Today I saw this slithering around social media and wanted to talk about it.
We’ve talked about Joyce Meyer before in this space. She’s an easy target, low-hanging fruit, even a piñata, so to speak. She’s a shrewd businesswoman who knows her target audience and panders to that audience shamefully and completely. I can’t even really blame her for finding her niche and tailoring her approach to it as well as she has; if it weren’t her, then it’d be someone else there in her place.
And who is that audience? Middle-aged Christian women who just want to feel a little assurance that they’re doing the right thing, women who believe that their faith will be rewarded if they comply and who need reassurance that that reward is still in the offing.
Christianity’s promised women all kinds of things. Sometimes those promises are explicit, such as when I was told (numerous times, and mistakenly) that if I “saved myself for marriage,” I’d have an easier time finding a loyal husband, a much happier marriage in general, and a fabulous, supernaturally-blessed sex life in particular. Sometimes those promises are more implicit, such as the background (and equally mistaken) promise I heard repeatedly that if I followed “modesty” standards, I’d be elevated above secular women and get more respect and better treatment from the men around me. Though I eventually rejected the worst of so-called “prosperity gospel” even while Christian, I still bought into the thinking that obedient, compliant Christians got rewards that weren’t given to non-believers.
And that’s the kind of thinking that Joyce Meyer sells. Don’t think too hard–that’ll get a girl in trouble! Push ahead blindly even if you can’t see a good reason for it. Send money now and get blessed by a deity for that obedience.
But it’s so fake. All of it. And reality doesn’t bear up under the doubletalk that preachers like Joyce Meyer spew. Let’s begin, then:
1. Stay positive when the going gets rough.
How exactly is someone supposed to do that when the religion is filled with deprecations and denunciations of the human spirit? People are “broken.” They are “unworthy.” They are “sinful.” I recently saw a Facebook post wherein a young Christian mother related how her five-year-old son had told her, out of the blue and a propos of nothing whatsoever, how awful and broken and sinful he was, how he wished he could help being such a terribly bad kid but he just couldn’t, and how he hated being such a bad kid. The thing is, the kid wasn’t a bad kid at all. He was a perfectly normal little boy–maybe even a very bright, articulate boy for his age. The mother–and her friends–fell over themselves oohing and ahhing over this kid’s horrifying self-hatred, yapping about how awesome Jesus was and how sweet the boy sounded. I meanwhile was beyond aghast. I’m not a parent, but it’s hard to imagine a sane person cooing over a child talking like that. (No wonder all that “self-esteem” bullshit they blow up kids’ asses doesn’t work–the kids probably don’t believe it at all after a lifetime of indoctrination into thinking they’re worthless and broken.)
And, too, there is the tendency of Christians to sanctimoniously declare that all people are “broken” and in need of fixing (which their religion, by the wildest of all wild coincidences, can provide). When told that most outsiders don’t consider themselves broken, Christians just drill down harder on their “broken” language. You are, but you just don’t realize it, they tell us. Everybody is. Once you realize it, you’ll understand. They use this same sort of language and rationalization to excuse away why they do that “hate the sin/love the sinner” bullshit they think fools anybody to keep LGBTQ people at arm’s length while insisting they really truly love those poor broken souls. Everybody is sinful and broken, even us! But some sinners are less broken than others.
When a prominent Christian (and one I like quite a lot on a personal level) asked on her social-media page how to resolve this dislike non-Christians have of this “broken” language that permeates Christian language nowadays, a few non-Christians–including me–thanked her and offered some perspective about how we view being treated as fixer-upper projects. But our voices were drowned out by the hundreds–if not thousands–of her tribemates piously opining about how everybody really is broken so they can’t possibly stop treating people like that. It was literally more important to these hundreds of Christians to treat non-believers in ways that alienate us and push us further away from them and their religion than to even briefly consider treating us in loving, affirming ways.
If you can’t tell, that whole thread blew my mind. But it wasn’t anything new or anything. Back in my day, the most popular preacher in my whole denomination used to preach a popular sermon that said that people were to the Christian god what a peanut-butter-smeared, filthy toddler was to a fastidious adult. And let me tell you, this sermon brought down the house. Even today I see strains of this thinking in popular media, like the plots centering around godlike, perfect men descending upon flawed, broken women in works like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. The idea of someone completely perfect loving someone completely imperfect clearly hit a chord somewhere! But it’s not healthy at all. That whole dynamic is by its nature uneven and one-sided, like when you hear about middle-aged men trying to date college women.
How exactly is someone supposed to “stay positive” when surrounded on all sides by a religious ideology hellbent on destroying the self-worth of even the smallest of its children, and which literally cannot see human beings as anything but piss-soaked, flawed trash?
2. Realize the rough weather won’t last forever.
This is pure prosperity gospel, right here. It’s hardly borne out in the Bible–but then, not much of modern Christianity is, is it?
I’m sure Job thought that sooner or later his obedience would be rewarded and his misfortunes would end. But they didn’t. He lost absolutely everything. First his home and his livestock–his livelihood and his property. Then his family. Then his friends. Then his health. It was all done on a cheap bet with Satan, some jolly prank Yahweh was playing on one of his pets. And when that pet dared to speak up about how it felt to be yanked around like that, Yahweh got furious at him for saying boo about it.
(On that note, I’ve heard atrocity apologists tell me that oh no, it’s really okay because Yahweh gave Job a new house and a better family, which horrifies me even worse than the story of the initial loss. If Yahweh murdered my husband, for example, and then gave me another one, that doesn’t in any way excuse that he murdered the first husband. And destroying my health and then giving it back doesn’t excuse that he had destroyed my health. That’s abusive, right there. It seriously reminds me of how my abusive preacher ex-husband used to deliberately hurt or anger me just to mess with my head and get makeup sex.)
Early Christians were convinced–with some justification, it might be said–that following their religious impulses would get them slaughtered. The Bible even warns them of their impending martyrdom. But modern Christians want cushions on their pews and tithe apps on their phones, and assurances that following this religion will make their lives easier.
Reality, unfortunately, does not coincide with this chirpy assurance even when one leaves the supernatural world. Times do get better. Something bad always fades eventually and is replaced by something good. That much is true. But it’s not a religious thing. It’s a humanity thing. There’s no reason at all to suspect that there’s a god behind any of it.
3. If possible, don’t make major decisions in the storm.
This is another case of a decent idea that is shrouded in derpitude. Christianity’s filled with urgent must-act-now warnings. The major time limit, of course, is death, which almost all Christians think heralds either eternal rewards for obedience or eternal torture for disobedience. But many Christians are convinced that the Rapture will happen before their deaths–which is a much more pressing time limit.
If we take “storm” to mean general duress, then Christianity is an even more hypocritical vantage point from which to issue this general saying, because Joyce Meyer’s entire brand of religion can be boiled down to “obey or else you’re going to get set on fire after you die.” It’s emotional terrorism, and followers of this religion feel free to issue threats of eternal–and earthly–punishments to anybody who doesn’t fall into line. I can’t imagine much more of a storm than that.
On that note, the other day I ran into a Christian who was busy chirping threats at an ex-Christian friend of mine online. I leaped in to defend my friend and told the Christian to quit using Hell as a threat when she couldn’t credibly verify it as one, and this Christian actually told me that I was wrong there because she had meant earthly threats. Well, what do you know: that’s me embarrassed! She had me there. I really hadn’t considered that she’d meant earthly threats, so I asked what she meant by that. And she listed off all the terrible things ex-Christians face–spouses dumping their ex-Christian partners, families booting out their ex-Christian kids, employers firing ex-Christian workers, communities ostracizing ex-Christian members, and more. When I pointed out that every one of those things were done by “loving” Christians in retaliation for noncompliance, she PTFD PDQ about it.
So to sum up: this isn’t a bad bit of advice. I refuse to make decisions from a place of duress or terror, which is one reason why I’m not a Christian; remove the duress and terror from Christianity’s claims, and the whole thing starts very quickly to sound like utter nonsense. But it’s very hypocritical advice to hear from a Christian minister who teaches that Hell is a real place of punitive torment. She follows and preaches a religion that is the ultimate storm of duress and threats, and then has the nerve to tell her followers not to panic in the face of duress and threats. That’s chutzpah right there.
4. Stay in touch with the control tower (God).
I’d like to ask: how, exactly, is this suggestion to be accomplished? Because one of the things I experienced as a Christian was that no matter how I prayed, or how often, or how fervently, or what I did, or what I said, or how I acted, I simply couldn’t “break through” to what I thought was my god. I regularly heard fellow Christians–some in my denomination, some outside of it–say with a sigh that they felt like their prayers were “bouncing off the ceiling,” or celebrate feeling like they had “broken through.”
On those few occasions I thought for sure I was hearing my religion’s god speak, I often turned out to be wrong–or “heard” something that was in direct contradiction to what my peers and leaders thought that same god was telling them. When that happened, whoever was out of lockstep (which was whoever was in a subordinate position to the relationship; those in superior positions were thought to hear “god” more clearly) got told that they’d really heard a demon, or their “flesh” speaking.
There was literally no way whatsoever to tell that what someone was hearing was the direct word of a god. There was also literally no way to tell just what that god’s desire was for anybody to do.
You can count on this, friends: if you run into anybody who says they know for 100% sure what a god’s will is, they’re either lying through their teeth or speaking from wishful innocence. I was as true-blue as it comes, as eager as anybody you ever met, and as fervent and pure of heart as a person could be, and I sure never figured out how to tell when my god was talking or what he was saying. Nobody else around me did, either, and I think that really worried others besides me.
Considering that one of Christianity’s main tenets is that the creator of the universe is not only passionately interested in humans but also talks to us all the time, their inability to credibly demonstrate that they’re communicating with him ought to be of great concern to Christians. But it’s an effective way for them to dismiss someone as not having been a TRUE CHRISTIAN™. Obviously we weren’t really ever in the Cool Kids’ Club because we never “learned” to hear “God’s” voice. But that just raises more problems, really–namely that if even a fervent, active, eager, searching, praying Christian can’t differentiate between a god’s voice, a demon’s voice, or his or her own voice, then who could? And why does someone have to learn to hear the voice of the god of the whole universe? I don’t know how else someone could say “We’re totally just training ourselves in this self-deluding skill” than that. Since when is hearing someone’s voice a skill that must be trained up and practiced? And if it is, then why was I not trained in that skill, and why were the people who claimed they were skilled in this area routinely wrong about what they thought they were hearing? The whole idea just raises more questions than it answers, like most apologetics contortions do.
But at the heart of this derpitude is a young woman–a young me–on her knees praying her hardest and wondering why she could never seem to hear her god answering when her entire religion insisted that he answered earnest, fervent prayers.
So my question about this tower-god would be:
Is this god deliberately hiding from his children even when they are crying out in anguish for him to communicate with them somehow, anyhow? Then he’s an abusive prick and not worth worshiping.
Is this god unable to communicate meaningfully? Then he’s certainly not a godlike being and not worth worshiping.
I would like to know from Joyce Meyer exactly how to stay in touch with this control tower she’s babbling about. I sure never figured out how to do it while I was Christian, and I know she doesn’t know either. I strongly suspect if she did give a straight answer on this subject, I’d be able to say that I did everything on her list and still never heard a single thing in prayer that sounded like a divinity on the other end of the phone line, not even once in all the years I was a Christian.
As always, though, when a Christian feels unable to communicate with this tower-god, then the blame will rest on that Christian and not on the whole idea of a boyfriend!Jesus who eagerly awaits every text and voicemail from his bubbly beloved bride-to-be.
I don’t like writing tons of posts about one particular preacher, but this bit of egregious bullshittery caught my eye today and I simply had to talk about it. Joyce Meyer and preachers like her are another symptom of the disease infecting Christianity. As long as leaders like her are allowed to infest the religion’s halls, the religion is going to continue to hemorrhage members who realize that reality just does not conform to what this version of religion says it should look like.