By Norris Burkes Feb 13, 2022
My wife, Becky, expressed surprise to hear that last week’s column “Clichés of An Unhealthy Faith,” brought more responses than probably anything I’ve written in twenty years. (Posted at www.thechaplain.net).
When readers began to share a few clichés I missed, she suggested the column deserved a sequel. So here it is.
Additional Unhealthy Clichés:
1. “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
Try something for me, will you? Repeat the phrase aloud as if it’s being said about you.
Do you hear the way the words create an us-versus-them dynamic? The speaker becomes the righteous person looking down at the poor miserable “sinner.”
“Hate” is the word that gives me the most trouble. Even if God hates, and I know some believe he does, he certainly didn’t delegate that job to us. The cliché seems to be roughly 10% love and 90% hate. Yet, we haven’t a clue why it doesn’t work.
How about we replace this one with the truism, “God loves you.” Has a certain biblical ring to it, right?
2. “God told me.”
Related to the let-me-pray-about-it cliche, this claims to have God in your pocket. Back when I was in clergy school, a few of my fellow ministerial students told their girlfriends, “God told me we should get married.” Even then I could hear the ulterior motives.
My wife, Becky, told one of her early suitors, “Let’s just wait until God tells me too.” God never did.
We needn’t make up what God tells us to do when we have 66 biblical books presenting some good decisions
3. “Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.”
I applaud the second half of this cliché, but the first half of the saying is intellectually false.
You can’t say Christianity isn’t a religion. BUT if you say Christianity is “a unique religion” then you’d be in good company with Boston University professor Stephen Prothero. In his book “God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World — and Why Their Differences Matter” he dismisses a related cliché often voiced by those opposed to religion. Namely, that all religions are the same.
Prothero shows how each belief, including Christianity, meets the criteria of a religion. The difference he sees is that each religion is vastly different with greatly opposing goals. For instance, Christians uniquely focus on Eternal Life, Sin and Salvation. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Confucians either don’t believe in sin or don’t concentrate on it.
Honestly, the untruth has undertones of “My religion is the only true one.” And if you insert John 14:6 and proclaim that Jesus is the only way to know God, then you might as well add the conversation-stopper that all those who follow other religions are going to hell.
4. “Let’s agree to disagree.”
This one is often used in discussions of religion and politics. Unfortunately, it’s a cliché many of us use to grab the last word of any discussion.
It’s definitely the cliché I’d be tempted to use if I ever meet Dr. Jeff Myers of the conservative Colorado Christian University. His bio tells me there is some doctrine we don’t share, yet I was still able to find inspiration for this column in his blog.
“Clichés produce shame, not change,” he says. “They seem powerful at first because people ooh and ahh and applaud when they hear them.”
But those who disagree are left feeling unspiritual. How long will it take us to realize that such shame-inducing tactics are counterproductive?”
Finally, speaking of “shame-producing” Becky says that the positive responses for last week’s column came because I shamelessly begged you to agree with me. Please write and tell her that she’s wrong.
Whoops. I did it again, didn’t I?
Contact Chaplain Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 10556 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail (843) 608-9715.