How I Made Worm Theology Work FOR ME!

"Worm Theology" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Worm Theology” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Worm Theology “is a term used for the idea in Christian culture that in light of God’s holiness and power an appropriate emotion is a low view of self. Some might suggest that because of this view God is more likely to show mercy and compassion” (Wikipedia).

I practiced this thoroughly. But then, through the help of a spiritual director I am forever indebted to, I began to realize that even with all my faults and weaknesses, I am a wonderful human being and a great person. I realized that we are all a mixture of light and darkness, strength and weakness, good and evil. There is wonder in this diversity.

It was sort of a progression from I am a terrible worm to I am a wonderful worm to hey who told me I was a worm in the first place?!

Did you know there’s no official name for a group of worms?

And would you like to join a group of non-worms? We call it The Lasting Supper.


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15 Responses

  1. Sabio Lantz says:

    “Did you know there’s no official name for a group of worms?”

    That is because worms don’t hang in groups. Maybe if they had religion, they’d find something to bond over.

  2. Google it. They do! And I’ve seen it. The most common is “bunch” or “bed”.

  3. Sabio Lantz says:

    Oh, that is funny — maybe they do have a religion then.

    But now on to the point of your post.
    People who identify as Christians vary hugely in how they hold stuff. The vast majority, I imagine, are really nonbelievers (see my post, “Most Christians don’t Believe“.

    But you and I, and many people who visit this blog, really did try to get our beliefs right (whereas most self-proclaimed Christians don’t do that at all). And for us “Worm Theology” was part of it. It is a cool name, never heard it. So I decided to “google it” and not worms, if you don’t mind — I’ll just take your word on the bunch or bed of worms.

    And this Christianity Today article contrasts Worm Theology and Worth Theology. And concerning Worth Theology he says, ” an emphasis on human worth inevitably moves our focus away from God, ”

    So, of course this is all easily solved by not having a god or spirit of any sort to which to compare ourselves or from whom to get any value, but for got-to-get-my-beliefs-right Christians, this is no small issue, apparently. And for those Christians, their source of knowledge is their holy anthology (“The Bible”) and so they would have to string together bible verses to prove themselves a valid worm vs a valid worth believer. I too remember trying to think myself lowly in those days. But my change was not to change my theology, but to stop pretending to talk to and imagine an spirit in the sky who gave a shit. Reality therapy, I guess.

    Thanx for the introduction to this topic. Maybe I will add it to my theology chart that shows my favorite types of Christians.

  4. Brigitte says:

    Luther said it even better: we are stinking sacks of maggots.

    He did have a certain manner of speech. But we say it with a laugh. It is freeing to let go of all self-justification and defensiveness.

  5. Sabio Lantz says:

    Yeah, I think I remember Luther being one of those self-flagellation guys.
    I lived in a Pakistani village where that took place occasionally too.

    If Luther really thought he was a stinking sack of maggots, why did he hate Jews so much — what could be worse? Such wonderful role models.

  6. Dan says:

    It’s not difficult to see how worm theology came about. Convince people they’re in desperate need of help and then tell them you know the solution. They’ll keep coming back because you’ve made them sufficiently afraid for their own well-being. You can even use what’s going on in their lives to convince them of their need. Play on their emotions. Leverage from their pain and brokenness. Also teach them not to trust their own intuition. Teach them that that’s being prideful and in fact contributing to the problem. Tell them if you think for yourself you’re arrogant and being like God. And then you’ve got them good, because not only have you made them sufficiently afraid for their own well-being, but you’ve taught them not to think for their self. In fact, their faith is not really their own because it’s not something they’ve accepted after critical reflection. (After all, don’t think about it, because thinking for yourself will lead you astray!) Like Sabio says, they don’t actually really believe it. Like marionettes they just go with it.

    The truth is probably somewhere in between “I’m a piece of shit” and “I’m God”.

  7. Brigitte says:

    Self-justification and defensiveness is what I read in these pages, a lot. Look how stupid, mean, manipulated, bigoted, broken all these other people are. But not we.

  8. Sabio Lantz says:

    I, for one, am not a moral relativist. Some people are bigger bigots, more violent, more abusive than others. We don’t want to ignore the extremes and not address wrongs just because we share any trace of them. THAT seems like justification.

  9. Brigitte says:

    Lately, in interactions, I wonder why Jews I have met online, hate Christians so much, and why have they hated Christ so much, and why do they feel so free to twist scripture and use whatever sources to make arguments they like. I watched a talk by a Jewish woman rabbi the other day to other Jewish women, where she even quoted Hitler to explain the specialness of the Jewish race. It did baffle me.

  10. Sabio Lantz says:

    Wow, said just like your hero Luther. No comment needed.

  11. Brigitte says:

    I grew up Lutheran pietist, they were extremely pro-Jewish. God said “they are the apple of my eye”, we used to say. But, as I said, interaction on the Internet is disabusing me of some sentimentality. Still I love them and I wish for them to have their own country, as they desire. But I think the view that the Messiah is still coming to be an earthly king to rule and throw out the literal enemies is unfortunate. The “everlasting covenant” is not something primarily materialistic, as anything materialistic is not “everlasting” but temporary.

  12. Brigitte says:

    Jesus said that their generation would remain to the end of times, and it is amazing to see that that has happened in spite of everything. I am glad for it.

  13. Brigitte says:

    Sorry, I have to say one more thing. It came to me that it was the Psalmist who said “I am a worm not a man”. It is in Psalm 22, read on Good Friday. We see here the suffering Messiah, pierced and all. Hands and feet. Christians read this as Christ praying. This would also be in contradistinction to the Messiah who comes as a conquering hero of worldly power. We have to sort of choose our masters here. Something to do with humility and suffering, or something to do with worldly power. Jesus is counter-intuitive.

  14. I don’t think there’s anything unhealthy with occasionally feeling like a worm. I do think it’s unhealthy to constantly and perpetually to feel you are one. A bag full of maggots… okay when you’re down once in a while, but not as a permanent mindset. I think the psalmist may have been experiencing an all-time low. True humility is an honest estimation of who you are… too lowly is false humility, too highly is pride. We’re not always worms or bags of maggots. Sometimes we truly shine like stars in the universe.

  15. Brigitte says:

    The Psalms are a good reflection of that entire spectrum of experience.