The American church is slowly waking up from a decades-long slumber. Many of us have been sleeping snugly under a thick blanket of individualism for far too long, embracing a guarded theology as a pillow for our sleepy little heads. The mission of Jesus to care for “the least of these” has largely suffered under American Christianity.
Our toxic apathy is rooted in a lot of places, but sadly we don’t have to look any further than the church itself to find several excuses to not care for the poor, vulnerable, marginalized, and downtrodden in our community and in our world.
We’ve mastered Christian-ese catch phrases to get us off the hook from ever really having to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Before I go on, please allow me to climb off my high horse and admit that I know all of these phrases by heart because I have disingenuously used them all myself. They’ve rolled off my tongue with ease and a sense of identity. But the more I listen to those who have suffered, the more I realize how much I’ve manipulated Scripture to stay comfortable.
These sayings are not bad or untrue at face value, and sometimes they are said with sincerity. But American Christians also use them as an escape hatch to turn our backs on suffering. We proclaim what we believe as rock-solid theology, while ignoring those who are at the heart and soul of Jesus’ ministry.
Eight phrases in particular have paved the way for a passivity that keeps us quiet when we need to speak up, and keeps us paralyzed from being the hands and feet of Jesus:
1.“I’ll pray for you.”
Or: “We’ll pray for you.” “I’m praying about that.” “Praying.”
How This Lets Us Off the Hook: “I’m sorry for your situation, but please don’t ask for my money, time or assistance to help with your problem. I’ll pray for you when I remember.”
This reminds me of comedian Hannibal Buress’ sketchwhere he says, “You’re going to pray for me? So basically you’re going to sit at home and do nothing…while I struggle with a situation. Don’t pray for me — make me a sandwich, or something.”