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Some things not to say

By Gina Marie ~

I have been struggling with my faith for the past year and a half. I really have no idea where I will end up at the end of this journey, but I have encountered some very frustrating remarks from those attempting to "help" or convert me back to blind belief. These are things I never, ever want to hear again as "reasons" to not doubt anymore.

1. Your doubt is because of Satan! Trust God!

Thank you for implying that my rational assessment of issues that are troubling me is the fault of an evil being, and because of such, you nor I are required to deal with these ideas and I must blindly put faith back in the system that is troubling me in the first place. If spiritual warfare is causing me to have these thoughts, simply crying, "Warfare!" and ignoring my questions and doubts isn't going to make my brain, and its nagging through processes, go away.

2. God is mysterious.

This tends to be a catch-all answer for questions that deal with complicated issues (predestination, problem of evil, eternal damnation, ethics). I appreciate the fact that there are many issues, in many systems of thought, that will ultimately lead us to the conclusion of paradox. However, to assert this before the issue is as fully probed as human intellect can go is an affront to my own struggle with the issue at hand. You may have thought about it and reached a comfortable relationship with the idea of paradox in relation to it, but I have not.

3. Good Christians don't doubt.

So, if I'm not a good Christian, your only attempt to assist me is going to be to lunge an accusation at me for not being good enough? And you're wondering why I'm doubting your system of religion in the first place?

4. That's not worth losing your faith over.

People doubt for a variety of reasons and a variety of issues are meaningful to them. You do not get to decree what is worth it for that person, because while it doesn't bother you, everything rises and falls on that issue for them. People are individual and thus different things perplex, interest, and engage them. (A great response to this would be, when they share why they do believe, "That's not worth having faith over").

5. You're going to go to Hell if you lose your faith.

Thank you for resorting to fear to get someone to stop wrestling with the important questions that are nagging them. Also, eternal damnation is an empty threat if someone doesn't believe in it.

6. [Said to people who have lost their faith] You were never a real Christian in the first place.

I'm so glad God has given you the important, weighty task of decreeing who is and isn't a real Christian. The weight of that responsibility must be heavy to bear on such small, fallible shoulders.

7. Your doubts aren't about real Christianity. If you knew real Christianity, you'd be fine.

Ah, the ever elusive "real" Christianity. Apparently it's not simple enough for children to understand; only a select, obscure, enlightened few have attained to the heights of real Christianity. And you're absolutely right; my 5 years of bible college, semester of seminary, and 15 years of participation in various churches has not given me enough information concerning the various theologies and denominations that make up the Christian faith. I'm not saying I know everything, but I think I have a fairly accurate assessment of what my options are.

8. It's not real Christianity if you disagree with me on X.

I'm so glad God has give you the important, weighty task of decreeing that anyone who disagrees with you on a point of dogma, ethics, hermeneutics or theology is no longer a Christ-follower. The weight of that responsibility must be heavy to bear on such small, fallible shoulders.

This is often said to people who may have moved into egalitarianism, rejected creationism, believe the bible is fallible, vote for democrats, believe in protecting the environment, are universalists, reject the idea of eternal damnation, believe other systems of thought can lead to God, think homosexuality is fine, etc. I suppose the alternative is that you want people to dispose of their faith in Christ altogether...the danger of asserting that only certain ideas make up real Christianity is that the person may accept your terms and walk away from the entire system.

9. Haven't you gotten over this yet?

Oh, I'm sorry. Is it bothering you that much that I'm patiently weighing my options and thinking deeply over complicated issues?

10. Your questions are actually rooted in deep-seated emotional issues.

Yes, they probably are. But that doesn't make the questions any less legitimate and any less deserving of meticulous attention. And, unless I've come to you with the deep-seated emotional issues, you are not at liberty to psychoanalyze and diagnose me. Just answer my question.

11. [from Atheists] Of course you shouldn't have faith! Duh!

Thank you for your detailed assessment of metaphysical realities and individual religious experiences. Your "of course" statement has opened my eyes to the illogical nature of my fractured, but still existent, faith.

12. Your lack of/struggle with/loss of faith is hurting me.

I know this one well because I've lobbed it personally (and I'm dropping the sardonic tone to respond to this one). I understand: you want us to share eternal bliss; you're concerned about the state of my soul; you don't want to lose a connection we share to each other and to the Divine; you're afraid I'll lose my moral compass; you and I have invested much together into the faith; you might be losing a spiritual confidant and ministry partner; it may be your best friend, spouse, or relative that you see rejecting what is so essential to your own life. I regret that a by-product of my serious inquiry into these issues is harming you, but I can't apologize because I'm not sorry for going on this journey. I appreciate that your hurt comes from your deep love and care for me. But please don't expect the fact that you're hurt to be a good enough reason for me to drop this investigation and to blindly agree with you.

I'm sure there are more, but these are just a few I've encountered. This post is incredibly sarcastic, except for point 12, because I think sarcasm, when used rightly, can expose misguided, manipulative, or fear-based thinking; if not to the individual thinking it, at least to the person who is being inundated with it.