Are you so angry at the church you could spit nails?

"Spit Nails" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Spit Nails” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Anger is messy.

No other post I’ve ever done has received as much attention as Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What Came First, the Thug or the Theology? It has enjoyed almost 30,000 views and at this point has reached over 750 comments.

I’m a firm believer in the fact that if people are given a safe space to express themselves, they will. For many, it takes some time to build up enough courage to risk it because too many times they’ve been invited to share, only to receive a negative backlash. However, on nakedpastor they’ve been free to tell their stories, give their opinions, and express their emotions and thoughts unfettered.

For the most part it is a civil conversation. There’s anger. There’s mess. There’s discomfort. There’s eye-openers. There’s demands. There’s apologies. There’s forgiveness. There’s rebuke. There’s denial. There’s… well… you get the point. Even though the comments are very emotional, for the most part they are also very intelligent. If you take the time to go through it in it’s entirety, it makes a fascinating read.

I’d been a pastor for about 30 years. I’ve blogged on nakedpastor for 9 years. I’ve hosted our online community The Lasting Supper for 2 years. In every place, I’ve tried to provide this safe space for people to process their stuff without fear of censor or censure. It’s always messy and uncomfortable. It is always confusing and chaotic. But it is always fruitful and therefore temporary.

In every case, those who needed to talk…

  • appreciated that they could
  • loved the space
  • were grateful for the process

Those who are accused or who care more about propriety than process…

  • always despised and judged those who were sharing
  • abhorred and belittled the space,
  • avoided and dismissed the process.

In. Every. Case.

The same thing happened on that post. You can see it plain as day.

Let me get personal.

Say Lisa gets angry with me. She’s livid! Justifiably so. And she comes at me with it. What do I do? Do I say, “Ew, I’m uncomfortable! I don’t appreciate how your voice sounds! Do you have to do this here? Now? Can we get a neutral mediator? Calm down! Your feelings are too overwhelming for me! I want you to talk to me on my terms! Calm down!”

I’ll tell you now, if I did anything like that, even remotely, it would send her through the roof! When she’s angry because of something I’ve done, I’ve lost my right to tell her how to talk to me… a right I never had to begin with. I have lost the right to tell her to leash her emotions and her mode of expression… a right I never had to begin with. It makes her angrier because it repeats the original offense, which is usually disrespect or disregard.

I don’t like it when she’s angry, but when she can feel and express it naturally, the way she wants, directly, then this is the first step to repair. It’s always worked so far.

This is why I am passionate about providing similar spaces. People get healed! And sometimes relationships too.

That’s what ultimately matters.

I’m inviting you to join The Lasting Supper. Some have as a result of the Jones/ Driscoll post. Check it out!

CLICK HERE –> The Lasting Supper.

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15 Responses

  1. Sabio Lantz says:

    The former Christian in me wants to say: “Jesus never spit nails, he accepted them.”
    But then, that is part of why I am no longer a Christian.
    Good post, David.

  2. ya i thought something similar

  3. ttm says:

    My mind makes weird connections; and your post about spitting nails has me connecting with a bit of information that’s been rolling around in my head since I learned of it a couple of days ago.

    I just started reading the book, “We Lived in a Little Cabin in the Yard,” which contains several first hand accounts of African American slaves from the Virginia, US area. One of the accounts mentioned a type of medicine used by doctors and especially plantation owners in the mid 1800s. It was called “vinegar nail” and was made by soaking a pound of iron nails in a jug of vinegar. Slaves who were lethargic, fatigued, or who complained of feeling ill were forced to drink the concoction.

    Perhaps the residual iron from the nails did have some effect upon the symptoms (medicine has since proven the link between increased iron intake and better functioning red blood cells which leads to better oxygen intake and more efficient energy use), but I have to wonder how truly healthy it was to make a human being drink a potion that is still used as a homemade wood stain or in some cases a plant growth product.

    Anyway, I when I saw your cartoon and read your post this morning, I had this image of church leaders forcing members to “drink the Koolaid/Vinegar Nail” and then all the little microscopic bits of iron coming together in the church members’ gullets to create the nails they have to eventually spit in order to free the body of harmful foreign objects. And then I sat there with the image of a formerly sick, now healthy, but with a sore throat from spitting out rusty nails, church member (or former church member) sitting there holding the bloodied nails and thinking “Should I crucify or should I build?”

    Just my wacky two cents … 🙂

  4. Lyonside says:

    The biologist in me wonders if the increased iron/red blood cell connection has anything to do with sickle cell anemia, a primary factor of which is fatigue and pain.

    That said, I love the analogy.

  5. Rhonda says:

    @ Sabio and David, Jesus was executed. He didn’t exactly “take” the nails as one would “take one for the team.” I have heard enough about Jesus dying for the sin of the world lately (I went to church last week with a friend) . I love the idea of transcendence, having visions, and tapping into the unseen, but my thought is that Jesus came to bring Christ consciousness rather than to be a Messiah or the savior of the world. (Suddenly, Jonathan Edwards’ SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD comes to mind). Jesus came to show the way, not to be the way. (Thanks for the space to rant!)

  6. mike says:

    “And then I sat there with the image of a formerly sick, now healthy, but with a sore throat from spitting out rusty nails, church member (or former church member) sitting there holding the bloodied nails and thinking “Should I crucify or should I build?” (TTM)

    Wow TTM, that’s one of the more profound analogies that I think I’ve ever read on this topic of residual bitterness. I can’t yet seem to make the necessary transition out of the crucifying mode into the more charitable “build” disposition. I understand full well that unless I can properly let this bitterness go in a timely manner, it will gradually poison my spirit …. easier said than done.

  7. Lydia says:

    Well, Jesus sort of did spit nails with viper and whitewashed tombs and cleaning out the temple.

    Anyhoo, My experience with spiritual abuse is that one cannot properly heal until they find a safe place. They are often surrounded by people who either don’t believe them or tell them to get over it fast. So many times it becomes much bigger than the actual abuse. it is more abuse heaped on by those looking the other way, accusing the abused of lying/gossip/smear or even well meaning friends saying, get over it.

    They desperately need a safe place to process it.

  8. Pat Pope says:

    I was talking to a woman at church this morning about her daughter’s health and recent diagnosis. She told me how she was talking to her grandson to find out how he was feeling and he told her he was angry–angry at his mother and just angry. His grandmother told him that sometimes when we’re scared, it comes out as anger. She said he told her, “Thank you!” and just dissolved into her arms. It’s like she went right to the heart of what was troubling him. I think that’s true with other emotions of discomfort–they come out as anger sometimes. In the Church, we might be scared of something, but all too often, we’re hurt and it manifests in anger. And then sometimes we feel like the world is spinning out of control and sometimes we actually are just angry because of mistreatment or injustice. Whatever it is, it’s okay. Like that woman’s grandson, there’s power in being able to name it. Then you can deal with it. No longer is there an unknown driving you–you know that you’re angry, bitter, hurt, etc. and now you can deal with it an appropriate manner.

  9. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Rhonda
    Yeah, I hate atonement theologies in general too.
    But you said, “Jesus came to show the way,…”
    What way was that? And how did he show it?
    In contrast to all kinds of other fine people in the world?

  10. “Calm down! Your feelings are too overwhelming for me! I want you to talk to me on my terms!”

    That’s exactly what I got last time I tried to deal with the issues between me and one of my abusers. He wrote:

    “I feel that your communications to us are disrespectful and harassing and I ask that you please stop such correspondence. I will not be responding to any future communications that I consider to be inappropriate in this way.”

  11. Interesting Living Liminal. That’s pretty much the same thing some people said in the Jones Driscoll post.

  12. Sabio Lantz says:

    Interestingly, have worked in Emergency and Urgent medical setting for decades, I have seen many different styles of communications in very hot settings. And indeed, sometimes it takes strong, aggressive language to get through to people — especially those in power. On the other hand, I have seen neurosis manifest in chronic out-of-control communication. It is very difficult for me to separate the two at times. But in a hospital setting, we can’t let chaos rule. Nor can we let personality disorders have their ways in our personal lives. I wish there were nice clean sayings or pithy aphorisms to sum up the answer, but there isn’t.

  13. David, I’ve seen many, many similarities between my experience and the Driscoll one. It’s like there’s a “how to” text book of church abuse!

  14. Yes. It’s like it’s scripted.

  15. Rob Lentz says:

    I personally have benefitted so much from folks who have created spaces for me to be…me. You’re one of them, David – Thank You. The thing about feelings, I’ve learned – and heard others express so well – is that they demand to be felt. To stuff them only produces larger problems later. Spit nails, indeed. There is no getting around feelings…we go through them…sooner or later.