A brief list of profoundly irritating Christian catch phrases followed by my response:
1. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
R: No, we are all brothers and sisters in our common humanity and in our common desire for health and happiness. Subdividing humanity into religious groups only increases attitudes of tribalism and s increases the probability of dismissing the other as a lesser being who is easily disposed of.
2. Come see what God is doing in our church.
R: Really? How can you be so sure? How many times have churches that claimed God was doing great things in them turned out instead to be doing rather mediocre things or, worse yet, scandalous things that could hardly be of God. Why not, rather than arrogantly claiming you have the mind of God, just invite people to see what’s happening in your church and allow them to judge for themselves.
3. This kind of behavior has no place in church!
R: Ah, why, because Jesus was so genteel?
4. Don’t attack the pulpit! (In other words, don’t criticize the pastor.)
R: Why, because Jesus never attacked the Pharisees of his day?
5. Fred (or whomever) is such a holy man.
R: What do you mean by that, that he is perfect? That he complies with your subjective sense of holiness? What is really accomplished by making this claim? Isn’t what you really mean, Pastor, that Fred supports you and you want to throw him a bone? It’s long past time we recognize that we all are on the spiritual journey and that journey is not benefited by feeding anyone’s ego. When we lift one person in the congregation up as holy, we tear the others down by implying they don’t measure up.
I could go on and on, but the point is that manipulative behavior and the propping up of ego has no place in a healthy spiritual community. We need to be able to be honest in our communities. We need to be able to be ourselves without fear of unfounded criticism from insecure clergy – and we need to be able to name inappropriate behavior no matter its origin. The church can’t be exempt from the rules of health, appropriate, adult behavior – it has to lead the way in modelling those behaviors. In most churches, that will require a lot of changing.