Feeling Bad

frownFundamentalists take a fairly pessimistic view of most things including their own spiritual condition. They tend to look down on those Christians who go to church to sing upbeat music and generally be happy, preferring rather to spend their time in and equal mixture of guilt and grief. Repenting of something each time you go to church is seen as indispensable to the worship experience.

Fundy preachers would claim that other churches without “hard preaching” are just buildings full of people with itching ears who waste a lot of time hearing about how God loves them, when the truth is that He’s actually pretty unhappy with them most of the time. The concept that the itch that some people like to have scratched could just as easily be a craving for a dose of artificial guilt that builds until release during an invitation would be dismissed as just plain crazy talk.

For fundamentalists not only is the glass half empty but it’s also filthy and needs to get right with God.

15 thoughts on “Feeling Bad”

  1. It makes me sad how true this is. It has affected my adulthood over and over … the guilt, the inability to feel happiness.

  2. You hit the nail on the head with this one!

    When I ask some people how they’re doing in my IFB circles a common response is “better than I deserve.” This is true, but it sort of sends a “woe is me” portrayal and it’s almost if some enjoy being in that position rather than enjoying the true riches of God’s love and grace. A lot of studying recently has convinced me that we really ignore our position as joint heirs with Christ, and the fact that we are sons of God and not servants. True, as Christians we don’t deserve the position as joint heir, but once in that position after being born again we can certainly expect and enjoy (with full gratitude) God’s ultimate love.

    But what would one expect when we’re told so often that if we’re not tithing 10% of our income then we’re “robbing God.” Or that you can only get right with God during a 10 minute window at the end of a service where you need to come forward. Or that revival in my heart can only come once (maybe twice) a year when the evangelist comes.

  3. I’m not really getting this one. I’ve been around some pretty extreme ministries – nothing like this though…

  4. There may be a kernel of truth in this for some ministries. However, if you mature at all as a believer, you won’t live there.

  5. Ow. Maybe a little extreme for most churches, but definitely not unheard of. Insiders know the key here is to be happy but somber at the same time. One of my friends, whenever he goes to a church, asks the folks, “Are you happy you’re saved? Then let your face know!” Self-imposed “suffering for the Lord” attitudes where every silver lining means there’s a huge cloud somewhere amount to nothing more than self-centered asceticism – basically you’re denying that you’re truly been forever forgiven through Christ and instead you need to atone for your sins by being miserable your whole life.

  6. Of course, the opposite extreme mounty hinted at is that…bless Gawd… you’ve got to be full of happiness all the time, and smiling constantly …or it looks like you’ve been ‘sucking on lemons’, which was hard to do because your spirit tends to be grieved every Sunday as you sit through the same points for each sermon…standards, soulwinning, standards, tithing, standards, KJVO, standards…etc.

  7. My experience with fundyism is a little different. I spent my teen years in a stuffy, formal, and highly legalistic IFB church. The audience was upper-middle class and more educated than average. In that church and in Christian school and Bible college, there was no forum for the display of honest emotion. You never got too happy or too sad. I almost drowned in that shallowness.

  8. Repentance? Boy, my experience is different from yours! Many fundies don’t even believe repentance is essential for salvation. When did you last hear a fundy preach repentance (apart from a Free Presbyterian. And even they are selective about it: Repent of going to movies but no need o repent of fervent hatred of Catholics.)

    Fundies want decisions: neat little statements they can use for their service metrics from week to week, but I cannot even recall the last time I ever heard a fundy preach repentance.

  9. That post isn’t about salvific repentance but rather the ‘confession of sin’ that fundamentalist believe they have to do in order so God doesn’t stop listening to their prayers. Along the same theme is ‘keeping short accounts’

    The point of most fundamentalists services it would seem is to look deep into one’s soul and find some undiscovered filthiness to mourn at the altar. Condemnation, feeling guilt, and emotional release is the entire point of the exercise.

    by the by I’ve heard repentance preached in many fundamentalist churches. It all depends on which camp you happen to be traveling in.

  10. Well, my original pastor preached it, and preached it well. But that was 35 years ago. My first fundy church was the best. But as I have wrestled with the fundies over the last ten years, I find many either dismiss repentance outright, or they replace it with the counterfeit of “making a decision” in order to be right with God. Of course, repenting over listening to the Carpenters vs repenting over hating gays are two different outlooks on repentance, as well.

  11. To this day I have a hard time dealing with my own self worth becuase for most of my pre-teen and teen life I felt as though I was dirty and unclean and unworthy and just worthless. “we are but filthy rags to the lord”, I swear I heard that every time i was in church and I beleived it. No matter what I did it would never be good enough, and the smallest sin would cut me off from god. I was in constant fear that I hadn’t confessed enough and that god couldnt hear me. I dont even believe in god anymore and I still sometimes feel like I cant measure up.

  12. This strikes a real chord with me, Darrell. My parents and close family (who still attend a strict IFB church, though not one was extreme as many parodied here) spend their Sundays looking mournful and beaten down. It’s amazing to see how this kind of preaching is equated with “good hard Bible preachin'”. There’s such a measure of self-flagelation mixed in! Sickening to see people enjoying their own spiritual abuse!

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