I’m always fascinated by the contradictions between those who profess rapture over Jesus and the actual statements that come out of their mouths. They are fond of informing us that Jesus is their friend, that they love Jesus, that without Jesus there is no life, that life is meaningless without Jesus, that they walk with Jesus everyday and they proudly display their “IJesus” badges on their facebook profile. But then they tell you how lonely they are, that they are “dying”, that they hate their life and make open and hidden requests for reassurances that people still like them!

St John of the Cross

This self-focussed, egocentric distortion of the Word probably couldn’t lead anywhere else but internal misery. But perhaps they are, at least, being honest. Even Mother Teresa’s posthumously published letters detailed her doubt, emptiness and the silence she experienced when she spoke to God. She chose, as many Christians do, to interpret this as a test of faith; to believe, in the nothingness, that there really is something. But more importantly, they experienced it as a form of suffering, so fundamental to their understanding of the Christian message. Saint Johns’ dark night of the soul has turned doubt and misery into a positive experience but it was essentially a private, internal conflict not a public display of self-pity.

Part of the problem is that distorted forms of Christianity have ‘bigged up’ the rewards expected from devotion. When the initial euphoria of finding a new set of beliefs and a new club has worn off, the believer is faced with the realisation that it is no longer about them. They are indeed sinners – worthless people who are nothing compared to their notion of God. And when the false Christian (prosperity gospel) notions of success, happiness and security do not materialise they are faced with the realities of suffering, emptiness and the smallness of our lives. Welcome to the real world.

So I respect the miserable Christians in their honesty but would request one thing. If you want to make me feel miserable by boasting of how wonderful and ecstatic your life is now you have found Jesus/been born again/[insert any other clichéd phrase], then don’t demand sympathy when you find that you were psychologically unprepared for the realities of your belief.

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