First of all I probably don’t know what I’m talking about. If you are an evangelical you might read this and say something along the lines of “I don’t sound like that!” or “you have a chip on your shoulder.”… and you may be right… who am I to judge? I can only speak from my experience as an evangelical learning the language with all its subtle cultural nuances. I want to share 10 things I have learned that help me understand, communicate and even discern the sometimes complex community language of evangelicalism. The first thing I want to address is how to answer the question “How are you doing?” when asked by an evangelical.
1. “How are you doing?” Perhaps In many other cultures and clubs this phrase generally means “I care and would like to actually understand how you are doing.” however, in many evangelical circles when you are asked this question it is similar to a pitching coach asking a struggling pitcher during a mound visit “hey, how are you feeling?” after he has given up a grand slam and walked ten batters in a row. What I have learned is that if I am asked this question by certain kinds of evangelicals it really means something like this… “I see your struggling, I am not, so I figured I would come and see if you are really one of us”.
(At this point I feel compelled to add that if you can identify with me so far you will understand the rest of what I am about to say but if you are not following me up to this point the following will probably bother you… and you should stop reading now and follow this link to hone your skills.)
How are you doing?
Now, let me take a moment and bring the analogy of the struggling baseball pitcher up again. When approached by the coach and asked “how are you doing?” what he really means is “I see you are struggling we have a guy warming up who isn’t struggling should we replace you… loser?” At this point a real competitor is forced to lie to the coach and lying is acceptable in baseball, deception is actually a part of the rules. This poses a problem however to the evangelical when a religiously well armed stronger believer asks you “how are you doing?” you know that you need to play your next move with great wisdom. You may need to lie (which is a sin) in order to avoid the smiling moral and behavioral shtick you are probably going to receive from one of God’s own scripturally certified behavioral emissaries.
What I am trying to say? You really only have one of two responses to the question “How are you doing?”
1. If you say the truth “I am not doing well.” you will probably be forced to hear one of the many thousands of scriptures that they have memorized just for times like these. We as evangelicals have been well trained like emergency room technicians to diagnose and treat any issue with pithy sayings, scripture or aphorisms all before you can even explain why you are not doing well. Things like empathy or sympathy generally get in the way of our commission to restore you to faith and spiritual health. You see in my experience many of my evangelical brothers and sisters don’t actually hear a person say “I am not doing well.” What they really hear is “Help! I don’t have enough faith”, or “Help! I don’t understand all of God’s promises”, or “Help! I don’t know a relevant scripture passage”, or “Help! I don’t understand the concept that right thinking leads to right actions.”
2. You can lie. “I am wonderful! Hey thanks for asking.” The response you will probably hear from us will be something like “Great! keep it up… by the way would you like to become more involved in church ministry?”
Well that’s all for today. I hope this helps you on your journey in the world of evangelicalism. I won’t lie sometimes it’s hard but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. You might think this rant sounds as if I have a chip on my shoulder. At least that’s what my wife just told me after I read it to her. She told me to wait a couple of days before I send it off. I appreciate that advice and it is probably wise but on the other hand evangelicals have many “chips on their shoulders” it’s just usually not with themselves (in a corporate sense) it’s almost always others. I have acted and will probably act again as one of “God’s own scripturally certified behavioral emissaries.” and I hate that but I am happy that at this stage in my spiritual growth my own hypocrisy is far more real to me than others. I love being an evangelical it’s real, it’s my family and we’re all growing.