Being introverted is not a sin, despite what @Challies would tell you

Tim Challies is one of those people who’s made a living out of having an opinion and running a blog to express that opinion on. I was never a fan of his material, generally finding his writings to be contradictory or at odds with the plain language of Scripture, and he seems to have done it again regarding the topic of introversion.

In one sense he declares that God made him an introvert, but then seems to immediately discount his introverted desires as being nothing more than an expression of his sin nature:

I have no right to crave introverted solitude. Rather, the gospel compels me to deny even that trait and all its desires in order to serve other people. I am introverted, but this does not give me a different calling in life than the gregarious Christian.

So Jesus also had no right to leave His disciples for time alone with the Father in introverted solitude? Challies basically suggests that Jesus was sinning by craving this time alone too. Good job.

Why is it so hard to simply say these desires alone are not wrong, or a sin, only when we take them to extremes? It’s not wrong to crave solitude, especially when we use that time to draw closer to God (where the LORD Himself leaves us an example). The gospel isn’t telling is to deny these traits, only to MODERATE them. Just as with food, we’re not sinning by eating, but we are when we overindulge in a spirit of gluttony.

All Challies had to say was, “It’s ok to crave solitude, just not 24 hours a day,” but he has such a tendency to overly intellectualize things that even simple matters of spirituality get twisted into convoluted and contradictory discourses.

I also don’t care for the evident double standard: where’s the admonition for extroverts to deny their nature accordingly and dial down their sometimes obnoxiously gregarious attitudes? Where many introverts crave intimate and meaningful relationships with a few, extroverts are focused on expanding their social circles as far as possible, which can often result in many relationships being a mile wide but only an inch deep. I’ve met extroverts like this in church, and I believe they do much harm to the body of Christ. Theirs is a numbers game, which unfortunately tends to dovetail well with the modern church’s mission to expand their membership as much as possible, focusing on the quantity rather than the quality of believers they attract.

I’m surprised that Tim Challies’s takeaway from reading Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” was not, “You know, the church has become too hyper-extroverted, we need to find a way to balance this out a bit,” but instead, “Introverts need to stop being so darned selfish.” He either glossed over or completely ignored the evidence Cain presented, and how much damage had been done by churches who have assimilated society’s modern push towards the hyper-extroverted by following the gospel according to Dale Carnegie. We are seeing a trend towards extremes here, but it’s not happening on the introverted side.

And this is a guy who regularly gets invited on speaking circuits at churches too. Awesome. I really hope people don’t take him at his word, and learn to compare and contrast his assertions to what the Bible actually says.

A Church of One

I’ve made a couple of attempts to plug in into the “Christian” community here in Colorado Springs, but it’s hard to really express why I’m having difficulty finding a good church in a way that most people could understand.

Churchians are so reared in the societal constructs of what constitutes a typical modern church today (complete with its cliques, social elements, and excessive attempts to pander to the youth) that I don’t think most are capable of recognizing the errors within, much like a fish cannot have water explained to it, since to that fish, it is everywhere.

So when I attend church, I attend as an outsider looking in. There’s always something about the atmosphere, or the preaching, or the people themselves that puts me ill at ease, to the extent that I can never comfortably stick around. People might argue that if I’m looking for the perfect church, I’m never going to find it, but I don’t agree at all that this is what I’m doing, and it just goes to show how the church bubble they continue to inhabit has blinded them from truly being able to understand where I’m coming from.

Part of it is because I’m an introvert and hearing impaired, and hence my spiritual walk is borne out of quiet reflection on spiritual things, while craving the intimacy of small, close knit groups, rather than being part of a larger, noisy congregation, especially one prone to generating cliques that further segregates the body of Christ. Everything is oriented towards the extroverted, and it takes a meticulous harnessing of social skills as an introvert to successfully plug into such a community.

Another reason is that I’ve lived an abnormal life that has made it difficult, if not impossible to relate to people. Very few can relate to one such as myself, who holds to a subset of Christian beliefs that is only held by an extreme minority, who has had to struggle with a disability that further hinders my ability to connect with others socially, and where I remain single while the vast majority of people my age are married with children. Unless Jesus is the true primary focus of a church, the yarn that binds people from all different walks of life together, there is virtually nothing left I’d have in common with Churchians that might help me to forge new relationships and achieve meaningful fellowship.

Most churches today are no longer true places of worship but an unapologetically social construct, a sanitized version of the high school caste system. I think most people who grew up with church having been regular a part of their lives are fair-weather Christians of a sort. They have little sense of what it’s like to be alienated from others, cut off from family or friends, or even abandoned by entire churches, where such alienation is compounded further by physical disabilities. I see a lot of them here, those who live the life of an affluent Christian, whose idea of suffering is when a barista gets their Starbucks order wrong. Their Christian beliefs are watered down and superficial at best, putting on appearances just enough so they remain indistinguishable from the rest of the church community and collective. As with the rest of the world, they will accept you, so long as you behave and act exactly as they do, and don’t make any waves.

I could do this myself, and in other areas of my life I do, suppressing so many aspects of my personality and beliefs in order to have better success connecting with others, even if they can never know who I really am, because if they did, I’d never be accepted. But with church it seems to be a bridge too far for me.

Others will say I chose this life, and thus any failure to fellowship and connect with others is wholly self-inflicted, an attitude that further alienates me even more because they simply cannot see what I do, having never walked a day in my shoes.

The only solution I see here has to be another miracle, just as the miracle that led me to Colorado eventually manifested, I have to trust and believe for yet another miracle that helps me find a way to serve and reconnect to the true body of Christ. And maybe in that, to finally find the love that has eluded me my whole life as well.

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