CultureFaith

About Faith, Fear and Toxic Positivity in the Midst of a Global Pandemic

Everything and everyone is getting on my last nerves right now. It’s Day whothehellknows anymore of being quarantined in the house, trying to avoid a microscopic savage in the form of a virus and I’m side-eying EVERYTHING. My attitude is such trash right now and my usually low levels of patience are nonexistent.

last nerve

Why? Because people.

I’m annoyed by people because lawmakers have to create policy to get us to sit in the house as a collective since we cannot be trusted to self-govern for the greater good. There are more than a few people who are still seeing COVID-19 as some overhyped thing. Some of these people are using religion to justify their selfishness and delusions, which they consider to be strong faith in their invincibility. Which, to me, is a collective hustling backwards.

That is why I’m at the phase of the quarantine where all the people who go “WHY DO YOU WORRY WHEN YOU CAN HAVE FAITH?” are annoying the whole entire hell outta me. Toxic positivity is real and some people hide behind religion to escape real life and real circumstances. And it’s dangerous.

What’s toxic positivity? It is the idea that you should always have a positive response to every situation, no matter how severe the circumstance is.

squidward positive

I see it on these interwebs a lot. The intent behind it is admirable: that we should find the good in everything, in an attempt to keep our eyes on happy. But it is harmful.

Sure, constantly wallowing in negativity is not healthy. However, what makes this positivity toxic is that it invalidates feelings and makes people feel weak for not being able to plaster a smile on their faces at all times. It is a way to sidestep dealing properly with our lives. You know what toxic positivity often is? Denial. Avoidance. Evasion of reality.

Everything does not have an immediate upswing or feel good to it and that’s okay. Life can be a cruel summabitch sometimes and we can face shit that will knock the wind out of us. What we should do is feel our feelings, take the time and then move forward. What we do is pull our Jesus card and skip over the part where we actually deal with facts. We love a Christ crutch.

ImJudgingYou Hardcover

I think my book is more relevant now than ever.

Christians are champs at toxic positivity. We excel at it because we have been taught that faith and fear cannot co-exist. We’ve been Instagram graphiced to pieces about how there is no way we can believe in God, yet still be anxious. It is an oversimplification of scripture and a flattening of what is normal human experience. Even people who aren’t religious or spiritual have received the message that to be courageous is to be fearless. So add that with the God guilt that we tie to fear, and we have the perfect storm of people made to feel inferior for daring to apprehensive. It’s an oppressive state of affairs and I’m judging us HARD.

People die and folks will retort with “well, at least they’re with God now.” Or “Everything happens for a reason. It’s part of the plan.” Which, okay cool. Glad we believe that. But when we invoke those words at a time when someone is feeling pain that is as physical as it is emotional, it says that whatever their feelings are should be soothed by the platitudes of looking at the upside. It isolates and others them in their pain.

That is what is happening with this COVID-19 pandemic. As news of this pandemic spread, and we started being told to social distance and then quarantine, I saw way too many people play their Christianity card like the Big Joker in a Spades game. When we were told to start avoiding going anywhere that wasn’t essential, we were still seeing people post videos and pictures of them in church, sitting side by side in pews with hundreds of other people. As if somehow the virus would stop at the behest of the usher, respecting the boundaries of the white gloves and the sanctuary. What’s even crazier is churches are full of elderly people who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

When challenged on it, the retort is often “My God is going to protect me from viruses.” As if Jesus is some type of armor against dust and grime. DID YOU JUST CALL CHRIST A LYSOL WIPE??! Who said the Blood of Jesus was bleach? 

Black Jesus

Jesus LaDarius Christ gotta be tired of us by now.

Anointing oil is not hand sanitizer. It’s as if God is somehow this holy magician who is supposed to come and clean up all of our messes that we make. Humans have free will and God is not our housekeeper. Being Christian is not a “Get Out of Pandemic” free card.

It’s wild to me. Folks acting like no Christian ever died young, and we only die from old age, after living long lives where nothing ever goes wrong. That is not how any of this works! God never promised us time. God never promised us good health. God never promised us protection from loss. So please make it make sense how you ain’t got no worries right now in the middle of a worldwide health emergency where 50 PRIESTS have died in Italy alone. What makes your holy ass exempt? I know we say favor ain’t fair but did you tithe extra or something? Is it because you think you’ve earned healthiness? Because what I’m seeing is an entitlement to GRACE, which is a gift.

We are weaponizing religion in the face of real things happening in the world and acting like we are here to defy all laws of science. Usually, we can say “go do you” but we can’t because every person who refuses to take this pandemic seriously put the rest of us in danger. Their recklessness and foolishness literally affects the rest of us. So now we gotta shout at them and tell them to livestream church.

If you have so much faith, shouldn’t you believe Jesus is everywhere, including in your living room where you can watch service in the peace and virus-freeness of your own home? The same faith you use to believe the sight unseen of an all-knowing being should be the same belief you use to believe in a destructive microscopic pathogen that is ravaging communities right now. “Faith without works is dead” and folks gotta do the work of washing their hands and staying home, unless the work that pays them needs them outside. DO THAT WORK, SAINTS AND AINTS.

Even some of the folks sitting at home are acting like people who believe in God shouldn’t worry right now. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can be a christian or spiritual or a monk and still worry. You can be connected to a higher power and still be anxious. It’s as if you are somehow doing spirituality wrong by still having the nerve to be worried. Worry is a part of life. It is especially valid as over 500,000 people in the world have contracted an illness and 23,000 have died. IN TWO MONTHS. If now ain’t the time to worry, when is?

Congrats to those of you who are not worried. I’m clapping for you, and what might be your trauma response. But some of us are legit scared, even if not for ourselves but for the people we love, and for society at large. And for what feels like world-shifting crisis. I wish I could tap into the Well of Unbothered here but alas. It is dry.Yes, I’ve tapped into The Word to maintain the last ounce of peace I’m holding on to. But, there are times that we will be anxious because we have a real reason to be. Toxic positivity with that underlayer of religion almost shames you for it.

Everyone has their different coping mechanisms, but I hope we are coping in realness, not surface happiness to avoid what is actually happening. It’s cool to be chipper and shit, but I currently don’t have time for the “Oh, it’s fine. Your legs just got cut off, but at least you still have your arms!” folks. NAWL! How about you recognize I’m in pain instead of rushing past it?

We can be worried and we can have fear. When I give talks, I always let people know: listen, I’m afraid half the time. Fear is here. It is present. But my goal is to do whatever it is that I want to do, that I am compelled to do, anyway. I acknowledging that I feel this thing and that it feels scary and uncomfortable, but I go forward anyway. Don’t let folks and their Bible thumping tell you not to be scared right now. No, be scared, but move forward and live. That’s what matters. This is also why my second book is The Fear-Fighter Manual. We gotta tackle this issue.

I’m not saying we have to run around panicking either. The goal isn’t that we won’t feel negative emotions; it is that we don’t let them consume us. Whether you’re a Deacon or a Heathen, do not feel like you are failing at life because you are not always on Hashtag Gratitude mode. Worrying doesn’t mean you don’t trust God. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re human.

God is in control but our actions matter too. We can pray for mercy and hope for grace, because we’re down here acting a fool in Christ’s name.


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16 Comments

  1. March 26, 2020 at 5:24 pm

    Whew, umm, so, you, of course, know this is an unpopular take. I have a secret. Come closer, Luvvie. I have to whisper it to you. Although I enjoyed and sang along to the “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” thing people are doing now, my logical mind thought, well, if that’ the case, then can’t he….nope, I won’t even type it. I can’t. It feels inappropriate.

    I agree with you. So much has happened throughout history, so it makes it hard when people tell me that whatever I’m going to through to just pray on it. I’m like, Ok, so, I would like a new job, but Kesha is next door being murdered, so wouldn’t it be more appropriate for attention to be devoted over there if someone/something/God is really that involved in out day-to-day lives? Yeah, some of this owness has to be on us. I don’t understand it. How did people suffer for years but I’m supposed to pray to make it to work on time because I woke up late? I’m not sure that’s how any of this works.

    So, that said, I get you. I understand the point. I hope that people do rely on thier faith while also making good decisions. Please don’t walk down that dark alley where you already see three guys standing with knives and bats just because you think Jesus will fix it. Maybe he won’t. Sorry…that’s my take.

    • linda miller
      March 26, 2020 at 5:56 pm

      ……..can’t he help everyone?!? My personal pet peeve is praying for your team to win. siiiiggghhhhh

  2. March 26, 2020 at 5:28 pm

    I agree with this. I get tired of seeing the platitudes also and it makes me realize that many are disconnected from the Source and are only saying what they think they should say.

  3. Nkechi
    March 26, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    Preach it. 👏

  4. Kpatrice
    March 26, 2020 at 7:56 pm

    This! Weeks ago I went to church, they were still shaking hands and hugging it out and I was like nope! Y’all tripping. We not even gonna social distance? Like somehow the corporate body cant take reaponsible actions in advance of “the world” giving us directives.
    And yes I’m one of those who when I feel so nervous and unsure I have to pick who I share that with because we are taught to faith it till we make, wear the mask and put up the front…while we slowly spin outta control on the inside. So then I figure when I cant then everything is wrong with me…and my fears. Sigh.
    So yeah there’s room at the cross for us people who are scared right now along with all the super duper uber saints….and for that, I’m grateful.

  5. Shaylynn
    March 26, 2020 at 9:59 pm

    “As news of this pandemic spread, and we started being told to social distance and then quarantine, I saw way too many people play their Christianity card like the Big Joker in a Spades game. ‘ 🤣🤣🤣
    Luvvie, I am so glad that some things are constant, like your ability to make me laugh even on the darkest of days. Thank you!

    • March 27, 2020 at 5:22 pm

      Girl, not the Big Joker??? This had me weak!

  6. Jen
    March 26, 2020 at 10:50 pm

    I unfortunately know a few people who love to shove toxic positivity in my face on the regular.
    It’s infuriating and makes me feel like a bad person for not being chipper as my world falls down around my ears. Sometimes, you just CAN’T be grateful or see the bright side at that moment in time. Perhaps when you’ve made it through the maelstrom of mess you can look back and find some good…or maybe there will never be good in it and that’s okay too. We are all facing a totally unknown and terrifying reality. It’s our duty as humans to stand together(in our respective houses cuz, ya know, germs and sh*t), listen to the scientific community, and do our part to truly save humanity.

    Also as one of those heathens you speak of, might I ask that people refrain from suggesting that “I” and “my kind” are to blame for this pandemic? I don’t mean to blame in a we didn’t practice social distancing way…..I mean I was LITERALLY told my faith is why the Christian god chose to put this virus on earth(to eradicate us) and then we spread it to his followers because we are evil. I’d say have all the seats but that person doesn’t deserve a seat at all. May they be forced to forever stand barefoot in a puddle of cold unidentifiable liquid with a distinct sliminess and sheen.

  7. Dee
    March 27, 2020 at 1:42 am

    Dear Luvvie,
    I am in one accord with you on this topic and I do believe that positive toxicity and using scripture in the way it is not intended to does more harm than good. However, I am back in the mother continent and I do at some level understand the importance of staying positive here. Most of us do not trust our government to put in safety measure the way the more advanced governments do, we are worried that by just one person catching it and getting on our very populated public transport that other 50 people will catch it. When we think about how quickly we could be wiped out like ants in the mouth of a furnace, that worry can drive us crazy and leads us to lean heavy on the one thing we know to be good, faithful and powerful…even if it is out of context and sometimes in poor taste!

  8. Jhope
    March 27, 2020 at 6:12 am

    I experienced this too. I asked over the phone why they were still hanging out with their church group, going out, with friends, visiting elderly parents…… and was told, I am clean. How do you know? Did you have a test? No.. then you dont know. They are hyper-Christian so they believe they are washed in the blood of Jesus. So who isnt clean?? Defecting like this might very well destroy the commons

  9. Amanda Martinez
    March 27, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    You say “we” lot when you are complaining about religious culture. Do you not want to come off too judgmental? Especially since your good friend Yvonne is an avid positivity preacher? I agree with you that shit happens, God will not protect us all. But the overall goal of choosing faith over fear is keeping the peace. Hope is what keeps us alive not reality. Everyone doesn’t have the same mindset as you. You can worry and go on with your day and others worry or get anxious and it’ll literally kill them or worse they start killing others. Positivity centered around faith and believing that Gods plan is above all this foolishness will never be toxic. Believing in God but telling people it’s ok to worry and be anxious is a contradiction and is literally against every bible verse. Worrying and anxiety can be normal human responses but what is the solution if it’s not having people out there to remind you that there’s another way? You can acknowledge pain and still have room to look on the bright side. There’s no purpose in worrying. Negativity and succumbing to worrisome and anxiety over things we do not have control over is way more toxic than to much positivity will ever be.

    • Elle
      March 27, 2020 at 3:47 pm

      This is EXACTLY on point with what I’ve been thinking.

    • Crystal
      April 7, 2020 at 6:16 am

      Wow, I could not have said this better myself. Thank you for this response. The bible is full of telling us what to do and how to think in the “in spite ofs” of life and we either choose to believe it or we do not. And different things that happen in life constantly check us and our hearts when it comes to scriptures like that, especially when bad things are happening. At the end of the day, do we believe what we say we believe? Do we trust God or not? Do we believe that Bible we claim to love? We have to continuously examine ourselves, and the Word says to do that even to make sure we are still in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Too many professing Christians are on some “God, and” stuff but God says clearly He is the only One we need and there is no other. We are told do not fear, be anxious worry, or be discouraged. We are commanded to pray and count it all joy and speak the word. Unfortunately, there are people who are actually crazy, saying crazy stuff, and claiming Christ, so I get why people feel the way they do. BUT God. Dont let your heart be troubled or afraid. You believe in God, believe also in me. – Jesus

  10. Brawlsy Hill
    March 27, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    My sister told a coworker that our mom had been in excruciating pain before she died. This heifer said, “That was God burning away her sins.” I’m glad i wasn’t there because i have a short fuse and a talent for making up foul curse word combinations, and that muthad—suc——b—-hfaceass would have inspired a few! I’m also quite unimpressed by a god who will reward some for praying but let a baby die before s/he could even learn to pray. To that kind of religion I say, “You keep that. I’m fine.”

  11. Lola
    March 27, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    I agree with the sentiment that you can’t rely purely on faith to protect you. You have to do your part to be safe by social distancing, etc. Praying that God will protect you from Corona without taking any precautions is just dumb. Like you said, faith without works is dead. However, I completely disagree with most of the points made in the article which is filled with generalizations about Christians. The Bible tells me not be anxious about anything but instead with prayer and supplication, let my requests be made unto God. Why the heck should I live in fear after I’ve prayed and taken all the necessary measures? What had being worried ever achieved besides adding stress to my life? I choose to protect my peace.

  12. Trista D Overby
    March 31, 2020 at 12:00 am

    GIRL GIRL!!!! You took the words directly out of my mouth. I’m sick of it! hahaha. This is so good, I will share!