Here’s a question I’ve just started pondering and I’m wondering if anyone else has been thinking about it. When did Christians begin to celebrate failure? I’m going to try to explain what I mean, but I admit I’m still thinking about this so these are some very disjointed thoughts.
Christians Celebrating Failure, Sin, and Lack of Faith
There is a proliferation of blogs and books that almost seem to celebrate the airing of failure, sin, and lack of faith. Books no longer point to excellence, spiritual growth, and serving God more faithfully but seem to dwell on the negatives.
What is the difference between “authenticity” and wallowing in failure, doubt, and sin?
I’m not talking about promoting perfect Christianity or legalism. I’m not talking about putting on a happy face and sucking it up even when you feel like you are dying inside. But it seems like the church has become enthralled with some idea of “authenticity” (whatever that means) that borders on… I don’t know. That’s why I’m thinking out loud here.
Does anyone know what I mean?
Believe me, I understand the whole idea of reading to know we aren’t alone. But it seems like a significant portion of the church is consistently crossing a line that makes it… Something.
Anyone have any thoughts on this? (Or should I insert crickets chirping here? LOL!)
The quote in the header is from the comments below.
I’ve seen this recently too. I wonder if the roots of this are from plain old-fashioned desire for attention. If we air our dirty laundry through media – we make news. If we keep it a private, well, then, what would one post on their blog that day to keep the readership up? Negative attention is still attention. It’s just plain hard to sin and go through the process afterward and not get a load of “attaboys” each day for simply doing what is necessary. I mean, if no one is watching, then what is the use?
The above seems to be the “new” movement of some in our sphere. It makes me sad and sometimes angry that people post podcasts of themselves admitting grievous sin. I think of the woman who made a podcast from a church service where she and her husband spoke about her affair (last year). I always think, “WHO is this helping? Your husband you cheated on? Your kids who will listen to this later? How about the teenage kids of the man you cheated with and EVERYBODY knows the name of? Who is this supposed to help?”. Sadly it often just seems to help themselves in some twisted way. Nevermind what everyone else needed. I was sad for her that she seemed to come across as needing attention for admitting she sinned.
Bless you, imajackson. I can go to bed knowing that I’m not completely off my rocker. (Or if I am, someone else is there too!)
Yes, you gave a good example (even though I don’t know the situation to which you are referring).
I was thinking about this more and the difference between exposing sin and flaunting sin. Exposing sin and deception is clearly something the Bible teaches. But flaunting sin is something completely different. Where one draws the line between it being instructive and flaunting is probably a hard question to answer except on a case by case basis.
And I’m sure the Oprahfication of our culture has a lot to do with this spreading into the church.
Have to get to bed! Look forward to more thoughts from others! 🙂
This is so true. God’s grace is amazing, powerful, awesome. So often I hear people justifying their failures by relying on that grace ahead of time. I’m looking forward to the rest of your thoughts on this. It’s like we are looking at the wrong goal line. We are more focused on how far God’s grace extents than on God himself. I love to mountain bike and snowboard. One thing that is true in both is that where your eyes go, your body will follow. Keep your eyes on the right prize and the rest will follow.
Brandy @ Afterthoughts
Sallie, Bless you for writing this! I feel like I’ve experienced this in person in a reverse way–being judged inauthentic when things are going (or have gone) well. In college, I had a professor who had a very difficult childhood. She made sure everyone in the class had to talk about their childhood. Well, I had a great childhood. It wasn’t perfect, but the vast majority of my memories are very positive. The entire semester, I felt like she thought I was lying. I found myself saying as much negative stuff as I could conjure out of fear she’d lower my grade for not being “authentic,” which was a big buzz word in the class.
And therein lies my problem with the authenticity movement. It should be okay to not have drama in your life. It should be okay to be joyful in the Lord, to experiene His blessings, or His help in gaining victory over sinful actions or thoughts. What I have seen is that many of those promoting authenticity only accept something as authentic if it is negative. They do not seem to believe in the authenticity–the objective reality–of the good, the true, and the beautiful.
In a way, I am sad for those people. I was quite the cynic at one point in my life, and I know how poisonous it can be. But I think there is a danger in allowing cynics to start social movements. 😯
ps. So glad your feed is working again. 🙂
Sallie, I don’t think I’ve seen this on blogs yet, but there are some things that should just be kept quiet. Where is the dignity of some people?
I think it happened in the recent times when we started “branding” our churches; that is, trying to get you to go to ABC church even though you attend (quite happily) at XYZ church.
We are swimming in Christian media, books, and they’re is a church on every single street corner in mainstream America. For every Christian self-help book, blog, or website, there are ten more just like it.
We’re swimming in a culture and everyone wants to be the next Saddleback Church, Beth Moore, whatever.
I think this is the sort of thing that ought only to be shared one on one (as the Holy Spirit moves) with someone who is struggling to accept forgiveness, as a way of showing that God’s grace covers even those sins.
However when it is publicly flaunted it becomes almost some sort of contest “who has the ugliest background?” Even Paul, “the chief of sinners” didn’t go into the details.
It seems that the sensational ones are grasping so hard after “sincerity” that it becomes **rno-graphic
the more usefull of these sorts of “tell alls” tell much less about the sin and more about the process of restoration.
I think Brandy and Mrs. Nehemiah are hitting on especially where my thoughts have been. In 2006 I wrote Everybody’s got problems and convictions. The question is… in which I also touched on this subject although from a bit of a different angle.
What is interesting to think about is the fact that in the past, to struggle with a sin or problem was a source of shame. People did not want to wallow in it. They wanted to confess it and be freed from it. It was embarrassing and something to get away from. It seems like that has changed to the point where people seem to derive their identity from their problem/failure/sin. It becomes something to market and carry around as a life-long identity. It gives them value to sell in the marketplace.
I was sexually abused as a child while simultaneously being taken to church regularly. Those paradoxes created an insecurity in me about valuing myself as a woman and also being able to trust men. I grew up with a sense of uncertainty about whether my own body belonged to me or not. I also grew up not feeling protected or respected by men, resulting in a lack of confidence in relating to men appropriately. I didn’t understand until years later that there were many men who would value me for me, not just as an object or sexual being. If a man paid attention to me, I didn’t know how to feel “at ease” or comfortable talking with a man. I felt unattractive and lacked any confidence, thinking that men will pay attention to me for sex and that was pretty much it. When you have no confidence in your own femininity or female body, you pretty much think that no man would be interested in you for you. It’s hard to explain how the abuse, while simultaneously being exposed to the Bible and its teachings, affected me psychologically and emotionally if you haven’t been through it. The abuse kills something inside–takes away innocence, the natural joy that belongs to most children, and also a feeling of safety.
I engaged in the sin of premarital sex, but I believe I did so because I felt dead inside due to the abuse of me by another. Who is responsible for that sin? Sometimes another’s sin can lead another person into a different sin as a result of the first person’s sin. I applaud people who can stand up and state what has happened to them. I don’t celebrate what happened to me, but I have to live with it every day. I married when I was almost 30 due to blind date. My husband is wonderful to me. Thank God for that. We were not able to have children; that feels like another punishment.
I wanted to write to remind folks that not every “sin” comes from a willful indulgence by those who know better. Some people feel dead inside due to what has happened to them, and they will take love where they can find it. I know because that’s what I did. I am still looking for restoration.
Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry for all that you went through and how it has impacted your life in so many ways. I definitely do think it is important that people are open about what has happened to them so that they can comfort others with the same comfort they have been given. That is definitely Biblical. I would be a hypocrite of the first order if I said no one should ever share their struggles since I have done that here for a number of years.
But somewhere it crosses the line and it no longer becomes about redeeming the sin and being used to draw others to Christ and encourage them. I don’t know where that line is and I’m not the Holy Spirit to say this is it or that is it. But I think Lindsey is right in that everyone wants to be the next Beth Moore or Saddleback Church or (insert name of Christian brand here). And so their identity becomes their sin because it is marketable.
There are wrong things that have happened to me or been done to me that I can’t change. They have changed me forever and I live with the consequences to this day. But I choose not to let them define me. It is part of who I am and it is part of my life, but I choose not to live in it or wallow in it. What I see in many areas of Christianity is that people want to stay in it. I’m not saying that is the case with Mrs. B. but I do think it is a problem in the church in general.
Does that make sense?
I agree with you 100% that a person should not use a sin, and in my opinion, especially one that seems especially self-indulgent, such as an affair, to draw attention to oneself or market oneself to sell products. That is extremely distasteful and does not honor God.
On the other hand, many people in churches have felt ashamed inside because of what has happened to them, including me. I think that the increasing openness of our society to talk about unpleasant issues has made it easier for those who have been victimized to seek help. I agree, though, that the pendulum can swing too far the other way, meaning that a person need not publicly wallow in another’s sin or their own suffering in order to sell books and other media. In my opinion, the openness of our culture should be used to seek healing and restoration rather than hiding in false shame (such as with sexual abuse). When a woman who has committed sins of her own due to the effects of sexual abuse, she can find healing in God and in fellowship with other believers. That healing then can be used to comfort and minister to others–something I do now. I can’t imagine trying to become the next “flavor of the month” in Christian circles by using my pain to sell products. I believe I’m called to help others not make money off what happened to me.