Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Cult of Christian Niceness

I'm going to try this again. I did a posting yesterday ( at least I had written if off line but only had posted the photo ) but then after sleeping on it I decided to delete it. I wrote it with a lot of emotion, which is sometimes not the best thing to do.

This issue, which I'm about to describe, dove-tails with the previous post about Sentimentality.

The issue at hand is that I have friend, a fellow Christian and church member who is, basically, dying from cancer. I feel upset about that. No, I'm not mad at God or anything like that but I simply feel deeply saddened.

Here is where I felt some outrage over the past two days. My friend, T, had a type of cancer that had good odds of him recovering from. Our church had been praying for him faithfully since his diagnoses six months ago. His cancer "ride" had been a roller coaster. He was doing great, back at church in early December. Then, just before Christmas he took a nose dive. He was in ICU for 6 weeks. Then he started to get better again. There is a potential cure with a bone marrow transplant and they were hoping to get him well enough for that.

Now here is the kicker. Every week in church we've prayed for T. Then last Thursday, he took a devastating turn when the cancer entered his nervous system (from which I don't think anyone has ever recovered). Everyone in the church gets the updates from the family via e-mail and Thursday was no exception.

But oddly, very oddly, he was not mentioned at church on Sunday, even though we had a very long prayer time (including praying about a member's dog). Even though things were much worse, it was like he suddenly disappeared. I felt a great unease, thinking that should even cancel church and spend the entire time praying for him rather than pretending the set back didn't exist.

I've been following his daughter's blog and I feel like I am updated daily if not hourly. It is very grave at this point. Yesterday the daughter blogged about a "miracle" which was minor in the whole scope of things. That is he came out of his comma long enough to talk. The daughter (in her own way of coping I'm sure) shared a lot of spiritual language about how they had the chance to talk about death and heaven. Of course Christians must always look for the rainbows . . .right.

I still feel sick . . . very sick. Yes, I believe in God, I know he's there and in control . . . but my friend is dying!!! Doesn't anyone get it? It is like our whole church has shifted into a Christian bookstore mentality (soft music, pasty smiles) in a very dysfunctional way of coping with loss. We should all be angry as hell that T is suffering and dying!!!! That doesn't offend God! He didn't create death as some wonderful thing that we must be thankful for.

Yesterday the pastor sent out an e-mail update about "good news" about T. I thought something new and wonderful had happened so I jumped to the blog. It was the same old entry I had read that morning. The pastor was pointing to him waking up as the "good news." I wrote the pastor an e-mail asking if he realized that T was still dying? He said he did. So what's this "good news" business???????

This is the exact place that my Christian friends see me as nonspiritual because I don't see the rainbows when a friend is suffering and dying. This has absolutely nothing do with trusting God or being "spiritual"!

I remember how pathetic it was when my father passed away. The whole family had to stand there besides my poor dad in the open casket, trying to maintain a smile, while people paraded by telling us all their crappy reasons why we shouldn't be sad. Like, "Look at the bright side,God took him home for a reason," or "He's in a better place now."

What's wrong with us that we can not face death like real men and women but we need this spiritual pretend opium to make it through? Why is it that when a brother or sister doesn't follow the miracle paradigm (where God heals them) that we then do the very unjust thing of making them disappear in our minds?

I like the way my Arab friends mourn. They are even more fatalistic than Evangelicals yet, somehow, they allow themselves to rip their cloths scream profanities, punch the walls, break furniture. This is healthy mourning in my book. Everyone knows the shortest verse in the Bible . . . "Jesus wept." But Evangelicals have to spiritualize it . . . saying that Jesus wept because he was so disappointed in his unspiritual friends. No, I think he was deeply grieved that his friend Lazarus was dead, dead, dead!

So if I'm ever on my death bed I want my friends and family there. But I hope that I have some Arab friends there who care about me. I hope there are no candles lit, no gospel hymns or expectations that I would carry a perfect smile to the grave. I want some gnashing of the teeth . . . tearing of the cloths and tears. I hope that I have some Arab friends in the room. Hey, I hope I have some gay friends in the room. I don't mean to stereotype them, but the gays that I've known tend to be the most observant and honest in our society.

This has nothing to do with faith. I mean even if we knew 100 percent that as soon as we die, we would be in perfect bodies bouncing around Heaven with the Lord, that doesn't dampen the fact that this life is over, that we won't see our love ones again for a very long time. That, in itself, is worth getting very upset about. It is NOT an issue of not trusting God. It is an issue of being human!

Okay, enough said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

JMJ, this sounds like a runup to the Shiny Happy Christianese you wrote about in your book. Like the father who had to identify his mutilated son at the morgue after a car crash. Or the couple who lost their kid to that lawnmower accident. Both had to be Shiny Happy Christians Praise God Praise God Praise God -- and both ended up melting down inside.

I look at such Pollyanna Christians and say one of two things: Either they have NEVER experienced anything that even inconvenienced them; or they didn't give a rat's ass about the deceased in the first place. You don't get torn up by the death of a Nothing, yet THAT is supposed to be the Real True Christian response: Stimpy Happy Helmet all the way! Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!

It's even a slur on the original Victorian novel Pollyanna to refer to them as Pollyannas. The original Pollyanna was about maintaining optimism and hope no matter how bad the circumstances, NOT about denying reality (in the sense of anything bad) to the point of happy-clappy psychosis. Pollyanna was NOT a Pollyanna!

-- Headless Unicorn Guy
(getting hit by flesh-to-pile-of-rocks since 1976)