Ghosting In the Machine

This post has nothing to do with Gilbert Ryle, or Arthur Koestler, or the English rock band, The Police. It has to do with something that goes on among Christians far too often within the “machine” we call the “church.”

Benjamin Corey at Patheos has an excellent piece on the practice of Christian “ghosting.” The term refers to  the act of cutting people out of your life overnight without a second glance behind you. If you’ve been “ghosted”, you cease to exist to those involved.

Corey’s article describes how this happened to him in his church fellowship and what the fallout was for him and his family. Once you are labeled, those who disagree with you on any number of issues can then discard you with ease. In many churches, there is no concept of co-existing with those who have divergent views. I’m not talking about views on cardinal doctrine, I am talking about things like gun ownership, length of hair on either gender, clothing choices, types of music listened to, education or vaccines—that sort of thing. Oh, and people will ghost you on secondary or tertiary doctrinal issues as well, like age at baptism, Christian “Sabbath” keeping, election and predestination, etc. etc.

I spoke once, this was about 12 years ago, to a family in the UK. They had helped to found a church in North America that became very large. Their family suffered a terrible wrong at the hands of one of the church members. Because the victimizer was a family member of an elder, the wagons were circled, the perpetrator was protected, and the church family, of one accord, turned on the victim with blame. Both parents took turns on the phone describing the horror of going from church founders,  beloved members of a church community, to pariahs. To be seen at a local mall and to have backs turned on you, people who once supposedly loved and cared for you is devastating. The couple and their family ended up leaving to return to their home in the UK.  It was a multi-layered tragedy., the fallout of which continued through the years in their family.

Lack of love and respect for others within what calls itself Christianity is a recurring theme at this blog. Daily, I am reminded of the damage done when sinful conduct towards others not only goes on, but is even passed off as piety. “We separated from the terrible compromisers!” Or, “We removed the leaven from among us!”  Actually, you attempted to cover the stench of your spiritual rot with the more powerful stench of your sanctimony.  But don’t let that get in the way of your act, ghosters.

The absence of a conscience on these matters is the hallmark of our times.  I often ask myself if those who have “ghosted” our family ever have a thought in the night of what they did.  Do they ever lie awake and feel an ounce of shame? What excuses do they tell themselves to justify what they did when we had done nothing to them? I can say with confidence that they don’t think of it.  If you have love, it compels you to right wrongs. If you fear the Lord in the right way, you can’t leave things unsettled for years on end. Shame, the right kind of shame you feel when you’ve done something bad to someone else, has to kick in at some point, and it makes you yearn for things to be right. That’s if you have a conscience.

It’s odd how the verse in Scripture about the loss of natural affection in the Last Days is frequently used by fundamentalist Christians  to describe things like aborting or otherwise abusing a child, a parent against child, a child against parent. We see this all over the headlines. But the most blatant loss of natural affection for each other as believers is ignored. That’s also a sign of the perilous times the Scriptures speak of.  No shame in treating your fellow Christians badly. No conscience on things that matter most—being right with other people around you.

I’ve said this many times before, and I’ll say it again.  The moaning about the exodus of young adults from evangelical and fundamental churches misses the most obvious cause for the departure. The forms of religion continue – but the power of God is gone. Where God’s power is, there is forgiveness. There is love for each other that is not easily wiped out. There is the right kind of tolerance–tolerance that allows the Holy Spirit to do the work in the lives of others,  tolerance that accepts differences of opinion, that doesn’t sit back and judge the motives and tastes of fellow Christians as though we alone have it right on every single issue.

You can mark it down. Wherever there is humility and reconciliation, that is where the Lord is present. Most churches today, I don’t care what stripe or label they claim, are operating by the power of the flesh. That includes many churches that thunder against the moral issues in the world while ignoring the weightier matters of cannibalism within their own ranks. That is why the landscape spiritually is so bleak. Hearts softened by the living Lord are moved to forgive.  They are moved with genuine concern, not about church growth—but about the well being of people.  That’s where healing is. That’s where joy is. And that’s the kind of living Christianity that will attract rather than repel.

13 thoughts on “Ghosting In the Machine

  1. Lynn says:

    “If you have love, it compels you to right wrongs. If you fear the Lord in the right way, you can’t leave things unsettled for years on end. Shame, the right kind of shame you feel when you’ve done something bad to someone else, has to kick in at some point, and it makes you yearn for things to be right. That’s if you have a conscience.”

    Believers have gone cold and callous. I’ve said it for years. Most believe that as long as you confess your sins to God that is the end of your responsibility. Like if you shoplifted all you have to do is repent, but then you get to keep the stolen goods. Genuine, sincere love in a lot of churches is rare these days. I think righting wrongs where appropriate keeps your heart tender, and i think it helps these behaviors from becoming repeating patterns. Otherwise one become no different from the average narcissisis or psychopath.

  2. Jamie Carter says:

    I’m terrible at keeping in touch with people – it was never a skill I learned to pick up. I just don’t think of the little niceties – my phone use over a year’s time is barely an hour, I constantly change up my e-mails so I lose track of who has which ones, and I can’t remember the last time I had an actual friendship. So when I lose touch with my church, it’s really nothing. Nobody was that close to me to begin with and I don’t think anyone would miss me all that much.

  3. Wallace Revels says:

    Not much else needs to be said. But to answer the question of whether the enforcers ever feel guilt or regret, the answer is no. They are “high capacity” people climbing the ladder of egocentrism. They lack empathy of any kind. At least that is how it appears to me. We’ve had some of these issues arise before, but I learned most by observing it happening to others (after they mentioned this to me and asked for help).

  4. Nancy Whiting says:

    I think it’s inevitable that the love of the brethren becomes cold in these times, else why would Paul have admonished those who were lacking and praised those who exhibited it? Why would Jesus have said it’s the second of two commandments? In my own opinion, I see the advent of technology to have a large part to play in the waxing cold of believers toward one another. Television, the Internet, social media particularly, and even microwave ovens have turned our hearts away from loving and tolerating one another’s differing opinions and focusing on relationship-building to instant judgment and snubbing. We don’t “have time” to invest in others, to build those relationships in the body of Christ, in our churches. We don’t have the patience to work things through and examine the truth anymore. Everything is “NOW,” including unbiblical judging, easy condemnation, shunning and refusal to understand or mediate a Christ-like resolution.

    These are difficult days, and we must stand firm in faith and love. What else can we do? Only God can change hearts. Let’s look to our own hearts and examine ourselves daily to see where we stand and how we treat others.

  5. Ingrid says:

    I had a dream a couple of years ago that I entered a restaurant. Every seat in the restaurant was taken and I was wandering down the aisle trying to find a place to sit. Every person at every table was someone I had once known or worked with, Christian people I knew. I kept thinking one of them would move over and let me sit down as I stood by the end of the table. But one after another turned their face away and kept talking like they had never known me, eating, passing plates. As is so often the case, you can see but not speak in dreams. I kept trying to get the words out audibly. “I know you, remember me? Do you remember me?” but I couldn’t get the words out. Voice was gone. I remembered that dream when I wrote this post today. Ghosts don’t have voices anyway. It was an odd thing to dream, but like more than one of my crazy dreams, it had the ring of truth to it.

  6. healinginhim says:

    I can relate to your dream, Ingrid. You’ve probably had people avoid you in real life, too.
    In my small community I have had some cross the street when they see me coming. They don’t even want to pass by me and make small talk. Usually, it’s because I’ve questioned the heresy within the church or have been “honest” why I do not want to participate in a Beth Moore Bible Study.
    I must conform to their church programs or I just don’t exist.

  7. Rose says:

    What you posted here made me think of the recent controversery over James White. How quickly certain Christians have just branded him as a non-believer and say he needs to be ‘turned over to Satan’ for having a discussion with a Muslim imam. And then others have quickly piled on as well without first trying to understand White’s side of the issue. It has been heartbreaking to witness. These are hard times. We not only been battered by the world…which we do expect. But coming from those who are supposed to be family in the Lord…it is almost unbearable. I am so sorry for what you have gone through, Ingrid, and the others who have commented here. How can we win the lost to Christ when we cannot even bear with, love, and forgive each other?

  8. Carolyn says:

    “If you have love, it compels you to right wrongs. If you fear the Lord in the right way, you can’t leave things unsettled for years on end.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Appreciated many of the comments as well. This is a tragic truth, for sure.

  9. Denise says:

    Conformity to the rules of the day is what it’s all about. Nothing biblical about it. Step outside the designated area only to discover that your relationship with your church and its leaders was just smoke and mirrors. The irony of stepping over and discarding fellow believers over a minor personal preference, while urging more outreach with missions around the world. Still trying to let that sink in.

  10. Henry says:

    It’s touching how Christians hurt other people with the isolation and ostracisizing, but think how it is if you are outside the church norm in other ways. Single people can be pretty put out in a family-focused culture. And if you have some other issue that sets you apart, such as if you struggle with same-sex attraction, you can fee very different despite how much you are striving to be a solid follower. Even worse if others decide that this itself makes you undesirable or suspicious.

  11. Linn says:

    It seems like most of what calls itself “Christian” in todays world is not the Real Deal. The Great Apostasy is in full swing. You shall know them by their fruit! Do they fear God, submit their entire lives to The Lord Jesus Christ, and endeavor to Obey the Holy Bible? Maranatha!!!

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