Not long ago, I got yet another reminder of a common Christian belief. This belief reflects how many Christians see themselves in mixed-faith company–and why they think their sales pitches work on some people while upsetting others. See, they have this idea that their faith imbues them with a sort of glowing-but-invisible aura that both attracts and repels non-Christians. Years ago, I began calling this imaginary aura their “Jesus Aura.” And it really speaks to the very heart of Christianity as a belief system! Today, let me show you what it is, how Christians think it operates, and why it’s just another false belief of theirs.
Jesus Aura 101
Years ago, I worked at a call center. Maybe you’d be surprised to hear how often callers insisted that I simply had to be a Christian. Gosh, they’d tell me, I could just see Jesus pouring out of you while you helped me! (Oddly, they never said anything like that if I had to deliver bad news to them.)
This was years past my deconversion, so I was absolutely not a Christian. But I knew why they said it. They were just playing into a common belief among Christians.
Over the years, I’ve seen an astonishing number of Christians claiming that their faith imbues them with some kind of discernible aura that normies can detect. This aura draws them in like moths to flame, but it can also rile them up and lead to serious persecution JUS’ FER BEIN’ KRISCHIN.
My observations came to a head when we watched and reviewed a 2015 Christian movie called God’s Club. One plotline followed a cute, popular, non-Christian teen boy’s romantic pursuit of a slightly-unreceptive, uncool, TRUE CHRISTIAN™ classmate. Girl, obviously. This is, after all, an evangelical-aimed movie.
When someone pushed this boy to explain why he kept chasing this particular girl, he exploded with something like this: I don’t know! She’s just, I dunno, DIFFERENT I guess! (He also tells her directly that he’s attracted to “the glow in [her] eyes.”)
And the movie considers these reasons to be ’nuff said.
And they were, for its audience.
God’s Club pandered to TRUE CHRISTIANS™ by embracing a very common belief of theirs. TRUE CHRISTIANS™ think they possess some, I dunno, strange, uniquely-magnetic quality that confuses, bedazzles, and entrances normies.
It’s their Jesus Aura. Jesus is the one who supposedly creates it inside them, and obviously all humans totally find him endlessly fascinating–even if they officially hate his guts and those of all his followers. Christians’ job is to let their Jesus Aura shine. If they do, then they will convert and recruit the normies swarming around them.
The Jesus Aura in the wild
In 2018, a Christian wrote about someone who totally just knew that she and her friend were totally TRUE CHRISTIANS™. Apparently, this person knew their religious affiliation without seeing any tangible evidence speaking to it:
When I think back to this young woman’s statement about my friend and me loving Jesus, I’m in awe. While there are no bumper stickers on my car to proclaim my faith, this stranger saw the light of His love shining through us.
The stranger was a minister.
In 2019, another Christian wrote this bit about personal evangelism (that’s person-to-person evangelism, usually done on the fly by amateurs rather than paid, professional evangelists):
The light that shines [from us] is not the works we do. They see our works, undoubtedly. But the light itself, which lights our path and shines forth in those loving actions, is Christ in us, Wisdom from above, which is ours through faith in the good news.
Way back in 2001, a sermon explains further what this “light” does to non-Christians:
The result of our light shining is two-fold: First there will be individuals who will be drawn to the light as moths are to a flame. People will see the light that you have, they will hear your testimony, and they will want to investigate this Jesus you have been talking about. They will come to faith because of the seeds of light you have placed in their lives. Second, our light glorifies God.
This is all stuff I also believed when I was Christian. This belief is incredibly common. Over and over again, we see Christians referring to this imagined indwelling “light” as hugely magnetic to non-Christians.
Gosh, that must be why Christianity’s numbers and cultural power are tumbling so quickly.
Where this imagery comes from
If you’re wondering, a lot of this imagery seems to derive from John 3:19-21:
“And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen clearly that what he has done has been accomplished in God.”
And that’s apparently straight from Jesus!
But wait, there’s more! A Jesus Aura also repels people!
A Christian’s Jesus Aura turns out to be multi-function. It also repels people further away from belief. Those people are always bad people, of course. Jesus didn’t want them anyway.
A writer for Bible.org compares rejection of a Christian’s sales pitch to rejection of a life preserver when someone’s about to die by drowning. They conclude:
Have you had that experience with Jesus Christ? Have you seen who Jesus is and instantly recognized, “He is holy and I am not holy! I am under God’s judgment because Jesus is Light and I am darkness!” When you’ve that kind of encounter with Jesus, you can go one of two ways.
Someone writing for Bible Ref agrees completely:
This light reveals things, and some of what it uncovers we would rather keep a secret. Those who commit sin would prefer that sin stay hidden, and not be exposed.
So there you have it. This weird, invisible light emanating from Christians can convert or repel. It just depends on whether or not a witness to it converts or not.
Measuring the Jesus Aura
The main problem with this belief, of course, is that there’s no way to measure a Jesus Aura.
A person might wear a particularly pious expression. They might accurately follow all their tribe’s rules when in public view. But it might just backfire–as in that anecdote I’ve shared. In it, a neighbor finally asked a Christian friend of mine why he seemed so different.
That neighbor’s guess: vegetarianism. Christianity didn’t even enter his mind. As far as I know, he never converted, either, even though this friend was as Jesus-aura-y as could be.
When I was Christian, I heard other guesses. Christian friends always relayed these with weary exasperation. Buddhism was a big one.
Just as Jesus never signs his so-called miracles, he definitely never signs his auras, either.
Practical cultivation of a Jesus Aura
In reality, of course, for every correct guess a stranger might make that turns into a big huge miraculous testimony, these guessers likely make a lot of errors. I was able to send my call-center customers away convinced that I was just reluctant to discuss religion on the clock, oh those meaniepie employers!, but it always made me laugh that they’d been so wrong. I used to wonder how many of these false guesses they made on a day-to-day basis.
Back then, it was supposed to be absolutely obvious to everyone that here, indeed, was a real live TRUE CHRISTIAN™. If I ever learned someone hadn’t known that immediately about me, it would have sent me into spirals of self-doubt. Was I even Jesus-ing at all? Why did my Jesus Aura not shine forth like a beacon, lighting every step I took? Everyone needed to realize I was the real deal! And indeed, most people did–but it had nothing to do with a Jesus Aura.
Rather, it was probably just the weird clothes I wore. Pentecostal women held to a dress code called holiness standards. We looked like Amish people, for the most part, and many of us affected a slightly Victorian flavor of dress. Back then, it was okay. Stevie Nicks said so.
It’s interesting to see how sales-minded Christians use practical methods to cultivate what they imagine is a Jesus Aura. I mean, it’s supposed to be just the outgrowth of a Christian’s deep and abiding faith. But in reality, these Christians try hard to make sure everyone around them knows about their religious affiliation.
One evangelical site calls this sneaking-around “putting Christ on the table.” Yikes, what an image! But it was basically what we all kinda did. We acted really ostentatious and made sure to subtly and sneakily slip in references to our religion whenever we could. Sooner or later, we’d run across that person who just ached to hear more.
It must have been so incredibly tiresome to be around us, just as that site makes their members sound.
The Venn diagram comparing sales-minded Christians to multi-level marketing schemes grows ever closer to a full circle.
Casting a wide net when one’s product isn’t popular
Perhaps an even better comparison in this particular case might be comparing sales-minded Christians to pickup artists.
Pickup artists understand that they learn their tricks and mindgames precisely because they themselves are not in huge demand in the sexual marketplace. Tricks and mindgames are supposed to make up for their lack of demand.
In addition, they also learn that when one’s product is not hugely in demand, its seller must cast a very, very wide net and do it very often. Maybe only one in a thousand women will want to sleep with them, but if they only ask one woman a week for sex, then obviously it’ll take a long time–or a spot of incredible luck–to run across that one lucky woman.
So pickup artists learn to ask all the women they meet, in any context, under any circumstances, for sex. Shooting that many shots is eventually going to land them a bullseye, even if only by statistical chance.
But there’s another element here that goes into the Jesus Aura, and it, too, might just be part of a Venn circle with pickup artists.
How the Jesus Aura helps separate TRUE CHRISTIANS™ from everyone else
If you check out the links I’ve put into this post, you’ll quickly notice the subtle, rotten-eggs whiff of self-congratulation wafting through all of them.
When someone believes that a real live god inhabits them and gives them an unmistakable-if-invisible aura that definitely affects other people, there’s no way that’s not going to puff up that person and make them feel superior to all those plebes who lacked their fine sensibilities and discernment.
They’re not just regular human beings. No, no! They’re super-human. They’re inhabited by a god! And not just any god, either. Their god is the god of the entire universe, and possibly the only real god who ever existed. (We’ll ignore all that polytheistic stuff in the Old Testament. Those Israelites probably just didn’t realize that other gods were only demons. Sillies.)
In a lot of ways, then, a good Jesus Aura can help keep a Christian feeling superior to others.
The stark reality of the Jesus Aura
Here’s the stark reality of the Jesus Aura, though.
Time and again, Christian leaders have lamented that there is no positive difference between Christians of any stripe and non-Christians. Christians are like everyone else in every way that matters. They commit the deeds they call sins at the same rate or worse than everyone else. Their members behave as we’d expect decent people to act, or as toxic people to act.
We saw this lamentation raised in The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, among others. That book was an absolute hoot to read, because its author, Ronald J. Sider, spent most of the book outlining exactly how Christians were no different from non-Christians. He seemed especially upset that evangelicals weren’t behaving better.
But a good Jesus Aura is like a substitute for following restrictive and nonsensical tribal rules. It covers over all those flaws; it contains multitudes, so to speak. Just as prayer is a great substitute for grabbing a shovel and helping one’s neighbor dig a well, the Jesus Aura protects Christians from having to display their religiosity in more tangible ways.
Not that that would help them, as I’ve pointed out here today. But dang, it’d be nice if more Christians followed that old (misattributed) adage about only using words when necessary.
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