My Baptist Faith and My Lack of General Empathy (Why I Think I'm a Bad Person Much of the Time)

While procrastinating on tasks I should be doing, I decided I would take the time now and write a post on something that I've compiled on Twitter. Those who know me know that I'm a Christian. I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my savior at age 4, and, like an arranged marriage, have grown to love and strengthen my relationship with Christ as the years have passed. My love and devotion to Christ and adhering to Christian values is very important to me, but I also try not to bash people over the head with it. I toss my Christianity into general conversations because my faith is important to me and because it's my responsibility to witness to those around me, but I also know that being overt or repetitive about it won't convince anyone of anything. I try to be a living witness and also not annoying to folks so as not to turn people off, from me or from the God in me. This is why many of my friends who are atheists call on me as the most rational Christian they know. I'm a Christian without getting all pious and I recognize that my walk with Christ is my business.

Part of that walk with Christ involves caring about others. That... yeah, I'm not good with that. This evening before I closed ÜberTwitter as I was going to bible study, I made the brief comment that I hate the moment in church where they ask for prayer requests. A couple of folks commented back, if not took offense, about this statement and I did a rather lengthy series of tweets explaining my stance on the matter. What follows is those tweets in paragraph form (because Twitter can be brief comments about that awesome sandwich you just made or a whole essay written two sentences at a time and read by the public in real time).

Okay, let me clear some things up. No, I don't care about most people. I seriously mean that. When I've spoken lately about trying to be less of a terrible person, that's a big part of it. As a Christian, I know I'm supposed to care. If you're close to me, I care for you and console or guide you through your problems. I care deeply for those close to me. I determine closeness rather quickly, too. I read people and situations quickly and accurately. But for most people and their problems, I just don't care. I mean, I hardly know you. What do you expect me to do? So if you're just some random person telling me all your problems, I see you as someone just trying to depress me.
Cross apply this to prayer requsts in church. I don't want to hear about your cousin's 15th surgery or some co-worker's car accident. While the Word dictates we comfort one another, we're also told to pray in our closets. Listening to everyon's prayer requests is communal "hear a sad story, gasp, and say 'Lawd have mercy!'" time. I'll mentally check out.
Oh, and don't tell me it teaches me perspective. I don't believe in perspective. Other people's problems don't diminish mine. I have student loans and don't know what to do with my life. You have cancer. Your cancer seems worse in comparison but my debt still exists. Listening to other people's problems to see who has it worse is playing the "who's more broke" game. There are no winners in the "who's more broke" game.
So yes, I reiterate, I am a pretty terrible person, but don't think I don't have my reasons. I can't care about everybody all the time. Life is hard enough with your own mess. Don't begrudge a guy for shrugging off the burdens of the whole world.
Oh, one more thing: this is why I don't care for worship service but love bible study. I like xhurch to be like class. I'm a scholar. I love to learn and have deep discussions. I can't deal with bad singing and commiserating with strangers.
I could go even more in depth about the gradual aging and shrinking of the black church throughout America. That's a factor, too. It's pretty well known that the black church has been an important historical institution. Its congregants are also getting older. With the exception of probably Atlanta, home of the megachurch, the black church has become a dying breed. Mostly older people attend it. Younger people are finding their own way of worship, finding younger churches, or not going at all. Also, take note that the whole "spiritual, but not religious" and the melting pot spiritual beliefs are on the rise.
Personally, I'm a devout Baptist, saved at age 4 and have grown closer to Christ over the last 20 years with little wavering. As a Baptist in the South who tends to find a church with a great teaching pastor and sticking to it (whether or not the service sucks), I tend to end up in churches with older congregations. The pastor has a rich background, well educated, and stimulates me intellectually. The church where I was brought up was like the Abe Vigoda of churches. It's -always- been old. The members, surly. The service, funeral-like. Over time, the congregants started dying off and only the meanest of the mean kept coming, well into their 80s and 90s. It got too depressing to come to church on Sunday. My parents got tired of it. But the teaching was great so we just attended bible study. This kept on for many years, until my pastor fell in and was in and out of the hospital. Then we stopped going to church altogether. We couldn't just go to another church. Finding a good church with a great pastor is a big deal. My pastor, who I still love and respect to this day (and he loves my family just as much, too), is like my favorite professor. Morehouse English majors would think of him like Rahming. Morehouse students overall could say he's like Tobe Johnson. 
Eventually, I went to college and still went to church and bible study most of the time I was there. My tie to God rarely severed. Though I never did find a church that worked for me the whole time I was in Atlanta. Too much surface level stuff, not enough scholarship.
Eventually, I returned to San Antonio and moved not too far from another pastor's church with whom I had a pretty great rapport. I saw it as divine providence that the other pastor in my life, the one who drove me to college, has his church within walking distance. I had been there a few times before I left San Antonio, the congregation remembered me. I was welcomed with open arms. But while the church was slightly younger than my old church, it was still rather old. Mostly military folks and retirees. It's typical of the black Baptist church in this era: older, rejuvenated [later in life] through religion, wondering why they can't keep young people.
So to carry this back to where we started, when it's time to hear prayer requests, it's a lot of talk about surgeries and grandkids. I have little connection to these people and I have my whole "I don't care about folks" thinking so it does little for me. I'm listening to the laments of folks two generations separate from me and I just wanted to learn about the foundation of the church in Acts.
Like I said before, I look at church, bible study specifically, like a class. All the other stuff is extra, I try to do without it. This doesn't mean I don't pray or sing to God when I so choose, I just don't do it with others.

There are times in my comments, especially with me being so spread out across the internet like I am, in which I'm concerned that my thoughts may turn some people off. I try not to upset people in most things I do because I try with all my being to be a peacemaker. I listen to all sides and try to make sure all parties walk away feeling alright. My stance on church has its meaning to me and my personality traits are just what they are. It's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to teach empathy. It's a quality I've yet to truly acquire. I understand it's implicitly important because we live in a society that would crumble in absolute selfishness (despite what Randian followers might tell you). I recognize that my lack of empathy in most cases seems absolutely abhorrent and those who read this blog  (if you've read this far in this post, gentle reader) may have a completely different opinion about me.

If you're new to In Retrospect, especially if you're here because of my work in jazz radio or the jazz internet community, this blog doesn't always work like this. It started out as a place to post original drafts of editorials I wrote for Morehouse College's The Maroon Tiger. Eventually, this blog became a catch all for all my writings. Lately, it became the home for my playlists for KRTU's The Line-Up.

Still, the main goal of this blog is to function as a collection of work from me. The topics of writing have the ability to span a wide length. Even now, I'm considering a post analyzing R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet series (and maybe juxtaposing it with the new OK Go video, "This Too Shall Pass"). Discussing my Christianity and lack of empathy of others is not antithetical to the nature of this blog, but it may be jarring for some considering the context this blog has taken over the last few months. For that, I apologize and there will certainly be a playlist here this coming Friday.


Anonymous said…
Not feeling the baby blue background.
Grant-Grey Guda said…
Very interesting! I would be truly honored if you gave your poetic advice on my blogs of poetry and follow them if you like.

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