Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


No More Impostors 3

posted by Scot McKnight

When Christians are Impostors

Immigration statistics prove that the USA is becoming more and more diverse. One of the most notable sectors of growth is among Mexican Americans. Some churches are trying to “reach” Mexican Americans for Christ. I applaud their intentions.  Some of those who have been (successfully) “reached” don’t feel welcome because they feel like they’ve shown up to someone else’s party. Their Mexican American faith and their Mexican American culture don’t fit in an Anglo faith and Anglo culture. Anglos, sadly, often don’t even understand the issues.

            How sad to feel like an impostor at church where the Beloved Life is to be embodied.

            Africa is just a few miles from Europe, 7.7 miles at the Strait of Gibraltar (Spain to Morocco) and about 80 miles from Tunisia to Sicily. But the European has created the Story of the African, and that Story creates the image and stereotype and falsehood of the slave and the savage African and the Dark Continent and the need to colonize and educate the African. Think of Joseph Conrad and his haunting The Heart of Darkness. Europe’s telling of the Story of Africa made Africa the “other,” an otherness that can only be overcome through generations learning a different Story. That Story, we need to remember in repentance, makes African and African American followers of Jesus feel like impostors in the Western Church. That Story needs deserves to be retold and retold, and Westerners need to read it and absorb it and relearn the Story of Africa, but this time the Story needs to be written by the African. This has been happening and it is happening – but are we Westerners reading it?

            How sad for the African to be made an impostor by the Story we tell.

            Christian educational institutions have worked hard, partly through affirmative action programs and partly through cultivation and partly through solid convictions, to add to administrations and faculties and staffs both persons of color and women. I applaud their intentions. Some of those who have earned such vocations don’t feel welcome because they feel like impostors.

            How sad to feel like an impostor at a Christian school.

            Some churches permit and are committed to ordaining women into leadership positions. Some, and I could give you some names, have worked their entire lives to include women in ministry. Women have attended seminary, attained their degrees, and achieved a call from churches. Some of these women, perhaps most, know the backside of this opportunity: some folks in the church don’t like it when women are gifted to lead. Many women pastors and church leaders will never escape feeling like an impostor because of how those who say they are followers of Jesus have treated them – because they are women.

            How sad to feel like an impostor as a pastor because you are a woman.

            The Impostor Syndrome, I suggest to you, emerges out of a system and a history – a system that embodies the devaluing of people and a history of devaluation. The Christian Church, not to mention other traditionalist cultures, has struggled to break free from stereotypes about women. For years a woman’s place was in the home and not in the pulpit and not in leadership. St. Augustine believed women were human, but he didn’t think women “are” the image of God. He split hairs on this one by teaching that while a woman bears the image of God, he did not believe a woman, alone, is the image of God. But a man is the image of God. A woman can become the image of God by marriage to a man. Well, we could keep going on this one and need not … the point is made. The Church laid the groundwork for the Impostor Syndrome for women with such teachings. So much so that a great woman writer, Dorothy Sayers, gave a public address titled “Are Women Human?”[iv] The issue for me is why such questions are even asked. The answer is systemic. Women have been nurtured into a world that has systemically treated them as inferior to men. Not always, not everywhere, but often enough to create an Impostor Syndrome for women.

            How sad that this occurs in the church!




Advertisement
Comments read comments(19)
post a comment
linda

posted June 3, 2010 at 3:18 am


interesting. one of my blogmates, a south african, just posted asking similar questions as to whether or not those in the north american emerging conversation will really listen to voices from the global South: whose voices? what emergence?



report abuse
 

Julie Clawson

posted June 3, 2010 at 10:25 am


It going to be hard to reach the point where women and racial minorities don’t feel like unwelcome impostors in the western church when it is mostly church folk leading the charge in creating things like the Arizona immigration law or the new Texas textbook standards. These direct messages that non-white people are suspect and unwanted and that their historical experience should be silenced doesn’t do much to send the message that “you are a beloved made in the image of God.” We can talk about how sad this stuff is, but until systemic evils like racism and sexism are addressed head on by the church instead of dismissed as too political or matters of opinions, nothing is going to change.



report abuse
 

Howard

posted June 3, 2010 at 10:26 am


I agree that sadly there is often a two-tier system within the church that betrays James 2 deeply. And I also agree that women have often wrongly been thrust into a 2nd tier group. However, your argument is a bit straw-manish, because many who deeply embrace the dignity of women being made in the image of God and having a critical role in both the church and the culture also believe that the Bible, God’s Word, forbids women being pastors and elders. For many, this is not driven by a sexism or a low view of women, but of a high view of the Scriptures and an interpretation that differs from your own. As a matter of fact, not that this disqualifies the interpretation that you take, but your interpretation requires much more hermeneutical gymnastics than a more straight-forward reading. I would not straw-man you or hammer you for not believing the Word even though you take a position that prima facia contradicts what is written and would ask you to be more careful or straw-manning those you differ with in this area. Thanks. As we all press on for the glory of God.



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted June 3, 2010 at 10:47 am


Howard,
Thanks for the pushback. When I spoke of ordination of women, which I believe in, I said “some” churches so I think that gets me off the hook for a straw man kind of argument. I recognize Christian differences, and know that history.
I’m much less concerned in this theme with ordination than equality and inclusion. Yes, some will sense an impostor syndrome because of the traditional teachings, but even where egalitarian ethics dominate and where ordination is welcomed there are all kinds of instances of the impostor syndrome.
Once again, let’s get back to the definition because this isn’t in the first instance about equality. The impostor syndrome is the systemically shaped inability to internalize one’s accomplishments. That’s the issue here: when one is accepted, when one has accomplished, that’s when the impostor syndrome emerges. I’m committed to equality, too, so for me the impostor syndrome is particularly unacceptable.
Julie’s comment above yours is right to the point: the systemic issues are fundamental to the impostor syndrome.



report abuse
 

Howard

posted June 3, 2010 at 10:59 am


Thanks…I agree and to be frank the church in this often makes me sick. That is actually why I became a pastor, to seek to nurture change, a deeper Gospel-centeredness that presses its way into the real places where we live, even as you so often seek to do through your blog. What is more, regarding the systemic issues, it is so hard to work against these from a local level when the church has already created a self-inflicted bias against it that we are against everyone and everything, esp when they are not like us. So when we try to be different while holding to Truth, it is hard, nearly impossible, to break out of the perception that we carry the same baggage as those who propagate these self-righteous, Pharisaical perspectives.
A rescued Pharisee



report abuse
 

Faith

posted June 3, 2010 at 11:06 am


I think knowing about the imposter syndrome can help us to be encouragers of others who may suffer from it. And as encouragers, perhaps we can grow beyond it.
To recognize something is to be able to identify it in one’s conscious thinking and make an attitude switch.
I think these posts are valuable not in an accusatory sense to accuse the system… but in a self-identification sense. Because I can spot this, I can change my attitude or have the tools to discount the voice of my enemy and recognize the falsehood. (not flesh and blood).
my two cents for the day…



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted June 3, 2010 at 11:08 am


Thanks Howard.
I believe the Church must be the vanguard of these sorts of changes. I agree with JD Hunter’s book that striving to change culture through government is less effective than a faithful presence, and while I would want to focus my efforts on church culture, I don’t believe it is right to surrender the public square. So, yes, systemic change can occur through activism in culture and society, but the one place where the impostor syndrome should not emerge is in the church … and it is sad that it does.



report abuse
 

Faith

posted June 3, 2010 at 11:12 am


Scot and Howard, what I am trying to say is that even if it does exist in the church, my task is not to accept that estimation of myself. And there are others in my circle who can encourage and hold me accountable for that kind of negative self-assessment.
I think that those who have the imposter syndrome must take responsibiltiy for their part (acceptance of it) and others for their part…
only then can we change it. takes courage on the part of everyone.



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted June 3, 2010 at 11:12 am


Faith, one of the recent comments was to become more encouragers: and I think this ought to focus, not in an artificial way or out of duty, but as a genuine sense on those who are in need of this or more susceptible … and that requires pastoral tact.



report abuse
 

Karl

posted June 3, 2010 at 11:16 am


Scott, a couple of questions/observations:
The imposter syndrome – or at least those feelings of being a fake who is about to be exposed – is quite common even among successful white American men. To what do you attribute that? Poor mentoring? Lack of adequate affirmation as a child or young adult? Something else? It seems like at least to some extent this imposter syndrome is a human problem that goes deeper into the soul and psyche than differences of race and sex and discrimination. If that is so, righting injustices won’t solve the imposter syndrome, even though those injustices should still be righted for lots of reasons. I do agree that hurtful and unwelcoming messages sent to women and minorites can exacerbate this problem.
Relatedly and since you make mention of affirmative action in your post, do you think being the recipient of affirmative action increases the likelihood that someone will suffer from the imposter syndrome? If I am a minority and apply to grad school, and I know (or come to realize) that my college grades and GRE scores are lower than those of most of my white classmates, and that a white candidate with my academic qualifications wouldn’t have had a prayer of getting in this school, I could see how I might suffer the feelings of the imposter syndrome, even if I was objectively capable of doing the work at that grad school. In “Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby” Yale’s Stephen L. Carter wrote nearly 20 years ago about the “best black” syndrome that he and other African American professionals he knows suffer under. For those who suspect they may have benefitted from some form of affirmative action, is that related in some instances to the imposter syndrome – apart from any messages of unwelcome?



report abuse
 

Faith

posted June 3, 2010 at 11:17 am


huh? wasn’t refering to duty… but recognizing my own role. Because the society puts that on me or because I am socialized in that way does not mean I don’t have a role to play in my own freedom. My task toward others who have the syndrome be they immigrants or minorities is to take the role of lifter and encourager and participate in changing the system. both needed.



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted June 3, 2010 at 12:11 pm


Karl, thanks …
I think I said this on the first day, but I do think there is a psychological — universal and not systemic — dimension to some of those who manifest symptoms of impostor syndrome. But I would not personally even call that impostor syndrome. Let’s call that insecurity or something like that.
The issue here is the inability to internalize one’s accomplishments or status. And the fundamental issue that needs to be addressed for many, and not while males, is systemic voices that speak words of inferiority.



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted June 3, 2010 at 1:07 pm


Thanks for the answer, Scot.
Other than in their etiology, how would you say the two differ? By “the two” I mean what you call the “insecurity” of white males who feel like they will be exposed as an undeserving fraud in their place of work, and the “imposter syndrome” that causes women and minorities to feel like THEY will be exposed as an undeserving fraud in their workplace?
One popular author whose writing about this phenomenon in men has struck a chord with many, is John Eldredge. I’m not a huge Eldredge fan but as someone involved in men’s ministry at our church, I’ve had to interact with his books as many men have been impacted by them (for good or ill or a combo of both), and even many of Eldredge’s critics say that he gets this one right at least insofar as describing these symptoms. Here’s a brief summary from one reviewer:
“He [Eldredge] also identifies correctly every man?s deepest fear: ‘to be exposed, to be found out, to be discovered as an impostor . . . Most men live terrified that one day they will be revealed as inadequate”.
That sounds very similar to the way the imposter syndrome is described, and whether Eldredge’s universal generalization of “EVERY man’s greatest fear” is warranted or not, there are tons of men who identify with it. So besides the causation perhaps being different, how do the symptoms differ between the fear of exposure as an undeserving imposter that white men suffer, and the fear of exposure as an undeserving imposter that women and minorities suffer?
I am in favor of getting rid of systemic voices that speak words of inferiority. Correcting that injustice is a good in its own right. But I do question to what extent doing so will stop people from suffering from these symptoms – whether you call them the imposter syndrome or something else.
Any thoughts on Stephen L. Carter’s work, the “best black” (or best latino or best woman) syndrome and whether being the beneficiary of affirmative action can contribute to one having these feelings? I don’t think that’s necessarily an anti-affirmative action question. The benefits of AA might still outweigh the negatives. But is this a potential negative?



report abuse
 

AmyS

posted June 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm


The systemic problem of racism and sexism (and other isms) is that they dehumanize everyone, not just the objectively oppressed parties. In “the system” everyone acts as a cog or a caricature, not a fully human person. Everyone is held captive, kept from being fully human and knowing true freedom.
So, to the question of whether or not this affects women, men, ethnic minorities, etc., the answer is: Yes! This affects everyone, and everyone who cares about living freely and wholly wants to resist oppression of all people.
But, to say that “everyone” experiences the effects of oppression and dehumanization in the same way is counterproductive. Saying so is a very predictable response to the assertions of “minority” voices. In a culture where egalitarianism is the ideal, the assertion that one group or another experiences a specific manifestation of oppression is not tolerated well. Predictably, minority assertions are met with, “Don’t be so hasty. We all have that problem.” That answer squashes the conversation and silences the voices that are trying to bring real problems to light. That answer promotes the status quo and keeps everyone “in their place.”



report abuse
 

faith

posted June 3, 2010 at 4:03 pm


I think that it would be awesome to be part of a community that seeks justice in relations in real and genuine ways so that there are no more people feeling like imposters…. where the church flourishes in true community.
Very interesting posts.



report abuse
 

Karl

posted June 3, 2010 at 6:27 pm


AmyS, your last paragraph seems directed at me. It may sound like I?m just trying to keep people “in their place? but that?s not my intent and I don’t look at people that way. I think it?s more helpful if we discuss and work through the issue rather than impugn each other’s motives. That too is a conversation squasher.
Many hurtful messages of inferiority have been and continue to be directed at women and minorities. That is a fact. I can imagine how those messages could make one feel like an imposter who didn?t really belong no matter how accomplished one was, or how they could exacerbate insecurities that one already had unrelated to sex or ethnicity. That is a tragedy and an injustice that should be addressed. I?m not suggesting that the discriminatory messages received by women and minorities have zero effect, nor that we shouldn’t do anything to stop them.
But if without mentioning discrimination, race or gender you just described the symptoms of ?imposter syndrome? to a group of white men and asked them if they ever had those feelings, there would be a pretty high percentage who said yes, they could relate very strongly and feel that way most of the time. At least they would if they were honest and not afraid of admitting how they really feel much of the time. That is also fact.
I guess what I question is the implied idea that if we can end discriminatory messages, people will stop feeling the symptoms described as constituting ?imposter syndrome? given the fact that a large percentage of the group that hasn?t been discriminated against also suffers from symptoms virtually indistinguishable from imposter syndrome. The absence of anyone in a given group feeling like an imposter can?t be a measure of having reached equality. Not when significant numbers in the advantaged group also feel like imposters too.
So I think the goal should be to focus on ways to end actual discrimination, stop the discriminatory messages of inferiority to women and minorities, and look for more ways to encourage, support and lift up others, of whatever sex or ethnic group. I think most of the people in this discussion are saying much the same thing.



report abuse
 

AmyS

posted June 3, 2010 at 7:52 pm


Karl,
I couldn’t begin to know what your motives are. I assume that everyone’s motives are well-meaning, even if I vehemently disagree with them (which, in this case, I don’t).
Be assured, I was not aiming anything at you. I believe that this is a systemic problem that is much larger than individuals. What I was responding to was a pattern of interaction that happens nearly every time I have a conversation about the problems of a minority or systemically disempowered groups (and I know it’s not just my observation).
Just last week, I had a conversation with friends, on the topic of some of the problems women have with their cycles (it was appropriate in this particular setting :). The first thing one of the men said was, “Men have cycles too. It’s not fair to say that women are particularly troubled. We are too.” The conversation stopped at the point. It was textbook. I don’t fault that man. He’s a friend. He didn’t mean to offend, and I didn’t take personal offense. But, I certainly noticed it, and chalked it up to one more instance of the system (which keeps us all captive unless we resist it) disallowing women (in this instance) from speaking to their unique experience of the world. Sure, if men have troubling cycles too, that’s a problem to be discussed, but that wasn’t the original topic, it was the one that usurped the conversation and said, “You women should quit complaining.”



report abuse
 

Karl

posted June 4, 2010 at 11:04 am


Thanks Amy. I agree with you.
That guy who made the comment suggesting that women don’t experience anything different than men when it comes to their cycles is nuts.
I guess I would be nuts too, if I was suggesting that women and minorities don’t experience anything different when it comes to discrimination and the imposter syndrome than do white males. That’s not what I meant, and I didn’t intend to shut the conversation down. But I’ve talked to enough guys (white males) who are inwardly crippled by these same kinds of feelings, that I am convinced that doing away with discrimination – while a very needful thing – won’t result in zero women or minorities feeling like frauds or imposters. I think there is a very significant subset of ALL people who struggle with these kinds of feelings, regardless of their race or sex. And they all need substantive, specific affirmation and encouragement.



report abuse
 

Dr Hamama

posted November 16, 2011 at 3:55 am


I advise you to read the translated Quraan(Holy Book of Muslims to know The basic science speaking about the creation which science agree with it about the beginning , evolution and fate of the universe. wonderful how Quraan gives facts about the sun the moon , the stars , the pulsar , the black holes , the standard candle, the plate tectonic, the formation of earth crust, the source of water in earth, the faults of the earth., the lowest point of the earth, the darkness of the sky, the expansion of the universe, the life cycle of star, the location of stars….. and many many many facts. pleasure to discuss with you about the scientific signs mentioned in Holy Quraan since more than 1400 years ago.
with best regard
Hosni Hemdan
Professor of Geology
Mansura University
Egypt



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the hand of God's bounty (v. 7a).Step two: David became too

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: Deity or Deism noted: ...this reminds me of why I get a

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's new book is called Almost Christian: What the Faith of Ou

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.