“They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.” John 17:16
If you did not fit into the group at high school, you won’t fit into our contemporary corporate-based society.
That’s the bad news — although it really isn’t bad news. It just seems like bad news because, as human beings, we like to belong — to be embraced by those around us, to be a part of “normal” and accepted.
However, when “normal” is restrictive, and being accepted into its embrace involves giving up one’s individuality, then not belonging — while it feels painful — is actually the better thing.
Many People Don’t Fit In
Many, many people in the world today feel as if they do not fit in. Some of them realize this; others, in a state of denial, keep subverting who and what they are and submit to the strictures of whatever group plays a major factor in their day. In much the same way we adopted, during our incarceration at public school, particular fashions (remember “Star” jeans? Don’t worry, they’ll be back), certain patterns of speech, make-up options, lifestyle choices and odd hair coiffures, so we find ourselves doing throughout our lives, because we never, in a corporate-based society, get away from the group: it’s at work (“We’re a team!”), in the military, (“We’re a TOUGH team!”), on the news (“We’re a nation, and we have an exciting election coming up!”), and, quite strongly, in church (“We’re a community! In Jesus!”).
This latter area, the religious arena, where we should be the most free to, literally, be the uniquely crafted individuals that God created us to be, is sadly one of the most successfully repressive environments, one in which many people get a regular, multi-weekly dose (kind of like a vaccination schedule) of conformity.
Be on time. Punctuality is godliness.
Make sure your homework, for Sunday School, is ready. Did you read the passage assigned last week? Did you fill in ALL the workbook blanks?
Listen to your pastor, and submit to the authority of those above you. (Franklin Graham, risingly famous son of the perennially famous Billy, had some chilling things to say about submission to authority — “If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that.” Even more chilling is the number of people who “Liked” this comment on Facebook.)
Stand when you’re told to stand; sit when you’re told to sit; repeat this statement and sing this song. This is called, tellingly, “corporate worship.”
And while we can’t be instructed, directly, for whom to vote, we can be admonished, as Billy Graham tells his acolytes, to “vote for biblical values.”
One can’t help but wonder — which, and whose, particular “biblical values”?
If It Quacks Like a Duck . . .
Church Christians in the United States, the country in which I live, like to bemoan that they are rejected and spurned by the world, because, like Jesus, they are not of the world — but how?
Many approach a level of consumerism indistinguishable from the average American; they equate material blessing with God’s approval; they believe everything they are told by the “Christian” equivalent of news media jabbering faces; and they’re insanely busy. That much of what they do is church-related is somehow acceptable: we’ve watched families head out for a “Sabbath” afternoon of what plainly looks like work, in between morning service and evening small groups. But as long as those two latter obligations are met, so, apparently, is enjoyed the day of rest.
As Christians, we are called to be members of a body, not a group; we are told to love one another, not promote conformity so we that look, externally, like we unanimously agree; we pursue an individual relationship with Christ, from which point we are then strong enough to join together without being pushed, prodded, nudged, shaped, and adjusted into a building block that fits, quite neatly and tightly, into the hole prepared for it.
Because that, you know, is what it looks like to “fit in.”
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where it is my profound prayer that God’s people see themselves as salt, an extremely strong and necessary seasoning that isn’t particularly glamorous or plentiful.
Posts complementing this one are
Three “Christian” Teachings That Jesus Didn’t Teach
What Does a Good Boss Look Like?
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I love the truthfulness in this Carolyn! As an immigrant to the U.S. the Lord has taught me a great deal about being a stranger in a foreign land as my passport declares my “Alien Number”! We are called to be different! #WomenOfIntention
“Alien Number”! Well, that at least lays it out in the open, this attitude that the “masses” of people are nothing more than numbers, and that collectively, our little purchases create big monetary numbers for others.
I would love to know more of your experiences — you see, clearly, from an outside perspective what those of us born and raised here are frequently blind to — much of what we accept as “normal” isn’t, but it takes a lot of thought, meditation, questioning, and analysis to even get to the point of questioning “normal.”
Well written and oh, so true! I needed to read this today! Blessings to you and yours!
BTW I hopped here from Making Your Home Sing Monday and will be following.
Thank you, Marie. My goal in writing is to encourage others. We live in such a fake world, one in which the veneer is accepted for reality, and it is easy to feel insecure, incompetent, discouraged, and useless.
This is not how God would have us to be! He LOVES us, deeply — I spent many, many years in a church setting struggling with the hidden rules and regulations of the industrial Christian complex, and as I awoke, broke out, and broke free (it was a long, long process, gently but firmly taken over years), I exulted, finally, in the freedom that people talk so much about. When I began writing, it was with the intent of encouraging others who were in state of questioning that I found myself in for so long.
It’s an uphill road. Most of the “voices” out there — well funded and promoted by the complex — are in the right place to capture the ears of many many people; kind of like soda pop companies grasping onto their bodies. A tiny, tinny little voice from nowhere cannot compete against the roar of those voices, but the force of the feelings inside me insist that I keep up with it, in my tiny, tinny little voice.
Thank you for reading me, commenting, and following. I am honored.
Love this post. Thank you.
I am glad, Jara. Thank you.
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What a wonderful post! I’ve had something similar rolling around in my mind for a post in my blog. You said it so well. We aren’t of this world, we are of Christ, so why are we surprised when the world rejects us?
We can’t underestimate our training, Bunkie — most of us have been shuttled through public schools, where peer pressure is the primary lesson. (Even homeschoolers, sadly, are pressured to teach from this curriculum, and follow that school of belief).From there, we head to the cubicles of corporate world, where we must fit in with the team. And churches, so, so sadly, are more corporate-based than they are a group of believers gathered together to support one another.
With all this external teaching, it’s not surprising that our default is to accept and fall in with the general consensus, as if it were a truth. This is no different today — despite the smart phones and social media obsession — as it was when Jesus walked. He knows how we are made, He knows that we are made for companionship (with Him, with our spouses, our children, our siblings, our parents, our friends), and He knows how this need can be twisted and distorted.
The first and primary move is toward Him — where total acceptance lies. BUT, because of the misteaching of years in the religious arena, many people see Jesus as an angry, judgmental person, who is more concerned about whether they have a tattoo, a drink of wine with dinner, or a problem with choice four-letter words, than He is about who and what they are. That’s an obstacle to overcome, but it is one that He walks with us.
This is an interesting post and one that I would love to write. I haven’t been to church in over two years because of how highly hypocritical I found the congregation(s) AND how highly judgemental everyone was (which, obviously I was judging them being judgemental but I digress). Sadly, I’ve found more community and love elsewhere and I struggle with going back or finding a church again.
Thanks for the interesting discussion and for linking it up to Inspire Me Monday. I’m including this in my favorites this week on theiloveproject.com. 🙂
Amanda: thank you for your kind words, and for including this article in your favorites!
I want to encourage you in your adventure, and walk, outside the standard church concept of Christianity. You are part of a growing number of Christians who are frustrated with the corporate nature of the contemporary church, a small group that has existed throughout time, in every culture, unfed and unimpressed by the “accepted” forms of worship.
My own walk, and that of my family’s, was one of exasperation and irritation at the church culture, and the idea that a once, or multiple, weekly assemblage of people sitting in pews, nodding our heads, and doing what we are told from the pulpit, represented the pinnacle of Christian worship and fellowship, was completely and totally unsatisfying. It was also perplexing, because we would look around at the people accepting whatever they were told and think, “Are you SATISFIED with this? Is this the sum total of a relationship with Christ — do you want nothing MORE?”
We left, and have no plans to return, in the same way, as homeschoolers, we eschewed the public school system. Or as people who try to eat well and live fitly, we don’t want to get on the medical merry go round and be slaves to yet another establishment. In the process of leaving, we have grown richly in our relationship and maturity with Christ, and we encounter and fellowship with other believers in the oddest, but most satisfying, ways. Where once we felt like outsiders, pushed away from the group, we now exult in a sense of liberation and freedom that we never, ever felt in our many, many years of properly and assiduously attending church.
I have two years worth of writing on issues like this at Commonsense Christianity at BeliefNet — http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ — and I wrote a book, The Misfit Christian, which should have a thumbnail picture and link, in the right column of this blog. I now invest my writing time into this website, This Woman Writes, which is mine. I have tried, through the years, to write for various “Christian” sites, with the idea of getting my name, voice, and message out there, but I find that most big “Christian” sites are just like the modern day, industrial Christian complex churches, and they promote the same message: Listen to authority, Obey the leaders, Do not ask questions, Do the appropriate Bible studies, Attend small groups, Think within the very small confines of an extremely small box.
Those of us who do not like that message do not have a big voice — but the one we have, we use. Thank you again for reading me.
Fabulous post! Fitting into the world is over-rated. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom at the #AnythingGoes Link Party.
Thank you. Fitting into the world is overrated — BUT, we all do it. We just don’t see the different ways. It can be as innocuous as wishing we could fit into the group of two or three at school, work, or — in my case, church. I distinctly remember a moment years ago, watching three women around the piano, laughing at a joke and thinking, “I wish I could be there with them, sort of.” I say sort of because we could never be friends, and their very way of looking at things repulsed me. But I wanted to “belong.”
In my own case, it involved walking away, not only from that little group, but from the church itself, and from the desire to fit in and belong. What I found, in doing so, was remarkably difficult, but very much worth the experience.
Beautifully written and true.
Thank you, Heather.
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Reblogged this on The Progressive Christian Blog and commented:
What does it mean to ‘fit in’? Or is not fitting in more meaningful?
Thank you, Paul, for the reblog.
Fitting in is very important in our society, but our society does not define it in the sense of being accepted, loved, and cherished. That, to me, is the type of fitting in we find in a strong family or friendship. Fitting in, in our society, looks like conformity and acceptance of mediocrity. Definitely not a goal we’re called to try to “reach” (reaching it, actually, means stooping downward).
Wow! Great post!
Thank you, Sarah.
You’re welcome. 😀
Beautiful! It’s so difficult for kids growing up when they feel that they don’t fit in. However, I do think the world is embracing uniqueness better today than they did when I was growing up. I wish more kids dared to be different! Thanks for sharing with SYC.
Thank you, Jan. I wish not just kids, but adults, would dare to be different — but we are trained from kindergarten and earlier to conform, sit quietly, fill out our workbook pages, and don’t make a stir. It’s good training to be obedient workers in an office cubicle environment.
It’s interesting — our movies and political correctness encourage a fitting in by dressing a certain way (that lots of other people do, as dictated by the fashion and magazine industries), or acting a certain way (shown to us on the movies), but truly standing out — by living or acting in a way at total variance with societal “norms,” is not encouraged. Hence, the person who says, “The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, is he?” is frowned upon.
It is genuinely difficult to swim against the stream, but people — being creative, individual people — continue to do so.
My husband & I have left the corporate industrial church also where we didn’t fit in. The one sad thing is that those who called themselves Christians still think they are under the Law and are missing out on the liberties of grace. They think liberty gives one the approval to go ahead and do what you want because you’re forgiven. They are very guilt-ridden when Jesus came to take away the guilt along with our sins. These group also believes you must stay “fessed up” – that you have to review your actions continuously and confess them if you want to get into heaven. It’s alarming that these folks don’t know God’s Word. Many still believe they are “working” their way into heaven, not realizing it’s faith not works. My husband believes we are perhaps heading into a time when there will be many home churches.
Janet, my husband and I were talking about just this today — how in Romans Paul makes a point of saying that grace does not give us license to sin. But many people shackled to church theology, as you observe, are truly afraid that if they rest in God’s grace, they’ll find themselves committing crimes, unbeknownst or undesired by them! The odd thing is, when a person wants to do an infraction of the law, he or she goes ahead and does it, and there are plenty of loopholes to slip through to say, “See! I didn’t break the law!” This happens in the business and finance world, all the time, with money, and it happens in the churches, all the time, with issues of morality.
I agree with you and your husband that there is an outflow of people, like you and me, who get tired of the shallow veneer of righteousness, and find that there is no choice but to leave. Once we get past the fact that we have not left Christianity, but the substitute for it, we find ourselves striding along a very unusual, but highly satisfying path.
I know there has been a “home church movement,” but my prayer is that, if people choose to assemble together in truly small groups in homes (which is a terrific idea, if done with wisdom, creativity, and a willingness to be original), that they NOT make it a mini church service, with announcements, and songs, and, instead of a sermon by a pastor, a sermon by an “elder.” Too many home churches look like a cloudy reflection of the corporate model, in the same way that many homeschoolers run their schools like a cloudy model of the publicly funded, mandated establishment.
May there be much grace to you and your husband on your walk, and may you continue to seek and understand the deeper things of God.
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Hi, Carolyn! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this thought-provoking post with us at Grace and Truth last week. I think we are wise to owe our allegiance to only one man, the only perfect one. 😉
Jen @ Being Confident of This
That’s for sure, Jen — and He is the only worthy of our trust, allegiance, and love.
Excellent description Carolyn of the “Lukewarm” Christian. This isn’t exclusive to the USA but is happening all around the world. So many Christians have difficulty being corrected. In Christ’s time on earth He divided the truth from the false concerning God’s truth and world. Thanks for sharing this important message.
Thank you, Walter. The interesting thing about liquid when it is lukewarm, is that it doesn’t stay that way once things start to heat up! Difficult times and situations drive many people to God — for help, first, in just solving the problem and making it go away. And as that generally does not happen, they either get very angry and turn from God, or they keep at it, keep at Him, keep learning, growing, changing – emerging from the pain no longer a grub, but a butterfly.
I am called to be different and being who GOd made me . Thanks Carolyn.
You are welcome, Emeka. We gather our daily bread from Christ, to give us strength each day to walk, rest, listen, drink, do. How beautiful He has made His children!
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Thank you for your wisdom that you share, and letting GOD use you the way he does. This is an awesome article because we weren’t made to fit in at all. We are made to stand out just the same way that JESUS did.
Thank you, Brittany — and you are so right: we are meant to stand up and out, the way Jesus did. May more and more Christians see the truth of this.
Very well written! Wow, what a great take on what it means to “fit in.” It is a natural thing to want to fit in, yet we ought to take it as a compliment when people view us as though were are not of this world. We aren’t! We shouldn’t live as we are.
Thank you for sharing. God bless.
Thank you, Mary. Fitting in is an odd thing — as you say, it’s a natural tendency, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But when the compromises to do so are too great, then integrity trumps group inclusion. Perhaps that’s one reason why it is wise to meditate upon Christ — who He is, what He did and does, what He calls His people to do — we get our eyes off of the demands of our particular society, and onto the words of the unchanging God.
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Hi Carolyn, thanks for the post. We are indeed not of this world, and yes we don’t belong to a group but a body. Thanks for sharing.
You are welcome, Bisi. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share.
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