A Personal Relationship with Jesus

Jesus_Relationship

Lots of Christians “have a personal relationship with Jesus” — whatever that means.  I wrote a post describing the folly of such an expressions here called “Jesus is an Imaginary Friend”.  Google ngram searches millions of digitized texts to find word frequency.  The diagram above shows the faddishness of the expression “personal relationship with Jesus”.  Interestingly, those that use this are usually big Bible quoters — but I find no mention of such a thing in the Bible.

15 Comments

Filed under Philosophy & Religion

15 responses to “A Personal Relationship with Jesus

  1. Given the timing, I suspect this is a response to the “crisis of relevance” American Christianity experienced in the 1960s. Going to church because it was what one did no longer made sense. On the other hand, the “problems of modernity” became increasingly acute—among them, feelings of meaninglessness and disconnection. So Christianity was remarketed as giving you a direct magical connection with the source of all meaning.

    It occurs to me that this is an essentially Romantic (emotive, magical) conception of religion. It opposed the hippie movement and subsequent Green Meme developments, but actually shared the same logic.

  2. Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here, but big Bible quoters have been known to order Diet Cokes, another thing not mentioned in the Bible. Just a nitpick. To your bigger point, it is interesting how religious folk can take words/phrases and imbue them with different/bigger meaning. It enhances communication (I guess) within the club, but impairs communication with those not of the club. To me, it reminds me of how some people treat a flag as if it were a country, rather than just a symbol made of durable fabric.

    That said, the Depeche Mode song “Personal Jesus” has often been my favorite because of how naughty it sounds, even years from any kind of religious practice/interest/belief. Having lived entirely within the upwards sloping recent trend, I guess it makes some sense.

  3. When I was in elementary school my family moved around several times, leading to social isolation and difficulty making close friends. As a baptized and church-going Lutheran at the time, I was of course taught that Jesus loved me personally, and that I had a relationship with him. On a bookshelf I still have in the basement, where I wrote things like “Def Leppard Rocks,” “AC/DC” and put Star Wars and Superman stickers, there’s still a little heart I drew with “A + J” inside, for my loving relationship with Jesus. That was about the time I was also trying to use the Force to move things with my mind.
    Now I wonder more about the neurochemistry of imagining the love from a god. I’m pretty sure that there is a placebo-type response which includes dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, etc. Jesuscebo? This should be similar in all religions. But it seems that there is usually a flip side to the positive feelings (guilt, shame, anxiety, superstitious/magical thinking).
    Later, after letting go of Christianity and exploring other esoteric traditions, I spent more time working with the notion of True Will and Higher Self, including a lot of self-talk to overcome the ‘lower self’ and let the ‘higher self’ provide direction and inspiration in life. This is somewhat less damaging than an external imaginary friend, but still creates a strange internal schism. The basic idea that ‘normal’ consciousness isn’t healthy, spiritual, or enough can exacerbate self esteem issues.
    Internal seeking of a deeper/higher consciousness to communicate with may be useful in developing introspection, self-control, and focus on long-term goals rather than short-term self indulgence. Or it may be mostly a waste of time which can turn into mental illness. I’m interested in others’ thoughts on the matter.

  4. @ David Chapman,
    Fantastic analysis. Thanx for that. That was exactly where I was at in 1971 — it took me several years to see behind my motivations and how God and Jesus were life rafts in those seas. And, as my posts about my magical experiences described, I was certainly predisposed to that.

    @ Orange,
    (1) You supposed nitpicking is off base. I think you are pointing towards a logical fallacy that I did not make. Big Bible quoters (BBQ) pride themselves in the Biblical foundations of their religious beliefs — and the Bible does not mention a “personal relationship with Jesus” and so, that belief, which is central to their evangelism and more, is not Biblically based. Or am I missing something.

    (2) I found Depech Mode’s Personal Jesus here — fantastic ! Thx

  5. I hate expressions like this. You’re right, there is no such indication we are to have a “personal relationship” with Jesus. We are called to be His disciples and believe that He is the Messiah. The NT never talks about having or expecting “spiritual feelings”

  6. @Sabio, if I were quote-mining or even just looking at this article alone, it could look like a logical fallacy or just an incomplete statement. Why? You didn’t explicitly link the points as: “1) All belief comes from the bible, 2) Personal Jesus is a belief. 3) It doesn’t come from the bible. Therefore, CONTRADICTION!” In the context of the linked article, the fallacy falls away. I didn’t believe the fallacy was your true feeling, but it appeared as a fallacy to me. I’ll concede that it wasn’t.

  7. @ Abel,
    Great self-analysis.
    As for your question. I suggest you start a blog and then post that question there. David Chapman’s blog on Meaningness touches on these topics (see above). You may try there — he is a superb writer and very insightful.

    @ John Barron,
    Indeed, the Jesus-as-a-feeling theology is not present in all flavors of Christianity.
    But I know many who would agree that he called people to be his disciple, but it was later writers who asked that people “believe” that he was a spiritualized version of the promised Jewish Messiah.
    To me, “Believism” is just as silly as “Feeling-ism”, where as discipleship can make lots of sense.

    @ Orange,
    Glad the linked article helped the apparent fallacy you were seeing.

  8. When my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor, we were approached by otherwise well-meaning people who asked him how was his relationship with Jesus. At the time we belonged to a church, but we couldn’t see what business that was to others, nor what that had to do with a brain tumor. Finally, I asked this one particularly obnoxious neighbor what she meant by the question. She fumbled a bit—I don’t think she’d ever given it any thought—but said at last that she hoped my husband’s faith in the Good Lord would give him comfort. I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “If the Lord is so good, why would he allow my husband to have something so horrible as a brain tumor?” I should mention the members of our own church were extremely kind and helped us during his illness, but after he died, I dropped out. That question about a Jesus or omnipotent deity who loved us so much he would take a young father from his three small children hung over me for years. Even now, I have trouble perceiving of any divine power as being friendly or “nice,” like some small-town Midwestern pastor offering to help me fix a flat tire or carry my groceries into the house.

  9. @ Hangaku,
    Thanks for sharing. That woman reflexively used that phrase, of course. Or she meant by it the simple “believism” that John Barron above most likely meant. “Believe and you will be saved [and comforted and have a meaningful afterlife …]”
    It is pathetic thinking.
    Thanks again Hangaku

  10. Ugh. I hate this phrase. There is no such thing as a “personal lord and savior.” There’s such things as “personal toothbrush” and “personal deodorant.” I mean what ownership. Imagine if I ran around saying “Sabio is my personal atheist.”

    I think what this phrase means (once again spawned during the rise of the evangelical right), is that one is on board with Jesus is talking about. But it’s come to be a hurtful boundary marker. “are you with the program? or do you need to be assimilated?”

  11. I’ve always found the concept of a “personal relationship” with a deity puzzling. When I was a Catholic, piety was about reciting prayer-formulas and trying (in vain) to obey all of the arbitrary rules set out for believers. God was never a presence who interacted with me. How on earth does someone have a relationship with an invisible being who doesn’t communicate with them in any fashon?

    I’ve known evangelicals who do claim that God was a strongly felt presence who interacted with them, but for many reasons I suspect that these experiences resulted from overactive imaginations. Just my two cents.

    @ Hangaku Gozen — I’m sorry to hear that those believers treated you and your spouse so insensitively. Unfortunately, there are plenty of believers who see others’ misfortune as an opportunity to proselytize. The fact that one of the believers couldn’t give you a straight answer about what a “personal relationship” with God is was very revealing.

  12. @Ahab– Funny you should mention that! We had many strange encounters with religious people during my husband’s illness. There was this one young man, a coworker of my husband’s, who claimed he was a faith healer and could “drive the Devil out” of my husband’s brain. He came to our house one Sunday with his family (!) and asked if he could pray for my husband’s recovery. I objected, but my husband, who was feeling desperate after having seen three prominent neurosurgeons who said they couldn’t help him, said, “Why not?” It was the scariest prayer I’d ever seen: the man placed his hands on my husband’s head and shouted at the top of his lungs for God to heal my husband. My daughters were so frightened they fled the room. I refused to let the faith healer back in our home after that, but he continued to visit my husband when he was in the hospital and later, a hospice. I guess he thought he hadn’t shouted loud enough for God to hear him. 😕

    The worst however was a “friend” who told me that if only I believed in Jesus “hard enough,” my husband would be cured. I was shocked—it was as if she was blaming me for my husband’s illness. It helped a bit to know she was a loon, however. She also claimed that after her divorce, Jesus had told her to grow her fingernails and have them painted bright pink. I’ve heard many claims made on Jesus’ behalf, but I didn’t know before that he was a fashion consultant!

  13. @Sabio- I forgot to place a / at the end of my clause. I’m afraid every comment will come out in bold now. Could you edit that for me please?

  14. I used to think that everything bad that happened to me was due to the fact that I didn’t believe in God hard enough or in the right way, so I deserved it. Hangaku, I’m sorry for the loss of your husband and sorry for the terrible treatment you experienced. I distanced myself from being involved with any religious organization because of self-righteous individuals like the ones you describe. They are also very insensitive towards people like myself, who have mental illness. I have been told more than once that I have bipolar disorder because of demons. No, I have it because of wonky brain chemistry.
    It’s not that I’m an atheist, I’m not. Not that there’s anything wrong with being an atheist as I honestly don’t think Deity gives a flying doodly squat whether we worship Zir or not. On a developmental scale, it would be rather like demanding that bacteria worship us. But I have certainly become more of a deist than a theist over the years.

  15. Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    I used to think that everything bad that happened to me was due to the fact that I didn’t believe in God hard enough or in the right way, so I deserved it. One commenter describes the deplorable treatment she received at the hands of the “good” church people when her husband was stricken with cancer, telling her that if she just believed hard enough, her husband would be cured.
    I distanced myself from being involved with any religious organization because of self-righteous individuals like the ones described. They are also very insensitive towards people like myself, who have mental illness. I have been told more than once that I have bipolar disorder because of demons. No, I have it because of wonky brain chemistry.
    It’s not that I’m an atheist, I’m not. Not that there’s anything wrong with being an atheist as I honestly don’t think Deity gives a flying doodly squat whether we worship Zir or not. On a developmental scale, it would be rather like demanding that bacteria worship us. But I have certainly become more of a deist than a theist over the years.

Please share your opinions!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s