Unraveling Nice-Nasty Christianity

by Evette Dionne

The Pace Sisters“The Fighting Temptations” is one of the funniest, tongue-in-cheek depictions of the Pentecostal Baptist church. The 2003 movie stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, and uses humor to expose the wickedness flowing through some church pews. In the film, Gooding navigates church politics to organize a viable choir for a gospel competition.

His arch-nemesis is a devout Christian and the church treasurer, Paulina (Latanya Richardson). Paulina praises God and His word in the sanctuary and defiles His teachings in her own life. Paulina believes Gooding stole the choir directing position from her, so she proceeds to ruin his life. Richardson’s character resorts to everything from sabotaging the competition’s auditions to revealing Gooding’s deepest secret during a church barbecue.

Though Paulina is a caricature, my then 14-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend how any Christian could be so devious and conniving. Paulina was the polar opposite of what I was fed in church, so I turned to my mother for answers. My mom’s answer was succinct: “All Christians don’t follow God’s word.”

I’ve held onto my mother’s impromptu teaching, adding it to an ever-growing arsenal of lessons about the Christian church’s hypocrisies. Her words to me resurfaced this weekend as I watched the latest episode of OWN’s “Iyanla, Fix My Life.” Spiritual life coach Iyanla Vanzant was offering guidance to the Pace Sisters, a world-renowned gospel group in crisis.

Most of their conflict stems from one sister’s struggle with her sexuality. DeJuaii is attracted to women and is angry because she sees this as ungodly and an embarrassment to her family. Her sisters agree and shun DeJuaii instead of supporting her.

Their lack of love and support led to a major confrontation between one of the sisters, June, and Vanzant.

June left the room and refused to return while DeJuaii was discussing her dilemma. When Vanzant requested June’s presence, she put her hands on her hips and responded, “I mean, we know better,” as if ‘knowing better’ can quell same-sex attraction. This defiant act initiated an important conversation about how June perceives Christianity and what it actually entails.

Vanzant made a stark clarification when she said, “What you need to understand is what that look, that energy, that vibration does to your sister.”

She continued, “That is not a godly energy you’re giving off now! I don’t understand being so saturated in a dogma and a theology that you would not embrace your sister in her deepest need and pain… I just want you to be mindful of how your energy hurts her.”

And …scene.

What June fails to realize is how her negative energy and refusal to embrace a sister in crisis doesn’t align with the teachings of Christ or the spirit of God. Being a Christian entails more than reading scriptures, attending service and attempting to proselytize. Christianity is a politic and responsibility that must be sharpened continually in our lives. The praxis begins by recognizing the core of Christianity as love and attempting to exhibit that within every aspect of our lives.

Nice-nasty Christianity, similar to Paulina and June’s, doesn’t embody God. Instead, it further alienates other religious faiths and creates an unlikeable image of Christians.

Internet personality Funky Dineva speaks to this in a blog post. Dineva writes:

At what point do you challenge some of these nonsensical doctrines and guidelines that have been transferred from generation to generation and perpetuated by ignorance?

It seems as if there is no systems of checks and balances within Christianity for some Christians. The best Christian is the Christian that does not think or challenge anything. Mind you, many traditions, particularly within the African American community were started and passed on by uneducated, illiterate, disenfranchised slaves and former slaves. Back then people did the best they could with what limited information and understanding they had. In 2013 however, WE JUST FLAT OUT KNOW BETTER. Yet many of us voluntarily surrender our ability to exercise our free will to think critically in the name of salvation. Sounds very GODLY to me. Not sure about you, but the Gawd I pray to doesn’t feel honored or get any kind of glory out of me being blind, dumb, or stupid!

Christians must stop wielding religion as a tool of oppression by engaging in nice-nasty religious politics and return to the art of love.

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    To me this is a heart issue.
    The Lord can create in us a clean heart if we ask and repent and submit our will to HIS but again it does not happen overnight, that is just the first step. Too many folk get stuck after the first step and do not allow for a deeper relationship with the LORD that transforms.

  • BeBoogie

    great article- i know many people focus on the christianity’s love- God is love- but there are so many instances in the bible where God’s prophets , Jesus ,ect,, basically told the people they were doing wrong and when they did, they basically were killed or ran out of town, God helps change people who want to follow his ways, but people want to justify their behavior and say God accepts it- it’s actually a common theme in the Bible, cases where folks claim to worship God but the actions don’t follow
    we have all free will, but if you really don’t want to follow what the bible says- why say you are christian?

  • noirluv45

    OK, Clutch, is this going to be a regular theme on this site? You got many hits the other day after your “Christians need to get it together” piece. I see that theme will continue.

    My advice to those who think they’ve been gifted with perfect and thus must tell Christians how to straighten up and fly right, I suggest you look at your own lives. You or no one else is perfect.

    I also find it funny how it’s open season on Christians, yet on PC sites like Clutch, there would never be an anti-LGBT comment ever made. I bring them up because sites like this and Huff Po love to rally around gays/lesbians, and would at the drop of a hat claim those who didn’t have anything favorable to say about them would be crucified, YET Christians, you are the scum of the earth and you must life the way we anti-Christ’s life.

    Jesus said to His disciples (paraphrased): “You will be hated by the world because they hated me.” Truly, Jesus knew that the world then and the world now hasn’t changed.

    I can see where this is site is going. Good luck and peace out.

  • AnnT

    I’ve seem and heard the phrase “I’ll pray for you.” used in the most contemptuous,backhanded, passive aggressive, non-Christian manner way too many times.
    It’s the new “Go F*** Yourself”

  • Quelqu’un

    Believing in anything blindly without questioning it is ridiculous.

  • LMO85

    Damn Funky Dineva’s comment was ON POINT especially considering that particular episode of ‘Fix My Life.’ There were many times while I was watching the program, where I was like–HOW? WHAT? And rolling my eyes….like you actually lived that way and don’t make any connection to where you are in your lives today? It is so refreshing to see that more and more people are challenging the doctrine that they were raised under. When you know better, do better-period.

  • http://www.clutchmagazine.com Clutch

    Hi Noir –

    There is no theme for anything on the site. We assume you are talking about “Outside the Flock” — the piece last week — that was a republished article from last year. This article is based off a recent episode of Iyanla Vanzant.

    There isn’t or never has been (or will be) an open season on any religion/belief on Clutch.

    Thanks for your comment and thank for visiting. Best to you.

  • Anthony

    It not just a Christian problem because I think many Muslims are guilty of it too. It’s not even a religion problem. People tend to fall in love with ideology or theology more than the actual spirit of love, tolerance, and acceptance of difference. Often we love these things in ways that make us feel better but diminishes others.

  • GeekMommaRants

    A weapon is the something that can hurt. When those who use their believe as a weapon of mass hatred, one has to wonder if the religion itself is a weapon. Folks do not hurl pillows at their enemies because pillow do not harm. Religion can and does cause harm.

  • Melanie

    There are nasty/nice people who happen to be Christian and the example from the movie was a good one but the description of what happened on the Iyanla episode had more to do with people of faith trying to reconcile embracing the sinner but not the sin and on that note, I’ll leave this one alone.

  • http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2013/05/unraveling-nice-nasty-christianity/comment-page-1/#comments Mimi

    Noir you must be new here…yes the “Christians need to get it together” meme is quite popular on here. smh

  • donnadara

    All Christians do not interpret the Bible the same way. How many churches require women to keep silent? Somehow so-called Christians can find reasons to accept things like divorce even though the Bible can interpret that to be sinful, not to mention the many pastors who step outside of their marriages, but somehow gay people can never be accepted. There are many Christian websites that you can go to that break down the “clobber passages” that people think condemn gay relationships and show how that is a misinterpretation of the Scriptures. The right wing does not own Christianity.

  • dirtychai

    I think it’s a form of numbing. It think that for a lot of people, can’t or don’t know how to take ownership of their lives so they settle for the “God said it, that settles it.” mantra — while being some of the most insecure, arrogant, and victim-playing people you’ll ever meet.

  • Apple

    Don’t judge people just because they sin differently then you

  • The Artist

    There are nice-nasty people in all walks of life…why do people expect Christians to be any different, of course this is not to say that all Christians are this way, but it happens.

    People are far from prefect, but I will say this, I often find it amusing that often the people with the most ungodly behavior choose to yell “Amen” every second and yell and shout all over the place. I often wonder why people choose to exaggerate this type of behavior as if trying to cover up all the ungodly deeds, while dressed to the nines. It’s like, don’t try to dress it up and shout and make it look good just for Sunday…God sees you loud and clear for who you really are..

  • Jaslene

    You don’t have to come to the site.

  • Sasha

    I am Catholic and attend Catholic mass so I’ve not regularly been exposed to the exuberant “Amens” and “hallelujahs” however one time I went to a Baptist service and by the end I was happy to discover my hearing was intact because I legitimately thought I was going to go deaf.

  • Anonymous

    Most cultures, religions and traditions of the would were founded by uneducated (per Western definition) peoples. Does that mean these practices have no truth?

    Come on, now!!!!!!

    We get indoctrinated in Anglo-Saxon, Westernized, faux-education and get so full of ourselves.

    Don’t totally discount what was founded in the past just because the people who came up with it and passed it along were ‘uneducated’ by main-stream definition, but investigate. All of it isn’t B.S.

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    Exactly and I would be afraid to play with GOD like that.

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    A heart issue like I said LOL, what is in the hearts of people….

  • Missy

    I saw the show. This article distorted what this episode was REALLY about which was sexual abuse of BLACK WOMAN & secrets. This is all you got from the episodes? No mention that at 12 one of the girls was RAPED by her uncle and BLED for 3 months and no one did anything. It was not about Christianity and it’s sad instead that you used these women to bash Christianity. You could give a damn about them and their sexual abuse.

  • http://www.clutchmagazine.com Clutch

    Hi Missy –

    It doesn’t distort the show. The show was about obesity, but the host helped the sisters realized that their weight problems were possibly coming from unresolved issues – such as sexual abuse.

    This post isn’t about the complete show – but a snippet of the show that stood out – which was when the host called out a couple of the sisters for being “Nice-Nasty.” – and that is the topic we chose to discuss.

    We chose not to speak on the sexually abuse in this post – but this site is dedicated to helping, covering and offering resources of all mental and sexual health + abuse issues.

    Thanks!

  • BeBoogie

    its not all about gay condemnation- and just isolating gay people, its about what the bible says as a whole- in,fact you are proving my point- just because fornication seems to be accepted and gay is not doesnt mean God approves of either

  • BeBoogie

    that is the point i’m trying to make.. people used to acknowledge sin but now people want to whatever yet say its ok-just because you want to live a certain way -whatever it is- dont say it’s ok and God approves of the sin, God loves people but not the actions

  • The Artist

    Well, I applaud Clutch for featuring articles such as “Outside the Flock” ..Nice-Nasty Christianity, LGBT issues etc. I fail to understand why people are taking such an issue with these discussions. These issues are often rarely discussed in the Black community and are often shied away from because the amount of criticism they attract (or pressure to fit in with the status quo standards of what is it to be black), but I’m all for a healthy conversation. People are not going to always agree but that’s the beauty of it, you are experiencing a different “point of view” and are able to grow…But that’s just me…I come with an open mind and if it’s something I don’t agree with I leave it alone.

  • Humanista

    But, we Christians *do* need to get together. Our PR as of late is AWFUL.

    So.

  • Anthony

    That’s a great way to put it. We all fall short, we just do it differently.

  • noodle

    atheism is on the rise and on the march here in the states, and its enemy is God. Religion, the “new-aged Atheists” claim, ‘is dangerous’, ‘kills’ or ‘poisons everything’. And if religion is the problem with the world, their answer is simple: get rid of it

    But atheist have irrational and unscientific methods that leaves them guilty of the same foolishness of which they accuse the dogmatic religious folks.

  • http://akamissi.com LadyI

    “Going to the Movies is a sin”, I remember being in a Pentecostal church and they told me that, I asked why, the answer given is not worth repeating. I feel sad for these ladies because they are suppose to be in place where they find freedom through Jesus Christ and they lived in years of bondage by family.

  • The Artist

    Hahaha. Yes!!! I know the feeling all too well. ;-)

  • Nakia

    Christianity was brought to us by “Anglo-Saxon, Westernized, faux-education”. And by us, I mean descendants of African slaves in American, and for that matter, (formerly) colonized Africans.

  • Starla

    @LadyI…One Pentecostal woman woman told me that the shorts I was wearing in my own home was unGodly. Mind you, I was living in the tropics, in the heat of summer, in my own home and she came to visit and had issue with my shorts. Some of these people get caught up on trivial, worthless things like going to the movies. They are so concerned about the devil being in these places that they never worry that the devil may well be living it up in their own home.

  • au napptural

    Before I finished the article I knew sexual abuse was part of the problem. I agree it’s responsible in part for the obesity in that family (many incest/abuse victims gain weight as not be attractive to their abusers). But really before I even hit the word “abuse” in the article I knew the one who thinks she’s attracted to women had experienced some kind of abuse. That’s the dirty secret of the black church. Any time you have a group of people being taught one thing who gravitate towards the opposite it has to be the teacher that’s the problem. So many black people have issues now b/c the church is a hotbed of abuse, molestation, secrets and lies. So people don’t know what to think, do, etc.

  • Missy

    Nonsense. The writer can choose to interpret the show how she chooses, but I can’t interpret the article how I choose? Please. The entire exchange over her being attracted to women was maybe two minutes long. Btw the gay sister was on Dr. Phill years ago. If these woman sang any other type of music this article wouldn’t have no merit. What these woman do as a profession is secondary to their story. It wasn’t about Christianity. It was about pain, abuse and secrets. Nothing in that show was linked to their faith as the cause of their weight or sexual abuse.
    I actually watched the show. This was a shodding attempt to bash their faith.

  • noodle

    What was mother teresa choice of weapon? MLK weapon of choice. What is the peace loving Amish weapon of choice if all religions are causing harm.

    I can say the same about atheist, they have killed, burned down churches and imprisoned just because they were jews or christians. They all did believing there was no god watching them.

  • Missy

    ** would have no merit**
    ** shoddy**

  • http://akamissi.com LadyI

    AMEN!

  • Mystic 77

    A whole lot of these so called Christian women make me want to give them the side eye for real. They walk around quoting the bible and claiming to live as Christians. The bible says this or the bible says that……the bible also says pray and fast. How come so many of them are So over weight ? because they are doing all of the praying but forgetting GOD’s word when it comes to fasting!! How come so many of these so called Christian women have baby daddies instead of husbands. What did the bible say about that ? And these are the ones who judge others so much. What did the bible say about that ?

  • I mean

    Baptist and Pentecostal are NOT the same thing. I was raised in a pentecostal church for 16 years. We thought Baptists were sinners lol

  • LemonNLime

    That is funny, I was raise Baptist and we were taught that the Pentecostals were fake Christians like Mormons!

  • guest

    Seek and ye shall find.

    I knew exactly where this article was going before I clicked the link. Christianity like every other title is filled with people missing the mark. No different from any other thing. But while you’re seeking to dogpile Christians for A)their imperfections and B)their failure to become bandwagon members of whatever pop culture says, you should should think about how many hospitals are built to serve communities by So-called Christians. Ask yourself how many so-called Christians write checks and load trailers and head for the latest natural disaster. Be sure to censure those so-called Christians for braving life and limb to go underneath overpasses and give as many coats and meals as they can. And the nerve of those fallen people braving malaria and civil war because they believe the words, “Go ye therefore…” I know families of faith who take and raise children because they are so-called Christians. And while you’re jumping in, would the sisters be reality tv show worthy if it were the norm? So they haven’t gotten everything right. Who has? In a nation built on the right to choose, reject or interpret your faith for yourself, what if their views are the majority view? Get your head out of the TV, meet a real, living breathing beleiver. Paulina and reality tv?! Really! That’s all you got. You are part of the problem if you’re judging a whole group of people by a label. Not every white American is jaded, not every black female is bitter. Not every teen is indifferent. Not every divorced dad a deadbeat. Not every person of faith (Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, etc…) is what’s been scripted. Such mindless drivel.

  • Guest

    Thank you, Missy. The show as well as the article wouldn’t draw in readers if it were balanced. Victims of crimes are often afraid of ppl like their assailants. Faith doesn’t negate trails. Hurt ppl hurt ppl. Any of those could have been true points of examination. But why go there when you can hurl the phrase “so called Christians” about. It is THE new thing. Thanks again for your perspective and wisdom, Missy.

  • Guest

    NoirLuv, you’re my hero of the day. You are correct. Example A: Tim Tebow vs. Jason Collins. One is villified and the other becomes a media darling. One raises his hand to say, “I want to live publicly by a higher, almost impossible standard.” The other says, “I am what I am.” One gets bum rushed out of a promising career and one gets his called brave and gets his mediocre career extended. Doesn’t every consenting adult know his or her own flavor? I certainly do. Do we all get a parade? There is more than just a bias against believers, there is an intolerance that’s easy for any reporter, blogger, writer, etc… that needs an audience. Yes, intolerance is a strong word, but someone just told you to leave because you didn’t sign on to the mind meld. What’s more dangerous than Christianity or any other thing is the hostility towards diversity of thought.

  • RC_FTW

    Oh dear…the pitfalls of denominations. LOL

  • RC_FTW

    Completely agree! A transformation is a gradual process. We also have to be transparent (honest) and be open towards God in prayer as well.

    Also, some of us do get caught up in religion and tradition, but not enough focus is on a PERSONAL one-to-one RELATIONSHIP with God.

  • http://www.evettedionne.com Evette Dionne

    Hi,

    Thanks for the reading. For the record: I am a non-denominational Christian and I devote time to both reading and studying scripture. The basis of this article was not to bash my fellow Christians, but simply raise awareness of the nice-nastiness reputation Christians have earned.

    Churches do wonderful things in communities. I will never negate that. But hypocrisy is also rampant. I don’t believe in being a mindless follower of religion. Interrogating religion is important when constructing authentic understanding of God and the Bible.

    Again, thanks for reading.

  • [email protected]

    that and ‘Have a Blessed Day’.

  • Ashley.

    And bless his/her heart.

  • Guest

    Dear Ms. Dionne, No explanation needed. I’m glad you study scripture. I’m sure you’re familiar with the verse, “Seek and you will find.” If you keep looking for chinks in the armour of anything –a family, a friendship, a faith, etc. –you will find it. One of my favorite places to study is, “Whatever is lovely, pure, peaceful, kind, whatever is of good report. If there be any virtue, any good thing, think on that.” I’m paraphrasing. The Pace family, like all families have some issues. But tell me how does a smug “Life Coach” (look at the photo you used in the header) and a blogger making blanket statements that amount to, “Oh, you know how those Christians are” how does that help this family? We all know some jerks, they come in all flavors, so enough with the stereotyping. And as a believer, I’ll join you in praying for this family…cause if you look at that picture, while the host is looking satisfied, the one giving the hug can’t wait for cameras to stop rolling. ijs.

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