One of the things that made me absolutely miserable about my Christian walk was the guilt of it all. It was like the church body I was a part of had this singular idea of how a Christian life should be led and any deviation from it and you were made to feel like you were a bad Christian. It was a whole culture of thought and deed. Life was to be lived according to a rigid set of rules, clear cut dos and don’ts (heavy on the don’ts because the don’ts were what separated us from “the world”). Books weren’t to be trusted unless they were written by MacArthur, Piper, or a few select mini-popes. Music, movies, any entertainment really, had better have been purchased at a local Christian book store (CHRISTIAN bookstore, not one of those Catholic ones).

Forget the idea of trying to be genuine, there was a set of rules you had to live by, all within the greater context of a culture and mindset. You had to get up and do “devotions” (which meant 30 minutes of Bible reading and prayer). Lord help you if you didn’t “get your day started right.” It got to be so that folks made each other guilty and miserable, robbing each other of the joy of their spiritual journey, by making each other feel like you were not loving God if you weren’t spending that critical 30 minutes in study. I know folks who’d end up reading the Bible during their “morning sit down” in order to squeeze in their time while getting ready for work, calling in their spouses to discuss applicable verses. (Thus the lament for a courtesy flush for Jesus.)

If you were a woman, you were expected to be a wife (sorry, no single Christian women allowed; you could only be fulfilled as a Christian as a wife. Technically you had to be a wife AND mother to fully be in the club). You were expected to homeschool, because what right thinking Christian would dare allow their kids into the public school system. And, since you weren’t expected to hold a job, you had to otherwise make the most of your time, I don’t know, threshing wheat or something.

It was a game of keeping up with the spiritual Jones’ enforced by the mega church mafia.

It got to the point where I felt like I had to put on a show, rather than be real with other Christians. Mind you, it’s not the discipline of Bible study and prayer that I’m down on. It’s the guilt-laden coercion into it. Basically, folks were being made into Stepford Christians, or other people’s idea of what a Christian should be. It is ironic that in Christ we’ve become free from the law and sin, only to become slaves to one another. To quote Michael Yaconelli in his book, Messy Spirituality:

“Spirituality is not a formula; it is not a test. it is a relationship. Spirituality is not about competency; it is about intimacy. Spirituality is not about perfection; it is about connection. The way of the spiritual life begins where we are NOW in the mess of our lives. Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we LET GO is seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives. Spirituality is not about being fixed; it is about God’s being present in the mess of our unfixedness.”

Christian spirituality should be about encountering the person of Christ, and then a living out of that interactive relationship in every moment of life. It’s about knowing God, not knowing about God. We don’t need hyper-regimented, guilt-filled lives to call ourselves spiritual. God sees you. He knows you. You might as well be honest, authentic, and interact with Him in the midst of how you are … not how others think you ought to be. Each relationship is different. There shouldn’t be any Stepford Christians.

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