Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.~~Matthew 13:5
As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.~~Matthew 13:20-21
Life sucks. Let’s just make that clear. There is war. There are natural disasters. There is famine. There are killers and rapists and abusers. There is ISIS beheading children in parks. There are thieves and muggers. There are politicians. There are false teachers. There are false prophets. And there are just ordinary people who like to make everyone around them miserable because that is what makes them happy.
Unfortunately, that’s not what we often hear from American pulpits, or American Christian radio, or read in American Christian books or blogs.
On the other side of the abuse I wrote of in my previous entry, there is the, what I like to call, “happy-happy” Christianity. This is a strange teaching that seems to be popular in America because, well, we live in peace and prosperity. So I can turn on my radio and hear songs about how God is always going to provide all my needs (miraculously, by the way, He couldn’t possibly provide them through, say, food stamps or welfare). I can go to church and hear how the pastor has never known a generous person who was poor (honestly, I could write a book on that lie). I walk into the Christian bookstore or peruse Christian blogs and I read story after story of how God just wants us to be blessed, He just wants good things for us, we just have to, essentially, reach out and grab them.
Now, I do need to qualify that I don’t believe what a church I once attended taught, that God hates you and has a terrible plan for your life, but I do believe that, at its core, life here on earth sucks. If it doesn’t suck for you directly, it does for someone you know. And if it doesn’t for someone you know, you have probably intentionally insulated yourself. I’ll write about you tomorrow.
Jesus says here that some seed fell on rocky soil and sprang up immediately. These people walk into “happy-happy” churches and they hear this message of how God will bless you if you tithe, how God wants only good things in your life. They are given lists like the one above telling them this is ALL you have to do to be happy all the time. This happiness is reinforced by the parishioners around them. (1)
Then, bam, life hits them hard. They lose their job, their spouse is diagnosed with a mental illness, their teenage daughter gets pregnant. What happens next will determine the future of their faith.
In “happy-happy” churches the people are left on their own. Shoot, it’s been my experience that in the churches where they teach that God hates you and has a terrible plan for your life, that they are left alone, or told that God has made some to suffer and their job is to endure (2). A platitudinous pat on the head, and then an abandonment.
What are these Christians to think? What are they to do in this situation?
We can sit in our little comfy bubbles and pass judgement all we want on the people who have left the church over such incidents. We shrug and say, “Oh, well, I guess that seed fell on rocky soil and they just couldn’t handle the hard things.”
No one calls people who leave churches. We just let them slip away. Why? Is it because we know, deep down, that our faith can’t handle the truth of why they left? I have, as an adult, left three churches, two over issues of pastoral abuse. Very few people called to ask why. No one really wants to know why people leave church and faith when the hard times hit. We just want to judge them.
My question is: Did they ever truly “hear the word?” Or did they hear a distortion of truth, a lie? Did they hear the pastor promise that if they came to Christ they would never be lonely again? Did they hear the promise that if they tithed what little they had, God would bless them abundantly? Did the pastor stand before them and promise them if they just prayed the right way, their marriage would be saved?
The first question we need to ask ourselves when a friend leaves the church is, were they lied to? But we’ll never know if we don’t ask them why they left.
(1) I’ve always wondered where this teaching comes from. Then, right in the middle of writing this entry, I tripped over a book called Positively Powerless. Then, I accidentally bought it. (One click purchase. I should probably disable that.) So far it’s a good read, despite who she quotes at the beginning of the first chapter. It explains exactly the cultic origins of this teaching.
(2) I will never, if I live to be 100 and have dementia, forget my friend who feared for her life from her abusive husband and went to the pastor and elders as our Reformed church commanded. She was told that God created some people for suffering, and that she must obviously be one of them.