he needs to be discipled not discipling others. He needs physical rest not intense spiritual labor. He needs privacy not publicity. He needs diligent prayer not overwhelming pressure. He needs to step down not be lifted up…”