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    Rohelf

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    Smiley Happy Christians

    Post  Rohelf on August 17th 2010, 5:12 pm

    First off, let me say that although I find these people personally vexing, I'm sure that most of them don't mean to be, and that many of them may well be intended by God to be as cheery as they are (as I feel pretty sure that I'm not). But I feel like sometimes the modern church really slants towards worldly optimism (whereas, for example, I think the church of the Middle Ages probably erred too far into worldly pessimism), and I've seen that the innocent "smileys" can spawn more pernicious varieties. I've seen three basic types:

    Type I: The Innocent Smiley - Innocent both in the sense of not meaning any harm and the sense of naivete. These folks are just nautrally sunny and can't understand why you're not. Often, they've had pretty sheltered and pleasant lives, but some are almost supernaturally optimistic in the face of trials that would drive most people to tears. They're generally nice people, but useless if you come to them with woes or problems; all they've got is, "Smile, Jesus loves you!"

    Type II: The Smiley Enforcer - Whatever may be going badly in your life, however your personal chemistry is wired, that's no excuse not to rejoice 24-7, as far as these folks are concerned. People have smiled through worse circumstances than yours, so get smiling, darn it! God (like your high school gym teacher), apparently doesn't take kindly to "whiners." And never mind that Biblical personalities, Jesus included, showed a full range of human emotions, including the "bad" ones; "Jesus loves you, so you ought to smile- it's the least you could do."

    Type III: The Smiley Snob - These really grind me, and I'm glad I've only met a few. Whereas the Smiley Enforcer wants you to fake joy even if you don't feel it, the Smiley Snob tells you that if you don't feel it, there's something spiritually wrong with you. It's not just wrong to show sadness or anger, or even to be sad or angry- sadness and anger are symptomatic of deeper wrong. If you weren't so sinful and unregenerate, you'd be full of joy and peace and your life would be cruising along just fine. You'd never feel the need to scream or cry. I'm not even sure where to start on how unscriptural this is, but I've met folks that buy it; "If you really loved Jesus, you'd always smile, without needing to fake it."

    How does one interact constructively with such people if one is a natural pessimist, and how can we help the church to understand that people who aren't always happy aren't necessarily broken and may not want to be "fixed"?

    Paeter
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    Re: Smiley Happy Christians

    Post  Paeter on August 18th 2010, 12:44 pm

    Rohelf wrote:

    How does one interact constructively with such people if one is a natural pessimist, and how can we help the church to understand that people who aren't always happy aren't necessarily broken and may not want to be "fixed"?

    I prefer the term "realist" to describe myself, but my wife would call me a pessimist.

    I can only speak for my personal experiences. The key for me has been finding common ground in scripture. If it's a person I am in a Sunday school class with or a small group, then I look for opportunities in the Bible study to touch on the issues that separate us and look at scripture for the answers. (You might ask what they think of Jeremiah or many of the Psalmists.)

    If these folks really value scripture as the final authority, then developing interaction with them in the context of Bible study is often the key. Outside of that context, until we have agreement on the issue, I do my best to be polite and be myself while also not secretly pushing their buttons and "testing them" by being different just to see how they'll react so that my assessment of them can be confirmed for my own satisfaction.(More challenging than it may sound.)

    Tone of voice is BIG factor in these conversations. I think sn open, humble and teachable tone of voice (even if you're positive you're in the right) can make all the difference in helping the one you're talking to be less guarded and more receptive to new thought.





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    ProfessorAlan

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    Re: Smiley Happy Christians

    Post  ProfessorAlan on August 19th 2010, 8:27 pm

    Paeter wrote:I prefer the term "realist" to describe myself, but my wife would call me a pessimist.

    Myself, I try to walk the fine line between skeptical (which I think is healthy) and cynical (which I think is not).

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    Re: Smiley Happy Christians

    Post  Paeter on August 19th 2010, 8:46 pm

    ProfessorAlan wrote:
    Paeter wrote:I prefer the term "realist" to describe myself, but my wife would call me a pessimist.

    Myself, I try to walk the fine line between skeptical (which I think is healthy) and cynical (which I think is not).

    I'm with you on that! I should have noted that even though I PREFER the term realist I'm still GUILTY of being a pessimist at times. (Though maybe not EVERY time my wife accuses me of it.) ;-)


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    Re: Smiley Happy Christians

    Post  Rohelf on August 24th 2010, 10:36 am

    Huh... Jeremiah is a good one to bring up (I'd already hit on using some of the psalms myself). Although I get the feeling that some of the Type II and III's would probably reply something to the effect of how Jeremiah and the psalmists had real problems to be upset about. And no, I'm not in any small groups with them (I'm not in any small groups at all), I just bump into them fairly regularly, and also the pastor at the church I grew up in was (and still is) a classic Type II.

    I also wonder how these people would feel if the shoe was on the other foot, and they were being told that joy and cheerfulness were wrong and they should at least smother any expression of them in public. I know that emotions can be "wrong" in the sense that they can incite you to do things that are unwise, but I don't think they're ever "wrong" in the sense that you ought not to be feeling them at all.

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    Re: Smiley Happy Christians

    Post  Paeter on August 24th 2010, 9:12 pm

    Rohelf wrote:Huh... Jeremiah is a good one to bring up (I'd already hit on using some of the psalms myself). Although I get the feeling that some of the Type II and III's would probably reply something to the effect of how Jeremiah and the psalmists had real problems to be upset about.

    True, but the counterpoint that could be made is that the Bible does not clearly frown on not being bubbly and happy all of the time. And the argument that the psalmists and Jeremiah are "off the hook" because they had "real" problems to be upset about is speculation. Nowhere does scripture say, "be happy and bubbly all the time, but just FYI, problems like Jeremiah and the psalmists had are the exception".

    In any case, the burden of proof here is on the claim that we should be bubbly and happy all the time. It sounds like this is an idea that comes from a misunderstanding of the Hebrew word for "blessed" or "happy", which does NOT refer to a kind of smiley, bubbly cheeriness, but rather to a contentment that comes from having peace with God.


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