Let me start this wee post by saying that my wife Zan should really be writing it. This wonderful lady had to put up with my religious zeal for most of the formative years of our 32 year long marriage. It’s not easy living with a Jesus Freak, especially an Irish one with a big black Bible and a devotion to a radical charismatic church.
Anyway, in this post I’d like to explore some of the difficulties encountered in attempting to relate to an extremely zealous believer, whether within marriage, family circle or workplace. Let me say that the task isn’t an easy one, not easy at all. Perhaps this is why so many divorces eventually occur in marriages where either one of the partners suddenly finds religion, or finally admits to agnosticism.
What is it that makes a religious believer so hard to relate to?
Here are a few simple ideas:
1) They tend to have a one-track mind.
The believer sees absolutely everything through their version of Truth. Nothing is seen as having being or value in itself but is always hooked up to their God agenda. A walk in nature ends up with a pietistic sermon rather than a wondrous encounter with snow filled trees or melodious birdsong.
2) They see the world as black and white
No grey areas exist in the believers vision. The Holy Book says this so there is no discussion and no compromise. The Sacred Writings don’t need interpretation for they are written by God Himself.
3) Behind the black they see the Satan.
If we haven’t signed up to the believer’s particular formula for salvation then we are puppets and by inference allies of God’s enemy. Not an easy role to take on!, especially within a family. Alternative takes on the Satan as a psychic disease of the human condition are quickly dismissed.
4) Everyone they meet is a potential convert.
Evangelism or the proclamation of Good News is reduced to a proselytising, recruitment process, to place paying bums on the seats of their tithing faith community of choice. Fellow human beings, even those closest to them are stamped with a sinner label that quickly blocks the mutual exchange of human vulnerability.
5) They perceive themselves to be closer to God than the non believer.
Sinners saved by grace tend to quickly forget that grace, believing that their belief somehow makes them a bosom buddy of the Divine; a member of His ‘In Group’. The non believer easily senses this us them dichotomy even in the closest of families.
6) They believe that God is a quality controller.
Believing themselves to be ever under the watchful eye of the Divine Inspector, the zealous believer usually takes on this role with those whom they attempt to relate to. God’s will and standards are the benchmark by which the life of those closest are judged. The upholder of God’s Law can easily slip into a self-righteousness that quickly turns others off.
7) They believe that being right is of supreme importance.
It is amazing the lengths that the religious junkie will go to defend their metaphysical patch. God is frequently hauled onto their side of a discussion through the use of texts skillfully drawn from the Sacred Writings of choice. They know that whatever side God is on has won the argument – end of story. It is unthinkable for the zealous believer to acknowledge that they may be mistaken or to allow others a different mindset space.
The list could go on and on.
When I was on my mission for God all those decades ago, folk were hurt by my fiery psyche and I wasn’t even aware of it. Such is the blindness of the zealot in their attempt to save the world whilst ignoring the relational pain of those around them. Hell indeed for those hauled along for the heady religious ride.
In my next post I hope to look at some coping mechanisms for dealing with the religious junkies in our midst; those among whom we live and move and have our social being. Hold on ~ help is on its way!