Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My thoughts on Toxic Christians: part 1

I recently came across an article “10 Toxic Christians in the Church Today” by Frank Powell.  You can read the full article here: Toxic is defined as harmful. People who are often referred to as toxic can be destructive in our lives. What happens when toxic people are also Christians? I would like to give my thoughts on this article. While the author has some valid points, I feel I need to address a few of his labels. His labels focus on personality traits that you can see in everyone and just because certain people are Christians doesn’t mean that the personality traits change. I feel his label as “Toxic Christians” leads to the belief that these types of people are not true Christians.

1. The “Always Cynical” Christian: This person is always distrusting or hates in anything which is non-Christian. I’ve seen many Christians do this and what I found is that sometimes they are not giving their opinion why something is bad, they are merely repeating someone else’s opinion. I often asked “have you read that book?” or “have you seen that TV show or movie?” If they answer no, then you cannot really hate something if you don’t know what it’s about. I’ve come to realize that just because something is labeled “Christian” does not make it automatically good and Biblically correct just like something non-Christian is not automatically evil. You cannot judge a book by its cover. I remember when I worked in a Christian bookstore and a customer rejected Lord of the Rings because it had wizards and magic despite the fact it was written by an author who was Christian. From this experience and others, I’ve learned to explore and research someone or something before forming my opinion and I will not rely solely on any one person’s opinion as my own.

2. The “Back Row” Christian: According to Mr. Powell, this is the Christian who keeps God at arm’s length and his or her life isn’t informed by God. My question is how do you know if someone is keeping God at arm’s length? And how do you know if his or her life isn’t informed by God? Just because you do not see their involvement in your church’s outreaches, does not mean they are not doing one on their own. They may feed the homeless, mentor to those in need without your knowledge and without recognition. In Matthew 6:3, Jesus says “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know that your right hand is doing.” Do so without acknowledge or personal glory. Just because you think this “Back Row” Christian isn’t contributing to your church does not mean he or she is not contributing to the Church.

3. The “World is Caving In” Christian: These people can be annoying with all talk of doom and gloom but this in not exclusive to Christians. You see it every day in the news. Mr. Powell states that “the phrase “do not fear” appears hundreds of times in the Bible.” In my research, I’ve been able to find the phrase appears approximately 110 times. However, fear does not mean a lack of faith. Fear is a natural emotion that God has given us. It is what we do with our fear that matters. Do we run and hide? Or do we trudge on despite our doubts and our fears with faith on our Lord’s promise? I fear many things and many times in my life, it does not mean that I have any less faith in God. Jesus felt fear. In the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26:38 says he was “troubled” and Mark 14:33 says he was “deeply distressed.” He worried and fear what was to come because the time had arrived. Did He walk away from this fear? He prayed that God could find another way but He knew there wasn’t one.  Fear does not make you a bad or “toxic” Christian, it makes you human.

4. The “Follow the Rules” Christian: This is one I agree with Mr. Powell on. I know many people like this and sometimes they push away great people because of this attitude. It makes people feel as if they do not belong. However, the “rules” they are often following are the rules the church has made. It is the doctrine that a group of people created using the Bible as their guide. The some rules are correct and others not so much. The thing about humans is that sometimes we are going to fail and despite our best efforts. Some Christians forget that we are still human. Christ only gave his followers two commandments to follow: 1) to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul and mind and 2) to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:35-40). As long as we focus on these two commandments, all other rules should fall into place.

5. The “Political” Christian: I hate politics to begin with. I’ve tried to be largely engaged in the political debates and questions in our world, I just…well, it’s not that I don’t care. It’s more because there is so much going on that my brain cannot wrap around everything.  I get stressed out when it comes to politics. I really dislike elections years. I know that God is in control. I am a dutiful citizen of the United States, I research all candidates and propositions on the ballot before I vote. Does that mean that a Christian who is passionate and active in the political process bad? I don’t think so. I think God gives certain people the energy and the know-how to be active in the political realm. I think churches needs someone who can easily understand what is going on in order to help others understand and make an informed decision. 

to be continued...