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Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

How Long Will We Let Other Christians Call Us Dogs?

Those of you who have lived with, or through, a fifteen-year-old girl know that adolescents of this age generally fight self-esteem issues. Call it hormones, peer pressure, society, or fat days, 15-year-old girls need a lot of love and reassurance that they are beautiful, beloved people.

Ruby inspirational oil painting chihuahua dog on pillow by Steve Henderson

Dogs are wonderful creatures, but it’s never a compliment, as a human, to be called one. Ruby, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

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When one of our progeny was 15, in the midst of this exact stage, she was called a dog by a speaker brought in by our church. The speaker, who earned a generous living by organizing church mission trips through an International Church Mission Trip Organization Agency, gave a group of young people the Gary Smalley Personality Assessment Tool Test. (The young people were part of a church-induced “mission trip” to a Christian camp that was looking for free counselors for the season.)

Is Your Child a Dog?

Based upon this one-page sheet, in which participants score themselves from 0-3 points on whether or not they are a “problem solver,” “optimistic,” “adaptable,” “analytical,” and 72 other attributes, human beings — in this case, insecure, emotionally fragile adolescents — are labeled Lions, Beavers, Otters, or Golden Retrievers.

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It’s all very pseudo-intellectual, scientific, and psychological, which is why so many Christians accept it as valid — more valid, say, than the astrological signs or the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac. I mean, the latter are heathen and pagan and all that, but anything Smalley propounds, or Kevin Leman and his birth order “science,” or Tim LaHaye and his four temperaments (is there something about Christian fads and the number four?) come pre-blessed because these authoritative leadership-types theoretically impart wisdom from “Christian psychology.”

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Roaring, Ravenous Lions

Perhaps it will be no surprise to you (it wasn’t to us) that the dynamic, overbearing speaker was a LION, as was the strong, extroverted yet deeply meditative pastor of the church responsible for bringing the King of the Beasts in. (As an aside, dynamic leadership Lion types might note that not all references to the animal are necessarily positive, with 1 Peter 5: 8 coming immediately to mind:

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”)

Our daughter, who according to Leman’s birth order wisdom should be a natural leader (a LION) with a strong need for approval from anyone in charge (like a dog, now? Did I give birth to a knock-off chimera?) returned from the meeting subdued and vaguely depressed.

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Lilac Festival inspirational oil painting of toddler girl with hat and dress picking flowers in the garden by Steve Henderson

All human beings are fearfully and wonderfully made, and they resist being categorized and classified. Lilac Festival, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

“According to this test,” she said with a rueful smile, “I’m a dog. And not just any dog — I mean, I could handle being a Doberman or an Alaskan Husky — but I’m a Labrador Retriever.”

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At the time we owned a Labrador Retriever: she was servile, submissive, obedient, docile, and acquiescent — in short, everything church leadership looks for in the majority of its congregation — and we had certainly never associated these attributes with our creative, funny, independent, spirited, stubborn, gorgeous firstborn.

Psycho-Garbage, Christianity-Style

“This is psycho-garbage,” we told her. “If it makes you feel any better, in the Chinese Zodiac you’re a Dragon, which does seem to match up with your morning personality.”

But the damage had been done, and while years have gone by and our daughter, and we, have moved on and away from Churchianity and the Christian Establishment Culture,  you always do remember being labeled as a dog. How this message has insinuated itself into the gospel of Christianity is baffling, but not really: it’s there because people allow it to be there.

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Christian sisters and brothers: if you find yourself sitting in a pew (or interlocking chair) and given a “Christian Personality Test,” you don’t have to take it, any of it. There is nothing impolite, impolitic, rude, or wrong in standing up, excusing yourself as you work your way to the aisle, and walking out. What is rude, and wrong, abusive, insulting, and . . . evil, actually, are the people with the audacity (or, to be charitable, misguided ignorance) to think that they can label individual human beings and squeeze them into one of four boxes — whether it’s based upon your birth order, your birth date, or any series of questions that someone, who sells a lot of books based on the concept of the day, has set up.

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“I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” Psalm 139 tells us. “When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

I am not a Lion, a Beaver, an Otter, or a Dog. A Mama Grizzly, now — I can see a few similarities.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where I weep, sometimes, to see so many Christians associate faith with a blind, submissive attitude toward anyone who sets himself up as an authority. If we must label ourselves, let’s be Bereans (Acts 17: 13), who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

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Posts similar to this one are

Should You Question Authority?

Feeding Marshmallows to Our Minds

The Misfit Christian (Stop trying to fit in. Please. This is my book — self-published because what major Christian publishing house wants to promote a message of independent thought by the masses? — for the believer who is tired of being told what to think, and how, and whether or not he is a dog.)

 

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    People frequently say, “No church is perfect,” and this is true, but it is not an excuse, as it is increasingly being used, to quiet people objecting to certain practices or ways of doing things in a church body. Like you, I believe that believers join together to encourage one another, and the less administrative detritus in our way as we seek to do this, the better. Unfortunately, the trickle down effect of corporate business within the big churches has streamed down to the small ones, and intimate congregations of believers that should be strong because they are just that — a group of believers — are weakened because individuals hand over their church to a few misguided leaders who are determined to copy the big guys.

    I am glad that you find growth, acceptance, and fellowship within the circles you frequent, and I am sure that your voice is one of reason and grace as you interact with those God has put in your life. Grace and peace to you, my friend.

  • Jeff Morton

    The establishment of Christ, I find to often lose its way. If the Lord of Lords came again, who would be the first to persecute Him. Believers are the church in Christ’s blood not rites and ritual. Fellowship should not be performed solely within a denomination but amongst believers. We divide ourselves through organized religion. Why preach to a choir? I go to church when I want to worship God alone, but that doesn’t mean I need a church to do so. A Holy church is not an institution, it is simply a blessed place for which the people are the institution. While I say this, I do ascribe to The Salvation Army who I feel their organization is founded in service to the world, and the monies received by parishioners are almost disproportionate to that of the monies used for good deeds. They also hold very few reservations about their detailed beliefs, so people of many christian faiths can work in fellowship, without being scorned for their differences. However, I am loosely affiliated and I choose to do my work through Christ’s example and remain weary of establishments.

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    Definitely, Scale Lily. It’s sad — but not surprising once we’re awake — to see the same methods used in the secular corporate world as are used in the establishment Christian world. The only major difference is the addition of the words “Jesus,” or “God.” The result is that our establishment Christian churches look, and sound, like businesses.

  • Scale Lily

    They have similar geniuses that make a good living on the corporate route. Money for nothing.

  • Pingback: Did That Christian Just Call Your Child a DOG? | This Woman Writes by Carolyn Henderson

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