I have been facing the fact that a lot us, Christians, and Church folks, talk like we belong to a cult.
We do not need a name like Peoples Temple, Heaven’s Gate, or Children of God.
Regardless of the denomination or doctrine, many of us sound, and arguably, act, like we are members of a cult.
Days 120-126 of my year of quitting the Bible compelled me to revisit this part of my life.
Don’t get me wrong, Christians are not alone is coming across a subject of a documentary on faith gone wrong. I have listened to people of different faiths, and they express ways of talking that sound like someone might need to be called to rescue them-pronto.
Admittedly, I sound a bit irreverent.
I am, and not in the “I am” sense that I am proclaiming that “I am that I am” Yahweh (YHWH) or even Popeye kind of way, either (and now I am overcorrecting like a racist laying out reasons why she is not racist). I have reverence for God. Lately, I feel heightened irreverence for the sociocultural and sociolinguistic performances we, Christians, mandate and police each other using the Holy Bible.
I am facing the ways that I allowed myself to be indoctrinated to the point of employing the same kinds of performative negotiations to retain approval within different religious communities or fellowships.
After looking out at the world of fellow believers and our discourse, I do not think some of us hear ourselves. Below, I identify twenty ways that Christians sound like a cult.
1. Let’s look at the phrase, “raised in the church.”
What does that mean, anyway? Raised in the church as opposed to what? A pack of wolves or hyenas?
It sounds like someone bought a church and decided to repurpose it for residential use. I suppose if a church can be turned into a bar, it can be turned into a home.
Or does it hint at some kind of secret initiation where one has been literally raised in the church? I can see a “great cloud of witnesses,” now, chanting scriptures, while Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” plays in the background of darkly lit megachurch, while the newest convert sits in the middle of a circular platform (Thanks, Circle Maker!) that mechanically rises from a stage, before a robed priest pours holy oil on her/his head.
2. Christians have our own celebrities, often starting with the ones in our local pulpits. However, we consider our idolization of Christian leaders as respecting “God’s anointed” and “covering.”
If there is any challenge or critique to our idols’ behaviors or teachings or when God’s anointed act more like God’s annoyed, expect a rebuke to “touch not God’s anointed and do His prophets no harm.”
I suppose the rest of us, Christians, church folks, and mere mortals can catch hell.
Now, if that is not textbook cult, then my name is Sam Koresh.
Here’s a fun fact meets deep word (because some Christians love deep spiritual words from da Lawd): All of us are God’s anointed.
3. “Getting saved” courtesy of someone “witnessing” to you can resemble signing a 10-year cell phone service contract. Once you invite “Jesus into your heart,” you get locked into all kinds of hidden fees and terms because you ignored the fine print on the tract.
You have to “get plugged into” a local church, where you are “fed the Word.” If you do not give tithes and offerings, your loving God will “curse you with a curse,” which sounds worse than just getting cursed.
4. If you miss a service or two, or three, or just say, “Scrap the whole thing,” you are “forsaking the assembly of the saints.” We do not say that we “forsake” anything when we miss a day of work or school. Who says, “I am forsaking work for two days this week due to a stomach bug?”
The word “forsake” seems a bit intense. Instead, we use words like absence, sabbatical, leave-you know things that makes sense.
5. Different congregations call each other “saints,” but when it comes privileging titles in the church, we treat “just members” as “aints.” When I was a child, I didn’t think you were a saint until you were in that number that went marching in or you played for the New Orleans based NFL team.
6. If you have questions about the Bible that challenge some religious doctrine, Lord in Heaven bless your lil’ ole heart. No matter how much warmth in your delivery and no matter if it is a public or private forum, you can be accused of a “Jezebel” spirit, the spirit of “Korah,” or just plain old rebellious.
7. And what’s so bad about rebellion? Well, a mand and womand of Gawwwwhhhhd (Must be said as if one has severe hallelujah halitosis with the intention of inflicting biological warfare on one’s nemesis by speaking with more breathiness than Marilyn Monroe coming for your man.) will point to the Bible to confirm that you have the “spirit of witchcraft.”8. And what’s so bad about witchcraft?
Whelp, according to the Good Book, it is an abomination to God that is worthy of death.
This abomination is not to be confused with the “abomination of desolation” that masses of Christians obsess over in their apocalyptic lust of doomsday calamity.
In other words, asking about dinosaurs can be deemed punishable through stoning to death or God opening the earth to swallow and bury you alive.
9. If a Christian leader does questionable or even illegal acts, we are expected to “forgive” and forgo “judgment.” This forgiveness tends to be one-sided and skewed in favor of men.
10. The sexy theological terminology that we use to impress each other needs its own skewering. Depending on which circle you “roll in” (because Circle Maker), someone will be blown away when you discuss mimetic theory or penal substitutionary atonement. *Cue the oohs and ahhhs.*
Lookie here: Mimetic sounds like we tried to colonize the word Kemetic, which makes sense, considering the origin of the word comes from late Latin mimeticus and from Greek mimētikos, which means to imitate.
Bring on the awaken your consciousness lecture about how the Greeks drew much of their ideas in medicine, writing, philosophy, math, astronomy, and architecture from Kemet (Egypt).
Penal substitutionary atonement sounds like it has “Ask your doctor about it” written all over it, a need for a good a lawyer, or both.
11. We have trib and rib issues. When we argue about pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib, someone might say, “Whatchu say about some ribs?” Then some of us get carried away calling our husbands “Adam,” and self-proclaiming ourselves to be their “ribs.” We need to barbeque this lingo.
12. In certain churches, if a woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock, she must stand before the congregation and offer a confession met with public shame. Meanwhile, the man is given a reprieve and sympathy. It might sound off to you because it is off.
13. The good news of the gospel is that God loved us so much that he impregnated a woman against her will, and then killed her child, so that those who believe and adhere to a strict behavioral policy will not die by eternal fiery torment forever and ever.
14. Better yet, the good news is that God sends horrible things into your life because you can handle it or to teach you a lesson. After all, experience is the best teacher, and “He will not give you more than you can bear.”
15. The good news is that Christ willingly gave his life as a ransom for the world. If you do not believe in him, you will die at least a couple of deaths because one is not enough for what you deserve for refusing God’s love.
16. Some church folks talk about women “submitting” in a troubling way that sounds more like Ike Turner wrote the Bible. Most people in healthy relationships are not focusing on how much a wife “submits” and “obeys” her husband.
17. When we talk about spreading our “Biblical worldview” and “claiming souls,” it sounds creepy cultish.
18. Before changing church “homes,” not to be confused with the aforementioned repurposed church turned home, various church folks suggest staying “in order,” by asking one’s current pastor to “release” you before moving to another ministry. I thought he who the Son has set free is free indeed. If we are so free, we are free to go as we please.
19. We speak of the “hand of God on your life.” Who are we to say who has “God’s hand” and who doesn’t? *Someone raises hand in comments section to point out scriptural proof as to who and how to determine said “God’s hand.”*
20. Different churches have special greetings. You can’t just say, “Hello,” “Hi,” or “What’s up,” or “What it do?” You can not use language like you are “out there in the world” and expect to be treated with respect.
No, ma’am. To blend in you better greet folks with a jubilant “Praise the Lord,” “Grace and peace,” or “As-salamu alaykum,” or something.
And that’s the list.
When I think about stuff that Christian people say, I ask myself, “Who talks like that?”
Then, I point my finger to myself and say, “This woman right here.”
And last week, I enjoyed living, knowing that love of God is beyond all of our sociolinguistic religious stuff.