It is not uncommon for people to view single friends as a problem that needs to be fixed. The feeling that singleness needs to be fixed is especially common around Valentines Day. These attempts to help set up people who they see as having potential with each other are well-meaning. The debate over how helpful this is another matter that I am not going to address here. What I am is that this efforts to get new people interacting with each other. This of course results in a lot of first impressions being made.
First impressions leave a lasting impact on one’s views of others. This is especially the case when we are told something about the person before we meet them. Given that what we know in advance will determine how we approach the other person. In the same way, first impressions also play an important role in how we relate to God. In that, the initial way that somebody introduces us to God has a profound and lasting effect on our view of God. So this got me thinking about how obvious the messed up nature of the anxious bench is in this context. The Bible has many different images used to describe God, including a king, judge, parent, and spouse. This is because different people and cultures find some images more helpful than others. The image of God as a lover is currently one of the more helpful Biblical images in our culture.
So let us consider a single man who a friend is trying to help him find a meaningful relationship. The friend starts to tell him about a certain wonderful local woman as an ideal match. He goes on to tell his friend not only how beautiful she is but also how she is a very loving person that is full of compassion. On top of that, she is playful and very fun to be around which makes her the most desirable available woman in town. So far everything sounds great, right? He then mentioned that there is just one little thing that his friend should know about. She has a short violent temper when it comes to rejection or her partner looking at other women. He goes on to caution his friend that it is very important not to ever consider breaking up with her. In fact simply passing over her now for another woman would be just as bad as she already knows that you are single. In the past, she has described as going berserk and lashing out big time against the last guy that scorned her. People say that she kicked him hard enough to knock him to the ground. Then once he was on the ground she continued to kick and stamp on him with her heels. Yet that was only the beginning as she then hauled him off to a hidden room in her basement and chained him to a wall. Rumor is that she has a whole room filled with loser guys that she makes sure to torture every night. Yet the friend reassured that it is nothing that he should be concerned about. As she is such a wonderful woman and her love is so great that it is unlike anything else that a man can experience. At this point, I am sure most people would feel that crazy, lunatic and or psychopath would be a more accurate description of her. In fact, they would likely question their friend’s sanity. As what type of person would insist that a person whose actions come off as so messed up is actually a very loving and compassionate person?
This is the reality of how the anxious bench distorts the image of God. The anxious bench twists one’s perception of God into that of a monster that demands to be viewed as loving and compassionate. This is what most evangelism efforts come off as thanks to the use of the anxious bench. So it makes perfect sense why a growing number of people do not want to have anything to do with the church. In my opinion, the biggest tragedy of American church history was the rise of the anxious bench. This is why it is essential to reevaluate how we talk about God to others. As the last thing that we want to do is to give somebody a negative first impression of God.