I certainly seem to have hit some hidden head on the religious nail in my last wee post. I hadn’t realized that so many of you out there had to live with that most unusual breed of human, the religious junkie. It would appear that the religious junkie (RJ) has rapidly spread over the earth’s surface, but particularly loves to hang out in the warm Bible Belt areas of the Southern United States. Yet, the RJ is an extremely adaptable creature, equally at home in a little wooden church in the Appalachians or an air-conditioned mega-church in the State of Texas
Over here in good old England, the RJ herd still hangs out in drafty Gothic Cathedrals or little 18th century Methodist chapels. The New Church Charismatic franchise is also an appealing pasture land for the spiritually hungry nomadic RJ. The latter’s free Latte for new visitors and bouncy worship times are a great draw to the roaming zealot. Soon, the welcomed RJ is assimilated into the ministry structure of the commercial God business, even if it is only to hand out the tax-deductible tithe envelopes to keep the religious show on the road.
But enough of my Irish sense of humor. Let’s get back to more reasons why the RJ is difficult to be around!
1) The RJ believes that they are on a mission for God.
This mission is more or less defined as getting others saved or to put it more eloquently, to bring others into a relationship with Jesus Christ. The RJ believes that God will hold them accountable for their efforts on this mission of mercy. At the end of the space-time road, the Divine Judge will have a look at the facts and figures of their evangelistic efforts. Many RJs who get into full-time ministry are doubly zealous in this conversion push, especially as it may overlap with running a successful church i.e one with many bums on seats.
To live with someone on such a Divine Commission is I’m afraid to suffer. Time and energy are channeled into converting others rather than intimacy with and enjoyment of those under the same roof. When it’s a choice, the perceived God job gets the thumbs up over every other close relationship. Is it any wonder why preacher kids run away from God ASAP – the controller in the sky who called the shots in the preacher’s schedule.
2) The RJ is blind to the psychological and emotional needs of others.
Believing that they are a channel of Divine Love, the RJ shows their illusory love by dragging everyone close to them in the same religious direction. In my homeland of Northern Ireland this is seen in the crazy amount of man hours given to keeping the local church afloat. During my days in the somewhat abusive Shepherding Movement of the 1980s, I remember one particularly chilling example. A group of junior leaders were gathered together to hear a peer give a talk. This extremely zealous chap, an ex-missionary, was talking about our commitment to God and to the Fellowship to which we belonged. He painted this tricky scenario:
A man was just about to take his wife out for their Anniversary meal when his leader or shepherd called him from the local airport wondering if he could come and collect him. What should he do?
We all looked nervously at one another as the married speaker pronounced his fiery verdict. The man should reschedule his date with his wife and go pick up the stranded shepherd, who’d clearly not heard of taxis. Embarrassment reigned as we all stared pensively at the floor, wondering how our poor wives would respond to that one! The speaker in question did eventually get rebuked by our senior leaders, in a loving sort of way, as a tape of his talk unfortunately fell into the hands of a local critic. Oops!
3) The RJ is obsessed with hierarchy.
Believing themselves to be under the command of a Divine Commander-in-Chief, RJs tends to see themselves as people under authority. The hierarchy structure usually goes something like this:
Elders (If there are any)
Sinners or non believers
Some variation of this sacred ranking system may be found depending on the traditional power structures of the particular sect that the RJ finds himself in.
The RJ loves disciplines of all kinds, spiritual, church, parental and societal. This being the case they tend to love law whilst intellectually believing in Divine grace. Playing their role within the hierarchy of life the RJ always has their eye on the one above them in the chain of command. They most definitely have their eyes on those below them in the same command chain. Their calling is to please the one above, pietistically known as serving, whilst keeping those below in line, known as maintaining Christian standards, all in the guise of Love.
4) The RJ can frequently be a narcissist. Shocking as it is, the badge of believer, as worn by those who’ve chosen God by means of a sacred formula, may hide a rather large ego, dressed in devotional garb. Narcissists are difficult enough to hang out with at the best of times but when God is added to their list of admirers it’s almost downright impossible. The RJ solemnly claims that it’s all been God, but the vibes coming of them tell a slightly different story. The puffed out chest of the RJ often shows that they’ve granted themselves a little credit for receiving the Divine’s free gift of salvation. And if they speak in tongues then that takes the RJ to a whole new level, at least in their own eyes. Let me share a wee embarrassing story at this point. One day, as a young zealous Christian I was in my bedroom praying away in tongues while my poor old dad was out in the yard, tearing dozed asphalt of our garden shed. Suddenly, as I was flying around the 7th heaven my dad burst into my room without knocking looking for some help. What he discovered, much to his Presbyterian surprise was his only song blabbering away in his heavenly tongue. Oh boy, two red faces for the price of one! A young narcissist and his old dad!
Let me explain that having been a fully signed up member of the RJ clan in my younger days, I have a great compassion for them. Yet I still find it difficult to be around one for any length of time. My recovering psyche just can’t take too much exposure to their high levels of certainty and wild enthusiasm. I do visit the odd gathering of such folk here in England, to reassure me that the RJ culture is as crazy as I remember it and it never disappoints. I listen politely to the religious spin, chat in a friendly and hopefully loving manner to those around me and dance off into the night before the collection is lifted in hopeful buckets or traditional wooden plates!
We are no better or worse than any RJ, just different. Thankfully the Divine loves RJ and non RJs alike! I have written this and my previous post to show that there is something crazily absurd and yet deeply serious in the psyche of the RJ. If you happen to have one as a spouse, relative or workplace colleague I trust that my personal observations help you in your diagnosis of the conflicting energies between you.
In my next post I will look at some ways of maintaining your own spirituality and sanity in the presence of your RJ friends!
Dylan’s Author page ~ https://www.amazon.com/author/dylanmorrison