I’ll have been born-again 22 years as of May 2021. In all that time, I’ve entered into a lot church buildings, spoken with a lot of people who called themselves Christians, and read and watched a lot of so-called Christian media. What I started to discern even as a newborn-again is what I call the creepy factor. I don’t think people are trying to be creepy; they just come across as creepy. Maybe you know what I mean and maybe you don’t, but the closest thing I can compare it to is someone who’s been brainwashed into a cult.
People caught up in a cult don’t actually believe what they claim to believe. They know it’s all BS, but they’re so heavily invested in it, that they’ve smothered that part of them that knows it’s BS so it won’t give them away. You know someone’s involved in a cult when their personality changes. When people are genuinely born-again, their personality doesn’t change. They have the same personality, but their values change. Cult members always change personality so that you almost don’t even recognize them anymore. That’s how much one part of them is overcompensating for knowing it’s all BS but not letting the other part of them that knows it’s BS get the upper hand and openly admit it.
Which brings me to the creepy cult factor that I discerned already as a newborn-again, way back in 1999. I’d been reborn from atheism, so everything I learned about God and Jesus as a newborn-again I learned from God and Jesus (and the Bible), not from people. God and Jesus and the Bible were my spiritual mother’s milk, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I was always at the spiritual teat, sucking and smacking away. During that time, I just assumed everyone who said they were Christian were actually Christian and had the same rebirth experience as I had. God let me believe that, the same way as God lets toddlers believe that all adults are good and kind and looking out for their best interests. It suits the toddlers’ purposes at that point to believe this half-truth, and God encourages them to keep believing it for a time. Even so, he let me believe that everyone who said they were Christian were actually Christian.
But toddlers occasionally fall down and go boom, and I was no exception. God had me going into a church building literally every day for the first three and a half years of my rebirth. Initially, it was Catholic buildings, and then it was Protestant buildings. That’s when I really started getting to know the creepy factor. Catholics are generally so lukewarm about the “celebration” of their beliefs that they’re just this side of corpse-like. There was very little what I would call creepy factor among Catholics, since they were basically just putting in time. There was nothing fake about their boredom at being “in church”. The boredom was genuine, and most of them didn’t hide it. The stampede for the door at the end of the service was something to behold.
Me, I was always the last one to leave the building. I thought God lived there (in a little box at the side of the altar), and I wanted to spend as much time as I could with him. God let me believe all this because it suited his purpose. Maybe he was testing me, or maybe was feeding me in a different way, or maybe he just liked seeing even one person who genuinely wanted to be there in what was called his house.
Protestants, on the other hand, have cornered the market on the creepy factor. I don’t know if it’s because of the way they’re raised or the kind of creepy people they’re around when they’re in a church building and it rubs off on them, but I never felt at home in a Protestant congregation. It was just like being in a Catholic congregation, but instead of genuine boredom, there was genuine fake faith. Now I’m not saying that everyone in the congregation was a fraud, but the feeling I got was that people were shouting alleluia with their mouths, not their hearts. The surface of their spiritual skin was warmish, but beneath the surface they were just as corpse-like as the Catholics. And when the service ended, there was just as much of a stampede for the door.
It made me equal parts sad and squirmy.
But the worst of it was the people who believed it was their duty to witness God’s love to strangers. It sounds like a good thing, right, to witness God’s love to strangers? But if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of someone saying they love but you can see in their eyes and hear in their voice that they actually don’t, then you have an idea what I’m talking about. When you tell someone that God loves them, they’re not going to feel God’s love unless you genuinely believe that God loves that person. You have to genuinely believe it in order for God to work through you. Otherwise, you’re just mouthing words like a brainwashed cult member. Fake faith. A version of the creepy factor.
Jesus hated the creepy factor. In fact, it was the one thing that drove him nuts whenever he went to dine with the religious powers-that-be of the day. He called it “hypocrisy”, and the powers-that-be hated him for it.
I see the creepy factor a lot in the Christian movies I’ve seen, particularly in the scenes where they’re trying to convince someone to “let Jesus into your heart”. Sometimes the creepy factor is so off the charts, I have to turn the movie off. In fact, it was one such scene that drove me to write this blog article tonight.
God doesn’t beg people to let him into their lives. Jesus never begged people to believe was the Messiah. He preached and taught. Scripture says that Jesus stands at the door and knocks. It doesn’t say that Jesus is out there on his knees, weeping and moaning and tearing his clothes to get your attention. No – he’s just quietly standing there knocking. No begging, no wheedling, no whining, no fixing you with a vacant stare, telling you how much he loves you. He just stands and knocks.
So this is the creepy factor as I see it: People pretending to believe something they don’t really believe. I don’t know why they’re pretending to believe (that’s between them and God), but it has cult brainwashing written all over it. God called it lip service, in Old Testament days. Jesus called it hypocrisy. I call it the creepy factor because it makes my skin crawl.
Being born-again was the best thing that ever happened to me. I thank God every day for his grace, and even as I fall down go boom again and again and haul myself back onto my feet again and again, I love God more and more. I love God more than I love my life, more even than I love myself (and if you’ve spent any time on this blog, you’ll know that’s saying something).
When I was an atheist, I couldn’t imagine pretending to be a Christian. The thought of it was anathema to me. Even now, as a Christian myself, I find people who are pretending to be Christian just as loathsome, but for the opposite reason – I’m furious at them for holding God’s love and grace and mercy so cheap. It makes me want to scream at them. Unbelievers you can’t scream at, because they’re deaf and won’t hear you anyway, but people who say they’re believers but who don’t actually believe – they’re worse than unbelievers. They’re doubly deaf and doubly blind.
To hold God’s love and grace and mercy so cheap, to hold Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross so cheap – this has to be the worst sin of all. Jesus thought so, too, and told the powers-that-be as much. He said that the repentant and despised tax collectors and prostitutes would be marching into Heaven to great fanfare, but not the hypocrites. Not the lip servers. Not the brainwashed creepy fake believers.
Thank you, my friend, for reading this far. What I say here is something that needs to be said, because mainstream commercialized Christendom as it stands today is basically a load of hogwash that’s no better than a creepy cult. It has very little to do with God’s Kingdom or what Jesus taught during his ministry years. If you suspect that you might have a bit of the creepy factor in you, throw yourself at God’s mercy and pray for him to give you a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone. Pray for your beliefs to be based on God and Jesus and scripture, not the doctrines of men. So many people are believing lies and repeating lies and teaching lies that God’s Truth is being drowned out and his Word trampled underfoot. We were told this would happen, but don’t you be among those who are doing it, all the while staring vacantly into someone’s eyes and telling them how much God loves them.
We need to get real and stay real. Jesus was and is as real as it gets. There’s zero creepy factor in Jesus.
That’s what we should all strive for.