"I'm so tired of hearing the name Jesus Christ!"

Some time ago (I was in my teens), during the last few years of my great grandmother's life, she lived in a nursing home in Portland.  The place wasn't awful, but it smelled like urine in the halls, so it can't have been great.  Someone once told me that the smell of urine in a nursing home meant it was bad news and should be avoided.  As a homeschooler, my mom used to take us to nursing homes all over town to visit the elderly.  They all smelled like urine.

I remember visiting my great grandmother - we called her "Nanny" - shortly after she moved into that home.  We all sort of shuffled in awkwardly, past Nanny's roommate who quietly sat in her bed watching televangelists with the volume way too high.  The roommate nodded and smiled at each of us as our family-train passed her bed.  The room was separated in two by a sliding curtain, offering a poor attempt at privacy.

I remember my mother saying, "Nan, your roommate's TV is sure loud."

And this is the part that really sticks with me!  Nanny answered (loudly): 

A part of me thought it was deliciously funny that she would be so blunt.  Another part of me was horrified that someone so close to death (in my callous assumption) would be so religiously irresponsible.  I mean, 90 years old is hardly the time to BEGIN serious blasphemy.  That's behavior that should be reserved for young people who expect to live forever.  At that point in my own life (at that point in my understanding of faith and salvation) if I had been in Nanny's shoes (slippers) I would have been spending every lonely moment praying for forgiveness for a lifetime of sin.

But there she was, defying all the powers of Mass-Media-Jesus, and defying all of the blessings promised by his made-for-TV cronies.

Last week I watched the latest episode of Glee.  An image of Jesus Christ that appeared on a grilled cheese sandwich ("Grilled Cheesus") inspired a brief fad of hyper-spirituality among the glee club.  They sang all sorts of religious and religious-inspired songs throughout the episode, praying to Jesus, talking about God... it was all sort of funny and there were more than a few witty lines, but by the end of the show I felt the same way I feel when Christian radio is on for more than a few minutes - the same way my great-grandmother felt when her heavenly-minded roommate blasted TBN: "I'M SO TIRED OF HEARING THE NAME JESUS CHRIST!"

That may sound impious.  Cynical.  Disrespectful?  But let's get real: that's the way our non-Christian friends feel when we go into evangelism-mode.  It can be nauseating.  If we have the self-awareness to step out of our own skin for a moment, and take a look at what we're doing, we might just make ourselves a little sick...

I love Jesus.  I really do.  But I love a lot of people, too, and if I talked to them and about them the way Evangelicals talk about Jesus, those people would probably stop talking to me.  There have been times when I treated Jesus like a middle-school crush.  I'm not saying Jesus doesn't appreciate our affections.  But I'd bet that Jesus has been around the block a few times.  I have a hard time thinking he's so easily wooed.

Let's have a little less Jesusy-talk.  The only folks we're likely impressing are each other.


Al said...

I never realized how obnoxious a Christian zealot can be until recently. I never really was that bad (IMHO), but I have a friend who is a fairly recent Catholic. He has been doing the lay it on thick thing, trying to make me feel guilty for not doing some particular things. He doesn't want to discuss things, just lay out his view on stuff.

I hope I was never that bad. It really is too much.

Peter J Walker said...

;) I KNOW I was that bad.

Stitching n Shipping said...

As a raised Roman Catholic I understand the fear of God more than the love of God. As a individual adult, I've learned to replace the fear of God with Respect of God and to allow his love to envelope me. If I had stayed with the beliefs I was raised on, punished on, cast out on & flat out depressed on, I'd be suicidal today. But, due to a healthy curiosity, the act of investigating all things (as God instucts us to do) and the defiance to know that the teachings I was raised on are askew, I am not a happy christian who loves God but also recognizes he is not expecting us to be perfect. Just perfect in our faith of HIM. Wonderful post, love your blog. Thanks for having me. Tammy

Chris Ledgerwood said...

Well, I was that bad, and I'm ashamed of it now!

Lutestring said...

hell yes. oh yes.

(I love him too btw. Just get tired of hearing about him when all the books and talk in the world would actually make me understand him LESS.)

Brian Johnson said...

I don't think Peter or Paul would agree that there should be less "Jesusy talk". They were ALL about Jesus. From the sound of Paul's thesis in 1st Corinthians Chapter 9, that may have been ALL he talked about, finding any and every way to work a conversation with people he met back to their need for Christ. He was utterly consumed with spreading the Gospel.

The TRUE Gospel, that is... What we need is more accurate, theologically sound Jesus talk, which televangelists are NOT known for. "The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine..."


Peter J Walker said...

Brian, I hear you, but those examples are so contextual. We don't practice ministry in a world where NO ONE has really heard about or encountered Jesus. Sadly, we function in a world where nearly EVERYONE has heard about Jesus (at least in the West) and those who haven't subscribed themselves have been beaten over the head with bad proselytizing, bad theology and bad attitudes.

We don't have the luxury of starting from scratch, so we've got to take into account this simple fact: people are sick and tired of being preached at; they're sick and tired of hearing about Jesus without ever SEEING Jesus in action.



Brian Johnson said...

You make two different points, one I agree with and the other I don't - or at least not fully.

I agree that where words and actions have been incongruous withing Christianity, the world sees nothing but a vain hypocrisy and thus they get irritated hearing about Jesus more than they already have. Certainly the televangelists your Nan is sick of are one example, but it is fairly pervasive in this country thanks to Moralists/Legalists, who care not for the salvation of their neighbor but rather care to make sure that everyone behaves. They don't care to preach the gospel to homosexuals and adulterers and liars and murderers, they just want those people to ACT biblical, while they themselves have all kinds of spiritual problems.

It is a problem as old as mankind. Jesus spent much of his ministry warning the hypocrites/moralists/legalists, calling them sepulchers and vipers and other stinging words.

But I disagree with the idea that Paul and Peter in the book of Acts were of a different context and cannot therefore be our example. All Christians in all times and places are called to both live out AND speak out the Gospel, regardless of how flooded with it the culture may feel.

America is so deluged with phony Christianity, the false teachers that Jude warned of, that the last thing we should be doing is backing away from preaching the truth. Where lies are present, the truth is needed MORE, not LESS. As with Peter, Paul, and as with the admonition in the letter from James, that talk must be matched with the walk - but that talk is still a Must.

Not to step on toes, but when even noted figures in our spiritual community like Brian McLaren can write: "I don't think we've got the gospel right yet," it is more urgent than ever to boldly proclaim what the Bible has to say about every man's need for salvation in Jesus Christ.

Peter J Walker said...

Brian, I think you're right about tne need for MORE truth, not less in the midst of such phoniness. Aptly put.

On overly quoted idiom generally attributed to St. Francis is something like, "Preach the Gospel... if necessary use words."

My real argument here is that the language we can effectively use about God has been largely co-opted (and perhaps for the time-being, ruined) by sillyness, phoniness, and so on.

I'd also suggest that since "Jesus" wasn't even Jesus' real, Jewish, flesh-and-blood name, I'm not going to lose sleep over saying "Jesus" less and trying to demonstrate Jesus more and in different ways. Contextualization, I guess.

Peter J Walker said...

That would be "the" not "tne"
and "One" not "On."

Sorry about the typing.

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