Why are you so closed off???

a in the middle

by Kenneth Justice

~ Have you ever known someone who was very private and reserved…..who gave off an emotionally distant vibe? Some writers refer to such people as wearing masks; they go to church every week and pretend that their life is wonderful but since they never let anyone get close to them…..their real self is always kept secret.

Although I keep a certain level of my life private in my blog (for obvious safety concerns) for the most part I am pretty open with who I am. If you sat down with me at coffee or across from me at my dinner table; what you read in my blog is who I am in person.

I’m not a big fan of being emotionally distant…..its annoying.

Emotional distance has been one of the biggest struggles in relation to my Christian faith; far too many of my fellow Christians are not open and honest with who they really are. Church turns off a lot of my friends because they attend on Sunday and see all these smiling faces who appear to have everything going right in their life………yet when we peel back the surface we see imperfect people who struggle just like anyone else.

“church is full of hypocrites” is something I’ve had to listen to people tell me my entire life and its hard to disagree; when people pretend that their life is wonderful, when its really not……’hypocrisy’ becomes an easy to throw arrow.

I also don’t care much for reading authors who present an altogether to-perfectly-packaged-life. I need something with a little bit more grit to it, I need something that is filed with real life; and since real life can be tough I need to read something that is entirely open and honest.

Perhaps my preference for being real is connected to my belief that life does not come in the same package for everyone;

–) Each of us will make different decisions in life

–) Each of us will have different opinions about issues

–) Each of us will not agree on everything

Having said all that I now turn to the two young women sitting next to me here at coffee. They are youth leaders of sorts at a local church in my community and have been sitting here talking about a strategy their church has adopted recently for ‘bringing more kids into church and leading them to believe in Jesus Christ’.

Listening to them for the past hour (they are so close to me I could sneeze on em’ and they aren’t trying to have a quiet conversation at all) I feel like I am listening to marketing directors at an advertising agency. Their aim is to ‘convert kids to Jesus” and like military generals mapping out plans for battle; they have been mapping out their strategic plan to conquer the world of children for Christ.

I’m annoyed.

It pisses me off that my fellow Christians have reduced our faith and religion to nothing more than programs, curriculum and conversion strategies. Is that what they really belief faith in God is???

Sadly, I believe these two young women are far too representational with what men and women of faith have become; emotionally closed off people who operate meetings and strategies with the goal of converting ‘the lost’.


I have been very appreciative of the new Pope and his work in expressing to the world his love for humanity and that his love is not conditional in any way; it doesn’t matter to the Pope whether someone believes in Jesus or not….he will still love them every bit as much as the next person.

That’s where I’m coming from; your faith or your belief in god (or lack thereof) has nothing to do with me, I want to be friends with people from all walks of life and I don’t ever want someone to believe that ‘I’m trying to convert’ them.

–) I don’t sit up late at night mapping out strategies to better convert non-Christians……does that make me a bad Christian?

–) I don’t spend hours of my day praying “God make everyone believe what I believe”…..does that make me a bad Christian?

–) I don’t huddle together with other Christians at evening church meetings talking about how wonderful our theology is and how we’re right about everything……does that make me a bad Christian?

Ministers who have made the biggest impact on my life have been the ones who were open and honest…..who didn’t pretend that they ‘knew everything’ and that were open to listening.

Maybe all the coffee I drink has polluted my brain……which reminds me, I think I will have another cup


Categories: Religion

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56 replies

  1. Great post Kenneth,brings up so many things I ponder as well. Not sure why there is such a disconnect with so many.Man not God. My own theology is pretty much living by the golden rule, and ” You just gotta have soul”.
    Have a Blessed day!

  2. I share your annoyance for spiritual strategy.
    I would gladly share my emotions.
    I would gladly be transparent about my Christianity
    I am not perfect.
    Let;s go to dinner and talk about the Lord!



  3. I am not a religious person, but an open honest conversation is key to understanding each other.
    And my opinion is that newer generations only pick the parts of a religion that suits themselves. Discrimination within religion i think you can call it. Good post.

    • A lot of of my religious friends have a difficult time accepting the fact that not everyone is going to embrace their faith or religion……I’m okay with people not being interested in what I believe in because my friendships are not based on some silly condition that everyone has to believe what I believe πŸ™‚

  4. I agree that being open and honest is very important. But then again I find myself not being entirely open all the time. If I don’t feel like showing my inner struggles to someone, I might tell them that I’m fine and nothing’s wrong… My closest friends will notice that I’m not entirely fine, and probably confront me. I do try to be as open and honest, but I find it very difficult sometimes… And I suppose I’m not the only one…

  5. My internet went out at home. I am at a coffee place. A group of 10 men were meeting talking about Jesus. The ages ranged from 60-25. I was eavesdropping. Their conversation led to their own lives and how they have a relationship with their God and live their faith. The warmth and openness between these men made me feel good. Isn’t this what all people seek? A group they can be part of and be real.

  6. Bravo! These are the same feelings my husband and I share. I am so glad to hear of a Christian who doesn’t try to come up with strategies and programs on converting people. So many Christians don’t seem to realize that the kingdom of heaven is bigger than the church.

  7. Hey, Kenneth – you make a good point. As to the Pope. He loves one half of the world unconditionally – men. The other half he loves conditionally – women. Until the Catholic church gets a clue on that issue, they are still right at the top of my list of religious organizations that need major reform. Of course, the last reformation was a disaster, so maybe a poor choice of words! Love, Pat

  8. Sounds like u know alot of Churchanity types. Knowing jesus is not really about being “religious” but more so about relationship with Him.

  9. In my real life I am a relatively closed off person, I do not project having a perfect life however and consider myself open and honest in that if someone (anyone) asks me a question I will answer the question directly and honestly. I am not one to air my own problems though unless frustration gets the better of me. This is for me a defence mechanism, it’s how I protect myself from people using information about me against me.
    On the topic of the two girls and their conversation I think they are remiss of the two basic principals upon which most religions are founded and they are Love and Acceptance. The attempt to recruit people in my mind reduces religion to cult status and it is using things like deception and propaganda to achieve the aim of growing their numbers. I would say the best way to convert people would be to live by example nothing more nothing less…

  10. I figure if God is smart enough to create the heavens and the earth than he can call his people without my interference.

  11. I saw a bumper sticker not too long ago “Dear God, please save me from your followers.” I love that. When I visit churches decked out with grand stages, and youth rooms that have a stage for rock bands, and multiple game systems with big screen tvs, I always wonder if the message was lost some how. This goes the other way as well when I find churches that are set in their ways. They are unwelcoming to a younger generation.

    There should be a middle ground where we don’t have to resort to seduction or stand offish tendencies. Both of these approaches are seen in a light that turns outsiders away from the church. Notice I said church.

    People are hungry to know God. They are hungry to have meaning in their life. But when the path laid before them is mucked up so much it does little to show the way to follow.

    • “people are hungry to know God. they are hungry to have meaning in their life. But when the path laid before them is mucked up so much it does little to show the way to follow”

      well said πŸ™‚

  12. I hope that I have misunderstood this post entirely. If not, then I have a few things to say. A firefighter’s job is to put out a fire. A youth pastor’s (or any pastor for that matter) job is to lead people to Christ. You said, “emotionally closed off people who operate meetings and strategies with the goal of converting β€˜the lost’. They have a goal of converting the lost? Yes! That is their job. Absolutely nothing is wrong with that. ‘Emotionally closed off”? Quite the opposite. Without their love for those youth, they wouldn’t be sitting there in the first place. Without someone to lead a person to Christ, how do you expect them to get there? Hardly anyone out in the world even mentions the name of Jesus any more, and when they do it is only in a way to discredit Him and those who believe in Him.

    Those two youth leaders you saw this morning are doing the job that they have been called to do. They are ‘mapping out a strategic plan’ that will help to bring those children to know Jesus. A firefighter doesn’t just jump into a burning building. He examines the situation, puts a plan together, and then he works to put out the fire. A youth leader does exactly the same thing. No Sunday School teacher can just expect kids to come into their classroom and instantly give their lives to Christ. They must have a plan, a lesson and knowledge in order to lead those children to have a relationship with Jesus. Again, that is their job. There is nothing wrong with them having a plan of action. The wrong would be for them NOT to have a plan of action. Their converting the lost to get them to heaven. Would you rather they convert them to hell? There’s enough people in the world who are already doing a great job of that and trust me – they have a plan too.

    I for one commend those youth leaders for leading the youth to Christ. That kind of sounds ridiculous to even say that. That’s their job. That would be like saying “I commend those firefighters for putting out the fire.”

    I am sorry that you have been burned by religion and religious people. It shouldn’t be that way. Unfortunately, religion has become something that people do on Sundays and forget on Mondays. Christianity on the other hand, is a way of life. It’s not a facade that people only put on when it’s needed. It’s a relationship. There is a huge difference.

    • mewhoami,

      great comments πŸ™‚

      I would not say that I’ve been ‘burned by religion’…I actually love attending services each week πŸ™‚

      Perhaps we have a different perspective on who Jesus was/is.

      I really don’t see Jesus as someone who would have sat down with his disciples and mapped out psychological strategies on the most effective way to convert people….thus I see this kind of behavior in our modern world as entirely misguided.

      Jesus’s life is marked by service; feeding the hungry, healing the sick, speaking out on behalf of the poor, ministering among the lowly (in the ghetto), caring for widows and orphans…..etc.

      People didn’t ‘believe in jesus’ because of his great conversion strategies….they followed him because he first served them; he laid down his life before theirs.

      Thus, when I see fellow christians who treat our faith as though it is nothing more than a marketing campaign….it makes me very sad, and I believe it would make jesus sad too.

      Christianity is not something to be marketed. it is not something that we ‘sell’ or try to make look attractive to others. Christianity is about living our lives first) in service to god and secondly) in service to humanity

      When you write, ” They are β€˜mapping out a strategic plan’ that will help to bring those children to know Jesus”
      I agree with you, that is what the two youth group leaders are doing….but I believe they are misguided.

      Our first and foremost goal should be to love our neighbor and loving our neighbor entails meeting their needs before we ever ‘preach’ to them or ‘come up with a strategy to convert them to jesus”

      Thus, we would have to be blind not to see how much people are hurting in this world;

      –) single moms who are overwhelmed with trying to raise their children and have little to no help
      –) children who are without fathers
      –) families who are in major debt and losing their houses
      –) men and women who are unemployed

      The list is endless as to the various things people are struggling with. My job as a Christian is to meet those people’s needs as best as I can….not waste my time mapping out strategies to try and convert them to Christianity.

    • Well said and I think you both have great ideas to continue this discussion.

  13. I try to make it a point not to get too involved with “Christians”. If I want to be private that is my “private business”. Maybe I am missing your point or in the wrong blog “section”.

  14. some of us have, or have had, lives that were so disconnected from the norm that we are distant due to the fact that no one can even vaguely understand our ‘truth’ . . .

    Only people who have had our particular brand of hell can understand us anyways . . . why spill your guts about the sight and smell of spilled guts? Best to just keep quiet and talk in simple inanities.

    As a Christian there is the norm . . . and those who dare travel beyond that norm are deemed reprobate . . . I did and am now a happy heathen . . . πŸ™‚

  15. Hi Kenneth, you make some really good points in this post. When I used to go to church, I always found that it was the biggest witches in the neighbourhood who were always in the front row, doing the flower arrangements, chatting with the priest afterwards etc. I guess the hypocrisy put me off the ‘organised’ aspect of the whole thing. As long as we all try to be good people and help each other out though, I really don’t think it matters that much. Each to their own like you said! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Linda.
    Oh, and if you want to see some seriously closed off people, you should visit Latvia πŸ˜‰

  16. A very good well thought-out post! I have recently seen a documentary in which a filmer was following both a Christian and a Muslim and your description of a lot of Christians corresponds a lot to the person which was seen in this documentary. There was a very interesting debate between them in which the Muslim told him that the christian world is damaging the muslim world. Although you can’t generalize this, because there are also christians who disagree with the damage against innocent citizens in countries like Iraq, it was interesting to see how the idea about the United States of the Christian changed.

    Anyway, to come back to what I wanted to say. He and his family had the same kind of coldness. Although they show a lot of emotions at the outside, you hit the nail on the head with your post. They might actually have a lot of instability from the inside which is covered by what we see in their behaviour.

    I think indeed that the primary elements of christianity aren’t converting people, but the ethics which are present within Christianity. I have read some parts in the Bible because of my interest in religion, and I can understand why christians do this, because Jesus says in some part in the Bible that christians should go to everywhere where they can come to spread his belief, but if you spread a belief without knowing what it means, it’s pointless. If you are annoying people by spreading what you spread, it means that you don’t actually understand that you don’t understand at all WHAT you are spreading. First of all an understanding is needed which is present within the ethics of christianity. I think that it’s very difficult too to find what exactly the ethics of christianity are and I have respect for christians who spend the time to find them and who can improve the lives of other people with them.

    • philosophyandart,

      “I think indeed that the primary elements of christianity aren’t converting people, but the ethics which are present within Christianity”

      yes, we are on the same page. If all Christianity is concerned with is ‘converting people’ than i would not want anything to do with it…..

    • Thanks for your reply, by the way I just refered to your blog post in my new post. You inspired me to write something about this subject.

  17. HAHA! Kenneth keep it real! I agree. All of this representational recruiting sounds to military for me and this is one of the main reasons I’ve backed off some of the churches I’ve visited…seeking that faith of old that possessed the power of the Holy Spirit of the living God. God opens those doors by divine appointment…and others see by our character that we either represent the kingdom of heaven or not and God does the rest. Yes, we are called to tell the “good news” and minister in or out of season, but our brothers and sisters in my opinion…not all granted has fallen away from faith and walked into business planning and strategy on how to recruit….sad, but true. God bless.

  18. If I could like this more than once, I would.

  19. Hey Kenneth, come on over to mine … I’ve got more grit than most can wade through πŸ™‚

  20. Dear Kenneth Justice,
    In an effort to be open and honest I have to say I am a little jealous of the number of respondents you receive on your posts. Keep up the good work.

    This post reminds me of the recent Penn Jillette (http://pennsundayschool.com/page/episodes) podcast where they discussed using manipulating language to make a point. It fits very well with your topic. I rarely reference controversial figures like Penn but I thought you might find it interesting. Then again, you may not like it at all.

  21. Yes Kenny,
    it’s totally poisoned your brain. The liquid you’ve been consuming, which you believe to be coffee is really….Soylent Green!! πŸ˜‰ Ok, ok, but in all seriousness, I enjoyed this post. Evangelicals are too judgmental and hypocritical as a whole, in my eyes.

  22. I found your blog after you “liked” one of mine but I’m glad I stumbled across this post. I think you’re absolutely dead on the mark when it comes to Christians painting a false picture of themselves and the Christian walk. There’s a certain “mold” you’re supposed to fit to be considered “a real Christian” and ironically enough, it doesn’t involve being REAL at all. Emotionally distant people annoy me as well. The last man I dated was one of those and I often comment that I think I’d have found more emotional warmth from a gnat. I do not regret letting that fish swim.

    And as for the ladies at your coffee shop, sigh. I’m sure they mean well but, you make a good point. Most people have forgotten that it isn’t “us” who win souls for Christ. It’s Him. It’s His efficacy, not ours. His strategy, His plans, His activity. We are only called to be available vessels to use at His discretion — not salespeople. Christianity is not a business or a used car that needs to be “sold” to people. When it’s real, when the timing is right, the people will see truth and be drawn to it by the power of God. Not by man-made manipulation.

    Good post.

    • “And as for the ladies at your coffee shop, sigh. I’m sure they mean well but, you make a good point. Most people have forgotten that it isn’t β€œus” who win souls for Christ. It’s Him. It’s His efficacy, not ours. His strategy, His plans, His activity. We are only called to be available vessels to use at His discretion β€” not salespeople. Christianity is not a business or a used car that needs to be β€œsold” to people”

      we are on the same page πŸ™‚

  23. Well it’s lovely to know you stop by. I must master the art of shorter posts.

    Of course for the real “grittiness”, you’d.have to stop by the house. No closed faced, tight lipped, buttoned up characters here – wall to wall “what you see is what you get” … for better or worse lol.

  24. I get so much from reading what you write. In this blog I especially like what you say about our current Pope ( I am a Protestant Presbyterian, by the way) and think he is a great man. Thank you!

  25. Reblogged this on puddlesofithaca and commented:
    I love the truth that comes from culturemonk.com.

  26. Thanks for this. As a novelist and a Christian I struggle with even mentioning the two in the same sentence because I often feel people have been turned off (I have) by goody-goods and lame Christian novels about perfect people. It’s such a disservice to people who are looking for God but feel they just can’t measure up. My novels about morphine addicts, bankers, snobs and family refuse to leave out God, but also refuse to leave out very flawed, loveable people. To me it’s the whole point of the Bible. I love when writers like yourself speak so openly–it gives me courage to do the same.

  27. Vulnerability, and transparency are two key parts in sharing the Light if Heavenly Father. It is in our relationships that others will see His light. Not the check in the box things people do for one another. It is sad to see people interact with no depth of character and expect sound relationships that last the span of time. It just does not happen. It is unfortunate the church is filled with people who do not understand this key element necessary to spread His message. Nice post. Thanks for sharing.


  1. Why are you so closed off? (Reblog) | Veritas: A Discussion on Truth
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