Humans tend to select the religious beliefs that suit their needs, not their beliefs. Beliefs are maintained to keep feeling that whatever need they have for that belief is fulfilled. Beliefs and practice are more often a function of personality than many would like to admit. We might think of God as being able to call, work with and maintain a group of “Chosen Personalities” easier than generically “Chosen People.” Cats tend to hang with cats, dogs with dogs and fish with fish. Organizations divide up in much the same way based on needs that lead to beliefs to maintain and fulfill that need. Have a need that is unfulfilled, and you will find a belief to meet the need. It’s what the brain looks for when the mind is not happy, insecure or confused.
Some people need a thinking man’s religion. Episcopal, Unitarians, Methodist and perhaps Lutheran (I’m being illustrative here based on my own experiences so keep this in mind), might fall into this category for people like that. The people, or at least their ministers, are highly educated in theology and, while often not able to share everything they know about the Bible, its origins, transmission, contradictions and problems, are open to the fact that human beings wrote it in some way inspired by God but maybe not perfectly or as we might have wished. These types tend to go with the flow and as long as church feels good, is informative and inclusive, their need is for that is fulfilled. Unitarians would allow for the most free thought, in my experience, and usually attract those that need to express and validate what their own personal studies about the errancy of scripture, the many ways God can be and a very large inclusiveness of all. Unitarians tend to meet people where they actually are in life and it is ok. They don’t throw you out for understanding that Christmas is the birthday of lots of Godmen like Jesus, throughout history. Similarly,
Unity Churches (different from Unitarians) are a step above and you can understand that much of the theological cycle of belief can be understood in the study of astro-theology or the journey of the sun through the 12 signs of the zodiac. They also don’t mind much if one is gay and any other ideas you have may also be welcomed, or tolerated. Love is the answer. We’re all hear to learn. People who come to these types of churches tend to have suffered under the more fundamentalist denominations and beliefs, stepped outside the box of what they grew up with and simply refuse to be restricted in the beliefs that work for them personally any longer. They need to not be controlled or come under the “guidance” of personalities or denominations that demand respect as being specially called of God to annoy them. Of course, many are born into these churches too.
Some people and personalities need emotional experiences to feel good and loved. They seek people, churches and organizations that fill that need and arrange their beliefs to keep the flow going. Many Evangelicals fall into this need. Hand waving, lots of emotion charging music, group hugging and “fellowship” are high on their list of needs that fuel their beliefs about the truth their church has to offer. They love a good Passion Play or Christmas program with lots of human actors to play out the story of Jesus visually. They can’t undertand why those who do not need that kind of emotional reenactment aren’t crying along with them and wanting to go out and tell the world about Jesus. They loved Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” and took it very very personally.
Their ministers tend towards the emotional type sermons, wipe their brows often in sweaty performances for Christ and walk around a lot behind the lecturn. They like people, (not themselves) carrying big crosses down the isles and stages drapped in purple. Some of their ministers have a cadence in their speech would only work in church and a presentation that would make you chuckle, if it wasn’t the minister under God’s inspiration. The more gawdy, (no pun intended) the furniture, the better they like it because they think it resembles what God might use Himself in heaven. They like the color of gold as well and in fact, love the gold itself. Their followers give the gold too as if they were really giving it to God, who in fact, doesn’t really need it personally. There is little accountability over the spending of the gold because God has informed the Pastor just how this should be done and that’s pretty much the end of it. These folks tend to enjoy a good Gospel show and will support any visiting star of the Christian stage that comes to town, in addition to their local church.
When these types of people loose their spiritual minds during sermons and switch over to pure entertainment or freudian slips, they say things like Mrs. Benny Hinn, who a couple of years ago went nuts on stage telling the audience that they needed “a holy ghost enema right up their butts.” She then proceeded to rant and rave, break the heal off her shoe, tell the audience she didn’t need shoes and they needed to put on combat boots for Jesus and fell on her face. The scary part is that the audience applauded their approval loudly and with vigor. No critical thinkers here. Emotion, inclusiveness and specialness is what this group needed, along with accepting the ridiculous, and that worked just fine. Accepting the ridiculous in both religion and government is often the price one pays for wanting to feel safe, special and cared for. Not one person got up and said, “this is nuts and I am out of here.” That’s the power of need.
Some groups attract people who need to feel special and experience the direct and the perceived power of God. This would be Pentecostals who, while they tell the new person that speaking in tongues is not required, make them feel less than spiritual if in time they cannot perform this feat of emotion. Let’s face it, if you can speak in a heavenly language that no one understands in fact, YOU ARE SPECIAL. The fact that speaking in Christian tongues sounds the same as speaking in voodoo tongues is beside the point. Add throwing yourself down on the floor and flopping around like a fish out of water, and your degree of godliness and specialness soars through the roof. This type of emotional need also brings Pentecostalism and Pentecostals the distinct honor of being the denomination that has the most sexual “sins” among it’s membership and ministry over all. Emotionally motivated people need all emotions, not just the flopping around on the floor ones.
The best drinkers in the country are the Baptists who aren’t allowed to drink by the church. The denominations that prohibit it suffer from the most alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The counties that ban it and go “dry” are the wettest counties in America behind the scenes. As they say, a Good Baptist can’t remember you’re name if they see you at the liquor store, or Hooter’s. In these cases, “Thou shalt not…” provokes “Oh yeah, just watch this.” The Baptists also have a very high turnover rate, perhaps the highest of men in the ministry for falling into the sins that they deride the congregations over week after week. “Me thinks thou does protest too much,” applies quite a bit of the time when a man can’t stop referring to specific sins or lifestyles, in my observation and experience. We tend to berate the things that fascinate us.
Some people need to feel secure and safe in a world that they perceive as ruled by satanic forces opposing the now just around the corner, (still) Second Coming of Jesus. Their churches and ministers tend toward reading the Bible like a newspaper and every world event is leading towards “the crisis at the close.” It’s all about prophecy, the true church vs. the false, the called vs. the uncalled and the saved vs. the unsaved. There is an immediacy in every sermon and you can’t outgive God financially to do this end time work, but they ask you to try. God may love a cheerful giver, but being a cheerful tither is pretty much expected if you are sincere about knocking Satan off his throne for Jesus sake. You don’t need to fix your teeth, your home or prepare for your children’s education, because “by then” you’ll be a spirit being born into the family of God, so give us your money.
Finally, there are those that need one grand religious know-it-all to tell them everything about God, Christ, Jesus, the Gospels and how it all fits together from Genesis to Revelation. These are the Religions of the Grand Poopas. The one minister that those who need the one man show follow is “amazing,” “charismatic,” “smart,” “truly lead by God,” “Knows the mind of God,” (in all things by the way), and Apostolic in his ordination. To not come to services in groups like these is to be checked up on and ask why not. To miss an church sponsored event is to be thought of as “non-supportive,” or even in danger of falling away from the church. The followers tend to sit back and just listen, needing the comfort of his words and perspectives while their own are dismissed as limited in scope. No one tells the Pastor he is out of line, as he is never out of line and no one has any authority over the man. While not often spoken, the feeling the man gives is that “when I need to be corrected, God will correct me.” Of course, this is a rare even, often unrecognized by the man even it were to happen, which it doesn’t, but no member can ever inform the Pastor of his mistakes or in some cases, mental problems.
I have often felt a minister or self appointed leader can better hide out in a church than in a corporate environment. IBM would fire by noon a man who declared himself to be the “One True CEO or Manager.”
Ministers with mental problems or with narcissistic tendencies appear to be “spiritual” or more obedient to God, because they alway quote scriptures to make it sound like they are doing what an Isaiah, Jeremiah or Jesus would do. Aside: Did you you know Jesus wears a bracelet that says, “Why Did I Do that?” Some say it really asks, “What Would I Do?” Some church members who come under the authority, because for some reason they need to, of one man need to wear a bracelet that says “remember not to leave my brains at the door of this church every week.” Oh well. Mental illness disguised as righteousness or obedience is what gets some churches, ministers and their members into the headlines. Quirkiness in the ministry can be harmless or harmful depending on the need to tolerate such things the congregation has. The level of toleration that some audiences have for the words spoken by the one man show can sometimes leave one’s head spinning as to why. But only those that don’t need that type of religion, who often in the past were victims of it, tend to be able to spot it when they see it.
People who need this type of church are easily lead and controlled, which is their need. “You tell me why the world is this way, and make me feel safe and special, and I’ll support you.” These people need to feel God’s daily protection from harm, specialness and that “a thousand shall fall at thy right hand and ten thousand at thy left, but it shall not come nigh unto thy dwelling click here many Evangelicals and Christian Zionists fall into this category of need. Some take the need for personal security to great lengths with stored food reserves and a home arsenal that would make a Marine blush. Some will kill you and let God sort you out, if you get in their face or space, or try to inform them that the Bible may not be informing them quit as accurately about the times that THEY just happen to be living in as they think.
Whatever our need is that informs our beliefs, it might be safer to also understand these observations about not giving up your self, your brain, your money, your time or your need to let other people, organizations or governments do all your thinking for you. Don’t let your needs take you into something that you’ll end up sorry you got for your efforts.
“A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.”
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
“If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all.”
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers”
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”
“There comes a time when you have to stand up and shout: This is me damn it! I look the way I look, think the way I think, feel the way I feel, love the way I love! I am a whole complex package. Take me… or leave me. Accept me – or walk away! Do not try to make me feel like less of a person, just because I don’t fit your idea of who I should be and don’t try to change me to fit your mold. If I need to change, I alone will make that decision. When you are strong enough to love yourself 100%, good and bad – you will be amazed at the opportunities that life presents you.”
We all have needs. We need to be loved, listened to, appreciated, helpful, believing, trusting and to feel secure in an insecure world. Those needs end up informing our beliefs. There are many things that one can believe about many things. There are many organizations, belief systems, Churches, Temples, men, women, gurus, apostles, priests and kings who are more than willing to manipulate your needs, either deliberately or in their own ignorance of doing so, for advantage. Next time you sit in a crowd, congregation, group meeting, or audience, ask yourself “what is my need that I am here, listening to this?” Sometimes when we answer that question we end up defining our real needs better by getting up and voting with our feet on whether one really needed that.