you need Jesus!

September 8, 2010 at 1:12 pm 17 comments

A friend of mine told me this story, quoted verbatim below, which he witnessed first hand at a family gathering. It was a conversation between an elderly aunt and her nephew, who is gay and out of the closet to the family (but apparently not to her).

Aunt Bernice: You’re getting older, aren’t you ready to settle down and get married?
Nephew (in annoyed and firm voice): Aunt Bernice, I’m gay!
Aunt Bernice: You need Jesus!!!

End of conversation. Dramatic silence fills the room while laughter is stifled…

Though this is an extreme example, I think the same dynamic affects a lot of conversations. It is not hard for me to imagine a response like that (though maybe not so blunt) to any number of expressed or perceived problems. This is not necessarily evangelizing on the Christian’s part, it could be said with the same conviction to another Christian.

One problem is the person dispensing the advice (“You need Jesus”) is assuming they have the right answer for the other person. Would it sound differently if it were, “You need Buddha/acupuncture/Prozac/gummi bears/a smack upside the head!”? Do you really know what someone else needs?

I wrote this post on a bad day (a while back). I had lost sleep the night before, was stressed about work, got angry with one of my children, and had frozen pizza for dinner. Basically, one of those days when I had a feeling deep down inside saying, “You shouldn’t have done that.” It was a day when I did not want to be told I needed Jesus.

When I feel really bad, I usually want a little compassion, I think that is true for everyone. Sure, there are times when we need a kick in the seat of the pants to get over a bad attitude. And there can be a danger of enabling bad attitudes by offering unqualified affirmation. But sometimes, maybe a bad day is just a bad day. And we don’t need Aunt Bernice to tell us otherwise.

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17 Comments Add your own

  • 1. atimetorend  |  September 8, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Heh, first post I’ve published by accident, clicked the wrong button, oh well. :^)

  • 2. Lydia  |  September 8, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Good post.

    I’ve come across a few people who have a “you need Jesus” attitude about other topics (environmentalism, having kids, gender roles, choice of career, etc.)

    It makes me wonder if this is, at least in part, influenced by personality. It seems that some people not only believe they have the answer, they almost _enjoy_ being able to tell others how to live.

  • 3. atimetorend  |  September 8, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Good point Lydia, I think you are right and it is largely personality. Religion can give people a license to act that way, but so can other “righteous” causes, and not everyone uses that license.

  • 4. Lorena  |  September 8, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I think anybody who is grumpy enough to spit out the “you need Jesus” at the first opportunity really needs to get a life.

  • 5. atimetorend  |  September 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Lorena, I think that was the general consensus I gathered from the story teller. :^)

  • 6. Quixie  |  September 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    You need a paid vacation in Tahiti —with a rental car.
    (I know I do!)
    ;)
    Ó

  • 7. Clergy Guy  |  September 9, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    You do realize that she was probably holding back, don’t you?

    This is a subject where people are so terribly divided and hearts are broken no matter what they believe or who they are.

    Need Jesus? In the sense that we need a compassionate, accepting presence, I guess I could go for that

  • 8. atimetorend  |  September 9, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Quixie, OK, now I don’t mind so much being told what I need. :^)

    Clergy, I guess I heard it as her assuming that she didn’t need to say anything more. You are likely right though, that’s a bit scary.

    I’ll go with your take on needing Jesus, that’s a good one. Aunt Bernice needed it more than the gay nephew maybe.

  • 9. Sew  |  September 9, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    You need a wife who will make you something better than frozen pizza for dinner!! Yowza!

    Clergy, I ditto Rend on his comment about yours. Yes, we all need compassion, mercy, and unfailing love…including the nephew and the aunt. I know I do.

  • 10. Steven Underwood  |  September 12, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Emmm, been there, done that… or had it done to me.

    I have a stock answer when God or Jesus is offered to me as a solution to problems (or my problem… or ME) in the street, at the front door (JWs first line of attack) or general conversation and that is this:

    I smile sweetly, I look the person in the eye with a thankful, warm expression and then say:

    ‘Thank you so much for that… I am glad I have been able to make you feel better about yourself…’

    And make my exit.

  • 11. Sabio Lantz  |  September 13, 2010 at 8:28 am

    As a former evangelical Christian, I know how Christians whisper.

    “shhhh, don’t push him. don’t tell him he is damned.”

    “shhh, don’t tell their kids they are damned.”

    “Be patient, wait for timing”

    They are thinking it, whether they are blunt or not. How valuable is polite company for a life time. The “relationships” with these folks you think are your friends will be hitting you up on your death bed. They will think you are a lesser person to the day you die and never really embrace you as a friend.

    Better to bring it out sometimes.

  • 12. Yewtree  |  September 21, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Yes, this is the problem with evangelical Christianity: Jesus is the “solution” to everything. In this case it sounds as if the aunt was rather hoping that Jesus would “cure” her nephew of being gay and enable him to settle down with a wife and make babies. Other times, people apparently need Jesus to save them from eternal damnation (a pernicious concept if ever I heard one).

    I think it’s bad to tell people what one thinks they need, rather than listening to their needs and giving them warm loving acceptance. I get annoyed when people give me unsolicited astrological or pop-psychoanalytic “insights” into my life – but at least there isn’t an underlying assumption that I’m damned if I don’t accept astrology or psychoanalysis.

  • 13. theagnosticswife  |  September 21, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    I’m surrounded by Aunt Bernice’s in my family, in my town and in my state. Sometimes I’d like to smack the Aunt Bernice’s upside the head, but I don’t. I just smile and move on.

    Good post.

  • 14. prairie nymph  |  September 30, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    I don’t think you need a wife to make frozen pizzas and/or babies for you – but go for the vacation!

    My mom keeps reassuring herself (to me on the phone) that god is the one who calls us and keeps us. she is convinced that i’ll suffer a lot in my ‘rebellion’ and will eventually return.

    I’m not sure whether to be saddened that she can’t accept how much better I’m doing or just to focus on her concern for me.

  • 15. OneSmallStep  |  October 8, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    **One problem is the person dispensing the advice (“You need Jesus”) is assuming they have the right answer for the other person. **

    Another problem with that advice is that a lot of people who claim to have Jesus don’t seem to have the problems fixed. Unlike if we told someone that they needed a certain medication. We could at least point to a large sample where the medication worked.

  • 16. atimetorend  |  October 19, 2010 at 11:44 am

    @everyone who commented: sorry I haven’t been around to reply back, I feel like I walked away from a conversation. Just want to let you know I appreciate all the comments, just have been short on time and needed a break from the blog. Thanks!

  • 17. Michael Mock  |  November 19, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Coming in late, but…

    Aunt Bernice: You’re getting older, aren’t you ready to settle down and get married?
    Nephew (in annoyed and firm voice): Aunt Bernice, I’m gay!
    Aunt Bernice: You need Jesus!!!
    Nephew: Well… He does seem pretty nice, maybe I could settle down with him…

    Of course, I never think of these responses during actual conversations.

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