I left churches for good seven years ago. I have not looked back. I have my faith, I love my cultural background that interweaves with my religion, and no one can take that away from me.
In recent weeks with all the trouble we have seen in the UK and USA, I have been thinking again about how I started seeing very questionable behaviour in churches that I believe is linked to what is happening now.
Professor Gad Saad, the rapper Zuby and others call what we are seeing now with riots, statues being torn down and white people repenting their lack of melanin “emotional incontinence”. I think emotional incontinence is definitely at play here along with a lot of manipulation, people told they are good or evil and group think.
I don’t do group think which is why I was never popular in churches.
Around 2004, I started seeing “ministries” for women popping up in different churches and as movements in their own rights. Speakers like Joyce Meyer became very popular. Anyone can set up a ministry at the drop of a hat. I can set up a ministry right now. So can you. There are no qualifications nor standards required.
The “ministries” I saw that were aimed at women often focus on how different women are to men, which is true in many senses, but one result was these ministries kept women separated from men and some women members became quite resentful of men. Other “ministries” I saw were aimed at women who were mentally ill, often due to being survivors of child abuse or rape as adults. None of the “ministries” were led by nor staffed by women who even had a Level 2 in Counselling Skills. Joyce Meyer addresses abuse a lot in her many books. Joyce Meyer does not even have a basic counselling certificate. She has a degree in Divinity. That’s it. She hasn’t thought to put herself through the rigorous training and checks that a counselling certificate requires.
I actually went to four “ministries” as a weekend away with friends or an event with friends. I found very little Biblical basis for anything that went on in these meetings or retreats, but what I did see was the whipping up of emotions and getting women to see themselves as victims who needed help. All events were led by women with no qualifications in counselling, but they all seemed to be on an ego trip, talking about how many women they were “helping” and “freeing” from pain.
I was in long term friendships with the women I went to these events with. None were helped by these events. None had any breakthrough emotionally or spiritually. These “ministry” events were a knees up, and expensive knees ups at that. I am partially trained as a counsellor. In counselling or helping in any sort of way, you should always ask “Who is benefitting?” Who benefits from the interaction: The person asking for help or the person giving the help?
I saw these ministries and at the time, around 2004 and 2005, the words “smoke screen” went through my head a lot whenever I thought about them. It is a smoke screen to keep women from genuinely experiencing the faith and from examining the Scriptures on their own. Keep women emotional and traumatised. To me, it looked like a deliberate plan. One “ministry” leader at my church was outraged that only two men wanted to go on one of her “ministry” weekends. She said “Obviously men don’t want to sort their lives out.” No, men had more sense. Men are naturally not as emotions-led as women. I think, like me, the men saw through this egotistical woman and her “ministry”. I think they also saw the same lack of results that I saw.
As I met more and more Christians, I found more and more people who found “emotional incontinence” in their own churches and movements, and it concerned them.
One experiment in 2002 separated a mix of Christians and non Christians into two groups. One group were played modern Christian music and the other group were played non-religious music that sounded similar. Both groups responded to the music in the exact same ways. Both groups started swaying in time to the music, they felt emotional and they wanted to lift their hands up. The Christians in the group with non-religious music were shocked and said it was just like being in church when the Holy Spirit was moving. This then caused them to question if the Holy Spirit really felt like they supposed it did and if they had really experienced the Holy Spirit. This is big for a Christian. The Holy Spirit is God living in our lives and doing good work on Earth.
Several years later, some of my Christian friends were talking about specific modern worship songs. Many of my friends and even speakers with big names criticises modern worship songs. Over 20 years ago, Mike Pilovachi called them the “Jesus Is My Girlfriend” songs and said we need to stop writing them and using them in churches. The songs were pure emotion, nothing more. However, Christian song writers kept writing more of these sorts of songs. One of my friends critiqued a specific song in which the lyrics were “I lift my hands”. These words are sung to music that elevates in pitch. He said every time that song is sung, almost everyone’s hands go up in the air.
Some modern worship songs are fantastic, but most are not a patch on the older hymns of our past that declare Biblical truths (quote Scripture) and put God at the centre of everything. There was a movement known as “muscular Christianity” which appealed to mostly men (men are very much missing from churches these days). Muscular Christianity was about a person being strong in themselves because they knew who they were in Christ and trusted in the teachings of the full Bible. It was about standing firm on the Rock.
Most modern worship songs put the singer in the centre of the faith and are based purely on emotions, but often not happiness or joy but emotions of weakness and neediness. Modern church services are a rollercoaster ride of emotions: happy to see your friends when you walk in, happy to hear all the news at the start of the service and then five loud, brash songs that make people jump around and dance. Then there is the sermon/the preaching which finishes with an altar call. This is when the preacher raises an issue that has been mentioned in the sermon, usually around lifestyle or emotional distress, and asks people to pray and respond. While this is happening, emotive music is played on a keyboard by the worship leader. As people go to the front of the church to be prayed for the music plays and eventually people start singing soft, emotional songs. This can last for around twenty minutes. There are usually two more songs that are happy songs, ensuring that everyone leaves the service on a high note, ready to go out into the streets with big smiles on their faces. It’s a formula, it is highly manipulative and it is very successful.
There is definitely times when people need others to pray for them and need an emotional release when singing praises to God, but the weekly diet of hyper emotion is just not healthy. One of my friends who went to a church that did not do emotion said that the emotional churches were just like going to a rock concert: you are elated during the gig and come crashing down the next day. Indeed, there is a phenomenon known as “Monday Blues”, which is when preachers’ emotions crash after the over excitement of Sunday services.
More and more, I found myself unable to worship God in churches because the songs were all about Me Me Me and emotion. I found myself just sitting through the song times and focussing on the sermon, although the sermons became less about God and more like a self help seminar with Me Me Me as the focus.
Leaving church was not a problem for me at all. I miss absolutely nothing about it and I’ve gained so much more – getting back to God, the Bible and prayer. I no longer have the emotional rollercoaster but instead I have the solid foundation of the Scriptures and the awe-inspiring traditional hymns that just burst out of me and I have to sing. For four weeks this year, I kept bursting into verses of the traditional song “When I Survey The Wonderous Cross” which is all about Jesus.
I now think back to the hyper emotional church services and the distinct message aimed at women that they were victims, they needed a lot of therapy, they needed special movements just for them and their needs, that served to separate women from men and keep women in a perpetual emotional state and neediness, and I see some of the foundations for what is currently gripping our nations with emotional incontinence and Me Me Me at the centre of everything. I do not think it is a coincidence that most “social justice warriors” are women – constantly emotional about their victimhood and other people’s victimhood – and that churches kept women constantly emotional and focussed on their victimhood in order to keep them in “their place”. I think there is a link.
As a Christian, I do think churches and the recent twenty years of evangelicalism have contributed to what we are seeing unfold on our streets and in our nations.