Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. – Proverbs 12:18 (NRSV)
Spammers infiltrated our YouTube online worship chat one Sunday with a whole bunch of genitalia jokes, using pseudonyms like Dixie Normous and Hugh Jass. Our extremely cheerful and engaging chat ambassador welcomed them fulsomely: “We’re glad you’re here, Dixie!” he wrote in the chat. He figured it out when they started posting their nonsense, and deleted comments furiously–while not deleting them.
Their infiltration was obnoxious, but not ultimately harmful. Still, what possessed them to do such a thing? I’m guessing: cheap laughs and the thrill of putting one over on sincere church people. In other words, an attempt to meet their own needs without much regard for others.
Is there anyone like that sitting in your pews? Not necessarily a prankster, but someone who is at church primarily to get their own needs met? When things don’t go their way, they may say things like “This isn’t working for me,” “I don’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth,” or the timeless classic, “We’ve never done it that way before” – code for “These changes are making me uncomfortable!”
Or, maybe (wince) you find yourself saying those things? Could it be that you are the Hugh Jass?
Pastor Sharad Yadav says, “Church is a life lesson in how to deal with jerks without retaliating, dehumanizing, or running away (in the desperate hope of not becoming a jerk).”
We are living through very stressful times and have legitimate human needs – which church can’t always meet. Unmet needs can turn any of us into a Hugh. Thank God for when our churches, going through their own changes, still welcome us (while setting limits for us).
God, when I am a Hugh, help me grow past my ego and complaint. When I am talking with a Hugh, give me heart and a sense of humor.
Molly Baskette pastors at First Church Berkeley (CA) UCC. She is the author of several books about church renewal, parenting & faith, and spirituality. You can connect with her by subscribing to her newsletter, Doomsday Dance Party.