Theology

“Lies Women Believe” review: 45-62

This chapter of Lies Women Believe (lies we believe “About God”) illustrates rather perfectly what I was talking about in my last post– how Christians taught me that my own heart can’t be trusted because it’s hell-bent on deceiving me. Nancy spends a lot of time laying the groundwork for the rest of the book, which is primarily the idea that your life experience cannot be trusted.

But, before we get to that, let’s begin with something I agree with her on:

I have chosen to start by dealing with lies that women believe about God because there is nothing more crucial than what we believe about God. (47)

I say this sort of thing rather often– what we think about God affects what we think about ourselves and about each other. It’s a two-fold reality, I think: if we are created in the imago dei, then who we are as people is a reflection of the nature of God; and if we believe that God is full of wrath and fury and eager to rain brimstone down on us, then that is going to affect our relationships and our views of ourselves. Instead of basking in their love, we’ll spend our days walking around terrified that God is going to crush us for some misdeed.

However, after that, Nancy and I part ways.

The first lie she tackles is “God is not really good.”

In her personal anecdote, she describes God’s goodness not being readily apparent to her when her father died suddenly when she was twenty-one (49). I haven’t experienced that, so I don’t know what it’s like, and I am positive she suffered while she was grieving that sudden loss.

However, losing a parent, while incredibly heartbreaking, is not really on par with a lot of other suffering that exists. It will eventually happen to all of us. Y’know what doesn’t happen to middle-class white-picket-fence-childhood women like Nancy? Dying of starvation. Being forced to marry someone when you’re 16 and he rapes you every day (and yes, that happens in America). Being beaten and tortured by the people supposedly put on this planet to protect you.

This planet is full of so many cruelties, and yes, I do have a hard time with this “God is good” concept most days. The amount of evil so many of us experience every day is … incomprehensible. And I am heartily sick of people like Nancy spouting off on how good God is when they’ve been sheltered from a lot of that evil. Christian culture is extremely insulated– have a physical condition that bars you from going to church regularly? NOT A REAL CHRISTIAN. Have a background that makes you seem “angry” and “bitter” because you just will not shut up about being abused and raped? NOPE.

This ugly reality means that the people we most frequently see at our conferences, on our stages, and behind our pulpits are all sort of cookie-cutter, with a fairly limited set of experiences to draw on.

Event this book enforces those notions. She gives the following in a list of problems we run into:

… a loveless marriage, rejection by an ex-mate, grown children who won’t call home, approaching forty, and not a suitor in sight … (50)

I’m sorry, those things aren’t fun, but they just seem so petty. Really, Nancy? This is your standard for talking about the possible reasons why women might feel that God doesn’t love them?

The biggest problem with this chapter, though, is how she goes about completely redefining the words goodness, love, and need. Her opening salvo is this:

The Truth is, God is good. Whether or not His choices seem good to us, He is good. Whether or not we feel it, He is good. Whether or not it seems true in my life or yours, He is still good. (49)

And quoting from Hannah Whitall Smith:

But faith sits down before mysteries such as these, and says, “The Lord is good, therefore all that He does must be good no matter how it looks. I can wait for His explanations.” (49)

In other words: your personal experience is immaterial. The evidence does not matter at all. Whatever your own eyes tell you, ignore that. This definition reduces faith down to self-delusion. In my life, “how it looked” was a lot like physical abuse, rape, and spiritual trauma so deep I have PTSD from it. But yeah. That’s totally God being so good to me. I just can’t wait to hear them explain it.

She basically repeats herself in explaining why God actually does love us despite any evidence we might have to the contrary, saying it’s inconsequential “whether or not we feel loved” (51). The problem is, that does matter. In my marriage– which conservative Christians keep trying to tell me is a symbol of Christ and his relationship with the church– I can approach my husband and say “I don’t feel loved” and his reaction has to be more than “well, I do, and how you feel about it doesn’t matter.” In a healthy relationship, his response should be something like “oh, what can I do to show you how I feel?”

Except that’s not how conservative Christians are told to interact with God about this. Instead, in this “marriage” we’re supposed to just reassure ourselves that God really does love us even when our lives seem to prove they couldn’t give a damn. Gregory Boyd spends a while talking about this problem in Benefit of the Doubt, arguing that God does want to see us come to them with this. He talks about how Jacob wrestled with God, demanding answers, and how God rebukes Job’s friends for trying to tell him what Nancy’s trying to tell us. Job questions God, doubts God, flings his problems into their face, and God responds.

But, she takes the cake in the next section, on the lie “God is just like my father.”

First, she doesn’t do anything to point out that God is genderless, instead reinforcing an image of a masculinized God that doesn’t reflect the full breadth of Scripture (one of the names for God is “the god with breasts“). But then we get to this:

The God of the Bible is a compassionate, tender, merciful Father … It doesn’t meant He never allows us to suffer pain– in fact, at times, He actually inflicts pain and hardship upon us. Why? Because he loves us. Because he cares about us. (53)

Just … back the truck up.

This is completely nonsensical! This is not love. If you want to inflict pain on the people you supposedly love, you are not loving them. You love some version of them that doesn’t exist and are trying to force them through torture and coercion into being that made-up version. You love yourself in that scenario, and no one else.

It is possible to do something that hurts a person we love, but generally we consider those things to be wrong. They’re mistakes. They happen because we were angry or tired or hurting, and they damage our relationship. The things we do that hurt each other require reconciliation and healing.

Except for God, apparently. They can do whatever they want, they can intentionally hurt us, and it’s all good. That’s what it looks like when God loves us, and please ignore that it flies in the face of common human decency. If we don’t think that’s love, it’s just because their ways are just too “great” for us, too far outside our “comprehension.” When God hurts us, it’s love.

That is the cornerstone of every abusive relationship I’ve ever experienced or witnessed. In order for the victim to stay, they have to be absolutely convinced that the abuse is just a sign of how much they are loved. He flies into jealous rages because he just loves me that much. She starts screaming at me that I’m a disgusting worthless piece of shit because she knows that I’m capable of being so much more and she’s just trying to help me realize my potential.

Nancy is right– what we believe about God matters. It’s just that she believes in an abusive God.

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  • I don’t get to say this too often because I know how insensitive it sounds, but I think you’ll understand what I mean. I grew up Jewish, so the Holocaust was an integral part of my Jewish education from a very young age. Also at a young age, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. A friend of mine killed himself. And so on and so forth, my point being that I grew up with this awareness that the world isn’t always fair, and bad things happen to good and bad people alike, for reasons we just don’t know.

    My father also died of cancer last year, because genetics. We joke about the “Caplin Cancer Curse.” Other people I know have had relatives miraculously healed from the same illness, because prayer. People prayed for my dad, too. They must not have had enough faith? Just shut the fuck up.

    So it really pisses me off that I’ve heard testimony after testimony from people who question God’s goodness for the very reasons Nancy mentions. Never mind the genocide that’s happened throughout history, and continues today, or that lady down the street suffering from cancer. As long as bad shit doesn’t happen to *you* then God is still good. Privilege? Oh hell yes.

    I’m reeling from this now more than ever because just this month, my mom’s best friend lost her kid in a car wreck and a friend of my brother’s was murdered. Both kids were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And yet I had a Facebook friend post this week that God is awesome because her last apartment caught on fire…one month after she moved out! And the fire was in HER OLD BEDROOM! God told her to move at just the right time to avoid the fire, but fuck that person who moved in after her!

    I just can’t even with this anymore.

    • Tapetum

      Yeah – I saw several people post-911 commenting on how God was good, because they were stuck in traffic, or went on some errand, and weren’t in the Twin Towers that morning.

      Flames! Flames on the side of my face! Don’t tell me you’re so extra special that God will rearrange the universe just to save you, unless you accept that it means that the family of Fred, the man in the cubicle next to yours, who died horribly that day, has every right to feel God didn’t love them or Fred.

      • I guess it’s somewhat of a comfort that people mean well when they say things like this? They’re just trying to be encouraging? They likely have no idea how insensitive they actually sound, because those stories are to encourage people who already believe, not to convert the skeptics.

  • Tapetum

    Even within the context of educated, middle class, white picket fence America, her examples seem sort of petty. A parent dying is sad, but as you say, does happen to most people. Relationships – marital, child/parent, friends – can be messy and turn out badly because we’re all human, and humans do stupid or petty or shortsighted things sometimes.

    How loved by God would she feel if her much beloved spouse developed terminal cancer in his mid-forties while you still have multiple children at home? (Me, and several other people I’ve met since he started cancer treatment). If one of her children suddenly died unexpectedly (a good friend)? A lightning strike caused her house to burn down will all of her pets trapped in it? (One of my students) I’d say not feeling loved is a pretty reasonable response (and pretty mild, honestly).

    • You have all my compassion. My motherly grandfather died at a very early age (before my birth) owing to cancer and this was terrible for my mother and grandmother.
      If you go through such an ordeal, even doubting God’s existence may be entirely appropriate.

    • christianpundit

      I beg to differ. I’m in one or two of the categories that the blog page’s author writes off as being “petty.” I am single in my early 40s, no suitor in sight, and yes, this bothers me at times. I find my particular brand of hurt and pain and doubt being written off as being supposedly “petty” as being very insensitive and offensive. Oh, and my mother died a few years ago, and it still hurts like hell and has had painful ramifications, even though I’ve worked through most of the grief all alone – yes, everyone’s mom and dad will die one day, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

      • Tapetum

        Petty was probably the wrong word to use here, for which I do apologize. What I, at least, am trying to get at is the difference between the sorts of hurts that are, for lack of a better term, normal – part of the fact that we are human beings, we live, we die, we have messy relationships with each other – and those that are dire, or unusual – the sort of thing that you could reasonably have expected to spend your whole life without having to experience.

        Having a parent or grandparent die can hurt like anything, but it is part of the normal course of most human lives that our parents pre-decease us once we’re adults. Being single can be as lonely as all get-out, as can being in a strained or failing marriage – but again, these are not unusual states, nor can their occurrence generally be attributed to God per se.

        For a specific example: a dear friend’s mother died unexpectedly recently. He loved her dearly, and misses her immensely, and his pain is definitely not petty. At the same time, his pain is not the same as his grandmother’s pain. I saw them both at the visitation. He was hurting. She was shattered. He was burying a parent, and she was burying her child, and that made every difference in the world, and it seems like a fair amount of hubris on the part of the book author to assume that her experience of the first enables her to pontificate on the failings of those experiencing the second.

  • CynicMom

    I think she’s playing word games here, equating the pain of being maimed and orphaned during an earthquake with the pain children feel when their father asks them to clean their room. Not. The. Same.

  • “If you want to inflict pain on the people you supposedly love,you are not loving them. You love some version of them that doesn’t exist and are trying to force them through torture and coercion into being that made-up version. You love yourself in that scenario, and no one else.”

    Wow, I’ve never heard it put that way before. I’ve been trying to find a way to articulate how the evangelical Christian version of “love” is so messed up because it means “I know what’s best for your life and I need to force you in the direction of doing those things”.

    • Sarah S

      This really struck me too. It’s how we were taught to raise our kids.

    • I’m still reeling from that quote. I’ve also been trying to articulate that version of “love” and how horrid it is. Samantha put it perfectly.

  • A. Noyd

    Well, you might have to inflict pain on your kid by making it get its immunizations or something reasonable like that. But the issue there is that you haven’t any better choice between a bit of pain and a lot of risk.

    However, an all-powerful god doesn’t work by the same rules. An all-powerful god shouldn’t ever have to hurt you for your “own good” because it should have available an infinite number of other, non-hurtful options for achieving the same goal.

    • SamanthaField

      I usually try to make this distinction clearer by differentiating between “pain” and “harm.” Nancy’s definition includes both concepts, so I lapsed and kept using “pain”.

      Pain can be neutral. *Harm* isn’t. However, it seems pretty clear from context that Nancy thinks both are fine as long as it’s God doing it.

  • Hi Samantha.
    There are lots of things I agree with here.

    I think that many Evangelical authors feel victorious after having only dealt with minor issues while ignoring the truly formidable challenges.

    Yes, the problems the women she mentioned went through are really small in comparison to the terrible ordeals many of us experience.

    I feel genuinely sorry for the rape you were victim of and the PTSD you are apparently still suffering from :-(

    I have experienced repeated episodes of very acute depression. During those, my whole body was consumed by an unbearable pain all the time. Just surviving for one minute proved almost insurmountable.
    I can remember how the advice of my well-meaning (but purely secular) parents “Just pull yourself together Marc!” made everything worse.
    I was furious they did not understand that my depression wasn’t a state I was willingly choosing to stay in.
    I can well imagine that this frustration might be considerably stronger if these pieces of advice are presented to you as the absolute “will of God”.

    Otherwise, I largely sympathise with your frustration with Conservative Evangelicals defining love in a way which deeply violate our most basic and sacred moral intuitions.
    Yes, what we believe about God and more generally ultimate reality strongly affects everything else.

    I am truly infuriated by their attempt at arguing that full-fleshed genocides and the murder of babies can be morally acceptable just for the sake of salvaging Biblical inerrancy.

    I also spent quite a few blog posts exposing the blatant immorality of traditional Calvinism, according to which God predetermined billions of human beings to die as evil so that he’ll enjoy the everlasting opportunity to torture them.

    I feel also angry while thinking on the abusive human relationships that these wretched theologies very often spawn.

    That said, I do not agree with your belief that it is always wrong for God to correct a person by introducing suffering into his or her personal life.
    This hangs together with my (admittedly tentative) treatment of the problem of evil where I sort of explain that the infinite complexity of God and of eternity precludes the analogy of a marriage between two partners from being a perfect correspondence.

    I think that if someone will live eternally with God, then God does him or her no wrong if he decides to inflict suffering to him either for reasons we do not grasp (as taught in the myth of Job) or as a correction for our wrong-doings.

    If I’m gonna enjoy unending bliss,I wouldn’t consider God evil for inflicting pain to me for some higher purpose because thirty years of pain are nothing in comparison to 1000000… centuries of joy.

    I also believe that liberal Christians (and more generally Western liberals) promote ideas which I find far more morally bankrupt than the one I presented here.

    [Edited]

    So, the point of this long digression was to show that liberal and so-called progressive Christians do not occupy the moral high ground they think they stand on.
    They too can hold fast to morally despicable dogmas.
    This makes their criticism of religious Conservatism ring more hollow and self-righteous to my ears.

    I do hope you haven’t taken any offence at what I wrote and that we can see each other as brother and sister and Christ despite some fundamental disagreements.
    I certainly do not expect you to change any of your views after having read that.
    But I hope this might provide you with slightly original food for thought :-)
    And I sincerely don’t mind if you don’t publish my comment because you deem it incompatible with the purposes and scope of your blog. That would be perfectly fair and I apologise if you felt annoyed and bored while reading it.
    Best wishes and blessings.

    • SamanthaField

      I’ve removed parts of your comment not because I’ve “deemed it incompatible with the purposes and scope of my blog” but because it’s racist and wrong.

      And Sooooo far off topic, but that seems par for the course with you. Virtually every comment you’ve ever made on my blog has contained this argument, and I’ve seen you making the same argument elsewhere. You seem particularly focused on this “I’m not racist BUUUUUUT” approach it rather begs the question why.

      Your argument is nothing more than “I know we colonized them and enslaved them and brutalized them for decades and centuries, but look at them now! They’re targeting white people, so the prejudice people feel against them now has NOTHING to do with how we’ve depicted them as savage animals for centuries and their anger today is just so MISPLACED. I mean there’s no possible way they have something to be angry about today– us good nice white people just want to let bygones be bygones! Look, let me bring out my token brown people who agree with me!”

      This is ridiculous. Your argument is bad and you should feel bad.

    • I’ve removed parts of your comment not because I’ve “deemed it
      incompatible with the purposes and scope of my blog” but because it’s
      racist and wrong.

      And sooooo far off topic, but that seems par for the course with you.
      Virtually every comment you’ve ever made on my blog has contained this
      argument, and I’ve seen you making the same argument elsewhere. You seem
      particularly focused on this “I’m not racist BUUUUUUT” approach it
      rather begs the question why.

      Your argument is nothing more than “I know we colonized them and
      enslaved them and brutalized them for decades and centuries, but look at
      them now! They’re targeting white people, so the prejudice people feel
      against them now has NOTHING to do with how we’ve depicted them as
      savage animals for centuries and their anger today is just so MISPLACED.
      I mean there’s no possible way they have something to be angry about
      today– us good nice white people just want to let bygones be bygones!
      Look, let me bring out my token brown people who agree with me!”

      This is ridiculous. Your argument is bad and you should feel bad.

      • Hi Samantha.

        Given the fact you know me only superficially through the internet and that we have very different backgrounds, could it be you might be making some uncharitable ungrounded assumptions along the way while reaching this conclusion?

        When Jesus taught us to love our enemies, what did He mean?
        While you evidently view my ideas as odious, I’ve always been very kind and respectful towards you.
        Does “hate the sin, love the sinner” mean anything to you?

        Regardless of whether or not I’m egregiously wrong, this doesn’t really come across a Christ-like attitude.

        I’ve no problem with your thinking I’m a racist.

        Still, I feel the need to clarify a bit my true positions.

        I do believe that young Arabs suffering from systematic discriminations have a right to hate the State and to feel very angry towards all of those who are upholding this wicked system.

        If I were an Arab living in France, I would certainly feel very resentful towards society owing to undeniable injustices.

        But when a small minority of them target a little girl who has never done them anything wrong, then yes their anger is terribly misplaced and misguided.
        They should attack the properties of the white capitalists who plundered their countries but not poor innocent children from the lower classes. I stand by what I wrote.

        My fundamental belief is that racial hatred is always wrong because it is inevitably gonna be directed towards innocent persons as well.
        I also think that racial hatred hasn’t any colour and should be always equally combated, even though we should use the large majority of our resources to fight anti-Arab racism because it statistically affects much more people than the reverse phenomenon.

        I hold all these positions in good conscience before God.
        I’m certainly open to being proven wrong on that.

        The only thing I regret was to have derailed so much from your topic. I wanted to point out what I sincerely view as a liberal hypocrisy but this clearly got too far.

        My apology on that one.

        There is probably no point discussing further as it will likely generate more heat than light.

        I wish you all the best for your blog, writing career and personal life and hope that your PTSD will progressively become more bearable.

          • That’s a good analogy indeed.
            I have been incredibly dumb to have derailed your post.
            I am sorry. I recognise this now and I’ll never post a comment again on your blog.
            Yet, do you think that “Love your enemy” might include “Love those stupid, socially inept, autistic but respectful and modest people” who annoy you?

          • That’s also not an appropriate reaction. I’m not saying “never comment here again evaaaar!!!!” I’m saying “hey quit being ridiculous about this topic.”

            And just because I’ve been direct and blunt with you does not equate with being “unloving.” Like I said– not my first rodeo with you. You got the benefit of the doubt the first time, and I went out of my way to be honey sweet. Yet here you are, a year or more later, still spouting the same BS even though I KNOW that other people have called you on it very nicely.

            Yet they only affect we’ve seemed to have is that you added a “liberals don’t have moral highground” screed. So you lost the opportunity for me to be all sweetness and light.

            You do not have the right to demand emotional labor from me, which is what this comment does. You’ve actually stopped being racist and are now being sexist.

          • A. Noyd

            And ableist, too, what with trying to pass off being an asshole as some unavoidable aspect of autism rather than a personal failing.

          • I would have written the very same thing about love if you had been a man. Indeed, I pointed this out many times to several of my fellow male Christians who failed to be forgiving and loving towards other persons.
            While many abusive sexist men have tried to manipulate you that way, you cannot automatically assume that everyone emphasising the Christian virtue of forgiveness and love for our enemies belongs to that category.

            Samantha, I recognise my error. I have been terribly wrong to post this on your blog without reflecting first on our past experiences and without considering how annoyed and upset you might become.

            Given your background, I understand your anger.

            Is there anything I can do so that we can leave each other at peace?

          • A. Noyd

            While many abusive sexist men have tried to manipulate you that way, you cannot automatically assume that everyone emphasising the Christian virtue of forgiveness and love for our enemies belongs to that category.

            #notallsealions

            Not only is this revoltingly patronizing, no one is automatically assuming anything. When your every comment oozes with bad faith, only a fool would keep extending you the benefit of the doubt.

            And right here in this very quote you’re demanding Samantha perform “niceness.” You can’t face that her suspicion of your motives might be warranted, so not only are you telling her that she has to be more charitable towards you, you’re also being a manipulative ass about it with false sympathy towards her past. (If it was real sympathy, you wouldn’t be trying to use it to make her feel unreasonable.)

            I’m sincerely willing to call myself into question.

            I bet you believe that. But if it was true, you wouldn’t be squirming to come up with excuses and deflections whenever anyone else calls you into question.

          • Okay, I wasn’t aware this would be interpreted that way. I apologise.
            I do think, however, that a willingness to reconciliation is a general Christian virtue, provided that the other person also strives for that purpose.
            I tell that to other Christians and I am told that by other Christians of both genders all the time.

            I’m sorry if this came over as being patronising.
            Such wasn’t my intention.

            As for my sympathy being fake, that’s your opinion.
            Having been maltreated during my youth and suffering from debilitating anxiety and depression, I can imagine how terrible PTSD is.
            But I cannot prove you I am not lying while writing this.

            Now what would you or Samantha expect me to do?
            I could of course just stop commenting at this point.
            But is there anything else I might do?

          • Beroli

            Even while you say you want to apologize, you’re still trying to lecture. That indicates that, however much you might want to “reconcile,” you want to be treated as someone Samantha needs to pay attention to more.

            In another comment while I was working on this, you wrote:

            I never wanted to insult you. I never wanted to hurt, harass, annoy or bother you.

            I don’t think you get what the problem is with your actions–still. Of course you didn’t want to “insult, hurt, harass, annoy, or bother” her. This amounts to “I’m not a mustache-twirling villain, and this is something that has great moral significance!” You wanted to correct her, and it never occurred to you to question–and still does not appear to have occurred to you to question–that your moral understanding was greater than hers.

          • Samantha doesn’t need to pay any attention to me. Of course not.

            From now on, I’ll never comment again on her blog.
            I recognise it was wrong to have polluted her posts.I appreciate now she had the right to feel angry against me.

          • At this point, don’t really think so, no. You’ve never really been anything but arrogant and patronizing and the bulk of your comments imply that I’m unforgiving, unloving, un-Christlike, paranoid, and suspicious.

            It’s really obvious you’re not here in good faith and you cloak insults in patronizing words.

            And no, you DON’T interact with men the same way. I’ve seen you comment in a bunch of different places and the patronizing assholery goes away when you’re talking to men, so don’t you even dare try to pull that nonsense with me. This isn’t about your past behaviour, this is about how you’re treating me RIGHT NOW.

          • I feel genuinely sad about the emotional pain and anger I caused you and feel terrible about myself.

            I accept the fact there is nothing I can do to rectify things.
            I cannot help but tell you finally that I sorely regret to have spoiled your time.
            Farewell.

          • Future reference: keep the “and I feel terrible about myself” shit to yourself. It’s manipulative.

            You *could* do something to rectify things, but you’re not even willing to apologize for what I’m saying you’ve done. You’re sorry that I got upset? All of your “apologies” have implied it’s essentially my fault for misunderstanding just how *sincere* you’re being.

            If you actually apologized for your insults that would be a good first step. BUT whatever bro, take your ball and bat and go home acting like I kicked a puppy.

          • I never wanted to insult you. I never wanted to hurt, harass, annoy or bother you.
            I recognise it was arrogant and presumptuous to have called your behaviour “Unchrist-like” since I do not know what you’re experiencing and I had done many things to cause your angers.
            I apologise for this.
            I also apologise for having *polluted* your blog with off-topic comments.
            I recognise this was a moral failure. I should have considered your feelings.

          • After having discussed with a friend about this, I realised that I have absolutely no right to expect forgiveness from you.
            I derailed your blog post with things you consider extremely morally offensive.

            It was terribly wrong to have tried to make you feel guilty by calling your “Christ-like” character into question.

            I should have done nothing but ask for forgiveness.

            Yes I am the creepy sea-lion of the comic strip.

            I also apologise for this and don’t expect you to forgive me.

  • jdens

    Yes, yes, yes. This is so important. I remember the shock of realising for the first time that anything could happen to me. Other people who were no less holy or faithful or responsible or prayerful suffered horribly, and I could, too. There was no magic forcefield of divine favour protecting me. And what kind of God would that be who chose to shield a chosen few and turned deaf ears to the cries of everyone else?

    • I wonder how this changes the meaning of the verse “God will never leave you or forsake you.” Some of history’s most famous Christians were brutally martyred, so…what does “forsake” mean if not protection from physical agony?

      • jdens

        I just read a short story in which a chaplain tells a Marine, ‘Christ does not promise that we will never suffer, but that we do not have to suffer alone.’ To which the Marine replied, ‘Great.’

      • Alice

        Fundamentalists say it’s supposed to mean that God is present and feels the pain with people, and offers comfort. If you don’t feel comfort, then they will come up with various reasons to blame you.

        I grew up in fundamentalism, but I just can’t understand how that’s supposed to be comforting. I think of verses like James 2:15-16: “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”

  • Anne Edwards

    Samantha said: If you want to inflict pain on the people you supposedly love, you are not loving them.

    Anne: What about vaccines? dental treatment? While I agree wholeheartedly with you about most of this, the fact is that a good parent DOES sometimes intentionally inflict pain on a child. . . And that’s love, isn’t it? If we didn’t get children vaccinated or get their cavities filled, they would be in MORE pain in the long run.

    We also punish children to show they’ve done wrong (not necessarily physical punishment.) I think Nancy is using these kinds of examples to imply that inflicting any kind of pain is consistent with being a good parent–but she’s wrong of course. 🙂 Given how narrow her outlook is (about the problems we run into, etc.) I guess it isn’t surprising.

    • Beroli

      What about vaccines? dental treatment?

      Inflicting pain is a negative side effect, it’s not the point of the exercise. Dental treatment and vaccines are largely to minimize pain and other forms of suffering.

      • Anne Edwards

        Beroli: Inflicting pain is a negative side effect, it’s not the point of the exercise.

        Anne: I agree. BUT. . . Nancy wasn’t suggesting that God does it simply to hurt people–he doesn’t hurt people just to hurt them (I can’t believe I sound like I’m defending her. . . frankly I think she sounds like an idiot)–her point is that he allows or inflicts the pain to “minimize other suffering” in the long run. . .

  • christianpundit

    People who are still single in middle age and who find this painful or find that it contributes to a faith crisis are not being petty, and the concern itself is not petty. It’s amazing to me that a blog page that is basically arguing or expressing frustration that other Christian authors are not being more sensitive to those who have doubts or pain would turn around and write off the pain of single ladies who want marriage as being “petty.” I blogged about it here (assuming I can do href HTML links in Disqus posts): Blogger Declares That Adult Singles Who Desire Marriage Yet Are Still Single in Early Middle Age And Upset By It Are Being Petty

    • Hey,

      I read your post and I’m glad you commented, because I want to apologize. It was not my intention to say that these reasons don’t matter, or don’t hurt, or aren’t a valid starting point for doubting God or their love– but, intention isn’t magic, and that is how my words could be taken.

      I would like to respond that my frustration is *with Nancy* (and a larger Christian culture), who never once acknowledges anything outside of these sorts of boxes, who never once confronts things like the Holocaust in addressing questions like the Problem of Evil. It’s ridiculous to say “God is absolutely good!” when you’ve ignored utterly *the Holocaust* and things like it. That was the only point I was trying to raise.

      As for the second quote you pointed out in the post (the one about “ignore your personal experience”), though, those words are a paraphrase of Nancy’s that are trying to make it brutally clear what she means. Those are not my own thoughts, it’s not my own opinion.

      • christianpundit

        Thank you for your reply. I do kind of get your point, but… Please just be aware that any time you get into the “compare suffering” game and dismiss some people’s pain as being trivial, that can compound their pain.
        One reason of 54 million I’ve been having a faith crisis is due to all the Christians I’ve gone to for support turn around and say that me being single at my age, or my mother dying a few years back, is gosh golly not really a big deal, since there are starving orphans in Africa.
        Many people (especially evangelical Christians) love to do this – tell you your pain means nothing, because somewhere in the world, someone else has it ten times worse than you (which I don’t doubt, but knowing that doesn’t make my pain magically go away or decrease). Their tendency to be so dismissive like that is very insulting and painful. Thanks again for your reply.

        • I’m really glad you wrote it, because you’re right. I do my best not to do this sort of thing, and I failed yesterday. “Pain Olympics” is wrong. I shouldn’t have lost sight of that in my frustration with Christian-Rose-Colored-Glasses-Syndrome.

          • christianpundit

            Well, we’re all good. Thank you for your apology, that means a lot. I will admit to being a bit ticked off initially, but you’re okay. I will edit my post at my blog to reflect that.

            And there is a lot in your post I do relate to. I’ve been grappling with some of it myself the last few years.
            You say you’re interested in feminism in your bio blurb… I can testify as a never married, childless lady who’s in her 40s, that much of the conservative Christian culture / churches are horrible in how they treat women in my situation.

            They really marginalize anyone who doesn’t fit the “marry young and have kids” life script. Churches are pretty bad with single men, too, but they seem even more down on women who are single/ childless / childfree.

            You can read more about that in the book “Quitting Church” by Julia Duin, where she has a chapter or two on how terribly churches treat adult singles, with interviews with the singles themselves. Of course, I blog about it at times on my blog.

            Also, more and more of the Christian gender egalitarian blogs have started to discuss how marginalized childless / single women are in most churches, and how Jesus wasn’t *as* keen on the nuclear family as most evangelicals assume he was.
            (Not that Jesus was opposed to the nuclear family, only he did not put as much emphasis on it as do churches today)

            Anyway, that is one other thing I’ve run into a lot with Christians especially since my mother passed away, is being told my particular brand of suffering does not really matter, so long as someone somewhere has life ten times worse than I do. It can be discouraging.
            Thank you again for your apology.