Theological Stress Disorder: 5 Common Triggers

TSDRecently I wrote about Roma Downey’s new movie Son Of God, and confessed to unintentionally napping through parts of it. My mental and emotional apparatus needed an escape from the theologically implausible and downright wacky “Biblical” depictions, and I was distracted by “hunky” Jesus. The next thing I knew, I was sound asleep.

Later I was chatting with my friend Dan on FB when I realized this wasn’t the first time I’ve conked out in response to what I called “theological stress.”

Oh no! I thought, I must have some weird condition—a syndrome perhaps. But is there a cure? And who could diagnose it?

Dan, an author, said forget about diagnosing it, instead I should copyright it. :-)

It began as “Theological Stress Syndrome” but that would be TSS, and is already in use (Toxic Shock Syndrome). As I considered my symptoms, the “triggers”, and my reactions to them, I decided “disorder” is appropriate.

I never know when these “triggers” will be pulled. For example, I was minding my own business at the JFK airport once, when the woman sitting next to me finally finished calling every contact in her iPhone and began speaking to me. Within moments, she saw something on television and stated: “Yeah, Jesus was Jewish…before he became a Christian!”


Typically when the “stressors” present themselves, my eyes widen before rolling upward, and my lower jaw juts forward and slightly to the right. My breathing becomes shallow and of course, I try to prevent a sarcastic remark from escaping my lips, so I fidget, adjust my seat, check my shoes, look in my purse, put on some lipstick, or start backcombing my hair, anything to distract myself. If I can’t do any of these things, or the lack of oxygen is prolonged (I’m asthmatic)… zzzzzzz

Thankfully, I didn’t fall asleep on her, but I did squirm and I had to force myself to smile, nod, and keep from saying, in a singsong voice: “So…do you own a Bible? You know, they even have an App for that now…”

So this is my first list of triggers, in no particular order, I’ll update periodically:

1) De-Judaized Jesus: So many Christians sincerely want to understand the Bible better and desire a closer relationship with God and Jesus. Yet they settle for the fictional, European, non-Jewish version. This mystifies me.

2) Fantastical Pharisaical Indiscrimination: Or, 9 times out of 10, we don’t know what we’re talking about when it comes to the Pharisees.

But hey, it’s not our fault! It’s not like anyone takes the time to explain the difference between Pharisees & Sadducees, much less the Essenes, or Herodians.

The topic sheds much light on what’s happening in the New Testament, but our theology about them causes us to miss a lot, like how the Pharisees aren’t always in agreement amongst themselves, many are friendly to Jesus, and Acts 15:5 records “believing Pharisees”, which totally messes with our theology. (the dictionary defines a Pharisee as: pretentious, self-righteous & a hypocrite).

It gets confusing though, right? Because you think it’s just possible that Jesus, his mother Mary, Peter, Paul and the rest of the disciples might have been Jews too. Hmmm, well, like the lady at JFK said, we’ll just make them all Christians.

3) Upholding the 10 Commandments yet declaring the “Old” Covenant is kaput. Umm, wow…suddenly feeling really sleepy. Okay, this is actually easy, all you have to do is get your Bible out and read (or click the highlighted links):

Exodus 34:27-28 “…And he wrote upon the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.”

Deuteronomy 4:13 “And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.”

Deuteronomy 9:9-11 “When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord made with you…”

There’s more, but that should be a good start.

Someone always objects: But the “Old Testament” has been abolished, we only uphold what Jesus reiterates in the New Testament. Keep reading…

Next, go to Matthew 5:17-19

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…”

No, “abolish” and “fulfill” aren’t the same thing, keep reading.

“For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven…”

Now, turn to Matthew 22:36-40, where a lawyer comes to Jesus and asks:

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

The problems should be obvious, here’s just a few:

Jesus didn’t abolish the Old Testament; no one else could have either.

The two commandments Jesus says are the “greatest” are Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 and they aren’t in the Big 10. So, if the “Old Testament” is abolished except for the 10 C’s, what are we to make of Jesus’ remark referencing them?

Then, he claims that:

“…on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Now, why would he say that if the “law” was abolished, I mean “fulfilled”, as in “abolished”?

Before revealing #’s 4&5, I want to say these are so common and crop up everywhere by well meaning people. But at least in a movie theatre it’s dark and everyone is facing the opposite way.

Unfortunately, it’s also happened in well-lit public places, where someone typically stands on an elevated platform and can easily tell if you’re fidgeting, or checking your shoes a lot. Common decency limits how big you can make your hair before encroaching on other people’s view, so I become vulnerable in these situations.

4) Historic Connectile Dysfunction

This is the inability to connect to the 1st century, 2nd Temple Jewish world Jesus lived in. It serves as a catch-all really. It could be anything from the fictitious conversion and supposed renaming of Paul, to calling Jewish people who followed the Jewish messiah Christians, or thinking the “good” ones (you know, the ‘Christian’ Jews) came to their senses and said “It’s about time God ‘got over it’ and realized His error!” They got their feedbag on and went hog wild like a proper Gentile.

Each of these elicit the same response, I think: “O no you didn’t”, and crash.

5) Peter’s Vision Abolishes God’s Dietary Restrictions For Jews: Forget all the tests Saint Peter is supposed to give you when you get to the “Pearly Gates.” I think it’s gonna go down like this:

“Wait, you told the Jews WHAT!? You mean you told them they didn’t need to obey what God specifically told them to – for all time – and…let me get this straight…you blamed this on ME, and a white sheet?

And you think I have the authority to abolish the established Word of Almighty God, because…???

Did you happen to read where I said the vision had nothing to do with kosher laws and that it was actually about not calling Cornelius, who was a Gentile, unclean? (Acts 10:28-35) Do you have any idea what it was like for Jews to live under Roman rule in the 1st century?

If you missed my explanation the first time, did you happen to see the second explanation of it in ch 11:5-12?

Look, I know some rumors were spread about me being the “first pope” and everything, but seriously now, the pope is supposedly the “Vicar of Christ” so, if Jesus says he couldn’t abrogate the established Word of God, how in the heck could I?”

Ahh, well, enough for now, more later…

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19 thoughts on “Theological Stress Disorder: 5 Common Triggers

  1. I think I suffer from some form of TSD, but the triggers and responses aren’t the same (I don’t fall asleep for one thing). Reading my blog will tell you what my triggers are, and my symptoms vacillate between fighting back (by blogging) and wanting to throw my hands up in the air and forget about all this “religion” nonsense. Not that I’d give up my faith, but I’m sometimes tempted to just shut everything down, blogging, community, the lot of it, and become a self-contained silo. That has obvious pitfalls, but a few advantages, I must admit.


    • Yes, I’ve seen your symptoms manifest that way James. Perhaps, if enough of us band together and put TSD on the map, we can get you some therapy, and you could learn new ways to handle your theological stress outbursts? Start backcombing maybe? :-)


  2. Reblogged this on Unveiling Hope and commented:
    There is not much I can add to this. I too fidget … eye roll … and as for the sarcasm … she’s far better than I; I often fail to “tame” my tongue.


  3. Extremely well said. Thanks for taking the time to write this post. I reblogged … it can’t be said anymore succinctly than how you shared it. This is one disorder I’m actually not embarrassed to say I have! :)


  4. Entertaining all the way through . Fav line: if Jesus didn’t come to do away with the law no one else could either


  5. O my goodness (That’s Gentile for “oy”). I see great potential here for a 1-hour HBO stand-up feature event. Good humor is always rooted in truth. Ya gotta good schtick, here, Ruth… and now, you’ve got three “gets” to get: 1) two copyrights: ‘Theological Stress Syndrome’ AND ‘Historic Connectile Dysfunction’. (Let’s face it, Toxic Shock Syndrome is all-washed-up, a has-been, who would miss it? and 2) a good Jewish lawyer to build a hedge around the copyrights (and to protect you from certain over-saturated television drugs from being associated with ‘Historic Connectile Dysfunction’ :)).

    But seriously, we’re all suffering from all of this, plus, at least in my case, some measure of PTSD while recovering from the transition involved in moving from mainstream Christianity – Protestant or Catholic – to a “Messianic” or “Jewish-rooted” perspective. Post Traumatic Church Disorder, perhaps.

    Maybe what we really need is a tailor-made form of support group, which, I think, has somewhat taken shape in and around blogs like yours and James’. A place where we “in-betweeners” can meet and share and spew and kvetch to our heart’s delight. (and support and affirm and pray, of course, as well).

    @James: don’t quit… but if you do, we might consider pulling together a comedic vaudeville troupe that takes this message on the road and out to the world to hit right where it hurts the most: right in the laugh-er. Imagine, there might be an HBO special in our future afterall. Or, if word of it gets on-high, say, to Peter at the “pearly gates,” it may actually not only hasten, but hyper-accelerate, the coming of Messiah…

    Hey, last week a columnist at Jewish Journal suggested replacing Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman with Jerry Seinfeld. He makes the point that humor is a valuable and powerful, indispensable tool in the fight against, well, anything. It certainly does help the medicine go down.

    So, thanks for providing this space for some well-needed smiling and therapeutic kvetching, Ruth. It made my day… Funny AND true to form…


    • “Gentile for oy” and “Post Traumatic Church Disorder, perhaps.”?

      Oh Dan, “I’m dyin’ over here…” I LOVE this, it is the BEST EVER!!!

      “Maybe what we really need is a tailor-made form of support group, which, I think, has somewhat taken shape in and around blogs like yours and James’. A place where we “in-betweeners” can meet and share and spew and kvetch to our heart’s delight. (and support and affirm and pray, of course, as well).”

      YES! And what are the chances of getting it recognized and covered as a legit disorder? I’d like to see a commercial about it on TV someday, to call out all our ‘homies’.

      “@James: don’t quit… but if you do, we might consider pulling together a comedic vaudeville troupe that takes this message on the road and out to the world to hit right where it hurts the most: right in the laugh-er.”

      Yes, we gotta “go on the road”, as you say… we’ll launch a “reverse” crusade throughout the Church, kicken’ a#$ and taking names with love, humor, and lot’s of patience, dear Lord we will need lots of patience! ;-)


  6. Love, love, love-lots of crickets on my end when I try to explain the Jewishness of all of the Scriptures; no one I know wants to know and relearn as I have…..


  7. Pingback: ‘Noah’ The Movie | Sojourning With Jews

  8. So this morning I’m teaching my class of 30-somethings from John 13 and juxtaposing a triclinium with Leonardo’s masterpiece, so that they have a true 1st century picture of the last supper table. This was partly to show how Jesus was able to wash his disciple’s feet.

    After class my 6 yr old granddaughter was telling us what she had learned this morning … that Jesus was trying to go under the table to wash Peter’s feet.

    … and miles to go before I sleep.


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