I grew up in South Carolina, USA, and I currently live in Tokyo, Japan. I am well versed in religion, various cultures, and world politics.
The Art of Over-Spiritualizing
In Christianity, as well as many other religions, over-spiritualizing is when scriptural interpretation exceeds its original meanings or when an event or action is overcompensated with implications that God, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus had orchestrated it.
This mentality can be used in the meekest of situations all the way to the most complicated, and although many things can be justified as spiritual or influenced spiritually, it does not automatically mean that everything is spiritual nor does it mean that God is the puppeteer behind all events and actions on earth.
This is the approach by a lot of Christians, though. The worldview of these Christians is that everything is connected in a big spiritual webbing, and even if you are not a spiritual person yourself, you still fit into the webbing somewhere with hopes that you will migrate towards the middle where you will know God more intimately.
However, this mentality can be toxic for various reasons. For starters, it fills in gaps of the unknown with scripture taken wildly out-of-context. Secondly, it projects the image of decisions being absolutely right or wrong based on how the spirit leads. Finally, it creates ignorant answers and responses to very complicated issues that do not need spiritualized answers.
This is not meant to offend but to inform.
Taking Scripture Out-Of-Context
Christians taking scripture out-of-context is as common as dirt, unfortunately. Verses like Philippians 4:13, Jeremiah 29:11, Luke 4:18-19, and Matthew 5:18 are often used on bookmarks, bumper stickers, and even cited as some Christian's favorite Bible verses, but these four and many others are often taken out of context in a wild variety of ways.
When something complicated enters the Christian bubble, it is all too common for most of the church people to whip out their Bibles and try to find appropriate verses to provide clarity to the complicated situation or possibly even provide a clear answer. This has been the process for an incredibly long time, and it has been a major reason why Christianity is falling behind in understanding topics like mental illness, addiction, sexuality, doubt, loneliness, and many others.
Christians tend to be too quick to dive into scripture and find verses that make some kind of connection to the topic at hand, despite many of the listed topics not existing in the Bible at all.
Instead of a lot of the perceived problems of today being seen through rational eyes, many Christians tend to project God and the devil into any and every situation. Topics like psychology, psychiatry, and mental illness can be completely written off as "of the world", "evil", or "crafted by the devil". Mental illness is still seen by many Christians today as a modern word of demon possession, because the closest thing in scripture that relates to mental disorders is unfortunately demons and possession.
Approaches like this prevent Christians from truly discovering the advancements of the sciences and medication. It was barely over 300 years when the Salem Witch Trials were happening, and this was Christianity's approach to the unknown back then. Here we are 300 years later, and although things are not quite as barbaric as they were during the times of Salem, the Christian approach to understanding the unknown through bizarre, out-of-context Biblical analysis has not changed much, sadly.
If you are about to pull out that memory verse or refer to the Bible to prove something, it may be wise to stop yourself in your tracks and actually read those verses in context before throwing them out there.
Absolute Rights and Wrongs
The "leading of the spirit" is a very common expression in Christian communities, and it usually implies that God is communicating to the individual that something needs to be done or something needs to be stopped.
In many contexts, this can be a great means for growth. Unfortunately, not all of these rivers contain gold.
It is through personal conviction that subjective rights and wrongs can be communicated in such a way that they are seen as objective. Looking at the Billy Graham Rule, for example, we see one man's personal conviction projected to his leadership and eventually to his masses that states that men should avoid spending time alone with any woman to whom they are not married.
For Billy Graham and for many men, this conviction is both good and right, and I commend their approach to protect themselves from potential inappropriate behavior. However, this began a dialog in the church that men are always looking for sex, and eventually, all men in the church were viewed as animals with uncontrollable urges, despite this clearly not being true. It was through Billy Graham's massive influence in the Protestant church system that this became a new church rule across most Protestant churches, and it is still applied heavily to this day, even something that is strongly followed by Donald Trump's Vice President, Mike Pence.
The influence of religious and charismatic leaders has created a lot of unbiblical rights and wrongs within the church, and it has really shaped the way we think about certain things relating to politics, dating, entertainment, and drinking alcohol, just to name a few. All of those topics and many others do not have absolute answers, and yet, many Christians and churches are quick to put absolute stickers all over the discussion.
If the spirit is leading you to vote a certain way or view something with a particular set of eyes, that does not mean that you need to make everyone around you follow your lead. At the end of the day, your convictions and opinions are yours and they do not deserve to be hoisted on to someone else's lap because the spirit led you.
Remember that there were hundreds of thousands of Jews and Gentiles throughout the Old and New Testament, and only about 85 of these people were considered prophets, someone who revealed God's messages to others.
If you do not consider yourself among that elite grouping of prophets, it may be wise to be more reserved about forcing your spiritual convictions and opinions on the world around you.
It is quite sad that we live in a time where Christians are considered insensitive, mean, rude, and judgmental. This really contradicts the command Jesus gave in John 13:34-35, which states:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus taught to love others the way that he loved. This and the Golden Rule go hand-in-hand in many ways, and they are valuable lessons that can truly help us to become better people all around.
However, the common Christian approach to depression, for example, speaks exactly the opposite. Many Christians see people with depression as individuals who do not trust in God enough. Other Christians see people with depression as not spiritual enough, not reading their Bible enough, or not praying enough. The reasoning for the depression is not because of a chemical imbalance in the brain, these Christians truly believe it is a spiritual matter and only a spiritual matter.
This is why so many people with mental illnesses in the church do not openly talk about it, because they inherently know that they are going to be immediately mislabeled and misunderstood.
It is all too common for Christians to tell these people things like "Just snap out of it", "you need to think more positively", "I've been through worse", "God won't give you more than what you can handle", and "Confess your sin! Joy is the mark of a clean slate". These kinds of statements are not only ignorant of the matter at hand, but they are extremely insensitive.
Although the intention behind these kinds of statements is generally positive, it is the blaring ignorance that can quite possibly do irreparable damage.
In situations where you are facing someone struggling with something unknown, it is wise to not offer advice but to embrace, love unconditionally, and offer any support that you can.
It Is Okay To Relax
Another practice in the Christian faith that tends to go unchecked is always being on, but it is absolutely okay to turn off and relax.
If you are faced with any of the above situations, please do not feel like you need to have an immediate answer or understanding. Some times personal convictions take time, and there is no shame in that.
In faith, some times the spirit does not answer for days, weeks, or even years, and that is also fine. We need to be mentally ready to receive answers and to not receive answers, and both actions take a lot of strength and discipline to achieve.
With that said, wisdom is how we respond in times the spirit is not leading. As Solomon taught in Proverbs 29:11;
Fools give full vent to their rage,
but the wise bring calm in the end.
It is the foolish behavior of many Christians that has the world seeing the church as insensitive, mean, rude, and judgmental. This is why it is so important today for Christians to learn how to be calm, relax, and rely on wisdom when the spirit does not have a clear answer instead of defaulting to an out-of-context Bible verse, making an unfounded absolute claim, or responding poorly or insensitively.
So be wise in how you relate to the world, because some times the spirit does not lead.
It expects better of you.
© 2019 Jason Reid Capp
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on October 29, 2020:
Yes I am doing well and I really appreciate that article because it is full of truth.
Jason Reid Capp (author) from Tokyo, Japan on October 29, 2020:
@Cheryl E Preston
Thank you so much for commenting! It has been a while since I have written for Hubpages, but I still really enjoy reading others' articles. Hope you are doing well!
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on October 29, 2020:
Agreed. If the Lord does not speak we should not pull out a familiar scripture and just quote it
Jason Reid Capp (author) from Tokyo, Japan on August 31, 2019:
It is amazing how quickly many Christians think something is spiritual. It's what makes certain Catholics see the image of Jesus (albeit a very European-looking Jesus) in the clouds, formed from a shadow, or even on a piece of toast. This is over-spiritualizing to the extreme, but it happens so often that it is easy to miss it in a modern day church setting.
"I talked to Jesus today, and he told me to tell you..." for example, is a bizarre comment that some Christians use as a means of convicting certain individuals. Instead of just simply confronting them, the situation gets masked with something over-spiritualized, and it is sadly hard to take it seriously from there.
This is absolutely a tactic of Westboro as well, but it is a lot more common than we'd like to admit.
Thank you for your thoughts and insight. It is great to have discussion about these topics, and I look forward to more.
Tony Muse from Texas, USA on August 30, 2019:
Yes, this goes on quite often. Many insist that mental illness, homosexuality, those who commit mass murders and even sicknesses to be faith driven or demon possession. While we can't discount those possibilities, we also have to acknowledge that our brains and bodies are not all the same or by any means, perfect.
I have often had people tell me "the holy spirit revealed this to me", when it was most likely their preacher instead. The Westboro Baptist Church is a prime example of extreme theology from narrow-minded Christians.
Jason Reid Capp (author) from Tokyo, Japan on August 05, 2019:
Thank you so much for the encouragement, good sir. It's just crazy how much modern day Christians inject spirituality into EVERYTHING.
Do you remember the days when Pokemon was "the devil"? I sure do. haha. Even to this day, someone saw that I play Pokemon GO with my son, and they thought I was introducing him to "the occult".
It is in this insane spirituality that disconnects Christianity from many people around the world. It is awful how the message of Jesus is not even the first thing people think of when they hear the word "Christian".
And yet, here we are.
Vincent Ravencroft on August 05, 2019:
I'm thankful that I have a church and people around me who don't practice dismissing medicine and psychology as a purely spiritual issue, but I've definitely had verses given to me out of context.
The family of a good friend of mine attends a Filipino church where medicine and science are looked down upon as being inferior to the Bible, as they seem to take everything in it at it's literal word. As the only other Christian I met in my department, hearing his experience hurt my heart. Being in that environment even made him consider leaving his faith behind all together!
Thanks for publishing this hub, Jason. It's very well measured and says exactly what needs to be said.