When God has left the building, turning up the volume won’t help: Toxic Faith pt. 5

When God has left the building, turning up the volume won’t help.

At the school where I grow vegetables, it can be very noisy. I have a group of children that love to help and to get my attention they will often speak louder, and wave hands like windmills. It can all be a bit overwhelming.

The other day the noise was particularly loud. I happened to look to my left and here was this young boy quietly getting on and picking up some old leaves that we had discarded. Quietly without anyone noticing he did the work.

We think that if we do more we will get more. If we turn up the volume, literally and figuratively, of the worship God’s ears will be pleased.

We get fanatical about a passage of scripture, a doctrine, end times, social justice, missions overseas and at home.

We have party political broadcasts from the pulpit.

We are convinced that if we turn up the volume then God will turn up the _______ (insert required blessing).

I wonder if Jesus came into some of our worship services would he say something like this …

‘You’re singing so loud I can hardly hear you’.

There is this wonderful story in the Bible (1 Kings 18:20-40 ) where God lays out a test of validity.

The masses of his people had been seduced away to worship a foreign God call Baal. So with the prophet Elijah he got them to set up two identical sacrificial offerings. Two piles of wood with a bull on top.

The test was to see whether Baal or Yahweh, would be able to supernaturally strike the match. The Baal worshippers were invited to go first and did they get into it.

They turned up the volume of prayer. They gave it all they could but the ignition switch stayed dead.

God then got Elijah to basically drown his sacrifice in water. There was no way that this was going to ignite from the stray cigarette thrown from a passing Bedouin.

Elijah prayed a quick pray. Boom, fire came, consumed everything.

The volume of noise didn’t shift the needle.

Jesus sits in the temple with his disciples and watches the wealthy dump large amounts into the offering box (Luke 21:1-4). The noise was up but their hearts were somewhere else. A poor woman comes in and quietly drops the smallest coin possible. The earth shakes.

You’re giving so much I can hardly do anything.

Our worth is not measured by our work. Singing louder, praying longer, reading, studying, giving and giving will not necessarily make any difference.

Why do we do more and more?

Maybe it’s to avoid getting down into the real issues of the heart.

  • The worshippers come to get their endorphin buzz.
  • The zealots to reinforce their confirmation bias.

After the worship service, we say ‘Wow wasn’t that worship so good and the pastor so helped me to be even further convinced that I’m in the right. Thank you Jesus!’

A group think grips our heart, but the real fire doesn’t fall.

We like to be in control and be certain. 

Richard Rohr says this

Faith is the willingness not to be certain and still to say ‘You know what it’s ok, I can live with it, its allright, it is what it is’

Faith is not the opposite of doubt. Faith is the oppostite of certitude. Where you dont need to be certain to be happy. If you can’t go there you’ll never be happy because you’ll never get logical certitude. If you’re waiting for 100% certitude you’re never going to happy. Richard Rohr. Podcast: Trust is a Rock You Can Build Upon

I’m certain that if I sing louder, pray longer, and give more then God will …..

That’s not faith, that’s manipulation.

This subtle toxic faith idea slithers into our being.

It creates havoc with our mental health. We compare what we are able to do with those who, in all appearances, are doing more. Then we label them as being more spiritual, more Godly. We try harder. We pray, study, sing, give more and more.

Slowly their creeps over us a belief that God’s pleasure with us is determined by what we do.

Turn the volume down and listen to the inner voice that you are avoiding. Perhaps God just wants to sit a while with that inner child that the noise is drowning out.

Quotes to consider

  • People with handicaps teach me that being is more important than doing, the heart is more important than the mind, and caring together is better than caring alone. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • The evangelical movement has become just a bit victimized by a success-oriented culture, wanting the church – like the corporation – to be successful. Henri Nouwen
  • “In short, I will preach it [the Word], teach it, write it, but I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion. Take myself as an example. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.” ― Martin Luther (From Luther’s Invocavit Sermon 2, March 1522)
  • The leech has two daughters; “Give, give,” they cry. Proverbs 30:15

Questions to answer and leave a comment below or anonymously

  1. What are some examples of using activity and noise to avoid getting down to the real issues of the heart?
  2. How much has a ‘success orientated culture’ influenced the church?
  3. Are you tired of the volume of ‘must do’s’ and ‘shoulds’ that subtly influence your faith? How much of it is due to a need for certitude? Why?

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Drew Patrick Miller

5 Replies to “When God has left the building, turning up the volume won’t help: Toxic Faith pt. 5”

  1. Excellent, Barry. I so agree with all of your post, but especially where the Rabbi Jesus observes the widow. “Jesus sits in the temple with his disciples and watches the wealthy dump large amounts into the offering box (Luke 21:1-4). The noise was up but their hearts were somewhere else. A poor woman comes in and quietly drops the smallest coin possible. The earth shakes.”

    The earth shakes, indeed, when the faithful believers continue in their quiet way. The Lord will see, watch, and smile.
    @chaplaineliza

  2. Great post Barry! Fascinating how many ways we can find to distract us from getting down to soul work. A false religious self is just one more.

    Much gratitude,

    Billy

  3. “I’m certain that if I (fill in the blank) then God will …..
    That’s not faith, that’s manipulation. …It creates havoc with our mental health.”

    Indeed it does. May God forgive us for the ways we inflict and perpetuate this harmful lie. As you clearly state, it is not healthy, nor is it the Gospel. Appreciate this post.

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