S*@# Christians say

Or, more genteelly, 10 Cliches Christians Should Avoid by Christian Piatt.

I checked, and I’ve said precisely two of these cliches, and one of them, back when I was knocking doors for Jesus in Joplin, Mo., I said quite a lot. I regretted it at the time because where someone was going to spend eternity seemed to be their business, and my asking them felt intrusive to the extreme. I did it, anyway, because their soul — and mine — was in the balance. I’ve said this before but I’ve often thought of going back to that neighborhood where I was bringing in the sheaves — or trying to — and knocking on doors to apologize.

Sorry for interrupting your Saturday so many times. Sorry for the arrogance. Sorry for trying to scare you into heaven. Sorry.

And then something hit me a few weeks ago. After the devastating May 22, 2011, tornado that blew a third of Joplin to thunder, I was back in that same neighborhood knocking on doors to distribute goods to people who were picking through the devastation, trying to reassemble their lives. At one point, I was banging on a door holding a box of pulled pork  calling out, “Red Cross!” which is a lot different from banging on a door and asking somberly, “Where do you want to spend eternity?” People greeted me with hugs and with tears when I handed over a box of food, and wrote down whatever else they needed, and then went and got it. I don’t know. Bringing relief and listening to their stories — it was still soon enough for people to want to talk — felt like the most holy thing I could be doing.

And I never said so out loud, but maybe that was my sorry.

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17 Comments

  1. “And I never said so out loud, but maybe that was my sorry.”

    Perfect.

  2. “People greeted me with hugs and with tears when I handed over a box of food, and wrote down whatever else they needed, and then went and got it. I don’t know. Bringing relief and listening to their stories — it was still soon enough for people to want to talk — felt like the most holy thing I could be doing.”

    My goodness, maybe there’s something *to* that Matthew 25: 31-36 stuff….

  3. I think what you did was better than saying “sorry” to the people in Joplin in that neighborhood. I am sorry you were scared into thinking that’s how you needed to spend your Saturdays.

    1. I am sorry, too. But that kind of upbringing makes you fearless later on. I grew up under the dire threat of eternal hellfire. What are you going to do to me? Nothing, that’s what.

  4. That asking Jesus into your heart business confusrs “love” the warm fuzzy feeling with “love” the verb. A lot of congregations seem to make that mistake.

  5. I heard 7/10 of those outside the Roger Waters show in Hartford a couple weeks ago. I was also reminded I was heading for hell for being a hedonist. I reminded him of the admonition to “judge not” but was told I didn’t know the meaning of scripture.

  6. Atheists also have a talent for the feet in mouth thing.
    I think it’s more of a human foible than something exclusive to Christians.
    Anyway…just to illustrate…allow to give some examples of my usual responses to Christian’s Christian Cliches.

    1. “Everything happens for a reason.”
    Excuse me…I know you’re trying to be comforting here…but that’s complete BS.

    2. “If you died today, do you know where you’d spend the rest of eternity?”
    Yes.

    3. “He/she is in a better place.”
    At least they don’t have to listen to your BS anymore.

    4. “Can I share a little bit about my faith with you?”
    Only if I can share a little bit of my atheism with you.
    (Sometimes I use a form of #5 here.)

    5. “You should come to church with me on Sunday.”
    Do they serve breakfast?

    6. “Have you asked Jesus into your heart?”
    Yes. I haven’t heard back. But we all know The Lord is a Very, Very Busy Man. (Apologies to Tom Waits.)

    7. “Do you accept Jesus as your personal lord and savior?”
    No. I don’t think I can afford personal lords and saviors. I can’t even afford a cell phone.

    8. “This could be the end of days.”
    I loved that movie!

    9. “Jesus died for your sins.”
    Jesus was executed for fomenting revolution.

    !0. “Will all our visitors please stand?”
    I’ve never heard this one. Although on two separate occasions, two different Lutheran preachers, upon being informed an atheist was inside their church, asked me to leave. Not publicly. They approached me privately and as politely as they could manage, asked me to leave the church. Once for a wedding, the other for a funeral. Same church. Different preachers.

    I think if I did hear it I would jump right up and wave to everyone.

    1. “…on two separate occasions, two different Lutheran preachers, upon being informed an atheist was inside their church, asked me to leave. Not publicly…. Once for a wedding, the other for a funeral.”

      How loving and Christian of them. And since one event was a wedding, one might suppose that you were there by invitation of the celebrants — who gave the preacher the right?

      1. At the wedding…the bride and groom didn’t find out for years. The groom had gone through hell to please his bride and her parents…bible study…counseling sessions…all kinds of stuff…to make the wedding the kind of day the bride wanted. Father of the bride informed the preacher…not really intending he ask me to leave. So I kept my mouth shut. No big deal. I missed 60 plus minutes of 100% pure unadulterated Lutheran hellfire and brimstone, (while I decorated the car), that inspired both bride and groom never to set foot in that particular church again….until…
        The groom died in an industrial accident. The in-laws took care of the arrangements. This time it was me who told the other preacher in conversation of my atheism. Preacher considered it an insult…disrespectful to the faithful…that I participate in the church service. He was really quite polite about it so I met up with everyone at the cemetery.
        I don’t know if the bride ever found out about it. I didn’t see much of her after that. I was still a drunk and alcohol played a part in her husband’s death. So I kept my distance. We were never really that close, anyway.
        She remarried and moved away.
        I sobered up…eventually.

  7. Yes!!! That “everything happens for a reason crap” has got to GO!! As a 16 year old girl who suffered a horrible TBI in a car accident which was followed by PTSD and then mental illness. This ideal never brought me any comfort. What reason?? Was I bad? If God wanted me to learn something so I could use it in life why didn’t he just give me the knowledge in a dream or something?? I think this phrase gives more comfort to the speaker of it, than the listener it was intended for. Rabbi Kushner’s book “why bad thing’s happen to good people” was the only religous ideology that helped me through those years because it was honest in its lack of proposed “answers” for my suffering.

    1. When I went back to work a few months after a pretty bad crash, the custodian, a dear man and a friend, said, because I was alive and mobile, “God was watching out for you.” Um — did he sneeze or was he otherwise engaged when that damn drunk crashed into my car, putting me into the health care system in a big way?

  8. HAH. I still remember biking up to the playground to ask kids if they would pray with me (because otherwise they would, y’ know, go to hell). You never live that stuff down, in a small town like that. And for the record, if you’re considering Witnessing For The Lord and you or your victims targets …converts are over the age of five… “Do you know Jesus?” or “Have you asked Jesus into your heart?” are questions that only work in Chick Tracts (which was where I learned them!). Real Human Beings generally know better than to answer.

      1. Nuts. It works from here, but WordPress is a strange and unpredictable creature.

  9. What if the reply to “Have you asked Jesus into your heart?” was, “Jesus doesn’t need an invitation, in fact no one does. It’s not an exclusive club.” I was thinking of lots of replies tonight since I walked past some people out “saving” souls.

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