Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Too Religious - a Conversation

TOO RELIGIOUS - a Conversation
I have a friend who sent me a question...
You're going to love this question.  Please excuse my ignorance.  Nothing I say is meant to be insulting.  I have a friend I re-connected with on FB [Facebook] and he has "found God".  The thing is do you ever look at someone and say they are "too religious."  Can you ever tell by how someone acts that perhaps they have had some bad times in their life and they overcompensate by putting God too much into every conversation and in their lives.

He was married and has a son but at some point the wife divorced him and he had a bad emotional reaction.  Shortly after he "found God" and he feels life got better.  He was Catholic and was not satisfied with that so he tried other forms of Christianity and is currently a Born Again Christian.  I know BAC's have the rep for overdoing it, (as Jehova's Witnesses do).  Still I knew him when he was younger and it seems unusual to me that he should be so immersed in religion now.  One of his friends told me he can't talk to him anymore because he is so religious.

I spoke with him for the first time in 22 years tonight and the first 45 minutes instead of really catching up on things he explained to me what his religious perspective was and how he came to the faith he has now.  I didn't really question it or make it an issue.  I was perfectly OK listening to him because I have not heard from him in decades.  If that's what he wanted to talk about that was fine.

It did occur to me that perhaps he was hurt by his ex-wife divorcing him and maybe to protect himself from the hurt he uses religion.  Has something like this ever come up in your experience?  Is someone ever too religious and if so how do you get them to the point where they relax a bit or take it down a notch?  I'm not saying he can't be religious but can it be he takes it too far?

An Answer for My Friend:
You know the old "ignorant" [dumb] question, except the unasked one.
I winced when you described your friend's overbearing style.  If there's anything that gives evangelicals a bad profile, it's that!  BAC's know better than to beat you over the head with a Bible, but some just can't help it.  Jesus, Peter, James, Paul....all taught the basic principle of being gracious and winsome.  In this exchange, you were being that, and your "friend" was being rude.
That said, I admire his zeal...and perhaps I should err on the side of kindness there too....he obviously cares about you and wanted to share the one thing that he sees as stable in a very shaky world.  Kind of a "beggar telling another beggar where he found bread".
I personally don't think you can be "too religious" because religion is simply working out your relationship with God.  Considering He created us, I don't think you can pay too much attention to that dimension of life.  But I KNOW you can be over-amped in trying to spread your religious beliefs to others.  When "sharing" the good stuff you've found becomes a matter of INFLICTING it on others, you've crossed the line.
Unfortunately folks who are like that rarely get it, that they are being obnoxious.  My personal experience with that type usually ends when they find out what I do for a living. 

What To Do...What To Do?
I would suggest a "frontal approach" with "Joe".  Go head-on so there can be no doubt.  It can be rather startling to hear...."Joe, you might have a chance of helping me understand where you're coming from if we could act like friends; you're making me feel like a target, or a future notch on your Bible bookmark.  Does your church pay you for badgering people?  Do I have to sign on the dotted line for you to stay in the club at your church?"
If the frontal approach doesn't help him dial it back, invite him to your church.  If he's really concerned about you he'll go; if he's just being a salesman for Jesus, he'll turn you down.
One thing I wouldn't discount....[s]ometimes God puts people in our pathway to start something.  Your long lost friend showed up now..22 years since your last conversation.  Sometimes that happens to speak a word of comfort into your life, or even to confront something over which you're confused or worried, or perhaps complacent.  While your friend may have gone about his "task" of winning you to his perspective, God might have a bigger purpose in mind than just an evangelism "bad hair day".  I would suggest you examine what you remember about your friend, and about how different he is now.  Then, perhaps, talk to God about it.  Who knows what you'll discover?

1 comment:

  1. Yes, my friend gave me license to quote him.
    No....I NEVER share unless I ask first.