Friday, February 11, 2005

Spiritual Superiority Complex

I’d like to identify psychological issue today. It’s not a new one. In fact, it’s as old as humanity. I won’t deal with humanity, but I will deal with me and my circle of experience.

I left the Church of Christ when I was 14 after my mom was disfellowshipped for getting a divorce without sexual infidelity by my dad. As the result of a lot of things, I ended up at Belmont Church, best described as a charismatic church that used to be a CofC. They have instruments and they believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still active today.

To me, this was a natural step in my faith. It just made sense. It also made sense when I went to Lipscomb University. I had once been shackled by CofC theology and God was sending me to Lipscomb to enlighten these poor Pharisaical hypocrites. Of course, I was humbled to learn that being a Christian and a member of the Church of Christ were not mutually exclusive, and I even went so far to rejoin a Church of Christ, in fact the one from which my mom had been disfellowshipped.

But what happened at Otter Creek has been an interesting phenomenon. OC has always been on the left edge of Churches of Christ, particularly the ones here in Nashville. And as that reputation gained, we started adding more and more people, mainly people from other Churches of Christ. These people had left their churches in search of a place with more freedom in worship or was more grace-centered or had elders that acted like shepherds and not a board of directors, and they found OC. Basically spiritual refugees.

Now, the natural thing for someone to do is to compare where they are now to where they were. What happens in a religious sense is that a spiritual superiority can creep in. “Can you believe that I ever used to believe that instrumental music is wrong?” “Wow, I feel sorry for those women back at ____________ who can’t even make announcements.” I firmly believe that it is totally unintentional, but it is equally true. I’m completely guilty of it myself. It really seems to be the result of a culture, both church and the wider culture, that puts focus on being right and not being Jesus. It’s almost competitive theology.

And now that people are starting to feel even more enlightened by reading Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, Sally Morgenstern, and on and on, this same disease is creeping in. Under the guise of sympathy, we feel sorry for those who aren’t as enlightened as ourselves. We wish they could enjoy the same freedom that we have now. That sense of mission throughout the week and not just punching the church clock on Sundays. But that is equally superior as anything else. We think we’re being humble, but we’re really looking down on people.

May God forgive us the superiority that we develop both intentionally and not. And may He give us the strength to be humble and graceful with all of those we interact with.


Brandon Scott said...

my dear brother--SO RIGHT! Coming to Otter Creek from Belmont, I had the same type of complex. What I learned was that these people had as much or more to teach me as I did to teach them. Still true. I guess the deal is, we're never really there. We are all on a journey. Those who are taking time to stop and measure how much closer they are to the destination than someone else are WASTING TIME!!!

GayChristian said...

Phil, I know you arent being a jerk, its a common quesion. I answered it on BST website to the best of my limited ability. As you have grown in the CoC church, I think I have grown too. Ive stepped outside what a human had taught us and listened to what God is telling me. Like BST said, its a journey. Glad your on it with me.

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