The Pilgrim’s Pensieve #17

Super Spiritual

If you are a Christian the super spiritual is the type of person you either are, once was, or will be. You have at least encountered one before. If you are confused by what I mean by “super spiritual” they go by other monikers with many local variations which all tend to be some form of mockery. “On fire”, “brother/sister in the Lord, “holier than thou”, “holly roller”, “Jesus freak”, “sanctimonious”, “weird”, “hypocritical”, and a slew of other names often used to describe them. I was one of such people, or at least I am trying not to be. This is not because I am embarrassed by my faith. One thing I truly admire about such people in spite of the jeering and sneering they endure is that they are unapologetically Christian. I would prefer to be a Christian who rubs people the wrong way than being an unbeliever who everyone accepts. The reason why I am trying not to be such a person is their view of life tends to be badly skewed. It is an impractical, unrealistic way to live as a Christian. They mostly see life in a very binary, over simplistic way. What do I mean?

When I was younger I had a thing with secular music. I did not listen to it and I sometimes made a big fuss over it, thinking some of it was straight from the pits of hell. When the Illuminati craze started I thought to myself “aha!” that is definitive proof. As I grew up I realised things were more complicated. (Plus you will be glad to know I don’t believe in any of those conspiracy theories anymore. If you read my post, Basic Art, you will see I have a more nuanced view of all art in general.) A Christian song can mention the Holy Trinity and be theologically bankrupt in every other respect. A “secular” track can be virtuous. Besides music has many uses other than explicitly stating your religious beliefs. This is not to say there isn’t bona fide good, edifying, Christian music we should know and sing. There is also music that is truly devilish. However, to categorize all music as one or the other is to fundamentally misunderstand music. Life is similar in that regard.

Instead of an either/or outlook, life is more like a spectrum where categories often overlap. To be sure somethings fall at opposite ends and they are absolutely irreconcilable. In such cases there is no room for compromise. Most things however can’t be neatly filed and ordered. The problem with the super spiritual is that he or she thinks there is only one monolithic expression of Christianity. If a person does not speak, dress, or act precisely in a certain fashion then they are not Christian. There is a vast chasm between the so-called sacred and secular. They want to disinfect themselves from the world however the Gospel message requires us to be deeply involved in it.

Let’s take a scenario. You “discover” a Christian artist you like is involved in the Illuminati just like Lecrae was accused of on 2010 Rehab. (Funnily enough the whole accusation was built on the album cover art being triangular. Go figure.) So you immediately stop listening to him. Now what happens when you discover other Christian artists you like are signed to the same major record labels that other Illuminati suspects are on? Would you give up listening to them as well even though they genuinely produce legit Christian music? Or perhaps you discover the instruments they use are made by Satanists would you quit them? Believers and unbelievers share the same world so we cannot avoid worldly things. The world usually cannot be conveniently filed under the headings divine and devilish.We need to be wise and discerning to carefully navigate through a complicated world.

Christians and Christianity comes in all shapes and sizes though there are core things that are fundamental to being a believer. Jesus himself did not fit comfortably into the popular expectations of who a Messiah should be even though he was exactly the one that God had promised. This of course does not imply we fall into the trap of the other form of super spirituality where you are just weird, plain and simple. Sometimes being faithful to the Lord means you have to be non-conformist. However, being odd for being odd’s sake does not equal spirituality. I see this attitude a lot when people interpret the Bible. The stranger the explanation compared with the plain meaning of the text the better. That is somehow supposed to indicate it is wisdom from the very spirit of God, a “revelation”. That whole mode of exegesis, or should I say eisogesis, is a matter for a whole other discussion. I have been through that phase too but I have long since realised truth trumps sensationalism every time.

Though there are so many problems with being super spiritual and they must shoulder a lot of the blame but the rest of us do not go Scot free. We are a part of the problem. We have a Church culture which creates a hyper idealised, saintly and also largely fictitious icon of the perfect Christian. I remember going on evangelism and meeting a middle aged mother. She wistfully told us that she used to be like us full of zeal and energy for God. Like her most of us give up on catching this spiritual unicorn. Essentially the only fault of the super spiritual is not giving up on it. Like most Christian’s they are more often than not well meaning people who are that are sometimes misguided. If you do not believe me, that you and I are partly to blame, let’s look at how we treat Jesus. We tend to project our expectations of Jesus on to the Bible, constantly highlighting the things that show him to be divine. We carefully overlook those incidents that show him to be human, like when he is weak, tired, angry or frustrated. Sometimes the way we go on about Jesus you begin to wonder if he had the normal bodily functions that requires the use of the gents. The Jesus’ of the Gospel is a far more compelling, a real three dimensional figure, well-grounded and gritty.

Being the light of the world does not mean we shine with dull monochrome. As I love to say, life is far more messy and interesting. We should be iridescent with the full spectrum of light and colour upon every facet of life. I know it is far easier said than done but this is an imperative laid on us by the Lord himself. This charge given us is with good reason. We live in a dark, squalid world. Just go through your Twitter and you’ll see trouble is trending. The problems of the world are complicated and we need layered, discerning believers to help sort through the mess. Yes, I know not everyone has been called to deal with the larger issues but it does personally benefit us to have a more subtle, practical and ultimately biblical understanding of what it means to be Christian.

As a reformed super spiritual there are certain things I did to escape the trap. Of course what pushed me to change was a prolonged personal crisis of faith. Things just did not add up. I therefore determined to develop a Christian worldview, that is, a truly biblical outlook on life. I wanted to live with in a Christian framework where all my life was simply Christian, not just bits of it. James W. Sire aptly describes a worldview in biblical terms as the condition of a person’s heart. Tom Wright would perhaps call it a mindset but either way it all begins from within. When you are super spiritual you become preoccupied with the optics but it is more important to be implicitly than explicitly Christian since what is on the inside shows on the outside. The Master taught this repeatedly. I love how Paul puts it, every thought needs to be brought captive to Christ. The real Jesus will then shine through all of you.

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