Christian Peacocks and Gossiping Hens

I’ve neglected to post here for a while.  Life got away from me.  I suspect that sometimes there is so much that I want to say that I don’t know where to begin so I turn inward and say nothing.  Just sit back and observe.

I have written a lot on my other blog during my time away here, and I wonder if it’s because my ‘voice’ there feels different to me.  It’s easier for me to open up sometimes in the space I’ve created over there.  Sometimes I feel stifled, even censored, in this space.  Isn’t that funny? One thing I never discuss on my other blog is my relationship with God–my faith.  It’s a foundational part of my identity, but I don’t discuss it.  It informs every part of who I am, however, so I really can’t leave it out even if my words don’t include Him.  The book of Esther in the Old Testament never once mentions God, but it’s impossible not to see God’s presence in the circumstances.  That’s something I think about…often.

I recently incorporated, and I have two business partners.  One of my business partners I see almost daily.  She describes herself as a “recovering Catholic” and agnostic.  We do most of our work in her home, but on weekends we work in a certain café.  Cafés are interesting venues because people will often linger for hours chatting, discussing, and hanging out forgetting that all the other patrons can hear their every word.  We’ve heard some very interesting and colorful discussions.

One Sunday afternoon not so long ago, I went to the counter to order a coffee.  I noticed a young man attempting to stand in line in front of me, but he seemed to have a problem forming a proper queue.  He was quite fidgety and acted very aware of himself, running his fingers through his shaggy, blond hair.  I thought he might be self-conscious or anxious.  He was dressed like all the twenty-something hipsters–skinny jeans, canvas loafers, plaid shirt and jacket.  He hadn’t shaved that morning.  I guess he was good-looking, but I’m well beyond finding college-aged dudes attractive.  He looked over his shoulder at me and sized me up.  “Real nice,” I thought.  Finally, he approached the counter to order, and he was rude.  He proceeded to engage in odd stretching like behavior, extending his leg to stretch his calf, leaning on the counter, tossing his shaggy hair, then stretching upward and to the side.  I sighed and rolled my eyes.  (Inner monologue: “Right.  Yoga class is next door, my friend.  Just order your coffee from the poor barista!” )  He finally finished showing off and didn’t even say ‘thank you’ to the girl behind the counter.  He tossed me another smug look as he swaggered to his club chair where it looked like a friend was waiting for him.  When it was finally my turn to order, the poor girl behind the counter gave me a relieved smile.

“Gimme my coffee…and money for my new church plant…Oh, and check me out.”

As I went back to my table to work with my co-writer, I had to pass Mr. I-Don’t-Know-How-To-Behave-In-Public, and he smirked at me and gave me the “once over”.  You know, looked me over from head to toe in a very lascivious way.  Every woman knows it when she sees it, and you know how it feels.  You feel objectified and gross.  Like you want to boil yourself in oil.  It isn’t flirtatious or desired.  No one wants to be leered at while they’re trying to do their work, and he leered.  Repeatedly.

Recall what I said about conversations in cafés? You can hear them.  In the middle of this guy leering at me he was having a discussion with his buddy.  What was he discussing? His graduation from seminary.  His life as a new pastor.  The new church he was planting.  The small groups he was leading.  How he was really enjoying being mentored by an older pastor.  His male friend would interrupt with some real conversation about his life.  He had some authentic desire for God, but this young pastor always had a ready answer.  Some pithy comeback that was supposed to make it all better.  Essentially, his platitude was: “Try harder” and because he had the seminary degree his friend believed him.  Did his friend notice that every time I got up to get a napkin or a cup of water all conversation would stop because this pastor was undressing me with his eyes? I don’t know.

The moment that this young pastor stopped the conversation to pray for his friend in the middle of a busy café was the moment that my agnostic business partner was ready to throw something.  Why? She had heard every word that dude said, and she was a witness to all his behavior.  The headline in her brain would read something like this:

Lusty Young Pastor Pushes Own Agenda on Needy Friend at Local Café

Here was a young man trying to get seed money for a church plant from a friend on a Sunday afternoon, and his friend opened up to him about legitimate needs in his life.  What does this young pastor do? He told him that “everyone has issues.”  He went on to say that he was in a small group wherein there was a woman with so many problems that he thought she was actually crazy.  He used those words–“crazy”.  His solution? To just pray for his friend in the café.  Loudly.  He drew so much attention to the two of them that the atmosphere in the café became charged with discomfort and nervousness.

It all ended with another leer…at me.

My friend witnessed this.  All of this.  She looked at me incredulously.  What was I going to say? To the rest of the patrons in the café, that’s supposed to be Christianity in action, and there was absolutely nothing Christlike about that interaction.  That was pure ego on display.  Nothing else.  His loud, Christianese-filled prayer? All about him.  Meant to make others think how “godly” he must be.

I could pick apart every nuance of what I observed and tell you why Jesus wasn’t a part of it, but what would be the point? In the end, I should not have to explain to a friend why an encounter with an openly “Christian” Christian is the epitome of UN-Christian behavior.  Sadly, I find myself needing to do this more and more lately.

Like yesterday…three women were sitting next to us at that same café gossiping about all the women that attend their church: “Did you SEE what she was wearing? She must be going through something because her hair doesn’t look good lately.  I hate to be the one to say it, but I think I’m going to be the one who needs to say it…I hate getting prayer requests from those people…Oh, Lord bless them, but…”

“Did you see her hair?…I just hate getting prayer requests from people like that…And her outfit! Well, I’m always right so I’m just going to have to be the one to tell everyone that they’re wrong…God knows they should know…”

For two hours.  Two hours.  And one of them actually said: “Don’t you hate being associated with people who make the church look bad?”

Indeed.

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2 thoughts on “Christian Peacocks and Gossiping Hens

  1. Religion is a difficult subject for me. I often think there could be something helpful and cathartic there, but I am repeatedly turned off by the types of things you describe. There was one man that I knew I could turn to when the time was right for real honest discussion. I knew a time would come when he would help me with this, but he died several years ago very suddenly and unexpectedly. I don’t know that I will ever find my space in faith, but maybe. I have often wanted to discuss this in my blog space, but can never seem to find the right start

    • Not everyone is like this which is why I write about it. And, what I fail to say is: What if that young pastor used to ONLY think of himself? What if he is now aware of others and their needs? Human development and growth happens on a spectrum. So, maybe he was once a complete narcissist, totally opposed to the idea of mentoring, adrift in ideas of grandeur and self-adulation. And now? He’s enjoying being mentored, aware that he needs it (I know this because I heard his entire conversation). What if he would NEVER pray for another human being, scoffing at the notion of even reaching out. And, now he tries to reach out–even though it certainly comes off as completely self-centered. What if his intent does not match his behavior? I don’t know his starting point. Our interactions with God, over time, move us along a spectrum of development that grows us into human beings that will possess a character that reflects God’s divine nature. If we choose that. That’s the other side of this observation. Maybe this guy is an ex-addict. Maybe he has made leaps and bounds in his own personal development. Think about what you were like when you were 22? What are you like now? Were you an ass then compared to now? I was. It’s just that there is a higher level of accountability when a person is going to be an ass in public under the guise of “Christian pastor”. People will always look and judge because they are tossing around the name of God, essentially being an ass in the name of God. Historically, that never turns out well. As for those women? Well, I can’t say much for them. I just hope I’ve never sounded like they did, but I think I have. And, it really hit home with me. Words matter. Kindness matters. Treating others with respect, talking about others in public? It matters. All the time. It matters…

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