Bumping into the Divine during the ‘Irish Troubles’ Dylan Morrison, was blissfully unaware of the amazingly painful journey that lay ahead. Searching for a more radical approach to the God thing, he passed through various manifestations of the Charismatic world before becoming a ‘Prophet’ in an abusive international Shepherding group.
The sudden death of his infant son Ben became the catalyst for the Dylan’s painful disillusionment with religion, replacing it with a deep interest in psychology and self-help philosophies. Sixteen years later with the dust-covered Bible in the attic and the ‘tongues’ long gone, the Prodigal Prophet was reinvaded by Divine Love in two totally unexpected, mystical encounters.
Six months later, suffering from nervous exhaustion, Dylan was emotionally stripped bare. Healing began following a revelation of the pain of psychological attachments and a surreal sense of Presence at the bottom of the dark abyss. Dylan Morrison believes that the spirituality and mysticism of Yeshua, the Nazarene, holds the answers for those tired of religious dogma and presentational overkill.
Dylan is now an Irish author. blogger, and recovering “religious junkie” living in Lincoln, a beautiful, historic cathedral city in the east of England. He writes for those who are seeking a spirituality that will satisfy the deep questioning that lies at the center of their being.
After living as an extremely zealous, dogma based Christian for much of his early life, Divine Love unexpectedly intervened, visiting me in my all-too-human brokenness by means of two mystical experiences. “I suppose you could call me a recovering, religious junkie,” he says.
Mysticism is rarely spoken of in the commercially driven marketplace of modern Christianity. The experience of Spirit or Holy Breath has largely been replaced by a quasi-religion more akin to the razzle-dazzle entertainment industry than authentic spirituality. His continuing openness to and discussion of Spirit encounters is a source of inspiration to his many blog followers!
I was most interested in his ideas about “religious junkies” because… let’s be honest, as many of you were, I was once what I would call a “religious junkie” cramming God down people’s throats, unable to get enough of the religious high. He is writing today about his experience as a religious junkie… and how to deal with one if you live with them. You can visit Dylan’s website, The Prodigal Prophet, for more of his current writing. His book, The Prodigal Prophet, is available on Amazon.com!
Let me start this wee post by saying that my wife, Zan, should really be writing it.
This wonderful lady had to put up with my religious zeal for most of the formative years of our 32 year long marriage. It’s not easy living with a Jesus Freak, especially an Irish one with a big black Bible and a devotion to a radical charismatic church.
Anyway, in this post I’d like to explore some of the difficulties encountered in attempting to relate to an extremely zealous believer, whether within marriage, family circle or workplace. Let me say that the task isn’t an easy one, not easy at all. Perhaps this is why so many divorces eventually occur in marriages where either one of the partners suddenly finds religion, or finally admits to agnosticism.
What is it that makes a religious believer so hard to relate to?
Here are a few simple ideas:
1) They tend to have a one-track mind.
The believer sees absolutely everything through their version of Truth. Nothing is seen as having being or value in itself but is always hooked up to their God agenda. A walk in nature ends up with a pietistic sermon rather than a wondrous encounter with snow filled trees or melodious birdsong.
2) They see the world as black and white
No grey areas exist in the believers vision. The Holy Book says this so there is no discussion and no compromise. The Sacred Writings don’t need interpretation for they are written by God Himself.
3) Behind the black they see the Satan.
If we haven’t signed up to the believer’s particular formula for salvation then we are puppets and by inference allies of God’s enemy. Not an easy role to take on!, especially within a family. Alternative takes on the Satan as a psychic disease of the human condition are quickly dismissed.
4) Everyone they meet is a potential convert.
Evangelism or the proclamation of Good News is reduced to a proselytizing recruitment process, to place paying bums on the seats of their tithing faith community of choice. Fellow human beings, even those closest to them are stamped with a sinner label that quickly blocks the mutual exchange of human vulnerability.
5) They perceive themselves to be closer to God than the non believer.
Sinners saved by grace tend to quickly forget that grace, believing that their belief somehow makes them a bosom buddy of the Divine; a member of His ‘In Group’. The non believer easily senses this us them dichotomy even in the closest of families.
6) They believe that God is a quality controller.
Believing themselves to be ever under the watchful eye of the Divine Inspector, the zealous believer usually takes on this role with those whom they attempt to relate to. God’s will and standards are the benchmark by which the life of those closest are judged. The upholder of God’s Law can easily slip into a self-righteousness that quickly turns others off.
7) They believe that being right is of supreme importance.
It is amazing the lengths that the religious junkie will go to defend their metaphysical patch. God is frequently hauled onto their side of a discussion through the use of texts skillfully drawn from the Sacred Writings of choice. They know that whatever side God is on has won the argument – end of story. It is unthinkable for the zealous believer to acknowledge that they may be mistaken or to allow others a different mindset space.
The list could go on and on.
When I was on my mission for God all those decades ago, folk were hurt by my fiery psyche and I wasn’t even aware of it. Such is the blindness of the zealot in their attempt to save the world whilst ignoring the relational pain of those around them. Hell indeed for those hauled along for the heady religious ride.
When I first began writing about them, I hadn’t realized that so many of you out there had to live with that most unusual breed of human, the religious junkie. It would appear that the religious junkie (RJ) has rapidly spread over the earth’s surface, but particularly loves to hang out in the warm Bible Belt areas of the Southern United States. Yet, the RJ is an extremely adaptable creature, equally at home in a little wooden church in the Appalachians or an air-conditioned mega-church in the State of Texas
Over here in good old England, the RJ herd still hangs out in drafty Gothic Cathedrals or little 18th century Methodist chapels. The New Church Charismatic franchise is also an appealing pasture land for the spiritually hungry nomadic RJ. The latter’s free Latte for new visitors and bouncy worship times are a great draw to the roaming zealot. Soon, the welcomed RJ is assimilated into the ministry structure of the commercial God business, even if it is only to hand out the tax-deductible tithe envelopes to keep the religious show on the road.
But enough of my Irish sense of humor. Let’s get back to more reasons why the RJ is difficult to be around!
1) The RJ believes that they are on a mission for God.
This mission is more or less defined as getting others saved or to put it more eloquently, to bring others into a relationship with Jesus Christ. The RJ believes that God will hold them accountable for their efforts on this mission of mercy. At the end of the space-time road, the Divine Judge will have a look at the facts and figures of their evangelistic efforts. Many RJs who get into full-time ministry are doubly zealous in this conversion push, especially as it may overlap with running a successful church ((i.e one with many bums on seats)).
To live with someone on such a Divine Commission is, I’m afraid, to suffer. Time and energy are channeled into converting others rather than intimacy with and enjoyment of those under the same roof. When it’s a choice, the perceived God job gets the thumbs up over every other close relationship. Is it any wonder that preacher kids run away from God ASAP – the controller in the sky who called the shots in the preacher’s schedule.
2) The RJ is blind to the psychological and emotional needs of others.
Believing that they are a channel of Divine Love, the RJ shows their illusory love by dragging everyone close to them in the same religious direction. In my homeland of Northern Ireland this is seen in the crazy amount of man hours given to keeping the local church afloat. During my days in the somewhat abusive Shepherding Movement of the 1980s, I remember one particularly chilling example. A group of junior leaders were gathered together to hear a peer give a talk. This extremely zealous chap, an ex-missionary, was talking about our commitment to God and to the Fellowship to which we belonged. He painted this tricky scenario:
A man was just about to take his wife out for their Anniversary meal when his leader or shepherd called him from the local airport wondering if he could come and collect him. What should he do?
We all looked nervously at one another as the married speaker pronounced his fiery verdict. The man should reschedule his date with his wife and go pick up the stranded shepherd, who’d clearly not heard of taxis. Embarrassment reigned as we all stared pensively at the floor, wondering how our poor wives would respond to that one! The speaker in question did eventually get rebuked by our senior leaders, in a loving sort of way, as a tape of his talk unfortunately fell into the hands of a local critic. Oops!
3) The RJ is obsessed with hierarchy. Believing themselves to be under the command of a Divine Commander-in-Chief, RJs tends to see themselves as people under authority. The hierarchy structure usually goes something like this:
God > Pastor/Priest > Elders (If there are any) > Husbands > Wives > Single Men > Single Women > Kids > Sinners or non believers
Some variation of this sacred ranking system may be found depending on the traditional power structures of the particular sect that the RJ finds himself in.
The RJ loves disciplines of all kinds, spiritual, church, parental and societal. This being the case they tend to love law whilst intellectually believing in Divine grace. Playing their role within the hierarchy of life the RJ always has their eye on the one above them in the chain of command. They most definitely have their eyes on those below them in the same command chain. Their calling is to please the one above, pietistically known as serving, whilst keeping those below in line, known as maintaining Christian standards, all in the guise of Love.
4) The RJ can frequently be a narcissist. Shocking as it is, the badge of believer, as worn by those who’ve chosen God by means of a sacred formula, may hide a rather large ego, dressed in devotional garb. Narcissists are difficult enough to hang out with at the best of times but when God is added to their list of admirers it’s almost downright impossible. The RJ solemnly claims that it’s all been God, but the vibes coming of them tell a slightly different story. The puffed out chest of the RJ often shows that they’ve granted themselves a little credit for receiving the Divine’s free gift of salvation. And if they speak in tongues then that takes the RJ to a whole new level, at least in their own eyes.
Having been a fully signed-up member of the RJ clan in my younger days, I have a great compassion for them. Yet I still find it difficult to be around one for any length of time. My recovering psyche just can’t take too much exposure to their high levels of certainty and wild enthusiasm. I do visit the odd gathering of such folk here in England, to reassure me that the RJ culture is as crazy as I remember it and it never disappoints. I listen politely to the religious spin, chat in a friendly and hopefully loving manner to those around me and dance off into the night before the collection is lifted in hopeful buckets or traditional wooden plates!
We are no better or worse than any RJ, just different. Thankfully the Divine loves RJ and non RJs alike! I have written this and my previous post to show that there is something crazily absurd and yet deeply serious in the psyche of the RJ. If you happen to have one as a spouse, relative or workplace colleague I trust that my personal observations help you in your diagnosis of the conflicting energies between you.