Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes


#190 Calling anger bitterness

posted by Stephanie Drury

 bitterness-kills.jpg

Christian culture doesn’t have a lot of room for people’s hurt, especially when the hurt was caused by the Church. As such, when someone expresses frustration with God or church dealings, Christian culture’s impulse is to label it bitterness and cite a verse.

Christian culture doesn’t really know what to do with unsavory emotions like anger. They think Jesus’ anger and turning over tables was great and holy, but they consider anger in themselves and others sinful and shameful. For this they often suggest an attitude adjustment.

bitterness1.jpgWhen you try to share your frustration with an evangelical, you may reasonably expect one of these responses:

“Careful, your bitterness is showing.”
“You need to repent of the root of bitterness has taken hold in your heart.”
“One of Satan’s most effective and popular schemes is bitterness.”
“A bitter, sour Christian is one of Satan’s greatest trophies.”
“Quit whining. Get to worshiping.”
“You need to change your attitude.”

Christian culture is big on Changing Your Attitude. It’s a lot more
convenient than digging up ugly realities and the source of hurt, which caused the anger, which if not dealt with can lead to bitterness. Easier to label it bitterness straightaway and shame them for it in hopes they’ll quiet down. But Christian culture’s M.O. is Doing Things and Avoiding Relationship. It’s a lot easier this way, but the price you pay is that you can’t be a whole person.



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Dave H.

posted September 18, 2010 at 10:33 am


Bullseye, once again. Thank you.



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nobodyssister

posted September 18, 2010 at 10:47 am


*sob*
If I never hear the words Root of Bitterness again, it will be too soon. Twenty-six years was enough.



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Toranse

posted September 18, 2010 at 11:12 am


Oh, I get this one all the time. What I find interesting is that, in my experience, is that it usually comes from someone who is more concerned about themselves than me. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten “I’m concerned about your bitterness” when it really meant, “You being upset is making me feel bad” or “You being angry is making me have to deal with it” and “If I tell you to stop being bitter, maybe you’ll shut up about it.” Maybe not consciously, but that usually seems to be the motivation. I’ve never gotten someone telling me to stop being bitter who actually was looking to help me.
I once heard a sermon where a pastor said that no matter how angry or hurt or whatever that David got in the psalms, he aways, *always* ended them by praising God – and that’s exactly how we need to suffer, by always turning our anger into gratitude toward God. I was thrilled the day I found a psalm that ended on the most bitter, depressing tone.
Almost always coupled with this are those that believe that healing and forgiveness are exactly the same thing. “If you would just forgive, all the hurt/anger/fear would go away!” Wow, I didn’t realize that when someone abuses you, the hurt and the fear are solely because you didn’t forgive them. Oh, okay.
The thing is, being told that you’re bitter doesn’t make the bitterness go away. I know that Christian Culture likes to believe that every emotion in the world is under our control, and its a matter of choice to feel whatever your feeling, but being told “Stop being bitter” usually only accomplishes burying that emotion down and plastering on a fake one. Which a lot of times is all the person wants anyway.
*Deep breath* Sorry, ending my ranty rant.
*Is bitter about being told to stop being bitter….*



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Joe Gonzalez

posted September 18, 2010 at 11:31 am


Cool ! i used to think, act and speak out of bitterness brought on by real abuse. But i was also abused by society’s mores, which today on the GOP side are much more evident than when i suffered its violence, and my bitterness only brought on more bitterness, isolation, useless seeking of alternative cultures, until i found out that that was just the way things were. Then i mellowed out, forgot my grievances, and set out to do what i could, without losing my personal integrity. And that has worked out pretty well. i feel the same way towards institutionalized Christianity, i’ll try to do the best i can with what i have, and leave the rest to God. Rest assured, He will, in His good time, bring all things to good fruition, and only He truly knows the sanctity of each private ( or collective ) soul, to be able to pass on – again at the precise time – the perfect verdict.



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Wynne

posted September 18, 2010 at 12:58 pm


Bull’s eye, indeed. I have had the unfortunate experience of confiding feelings to a person who, instead of just listening, delivered a lecture. That hurt, as though they didn’t care about what I had to say. It seems Christian culture has trouble just hearing feelings expressed without wanting to sweep them under the rug or to “fix” them. Could it be that some on the receiving end of bitter feelings expressed have their own bitter feelings that they feel afraid to acknowledge? Just a thought.



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shelly

posted September 18, 2010 at 1:43 pm


Another instance of Christians encouraging people to LIE! In other words, encouraging people to SIN!
Go figure.



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Matt Green

posted September 18, 2010 at 1:57 pm


This rings so true that it is painful to read. It seems like the collective church is unwilling to wade into the depths of the human soul because they’re afraid of what they might find. Maybe that’s why they view art and psychology with such suspicion.



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canixon

posted September 18, 2010 at 2:29 pm


Amen! There is such a thing as righteous anger. When this is not dealt with in a constructive way because others label you bitter, it becomes depression. I am finally dealing with this thanks to Christian counseling. Others may find these books helpful (no I don’t get money from them, I just found them and started reading them and found they help). Anger:Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way by Gary Chapman; Anger&Stress Management God’s Way by Wayne Mack; Depression, a Stubborn Darkness: Light for the Path by Edward T. Welch. Some are available at the library.
I pray for all of those who suffer from the effcts of righteous anger but have never been taught to deal with it God’s way–and instead were told they were bad Christians because of their feelings. You are not bad for feeling unselfish, righteous anger; God made you that way so you can powerfully and lovingly right the wrongs of this world! It is learning how to express the anger in constructive, Godly ways that is the key–and something you may never have been taught because your family said anger was a sin. It is not a sin if it is righteous anger. Use these books and a Christian counselor’s help to distinguish selfish anger from righteous anger and deal with both appropriately according to Biblical principles. God bless you!



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Jess P

posted September 18, 2010 at 3:28 pm


The whole thing is cyclical too. Someone gets hurt. They try and communicate the hurt in the right way and are told they need to change. They get angry, which reinforces to others that they have an attitude. Then they get desperate and are told to repent of their rebellion. Then they leave, confirming beyond a doubt that they are “in sin” and not “walking with the Lord” anymore. Happened to quite a few of my friends.



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Hollan

posted September 18, 2010 at 3:31 pm


Denied feelings of anger quickly turn into self-loathing which makes one depressed.
I have been suffering from bouts of severe depression since I was twelve. Without going into too much personal detail, I can say it is one of the worst things people can do: Tell you to just cheer up and that its Satan acting out his general wickedness on you.
Its a major reason I don’t like the church. Pretending you don’t have the entire range of human emotions so you don’t…what? Offend God? Make people uncomfortable? Because clinical depression is catching?
I finally went and got some good anti-depressants and when those started working well enough for me to get out of bed, I found a few useful creative outlets for my expressing my wide range of emotions.
I am much happier now, without church members telling me I am wrong or ‘just being attacked by demons’ when it comes to everything I feel.
To see anger and sadness in someone who is just asking for a little help and empathy, and then instead of listening you tell them to get over it because no one likes a sad person!
This shows a moral cowardice that is just plain detestable in people.



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Still Breathing

posted September 18, 2010 at 3:46 pm


Hollan, God bless you from a fellow depression suffer.
canixon, Thank you. God gets angry so we should realise that anger in itself isn’t sinful. I had a problem with anger but forget the name of the book I read. This pointed out that anger is a response to feeling threatened or seeing a threat to something you value highly. God can’t be threatened but he gets angry when he sees people made in His image being abused.



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Greta

posted September 18, 2010 at 5:23 pm


Thank you again, Stephanie for such a thoughtful post.
@Matt Green – NICE! Agree!
These are often the same people who equate any negativity/bad stuff in your life to your specific sins (or not attending church often enough).
I also like the “if you don’t let go of this bitterness it’s gonna take hold of your whole life!”



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Josh

posted September 18, 2010 at 5:30 pm


After this post I’ve never really saw it until now. Most evangelicals sound like Yoda. “Bitterness leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the darkside… I mean Satan.”



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Stephen Charles

posted September 18, 2010 at 6:27 pm


I’m not much for therapeutic, but I like Peter Gabriel’s authentic-therapeutic advice way better than CC’s psycho-spiritual therapy:
“(To be sung in stout anger)Don’t talk back, just drive the car; shut your mouth, I know what you are. Don’t say nothing, keep your hands on the wheel; don’t turn around, this is for real. (To be sung gently)I’m digging in the dirt, stay with me, I need support. I’m digging in the dirt to find the places I got hurt, to open up the places I got hurt.”



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Babba-Gi

posted September 18, 2010 at 9:16 pm


This is just another example of Christian psychosis. Deny your feelings, shut up, put on a smile and sing. The home where no one ever raises their voice, complains or asks a question becomes a “seething cauldron of angst”. Emotions are for non-believers and ethnic people. Just accept your life as God’s Will, don’t complain, don’t change anything, don’t work through a problem, just reach for the Prozac and Nexium.



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Eli

posted September 18, 2010 at 10:54 pm


Got to love the over-use of words (the way CC does with bitterness) that causes them to mean absolutely nothing. Add abuse of language to the CC rap sheet.



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urname

posted September 18, 2010 at 11:19 pm


one of ur best posts.



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Shannon Pace

posted September 19, 2010 at 12:17 pm


You so nailed this, Stephie. I think it’s easy for CC to use the robotic phrases (some of which you listed) it has coined for itself (often Biblical stuff without a context) as a smokescreen — so as to avoid both looking at what’s actually in their own souls and revealing the real stuff of their souls to others. It’s easier, after all, to have a polished identity “in Jesus”, rather than travelling the often painful, always humbling narrow road that leads to our own wholeness — and the “life abundant” that Jesus had in mind.



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pete

posted September 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm


Stephy:
I feel that I am beginning to channel you to other believers……
Where will it all end?????
:)
captcha-Delray Carsdate? Sounds like a character from the LEFT BEHIND series….



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Daniel

posted September 20, 2010 at 12:23 am


I can envision people going into Bitterness Management programs.



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Micah

posted September 20, 2010 at 1:44 am


So true. This thing is so unbelievably manipulative and abusive- as far as I’m concerned, it’s no different than raping someone and then guilt-tripping them for being upset about it.
And no, I’m not bitter, not at all.



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Sean

posted September 20, 2010 at 6:28 am


I am so angry right now, Stephanie. For 30+ years I did not identify these feelings as anger. Now (thanks to a few years in therapy) I am identifying them and the anger is streaming and screaming and spilling and bleeding out everywhere.
If I was in church or seeing a Christian counselor, they would probably not let me say the things I say in therapy, express the emotions I have or be as angry as I am. They would not let me bleed. My parents are Christian counselors. They did not let me be angry. They taught me how to deny my anger, how to turn it inward, call it something else, claim it for Jesus, give it all to God and keep functioning. Functioning while stuffing myself full of feelings and believing that God will remove them from me by osmosis, without me having to express them. The verse “be angry and sin not” was taught to me to mean that the only thing I can be angry at is sin. And I’m angry at A LOT of other things.
It’s going to take a while to work out the 35 years of anger that has been building up inside me, aided by me mislabeling it and not looking at it head-on. I’ve been calling these feelings “hurt” or “struggle” or “bitterness” or “going through trials” or “Satan’s attacks” or “not claiming victory” or “my lack of faith”. My lack.
My lack? NO. NOT MY LACK.
The presence of emotion. THIS IS WHAT I FEEL. And I’m pissed off.
I’m sorry if that’s not pretty enough for God.
–Sean



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stephanie drury

posted September 20, 2010 at 11:39 am


That’s amazing, Sean. I’m so happy you’re figuring out how to be angry and that it is right and beautiful in its own regard. The God of the Bible isn’t threatened by our un-pretty emotions. Half the time the psalmist is painting an ugly, violent picture and calling God out. As I see it, God honors this in us. Keep on your journey! All things are recoverable and your heart is certainly worth it.



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justanatheist

posted September 20, 2010 at 12:34 pm


The last time I heard that was from a pastor. After he was screaming at me (over the phone) for about an hour because I didn’t agree with how the capital campaign to raise money for a new building was being done.
Did I deserve it? Absolutely NOT. I was rational and stating things very calmly. He then told me to read a couple of verses in the Bible. When I still didn’t get how the way he was doing the campaign related in ANY way shape or form to these verses he told me to shut my Bible & never read the verses again!
He ended our “conversation” saying that I would let bitterness in & tell people about what he did. Did he apologize for screaming? Nope. Had a meeting with our deacon & the pastor and he denied the whole thing and actually walked out of the meeting. Of course it didn’t matter that my husband & kids could hear him screaming while they were watching TV. Nope – He wasn’t screaming it was all in my mind!



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Andy

posted September 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm


When John Smith gets angry that his Church is doing something that he disagrees with, it’s bitterness. When Mark Driscoll goes on an angry rant about how Men are ruining Christianity, it’s righteous.



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stephanie drury

posted September 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm


Word.
Have you seen this? http://twitter.com/fakedriscoll



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Andy

posted September 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm


I have, but everyone needs to see this one:
http://twitter.com/fakedriscoll/status/24886863462
Classic



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Rocky Presley

posted September 20, 2010 at 9:14 pm


You know, I haven’t shared much of my story here, because I don’t want to get too personal in such a public forum. My story right now is for my close friends, but bitterness plays such an important role that I figure I should share just a bit. Atheist, that guy was a dick. So sorry you had to go through that. My wife and I were involved in a church plant that we gave two years of our lives to, and the relationship was equally as abusive, and it turns out that the guy was banging prostitutes while feeding a drug habit, and he was actually projecting his own guilt on me, and trying to pin the sinking ship on me and my family. But eventually he was exposed, and he no longer has the opportunity to manipulate people like he did. God is just.
Dealing with that hurt didn’t immediately lead to anger though. No one ever told me to not let a root of bitterness set in. Not my Christian counselor. None of my friends. None of my spiritual family. I am lucky I guess, but that hurt did lead to bitterness, and what that means is that the world stopped being a place where I wanted to be. Call it depression. Call it bitterness. It was the same thing. That wasn’t brought on because of bad advise from other Christians. That was brought on because that pain started to make me think things about myself, this world, and God that weren’t true.
I thought that I was useless. That this life is worthless. That my faith is pointless, much of which was perpetuated with this guys angry words directed at me. And as I started letting those things define me, I certainly became bitter. Now when I heard that the guy was banging prostitutes, I did get angry. Enraged really. Once again, that was OK by those that were around me. So not only was I dealing with an unhealthy perspective of myself brought on by abuse, but I wanted to kick the crap out of the guy.
All I have to say is that bitterness is a bitch. It is tough to get through that stuff. It hurts the people that you love. It ruins who you are. It is beyond anger. Christians don’t get this, but it’s mostly because they don’t know any better. That is why it is so great that we have discussions like this here. I don’t believe that Stephanie is denying that bitterness exists, or it’s ill effects on living life. I do believe that she is saying that we are idiots when it comes to categorizing anger, and anger doesn’t always lead to bitterness. But I can attest to the fact that being wounded by someone that we thought cared about us certainly does, and dealing with those emotions in a healthy way, is key to not getting bitter. But you don’t do so to not get bitter. You do so because living life well is completely worth it. You do so because you have to heal. You do so because there is no way in hell that you are going to let these people get what they want, to control and manipulate you.



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T...

posted September 20, 2010 at 10:42 pm


Holy shit. My insides are twisted. I know this all too well.
Eight years I struggled with chronic depression (clinical & tragedy induced), never did I say a word. Because I’d heard them admonish others. “You’re bitter… if you’re depressed, it’s because you’re not in the Bible enough… obviously you’re not trying, what’s wrong with your walk, hey?…” ET freaking C.
My friend and I were just talking about this. About how painful it is to share grief, but how ABSOLUTELY necessary it is. And how the church refuses. And the bullshit they sell instead.
There is such a thing as bitterness. However, most of what they mark as bitterness is not. It is legitimate pain. And it needs to be faced. In unity.
I will not stand for it. I’m actively trying to change this perception in my youth group. In fact, we hit this very topic last week.
*sigh* I could go on forever. But i will not, I’m tired, and my soapbox needs reinforcing for such tirades.
Thank you, for this post. For this blog. I’m so glad I’m not alone.



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Meghan

posted September 21, 2010 at 10:29 am


I like to think of myself more as semi-sweet than full on bitter.
But in all seriousness: when people go to church for answers, and they’re given half-thought-through, too easy to be real, illogical answers to big questions, and hear God regularly blamed for all of their troubles (it’s in His Perfect Will!), no wait it’s man (because he’s Fallen!), or it’s sin (the source of all of our problems, from relationship issues to hurricanes), or it’s the Devil (He tempts us!)- well, it’s no wonder that with the average smattering of mixed messages, lazy, weak, or incomplete thought, and bad theology that people encounter in the average church, folks get frustrated and bitter. Compound it x100 when they actually start asking questions about their frustrations and are met with accusations, evasions, and condemnation.
I’m just grateful that the real Church (capital C, made by God) is still alive and well in places like this: where people can share what has hurt them or disappointed them and not be thrown to the wolves, can reveal the pain they’ve suffered and the steps they’ve taken toward healing and not be called out as lesser or flawed or broken because of it. And I’m really, really grateful that so many of you have shared your own experiences on this blog- it obviously touched a nerve.
I’m just grateful for this, the Church, a place of encouragement, love, and rest.



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justanatheist

posted September 21, 2010 at 10:51 am


Rocky, Glad you are in a better place now. I think one of the worst things about your story (& mine in parallel ways) is that the rest of the congregation still thought that the pastor was always right and an A-okay guy. They honestly thought the guy was doing God’s will. Pastors should never be questioned, etc.
Then you live through this situation & you know for a fact that things aren’t “right” but they somehow convince you that you are the crazy person.
In my case, the pastor only wanted a new building to show prospective mega-churches that he was growing his church and was worthy of being in a bigger church. I could see what was happening & it didn’t matter. To those people he was doing what was best for them and the church. I feel sorry for them on some level because they had to be CRUSHED when it came to pass & they found themselves duped. The worst thing was that people put money into pledges that they didn’t have. Okay for them to eat rice while the pastor had steak & wore $250 shoes.
Did he pay the pledge he promised? NOPE (knew that was going to happen as well). When he moved on he also took the pre-school director with him (& his wife). Everyone suspected they were having an affair & I am pretty sure they were.
Worst thing? This isn’t even the worst experience I’ve had in church. I could write a book for years.
I have survived & now LOVE life.



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Sarah

posted September 21, 2010 at 12:45 pm


And yet it seems like Paul spends a lot of time in his epistles telling people to suppress “bad” feelings. I think probably he meant that we shouldn’t treat each other badly (this is me giving Paul the benefit of the doubt), but it seems awfully easy to misinterpret, if that’s the case. As Christian culture isn’t known for the depth of its inquiry, it’s not surprising that they should take the Doing Things track as they have done.
This post was brilliantly timed, Stephy. It coincides with a lot of digging into the ugliness that I’m imminently facing — the fundamental things that happened when I was an adolescent that have lain dormant for years, and yet have informed how I relate to people (that is, guardedly and fearfully) and myself (that is, ashamedly and harshly).
The worst part of it isn’t going to be the facing of the wounds and the old demons — my oldest companions, really, that I have looked to as protectors and friends — that sprang up to protect me from the wounds, which I will also have to face down. The worst part is that in the vortex of the whole thing I feel like I have lost my faith. I don’t know if it’s similar to situations where a person gets out of an abusive relationship and deals intensely with it and for awhile is put off by the entire idea of relationships; I don’t know if it’s something temporary or permanent. It seems like holding onto faith right now, when faith and God were so tied up in what happened to me back then, is too difficult — like sorting the wheat from the tares is too overwhelming, so I want to throw it all in the fire. I mean, when everything I was taught about love and faith was twisted up, like DNA double helix loops, in guilt and shame and fear, I’m not sure how to think about love and faith NOT in terms of the guilt and shame and fear.
I was able to go on for a long time trying to separate the good from the bad to hold onto the good. But…I can’t right now. It’s gotten to the point where when God is even mentioned in a conversation, I feel faintly revulsed; or, when the talk of God comes from someone whose faith I actually respect, I feel sad and wistful.
And I’m really angry because something that is supposed to give me fortitude and comfort feels dead and useless, and that might not have needed to happen if what I learned about faith hadn’t been given to me in abuse. Like that verse about millstones — anyone who prevents one of these little ones from coming to me, it would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea. (It’s verses like these that give me little flickers of faith.)
Micah — RIGHT ON. It’s a rape.
These people wonder why there’s so many people who want nothing to do with the church and lament the hell-in-a-handbasket state of society and remain blissfully unaware that they’re the very agents of evil they’re wondering about. I could choke.
I’ve been aware of God since before I was old enough to understand anything about Jesus or God or Christianity — my earliest memories are of light, and a sort of metaphysical joy and feeling of surrounding love (which didn’t quite come from my family) that went way too deep for words. I think I’ll probably come through this and find faith again — it’s important to me, although I don’t think it’s necessary or that everyone needs to have it. But I’m looking down some really dark corridors from my history, and I’m girding up my courage to walk down them and live them all over again, and I don’t even have the comfort and warmth of a fucking candle, and yeah, I’m angry, and yeah, I’m bitter.



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stephanie drury

posted September 21, 2010 at 1:26 pm


Sarah, it’s amazing you are taking the scary steps to be whole. Grieve it well. It isn’t a sign of disloyalty for you to be sad, angry and confused.
Rocky, we’ve been through very similar things as what you described as well. Bleh.



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kidsis

posted September 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm


I think the “Christian” procedure of defining anger as bitterness is more of an extension of the general society’s procedure of not wanting to get any deeper than a puddle when it comes to other people’s emotions.



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Jean Grey

posted September 22, 2010 at 12:23 am


Sarah,
Oh dear Sarah, we have a similar story. Your story touched me, and moved me immensely. Ok, here’s the deal. I have had the same experience- facing my demons, traumatic childhood, after a few miscarriages I was so pissed at God it frightened me. I too have always had faith, and I thought it was strong. But boy was I mad. A crappy childhood wasn’t enough, now I have to deal with a painful adult life as well? I wanted to die. I told everyone in my church (we’d been there 10 years and everyone knew us) I felt like I was being unsaved. I felt a sliding, deeper, and deeper, it frightened me, but I was too angry to care. I wouldn’t even talk to God. No one cared. No one even noticed when I stopped going. When I did show my face again a couple of times about a year later because my kids were still going I was met with “oh, good to see you, how would you like to fill in for me in________”. In the end I had to seek the help of my physicians. I ended up depressed beyond anything I’d ever known. Not one of my friends even cares enough to call…. your story is sadly many peoples story… I hope one day you find the answers and the peace you seek.



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Kent

posted September 22, 2010 at 11:16 am


Some good observations. However, everytime Jesus was angry, it was over the trampling and dishonoring of God’s holiness, NOT because one of the Disciples took the last bit of ice cream or because it was “that time of the month”. Prople all to often look for an “excuse” to vent over “not getting their petty selfish way”. I would love to see more people “get angry”. And I mean get angry at the spitting in God’s face, not the little childish, self centered woe is me tantrums.
Kent



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Sarah

posted September 22, 2010 at 12:23 pm


Kent,
Your comment seemed pretty callous and sexist to me, but maybe I’m not understanding where you’re coming from. What do you mean by “little childish, self centered woe is me [sic] tantrums”? What do you mean by the disciples “[taking] the last bite of ice cream”?
If you mean that people often complicate matters for themselves and for others through pettiness, I agree with you; pettiness is certainly a factor we all face in ourselves every day, and is often a hindrance to the giving and receiving of love. At the same time, even when pettiness is a factor, people still need to be able to be honest about their experiences and their feelings. Usually, when a person speaks honestly, he or she can see for him- or herself when pettiness is coming into play, that he or she maybe wouldn’t have if the experiences and emotions were represed instead of expressed.
I don’t think, however, that any of the comments here, or any of Stephy’s observations in the post itself, had anything to do with triviality. Most of the people commenting here are sharing experiences of abuse and deep, scarring pain that has had lifelong repercussions. I hope you’re not calling those experiences, and the anger that results from them, “an ‘excuse’ to vent over ‘not getting their petty selfish way'”; if you are, though, I can understand where you might see things that way, seeing as your writing is steeped in Christian culture phrasings and expressions. I thought and wrote that way too, not so long ago, and I understand what it’s like being in that position; in your position, I felt angry with people who expressed their anger because I didn’t feel free to express my own, and their honesty shook the facade I felt I had to maintain and made my job being a happy-looking (horrifically depressed) good Christian teenager really difficult.
As to your observation about the reason for Jesus’ anger, I think we’re all thinking primarily of the Cleansing of the Temple in the Gospel of John, yes? Which seems, at surface glance, to be about the “dishonoring of God’s holiness” — the money-changers and money-lenders were turning his “Father’s house into a marketplace” after all, and that’s pretty disrespectful. But to me, these last few years (and especially upon listening to Conor Oberst’s “Lenders in the Temple” many many times), Jesus’ anger in that passage comes from the dishonoring and trampling of people — because the Temple existed so that people could come to God (the Temple, like the Sabbath, was made for the benefit of man), and what the money-lenders and money-changers were doing, at the most basic level, was charging people for access to God, and turning a profit off people’s need for God — a horrifying level of evil.
Which is exactly what the church has done to a lot of us.



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Sarah

posted September 22, 2010 at 12:32 pm


Jean,
Thank you, so much, for your comment. I got tears in my eyes reading your story — to go through so much, your whole life, and these most recent and devastating losses, and have no one respond? That’s heartbreaking.
No one has asked about my leaving the church of my adolescence either — the church my parents still attend. Only one family from that church expresses interest in me and the desire to hang out with me (they’re super freaking cool; they never push me about “my walk”); the rest just look really uncomfortable whenever I see them, like they’re glad to see me but not sure what to do about it.
Your situation sounds worse — to have people ask you to do them favors immediately upon seeing you! Not to call when you’ve told them exactly what’s going on and the pain you’re experiencing!
I’m so sorry. The same peace you wish for me, I wish for you. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through any of this crap; but I’m really glad I’m not alone. Really glad, too, that here is a safe space to talk about it; I don’t know any other Christians, at all, with whom I can share this kind of turmoil; and for the commentors on this blog who are not Christians, I equally deeply appreciate you.
All the best, Jean. Peace is out there. We might not know where we’ll end up, but even in the anger and the lostness I feel certain it will be somewhere amazing and good, whatever shape it takes.



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Kent

posted September 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm


Sarah,
Please don’t what I said to apply torward any of your or any of the other comments made by those who participated in the conversation. I apologize if it came accross that way.
There is a place for anger and hurt feelings, don’t get me wrong. Any healthy Body of Christ accepts this, and help others through it.
My heart goes out to those here who have posted their trials and heartaches. We to just found out that my wife has miscarried. It’s hard, but I thank God for a healthy body of Christ who shares our hurt and doesn’t condemn it. I wanted to point out though, that there is a lot of just plain old belly aching that goes on, and people like to use Jesus’s anger as an exuse to gripe, again, not that any of the comments on this thread have been that.
This site just has a flavor to me of mocking the Church in general. And that is unfair, there are a lot of good Churches out there, yet those just seem to get ignored. So much of the Church has been prostituted by the Purpose Driven, Seeker sensitive movement, etc. and because of these, there the ones focused on, not the good ones that are still in existance.



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Another Sarah

posted September 22, 2010 at 2:20 pm


I’ve often wondered about this link between anger and a supposed lack of faith. I mean I think I comprehend where CC is going when they connect the two (and it matches the criticism in the post) but I can’t really wrap my head around it.
If I am angry with God (and I have been in my life)then is that not just another part of my relationship with God? I cannot be angry with God without believing there is a God to be angry with.
Is an angry scream not just as much of a prayer as a whisper or a song of praise? Is God selectively deaf and only hears nice stuff?
And let’s face it, God makes life pretty tough for a lot of people (tougher for others than me these days I will fully disclose). We are repeatedly called to do hard stuff – and yet somehow we’re supposed to face this life without ever dealing with anger, fear or pain?
If Christ cried out “my God My God why have you forsaken me” on the cross and He was perfect, what are the odds that I, with my flawed human brokenness, would ever pull off the stoic life the church somehow thinks I should?
God knows our hearts. He knows when we’re angry. It seems a useless exercise to pretend to Him that we’re not.
I would understand if CC regularly reminded us to work to deal with tough emotions in a healthy way and not to bring down our anger on the ones we love (which I suppose could be a way to interpret Paul’s line on the subject – but Paul and I are often at odds as well)…but to sweep the “bad emotions” under a rug and pretend they don’t exist and then claim we are somehow above human frailty strikes me as arrogant – and not very Christian.



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Kent

posted September 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm


Another Sarah writes
“If Christ cried out “my God My God why have you forsaken me” on the cross and He was perfect, what are the odds that I, with my flawed human brokenness, would ever pull off the stoic life the church somehow thinks I should”?
Sarah, you refer to “the church” in this comment. My question is, what church? That’s very prejudice. It would be like me being robbed by a black person and saying black people are robbers, it’s simply not true and unfair. There are a lot of great Churches out there, and seems that this site has does not want to acknowledge that due to an inconvenience in what it’s trying to accomplish.
Kent



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stephanie drury

posted September 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm


Kent, you don’t read much Flannery O’Connor, do you?



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Kent

posted September 22, 2010 at 5:49 pm


Stephanie, I had never heard of Flannery until now. I just looked and got a brief glipse of who she was out on wikipedia, interesting writer. I don’t take the question as a slam, unless of course it was meant as one :)



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stephanie drury

posted September 22, 2010 at 6:36 pm


Why would it be intended as a slam? I made a guess and turned out to be quite correct. :)



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Another Sarah

posted September 22, 2010 at 7:34 pm


Kent,
I suppose I should have put quotations around my reference to “the church” or perhaps used “christian culture” instead. It was certainly not meant to group all churches together and slight them all – and hardly what my comment was about. I have experienced some wonderful church environments in my life. I credit these experiences with my relative comfort in my skin. It was my first home church that taught me I did not need to be perfect (actually that I’m really not supposed to be perfect) and I deeply value that lesson.It was my first home church that taught me that my above comment just might not be theologically disasterous.
But I have also experienced the other way churches and christians can be. I have seen religion and church used as a tool of control and ostracism. I have watched friends be hurt by “christian” judgement and this experience is why I avoided churches until my early twenties. This is experience is what has kept those friends from ever exploring the Christian faith.
I watched one friend in particular struggle with her lifelong religious devotion after going to a church mentor for help to heal from years of abuse she was just beginning to deal with only to be told that she “should just forgive them.”
I, possibly as you do, face people regularly who’ve been hurt by their christian experiences and who assume that because I am a Christian I side with those who’ve hurt then. And like it seems you do, I too have been known to say “my church isn’t like that.”
But that doesn’t invalidate the reality that many churches are “like that”, and that what is described in this blog touches deeply on the experiences (often painful) that many people have had in their churches.
Of course this blog is also a satire like most of the “stuff _____ people like” blogs are, but I feel most institutions should be able to weather some satire and that satire is an important tool to remind us of our imperfections and keep our heads from getting big enough to draw small objects into orbit.
I often see in the comments as well that this blog also serves the purpose of letting those who have been hurt by their churches know that they are not alone. Like you and I, this blog lets people know that not all christians are “like that.”



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Chrissy

posted September 22, 2010 at 9:06 pm


Kent, Where would the disciples get ice cream? And did Christ have a uterus that no one told us about? Without a uterus I assume it would make it difficult for him, impossible even, to bemoan “that time of the month.” I’m just sayin’…



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Sean

posted September 25, 2010 at 8:59 am


Kent and friends,
OK, let’s get some terminology straight, because I think it’s causing some miscommunication.
1. The Church (capitalized) is a term used in the Bible to mean the entire body of Christian believers, past and present, which is also referred to as the Bride of Christ. The Church is considered by most Christians to be a Sacred entity/concept. I haven’t read any posts on the site that have been mocking this concept. In fact, it could be said that much of what is pointed out on the site is an attempt to differentiate this Sacred concept from #2.
2. On the other hand, church or churches (not capitalized) are specific buildings or groups of people that meet together on a regular basis. So-and-so Methbyterian Church on First Avenue, or whatever. These entities are created (and run) by human beings, who are fallible (aka they screw up ALL THE TIME).
3. Christian popular culture (aka “CC”) in America tends to model itself after secular pop culture in its materialism, celebrity crushes, consumerism, gossip, lack of global perspective, and lack of a sense of humor about itself. CC is largely propagated by the Christian bookstore industry (which is largely a cudgel/whip/ball-gag/fuzzy purple handcuffs of the agenda- and profit-driven Christian Booksellers Association–but that’s another story for another day).
4. The problem is, #3 is the largest influencer of what goes on in many of those #2s out there. And although #2s like to identify themselves as #1, they are usually more of a reflection of what is happening in #3. And #3, unknowingly and despite itself, is PRETTY DAMN FUNNY, because it thinks it has #1 pegged and can make #1 its bitch. And no one does that to #1, because it’s #1. So #3 is really just a sad parody of what it thinks it is. And parody is funny.
I can build a flowchart if needed.



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Mary

posted September 27, 2010 at 12:39 pm


I’ve dealt with a fair bit of anger and/or bitterness (not sure which it was, prolly a bit of both) towards the church, and for ages I stuffed it down, totally convinced that if anyone at my church knew they’d look down on me, since I’m on staff at the church.
I agree that we have big problems in that we think that if we just pray about our anger it will go away. For me it took a good year of my mindset being changed and addressing the crap in my past to be able to move forward. I actually ended up talking to my sr. pastor about my issues and thankfully he was really good about it, which helped a LOT. But in order to move forward, I didn’t have to just pray that the feelings would go away. I had to dig into the depths of my past and admit that I’d been misled and misinformed and brutally hurt by some people in the church. A part of my healing process WAS prayer and forgiving, but another part was just hashing out my feelings, journalling, understanding that the lies that had been fed to me truly were lies, and replacing them with healthy truths about God.
I love this song, it really points the finger at Christian pretending: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzKOrlPuWzo



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