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Lone Ranger Religion

Posted on Sun, Feb 7, 2010


It is truly fascinating, human nature. How ingenious it is in ignoring the truth, denying reality, and avoiding personal responsibility. 

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It is truly fascinating, human nature. How ingenious it is in ignoring the truth, denying reality, and avoiding personal responsibility. 

Throughout my ministry, it has happened many times- how people blame others for their personal feelings and actions. “You made me angry!” “We won’t come back to church because no one spoke to us.” “Your comment drove me away.” Such behavior usually boils down to the popular but childish game of “blame the devil” or some form of it.  Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the Serpent. We have been playing this destructive pastime ever since. 

What is missing in such behavior is honesty with oneself and responsibility for one’s actions. The finger is pointed at others rather than at one’s self. Why did I choose to react that way to that comment? Why do I need to blame others for my feelings and behavior? What inside of me do I not want to confront and confess? Why do I choose to run away rather than stay and make better? Why do I keep the walls up instead of helping to tear them down? Why do I choose to condemn rather than seek to understand? Why do I choose to nurse my wounded pride rather than make humble confession? 

There are many games people play in church. For example: 

PRETEND There are many forms of this diversion. Let’s pretend we are well to avoid health issues. People would rather play “pretend” than face squarely changing reality. 

BONDAGE  It is hard to understand why people play this pastime. It strips them of their freedom, creativity and imagination. When someone offers a new idea or thought, someone will quickly and testily interject something like “we’ve never done it that way before” as a way of kyboshing novelty. Some call it the “tyranny of the past” game. We slavishly give in to dead custom and lifeless outine. 

SECRETS – the deadly game of withholding vital information. It is one of the most destructive games in the church. Secrets only generate gossip and rumor. They prevent truth-telling, confession, forgiveness, healing and wholeness. The game is short-lived because secrets rarely remain secret. It is just a matter of time before they are exposed and people are wondering why they were kept in the dark in the first place. 

BE NICE. People play this game because they fear how others will react if they actually tell them what they think and feel. So they withhold their true thoughts and feelings, allowing problems to persist. (Some do speak the truth but often with a hammer, that’s another game called Demolition). 

MISCOMMUNICATION. Instead of face to face, it is behind the back. Instead of direct conversation, it is subtle manipulation. It is a close cousin of BE NICE. 

MISDIRECTION. Leading people to believe one thing when in reality leading them to something else. Telling people “We are Presbyterian” but ignoring the very polity, theology and tradition that would challenge them to be so. Many of our churches are more congregational than they are Presbyterian. 

CHEAP GRACE- The game of calling oneself “Christian” without commitment, faithfulness, discipleship, stewardship, etc. (another form of PRETEND) Christianity without a cross. Very, very popular game. 

SUBTERFUGE- seeking to evade Christianity by trivializing or sentimentalizing it. Reciting the Ten Commandments mindlessly to render them harmless. Turning the Lord’s Prayer into sappy sentimentality, eviscerating its profound meaning. 

BODY PARTS- the game that surgically dissects the BODY into individual parts,  dividing the BODY against itself over various issues, the hands and arms flailing against the legs and feet, making for hilariously funny body disfunctionality to the entertainment of those outside the church looking in. 

But the topper has to be this game of BLAME THE DEVIL (also known asPASSING THE BUCK). What a neat way to shift personal responsibility! What an ingenious method to avoid the truth about oneself! 

When people point the finger at you for their feelings and behavior (you’re the devil at that point!!!), you might want to disrupt the game they are playing. Refuse to play along. No one forces anyone to feel the way he/she does. One solitary comment does not keep one away from the church. The question that needs to be asked is why does a person freely choose to react one way and not another? 

My guess is that if that question were asked of oneself often, one might actually begin to make progress towards emotional and spiritual maturity. One might discover that we all are sinners and all of us need mercy and grace. All of us sin against God and neighbor and self. We are all guilty of the sins of commission AND OMISSION. All of us need to receive and give forgiveness. No exceptions! 

The disturbing truth is that the longer we play this blame game, the more we are hardened by its critical spirit. Anger mutates into its various demonic and more camouflaged forms like bitterness and the blame game becomes a very deadly one to one’s own soul. In the end, it is the Devil who has truly won the game. Sad but true. 

Enough of blaming the devil, whoever that person/group might be. That is not what Christians and the church are about. We are supposed to be about reconciliation between God and others and self. Sin, individual and corporate, disrupts it. But we are called into the church to face the truth about ourselves in that pure and holy LIGHT that exposes all that is hidden. We enter the church not to blame, simply because we are all blameworthy before God. All have missed the mark. All fall short. True Christianity is a call to honest and sincere confession before a righteous God AND it is about receiving God’s pardon as the way to start fresh and new with self and others and God. 

But here again, isn’t it fascinating how human nature can stubbornly avoid these essentials and instead play these dumb games, even in God’s house.  Who says we don’t need those prayers of confession???? The good news is if they are prayed honestly and humbly and sincerely, new beginnings are possible. THANKS BE TO GOD! 

 Yours in Christ,



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