I miss mini blogging! Time to bring it back for a little bit.
I've been thinking a lot this week about how easy it is for us to find loophole-y ways around our beliefs -- finding ways to adhere to the letter, but not the spirit. This came up in two conversations with evangelical Christians over the past week. In one, we talked about how important it was to emphasize that salvation is not a result of works we do. That's always something my church was very good at emphasizing, but even while we adamantly claimed works didn't bring about salvation, there was always a back way into believing that. As people talked about how much they didn't believe works were what saved you, I thought to myself, "Well, OK, so what they'd say is, 'X doesn't save you, but if you are doing X, you must not be saved.'" And literal seconds after I thought that, someone in the group piped up and said, "Works don't save you, but there are things that if you do or don't do them, I would question your salvation." So those instincts were right on.
Technically, letter of the law, nitpicky details, those are different ideas. But in practice, they do the same thing. They deny you salvation based on whether or not you do X. I could believe the exact same things about God doing either, but one means I'm not saved and one means I do. That's a sneaky way to end up with the same functional outcome.
I say "sneaky" not because I think the people saying this are trying to be sneaky, but because human nature often likes to put rules to everything - it's so much easier to figure out what to do, it's easy to figure out if you're on the right track, it's easy to figure out if others are on the right track - and I think that tendencies sneaks into us even when we don't notice it.
My old church is apparently doing a sermon series on mental health, and I'm in a much better mental health space than I have been for awhile, so I'm going to give the first one a shot.
Things I hope will be said: That taking medication or going to therapy is not bad and may be necessary, just like getting treatment for any other physical illness. That having bad days is not your fault or a lack of faith or a sin. An acknowledgement that for some folks this will be a lifelong struggle and that's OK, the church should be a support for that. Tips on how to be supportive. Some comforting verses or suggestions on how to reconnect with God when mental health is bad. Focus on trust in God as a support and a comfort for us, not an obligation to fulfill. If I got EVERYTHING on my wish list, it'd also include an acknowledgement for how badly the evangelical church has often dealt with mental illness and a desire to move forward.
Things I worry will be said: Putting the emphasis on us to fix ourselves by doing the right thing, praying the right thing, remembering the right thing. An almost-but-not-quite declaration of anxiety as "living in fear" or equate it or depression with not trusting God. An admonishment to tell people to stop living in fear, maybe.
Verses I predict will be used: 2 Timothy 1:7 ("not a spirit of fear but of power & sound mind"), Philippians 4:6 ("be anxious for nothing"), maybe one of David's more emotional psalms.
Here we go.
- We start with pastor asking us if Jesus stays in our mind. Obligation red flags sprouting but not in full form yet.
- Defining what a "mindset" is, including all our thoughts and feelings (special emphasis on "the things you think nobody else knows about," which I suspect is in a "your secret sins you're hiding" way but I would also like to emphasize "your secret insecurities and fears that make you feel alone").
- ...I completely forgot how emphatically we were taught that Satan can't read your mind because he's not all-knowing. I'm not sure of the biblical basis for that, I think it's more just, like, lore? Because obviously somebody could read minds and not be all-knowing, all-knowing encompasses more than that.
- He's emphasizing a lot that feelings are part of your mindset, and I'm very curious as to whether that means he thinks a mindset focused on God can also yield feelings we can trust, or whether that's going to mean "and therefore don't trust your mindset." No idea yet!
- "My thoughts and feelings matter to God." I agree! In a positive sense as well as negative!
- "Your mindset can be good and acceptable and perfect doing the will of God." I don't... really know what he means by this.
- Ohhh, the "don't be conformed/be transformed" verse. Missed that on my bingo card, but that makes sense.
- We're spending a lot of time focusing on what "the world" says without actually saying what the world says, so I'm not sure what exactly he's getting at.
- This is... very culture wars-y but also so vague!