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A Legitimate Question

December 31, 2013

A friend just drew my attention to this post. The author is Matthew Paul Turner and this is where it came from:


I don’t know the author nor do I fully agree with his approach, but I have rarely seen a clearer description of the problem. I could have simply put a link to his article, which I have anyway, but I didn’t particularly care for the debate on the comments. In my view they prove his point but to others it might just be the opposite. It all depends on the type of faith one has. I have added a comment on this at the end.

Why Does Jesus Turn Decent People into Jackasses?



One of my friends in college had a very personal relationship with Jesus, one that, on occasion, led him to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and spend 90 minutes of quality time with Jesus before class. When I first met “D,” I was sort of jealous of his spiritual discipline. At the time, I was experimenting with Calvinism and easily shamed by the intensities of other people’s relationships with Jesus. But overtime I stopped being jealous of D’s close relationship with Jesus. Because I began to notice that the more time D hung out with Jesus the bigger jackass he became. We could always tell when D and Jesus were engaging in “bro” time, because that quality time always seemed to make D angry, prideful, and intoxicated with his own spiritual certainty. As a recovering Baptist who, at the time, was a young and flourishing Presbyterian, I didn’t want to end up being one of Jesus’s jackasses.

Why do close relationships with Jesus turn some people into jackasses? That idea seems counter to everything that Jesus taught about God’s Kingdom. Still, sometimes Jesus comes into a person’s heart and makes them shape shifters.

I’ve known lots of people who Jesus has helped. I’ve seen Jesus help alcoholics to begin recovery. I’ve seen Jesus help fix marriages. I’ve seen Jesus make rich selfish people into rich giving people.

None of those things surprise me at all, because I believe that Jesus saves, that Jesus heals, and that Jesus changes people’s lives.

But let’s face it: how a relationship with Jesus affects people seems to vary a good bit. Because as much as Jesus brings some people hope, healing, and resurrection, that same Jesus also makes some people turn into intolerant name-calling Christians who seem downright entitled to utilize the Bible as a device to be mean and hateful. If engaging scripture and prayer and going to church makes us act like nasty, self-righteous jackasses, we’ve completely missed the point.

Engaging God’s story in scripture should not make us certain, but it should help us to be merciful.
Trusting in Jesus should not make us intolerant, but it should help us to be peaceful.
Spending time in prayer should not make us angry people who are bent on shouting our opinions from the rooftops, but it should help us to be gracious and thankful.

A lot of us Christians, rather than being followers of Jesus, we’re defenders of religious certainty. And having certainty about what is and isn’t true, good, and holy is actually not faith, it’s just certainty. And certainty regarding matters of faith isn’t Christian.

So we end up acting like jackasses, kicking and galloping and trolling around like we own the place. All the while bellowing scripture and unfounded statistics…

We can’t love people when we’re intoxicated with certainty. We can’t serve people with a pure heart if we’re burdened by certainty. We can’t be anything remotely close to “Christ-like” when we’re certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that we know what’s up regarding God. Why?

Because we’re too busy defending our rightness to be kind, thoughtful, and good.

So instead, we kick, stomp, and wake up the neighbors shouting. And then we blame Jesus for the messes we make.

(End of article)


Christianity started humble, in a manger and then a cross, and its propositions were “foolishness” to the world. Its strength was not reason, philosophy, science and apologetics. Neither was it an ascetic discipline or a dogmatic orthodoxy. It rested only on the personal experience of Christ resurrected and alive in His spirit. When it became a structured religious system it started to look down on others and to fight opposition. It started to insist on demonstrating its “certainty” through philosophy, theology and apologetic arguments, even fighting science and heretics of all kinds. Pretended faith fears uncertainty. It rests on a form of cultural and mental certainty, which is as tenuous as can be. Those who bolster their “faith” by such mental means, react violently to whatever challenges their “certainty”, and behave like Jackasses towards others. How do I know? I’ve done it! The article really hits the nail in the head.



Those who instead partake of mystical experiences (not all of course) display a different sort of Jackassness, which is usually spiritual pride. Having seen or felt something, they fall into thinking they know more than they actually do, and conclude that they must be somewhat special and better than others. Time usually takes care of that. Being that love and humility are one and the same, and that pride is self-defeating, that means that love wins in the end. Even Jackasses do learn. Aren’t we all?

One Comment
  1. That idea is definitely worth repeating!

    I once heard a story about a guy who prided himself on his ability do seduce women. He later became a Christian and, to everyone’s surprise, quickly stopped sleeping around.

    The trouble was that he was argumentative in Bible studies, and demanded that he had the truth on every doctrine.

    That is, he was still looking for a power trip, just in a different place.

    In many ways, I think, its harder for us to realize the evil motivations behind our “good” deeds than it is to admit it when we’ve done wrong.

    There’s my two cents anyway.
    Best to you out there.

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