John Piper’s Attack on “Christian Loners”

I recently listened to one of John Piper’s “Ask Pastor John” broadcasts. This one was titled For Christian Loners. While I appreciate John Piper’s ministry and would highly recommend his ministry to you the reader, I really didn’t like this particular broadcast.

John Piper (theologian)

John Piper (theologian) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What I got from his broadcast, besides the fact that he wrongly equated loner with being lonely (loners are NOT lonely people, lonely people are NOT loners), was that it was wrong to be a loner, that we shouldn’t want to be alone. He was, in effect, saying that being a loner is a sin.

Frankly, I’m really getting tired of all these extroverts (and all these other people who have this incessant need to interact with and relate to each other), presuming to tell the rest of us that there’s something wrong with us for not being like them and, worse, for not wanting to be like them. Life isn’t about you! The rest of us don’t exist for the purpose of interacting with and relating to you! The world doesn’t revolve around you!

Yeah, I get that Christianity is a communal faith, that it’s a community of faith, that relationships are an essential part of Christianity and being part of the Church, that we are individually body parts in Christ’s body. I accept that biblical truth – I don’t necessarily like it, but I accept it. However, I resent being told that there’s something wrong with me for wanting my alone time, for needing a break from the energy-draining experience of interacting with others. I resent being treated as if there’s something wrong with me for not being like the extroverts who have this incessant need to always be interacting with and relating to other people, and who really do think life is all about them and that they are the standard against which everyone else is to be compared (they might deny it, but their actions prove that this is exactly their thinking).

It isn’t that I dislike people (this is one of the huge differences between loners and people who are anti-social) – I really don’t dislike people – it’s that I just don’t get this incessant need so many of them have to interact with and relate to each other; and I don’t get this notion of theirs that everyone else should want to interact with and relate to them and want to be like them. I like being alone. I have never experienced loneliness and have no idea what that’s like for those who have experienced it. (So, knock off this nonsense of assuming that just because people are alone that they’re also lonely)! Some of us just find people draining and we need our alone time (some of us need a lot of alone time) to recharge our batteries.

Even Jesus needed His time away from the crowds and even away from His disciples – sometimes spending the whole night alone in an isolated place. (Yeah, I know, He wasn’t really alone because of the communion He had with the Father; but, then again, none of us who are Christians are ever really alone because God’s Spirit dwells within us).

So, excuse us “loners” for not being like the rest of you and not wanting to be like the rest of you! The world doesn’t revolve around you and we don’t exist to serve your need for interacting with and relating to each other. Get over yourselves and leave the rest of us alone! If we want to interact with and relate to you, we will (even if perhaps reluctantly; after all, Christianity is a communal faith and being a Christian and part of the Church necessarily involves relationships); but don’t presume to treat us as if there’s something wrong with us for not being like you or not wanting to be like you!

“The healthy Christian is not necessarily the extrovert, ebullient Christian, but the Christian who has a sense of God’s presence stamped deep on his soul, who trembles at God’s word, who lets it dwell in him richly by constant meditation upon it, and who tests and reforms his life daily in response to it.” – J.I. Packer

Okay, I confess: my visceral reaction to Piper’s little talk was perhaps an overreaction. Christianity is a communal faith. It is lived in community. There are no “Lone Ranger Christians.” I should want to be part of that community. I should want to have relationships with others – if for no other reason than to do the “one another” stuff that Paul taught in some of his epistles. Individually, we’re body parts in Christ’s body and we can’t function without the other body parts. I don’t get relationships, they make no sense to me, but they’re not only part of being a Christian and being part of the Church (you can’t be a Christian and not be part of the Church), they’re part of being human. I, albeit reluctantly, accept that.

4 thoughts on “John Piper’s Attack on “Christian Loners”

  1. I have to say I was a little troubled too. You see, I have Asperger’s. It’s not something I can change, like- SNAP my fingers, and poof, I’m a ‘normal’ Christian who fits in at the local church. Sigh.. I’ve been uncomfortable in group activities as far back as I can remember, and I’m now almost 50. I work at it, do the best I can, but I’m clearly at a disadvantage when it comes to engaging with the Christian community IRL. I’m not very comfortable, although I can fake it well as long as I can go home to quietly de-stress afterwards. I usually feel like I’ve been given my freedom, sadly. And on top of it, I generally am the type that others have to make allowances for. Although Christians in general do that better than others, it’s still a constant underlying issue. And for Pastor John to disparage me about my failings as a societal Christian, that hurts. I’m surprised that its enough of an issue for him to address, are there really that many of us outside the church?

    1. Myra,

      Thanks for your story. While I don’t have Asperger’s (I looked into it after someone asked me if I did), I can indeed relate to the need for alone time to recharge the batteries. Interestingly, I can stand in a pulpit or in front of a class and teach, but don’t do very well with the socializing stuff.

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