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Groveling at the Feet of God to Whom All Praise, Honor, and Glory is Due

tim tebow
Tim Tebow, giving God all the praise, honor, and glory.

Dear Human Worms,

You are NOTHING! It’s all about me. I am your King, Lord, Sovereign, and Master. Nothing happens that escapes my eye. I hear, see, and know everything. I am the one who gives you the ability to breathe and move your limbs. I am the one who is in control of every aspect of your lives. I am the puppet master of the universe. I spoke the universe into existence, and I alone have the power to give and take life. Get it into your head, worm — it’s all about me, me, me!

Now, grovel before me, worm. 

God

Millions of Christians believe that what I have written above accurately portrays God and their subservience to him. Simply put, with one voice, these worms cry, You are everything, oh Lord, and I am n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Each and every day, countless Christians do good works, yet, if they are true to the teachings of the Bible, these do-gooders never take credit for their acts of love, kindness, and compassion — or touchdowns, winning baskets, or walk-off home runs. No matter how much effort and time Christians put into helping others, they must never, ever take the credit. If they do, they are reminded by their pastors that the Bible says, without me [God] ye can do nothing. God is everything, everything, everything. Christians are nothing, nothing, nothing.

Why then, do Christians do things such as tell their pastors, great sermon, applaud when singing groups or soloists finish their songs, clap when church children perform, and thank others for doing a good job? Why then, do churches advertise the name of their pastors? Why do churches praise the hard work of Sunday school teachers, missionaries, youth leaders, and junior church workers? Why do churches put “IN MEMORY OF . . . ” plates/labels on things, reminding everyone of who gave the money for this or that item/project?  Shouldn’t imprints of human effort be stripped away, and God alone be given all the praise, honor, and glory?

The truth is, Christians love receiving the approbation of others as much as the rest of us do. I am a big believer in giving credit to whom credit is due. I appreciate it when people thank me for the work I do on this blog. Their support helps spur me on, whether it is financial support or a short email or text that lets me know they appreciate my writing. When people do well, we should praise them. I know I don’t do it enough.

My children have turned out to be good people. They aren’t perfect, but neither is their father. My oldest son is a manager at large manufacturing concern, as is my youngest son. Son number two is the senior network administrator for a local wireless internet provider and phone company. Son number three is a service writer and mechanic at an automobile repair shop. My youngest daughter is a barista, works at a local hospital, and is pursuing a post-graduate degree in psychology (all while chasing two of my grandsons around the house). I am proud of the people they have become.

Twenty-four years ago, Polly started working in the auxiliary services department for a large manufacturing business. We moved away from Northwest Ohio several times, yet each time we returned, Polly’s previous employer immediately offered her a job. She is now a manager. If you had asked me twenty-four years ago whether Polly was supervisor material, I would have laughed and said “no.” Yet, here she is, supervising two shifts, and, by all accounts, doing a great job.

My children and wife have one trait in common: they are all hard workers. When Polly and I first married, our meals consisted of whatever came from boxes or cans. Today, Polly is an excellent — dare I say superb — scratch chef. Several years ago, unbeknownst to Polly, I ordered her an immersion mixer. When it arrived, her glee was a sight to behold. Why, if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that I bought her a vibrator with a lifetime supply of batteries. 🙂

As many of you know, Carolyn — my other wife, as she is fondly called — edits my writing. While I am a better writer than I was five years ago, there are days when my writing, due to fatigue, pain, or entrenched bad habits, can still be a pain in the ass to edit. While she tells me it is not necessary, I thank my editor from time to time. Why? Because I appreciate her hard work.

Yes, many people are lazy slackers whose goal in life is to do as little work as possible. These workers tend to be the people whom we complain about on social media. Sadly, some people just don’t care. But others do. When cashiers, waitresses, restaurant workers, and customer service representatives — to name a few — do a great job, I try my best to say thanks. If they are wearing a name tag, I address them by their name. It takes all of two seconds for me to do this, yet it reminds those serving me that I appreciate their efforts.

And that’s the point of this post. Why should a narcissistic, demanding employer — God — receive praise for that which he did not do?  Everything you and I do today, tomorrow, and until we end up ashes in urns is because of our own hard work and effort. Granted, none of us got to where we are today without the help of others (thanks, Mom!). Hillary Clinton is right: it takes a village to raise a child. My life is the sum of all those who have touched and helped me in some way. It is important that I recognize this lest I turn into Donald Trump — a self-serving, self-aggrandizing narcissist. I would not be where I am today without the help of others. When I write the acknowledgment pages for my book, I will rightly thank all those who helped me along the way. But, none of them will expect me to grovel at their feet, giving all the praise, honor, and glory to them. Only in the Christian (and Islamic) world are people expected to die to self and give God the praise that should be theirs.

deny self

Is it any surprise, then, that many Christians have poor/no self-esteem? I know it has taken Polly and me many years to regain any sort of respect for self. Hammered by a lifetime of preaching meant to destroy self-worth, is it any wonder that, to this day, we have a hard time accepting praise from others? Our lives were swallowed whole by God’s absolute claim on our lives. We were called on to be bondservants (slaves) of the most high God. We worked seven days a week, from early morning hours to late at night — never once expecting the praise of others. We do it for you, Jesus, we said to the ceiling, believing that none of our good works would have been possible without God. Even when people broke with protocol and threw some praise our way, we quickly deflected it, throwing it back to God. We are just his humble servants, we told those who thanked us. Without him, we are nothing.

If I have learned anything post-Jesus, it is that without “him” I have come to understand that I am someone who is deserving of the approbation of others. I have worth and value. I matter to my wife, children, and grandchildren. I matter to my friends and extended family. And yes, I matter to many of the readers of this blog. And I can say the same about those who have positively touched my life. We matter, not because of God, but because we are fellow travelers on the road of life. While we are all headed for the same destination — a soylent green factory — how much better and more fulfilling is our journey having people by our side.

How about you? Were you taught that all praise, glory, and honor belonged to God? How did these teachings affect your view of self? What have you done to regain a healthy view of self? Do you still have a hard time accepting praise from others? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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21 Comments

  1. Pingback:The cult of self-abasement | Civil Commotion

  2. Avatar
    Kittybrat

    Oh, HELL YES!
    I get awkward and embarrassed when thanked and/or praised. Just to be appreciated sends me into stammering. Still practicing just cutting it down to “thank you” as a response. You know what? “Thank you” is the only appropriate response when someone is acknowledging.
    Having lived my life serving others “as to the Lord”, I feel stupid and unworthy when I get “attaboys”.
    Self-esteem is the first to go in Fundamentalism…

    Bruce, once again you’ve spoken truth to power! Thank you for being my secular pastor, Man! LOVE to you and to Polly the Great!

  3. Avatar
    anotherami

    I have this problem too and my exposure to fundamentalism was brief- from about ages 11-14. Thanks to Bruce and this blog, I am finally seeing more of the roots of my own struggles with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. On this particular aspect of it, the source is clear. It was written in the back of my Bible when I “got saved” at a Baptist revival that came to my step-grandmother’s church.
    I imagine I’m not the only reader here who is familiar with this:

    J – Jesus first
    O – Others second
    Y – Yourself last

    Unless one is a narcissist to begin with, that shit is poison and a sure way to destroy an adolescent’s self-worth. It took 3 years of therapy to even acknowledge that if I didn’t take at least minimal care of myself, I couldn’t take care of others either. To this day, I still suck at it with all the fervor of a Hoover vacuum upgraded by Tim “The Toolman” Taylor.

    • Avatar
      Brian

      Thanks for this, anotherami! Odd thing, that we embrace the Cross and willingly agree that we are a cow-patty and deserve to burn eternally. How did we get there? What happened to us to lead us to a shit-plop in the mirror? And to do that to children! What a royal destruction of innocence.

  4. Avatar
    B

    This made me absolutely cry. It is so true and well said! My self confidence and self esteem took a serious hit when a very close family member estranged herself from our family. In the process of deconverting, how much more have I just been unable to define what the heck I would do with all that time, talent, money, effort, gifts, etc etc etc that had willingly been given to an imaginary being and the institutions propagandizing religious bull shit! All the time wondering why I felt so down and worthless. Fuck that! I need to find myself and purpose not putting Jesus or anyone else at the expense of my own self and self worth. An imaginary deity does not deserve praise for what good humans do! or for random happenings, coincidences, or dumb luck! Never again!

  5. Avatar
    TLC

    Oh, yeah. That “all the ceedit goes to God” thing hit me the hardest last year, when I finally renounced fundagelicalism for good. I am self-employed and next month will celebrate the 8th anniversary of starting my business. I was TERRIFIED last year that my business would soon fail. Because God was the one who’d gotten me this far, and how would my business continue to succeed if He was no longer with me?

    Now, through the help of people here and many others (Neil Carter has a wonderful post on this), I realized that I am the one who did all this work. God wasn’t setting up meetings and going to networking events. Jesus wasn’t answering emails, building websites, taking photos. The Holy Spirit wasn’t writing proposals and signing contracts. That was ME.

    As a fundagelical, I soon realized that the question of taking credit and giving praise depended on the person giving and receiving. If a pastor or other “exalted” person was receiving praise, then that was OK because they were “worthy.” But if I was feeling blue because I felt forgotten or unrecognized, well then I was “too proud” and I need to work on my “humility.”

  6. Avatar
    Rex Jamesson

    Bruce, I can unabashedly say thanks SO MUCH for that! No thanks to an imaginary being – your writing is so refreshing. There’s little I can add to the heart-felt deep emotion listed above. I actually managed to get through 4+ decades of fundagelicalism with reasonably-ok self esteem. Maybe it was because even though I always publicly reflected all “glory” for my talents back to god, there was a voice inside of me that did repeat when I was praised, “well, you’re not half bad yourself!” But I’ve been one of the lucky ones…

    What I really wanted to mention is just: isn’t “breaking” a person, in the same way that Christian fundamentalism does, a core part of creating a culture of mindless drones? The military does it to break individual will and replace it with their particular group-think. I’m not against the military when I say that – it’s just that, I see the “self is nothing, god is everything” meme as survival ploy of the religion – a particularly potent way of a religion to survive. It is terrifyingly like the parasite that destroys an ant’s brain, making it move to a high point on a blade of grass, to be eaten by an unsuspecting grazer who moves that parasite through the next stage of its life and thus survival. I believe the low self esteem is a survival means for the religion itself. Which of course makes it even more nefarious!

  7. Avatar
    Casey Bell

    Bruce,

    I loved your piece, “Groveling at the feet of God to whom all praise, honor and glory is due”.
    You and/or your editor did a super job of explaining why the groveling nature of so many christians is so sad. At the risk of sounding like I’m groveling, I thought this was a remarkably readable and on-point piece of writing.

    I’m an ex-catholic (45 years and counting) who could never understand why people grovel before the god(s) they believe in, nor why their gods would WANT people to grovel before
    them. I can’t believe that the creator of the universe has such a fragile ego that he needs
    to have it stroked constantly.

  8. Avatar
    Matilda

    I’m big on appreciating what others do. I used to take weekly x-tian assemblies at 2 local schools. One school gave my team xmas gifts every year and expressed their thanks. The other didn’t. Two team members, permanent dieters, said they wished the former school wouldn’t give them chocolates…and I said very firmly that we should appreciate their recognition of our volunteering. Now I’m on the committee of a secular project that has 40+ volunteers. I was one of the team that pressed for them all to be given xmas gifts too, that we send flowers if they are ill and give them a great party every New Year. Morale is good, and I suggest, the project flourishes because we are all appreciative, kind and thoughtful of one another’s efforts. To speak christianese, the ‘fellowship’ is great. I like the something something bible verse about having a ‘generous spirit’….it’s in my ‘bible’ anyway.

  9. Avatar
    mary

    when i have to spend time w/fundies, the things they say seem more nonsensical than ever. i just come away shaking my head and feeling sorry that they believe such harmful things. still in progressive liberal christian camp, but slowly evolving. just seems like so much nonsense i have a hard time even hanging on anymore.

  10. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    I was raised Catholic, and so I wasn’t really pressured about giving God the credit for my achievements. But my uber-Catholic mother was obsessed with performative humility. She never explained (or I never understood) why I was meant to present myself as unworthy to the world. But damn, she reinforced it. I remember, in one of the early grades–maybe fourth or fifth–I won a prize for selling candy for the school fundraiser. My mother frequently reminded me that she’d done all the work, because she called all her friends and they had this mutual agreement to buy boxes of candy (or whatever) for each other’s kids. So she made a few phone calls and that got rid of a lot of candy. Meanwhile, I had to dress up in my school uniform (wool skirt) in the late-spring heat, bicycle around, and sell candy bars door-to-door, one by one. But at least daily she reminded me that she was selling most of the candy.

    So, the day to acknowledge the highest sellers came, I was awarded a prize of something like $10, and my mother forced me to publicly refuse it. Because accepting it would take away from the fundraising. Oh, and I hadn’t really done any work, anyhow. Those long hours of screwing up my courage, door after door after door (I was really shy), meant nothing.

    So, it doesn’t necessarily come from religion. Mom was trying to teach me something, I’m not sure what, and failed miserably. I do remember that after that terrible assembly, the principal took her aside and had a long chat while I waited in the principal’s office lobby. I suspect Mom was getting a gentle lesson in child psychology, along the lines of, look, Lady, don’t DO that again.

  11. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Thank you for your writing, Bruce. You have summed up a lot of the problems with evangelicalism.

    I never bought into the whole “give God the glory” thing. I took piano lessons for 13 years. For several years I competed in piano competitions among American Association of Christian Schools students. I was state champion twice. Do you know how many hours I spent practicing? That’s not the work of a deity. That was my work.

  12. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Hello, Bruce and Polly, and Happy Saturday to you. I saw that illustration above with those ” denial of self ” shibboleths, and recall over the years all the preaching about this ideal, yet, I can’t remember any person save one or two pastors who even came close to doing what they insisted upon that WE do ! All this harebrained advice, like take complete strangers to one’s home for ” lunch” or even worse, to live with you, turn over your income to your abusers, let yourself be molested, your husband can/ should beat you,etc. Is it any wonder so many American Christians went nuts, in so many ways ? My own life is a testimony to some of these commands. Winning people by one’s ” winning conduct” as you lose, big time ! Uh, yeah. Real familiar with that. Until around 2019 for sure, I had to keep learning that no good deed goes unpunished. After the last sudden death and loss in 2018, you’d think I’d have learned. Now I run from such opportunities to fail. I isolate a lot now. I’m relieved to see the last narcissist hop the train and go, as he can’t attract women out here in L.A. Once he’s left,I will get that much needed break ! This was my one- time ex- room mate, who put me in homelessville with his antics, years before. His culture is both hyper-religious and narcissistic. Though a victim of it in family life, he does the same to friends and girlfriends. I didn’t know he is a faithless renter though. He doesn’t mind paying for movie tickets, that’s about it. Telling people to sacrifice in ways they wouldn’t be caught dead doing, so late I picked up on that.

  13. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Davey Crockett, if you paid close enough attention, you’d see for yourself that most of the time, those who preach those ” sacrifice- of- self” lists don’t bother to model what they demand the congregation or radio audience to do !! This rank hypocracy is what is driving the youth right out of the churches, and if they can keep the faith while remaining unaffiliated, that is quite an achievement. These leaders are anything but selfless. And they’re greedy and overpaid ! The Internet makes comparing experiences possible. The love of Jesus isn’t much on display in America. I now see it never WAS !

  14. Avatar
    davey crockett

    yulya, that was sarcasm. Yes it’s a manipulation ploy. Just like tithing, your giving is a sign of how much you love him and his church. Or when someone says, if you respect/love me this is what you will do. Ugh!! A sign that thou shalt run post haste for the hills and don’t look back lest you become the pillar of salt.

  15. Avatar
    davey crockett

    I think the youth also leave because these preachy people make claims and promises that will seldom if ever happen for these followers. Partly why I left the fold. They are terrible listeners Another reason is that the church I grew up in as a child, I remember being a gentler kinder type of religion. (Though I was a child, not yet a teenager.) The pastor was to nurture congregants, visit sick, call on shut ins, check on absentees, etc. Visiting pastors/evangelists were to do the harvesting of souls. Such a difference when compared to this age of harsh in your face totalitarian (pastor alone answers only to god) reckless (promising/saying anything to goad people on) feckless (not their fault if the church’s interpretation/advice does not work) judgmental (you are not doing enough/too much of what has been preached) take it or leave it atmosphere. It doesn’t seem to be wrapped around the concept of serving people’s needs, which are more than just the eternity question. In time, people begin to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And make decisions accordingly.

  16. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Hello, Davey. I misread your post, thinking that it was a Fundy statement. I apologise for going off on you like that. Quite a few go onto this blog and they indeed are Fundies who are stereotypes in all respects. Thank you for clarifying things. My bad !

  17. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Hello, Davey. I misread your first post, thinking you were a Fundie at first . My bad, I must apologize for that. Fundies do like to comment on this blog, no doubt to live up every stereotype there is. I’m wish they just read the missives and moved on– but they can’t resist,lol.

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Bruce Gerencser