I am allergic to God talk. This is sort of an awkward thing, being that I preach on occasion and write a blog that is often about faith. Yet it is true. When someone says "God loves you" or "Praise Jesus" or repeats the name "Jesus" more than once in a conversation, I cringe and want to flee. Partially this is prejudice on my part. I automatically assume that folks who talk like this believe a certain way, a way that I find... unhelpful.
But prejudice often has its roots in pain. People who use God talk are often the very ones who think I am going to hell because I am a woman who preaches. In my experience, the words "God loves you" have often been accompanied by a subtext that says "if you will say this particular prayer" or "if you will believe like I do" or a host of other conditional statements. Sometimes the subtext is pretty subtle but I detect it as saying something like, "God loves you and so will forgive you the weakness of your faith as expressed in your blasphemous doubts." Rarely in my life has "God loves you" really meant just that.
Saying Jesus every other word generally means something like "see how holy I am" and "I am not a 'lukewarm' Christian like you."
Do I sound bitter? I guess I am in a way. I have also journeyed with others who have experienced God talk to mean hatred against gay people, oppression of women, and judgment for difficulties in their lives.
So, when I read an article about people doing really good work I find myself dismissing that good work as soon as I read that the work was accompanied by the words "God loves you." When I hear someone's confident assurance that prayers will be heard, I assume that I would be dismissed as heathen if I admitted my doubts and struggles in regards to prayer.
Then I read a pair of really good blogs (http://rachelheldevans.com/mainline-and-me and the follow up http://rachelheldevans.com/passionate-mainline-aric-clark) about the problems with mainline traditions as compared to evangelicals. As I read about the lack of "fire in the belly" in mainline denominations I wanted to scream "But there is so much baggage attached to talk about God that we are afraid to say anything for fear of sounding like one of those people!" Yet I know that is not the whole issue, there is a lack of passion in mainline churches sometimes. We all need to be called to a passion for justice and peace and loving one another. This is a passion in which we could be united. This is a passion for following Jesus. There are many in evangelical circles and mainline denominations who could find common ground here.
And I need to learn not to assume that folks who say Jesus a lot, love people only to the extent that they are potential converts. I pride myself on being open minded yet God talk shuts me down faster than you can say "praise Jesus."
I'll work on it... Lord willing.
There, how was that?