Old Habits Die Hard (With A Vengeance)

If there is anything I can’t stand it’s a person who’s judgmental, intolerant, and holier-than-thou. Especially when that person is, um, me.

A few posts ago, I wrote about the fact that yes, I am a Christian. A big ol’ Christian. My kids go to Christian schools, my husband is a gospel singer, blah blah blah–CHRISTIAN. However, as I explained, I have this inborn rebellious resistance to being lumped in with all of the stereotypes that people usually have of those who profess the Christian faith. And since gross generalizations and quick assumptions get on my last nerve, I am always very critical of people who are critical. However, though you may not know this about me, I have a bit of a snarky streak myself. (You could at least pretend to be a little shocked by this!)  If you have ever had the pleasure of watching a beauty pageant, political debate or America’s Next Top Model with me, this would have already become very apparent. However, I am not inherently mean-spirited or cavalier with other people’s feelings, so my snarkiness is usually combined with humor and kidding around. I don’t “go after” people, and I have no desire to publicly humiliate anyone. That being said, though, I do have a mouth on me. Mostly however, my snotty side is hidden behind my eyes. It manifests itself as snide little comments and observations inside my head. I can get away with murder in there– nobody gets hurt and I find myself endlessly amusing! 


But here’s the thing. I’ve noticed that some of my harshest and swiftest criticisms are usually towards other Christians. Maybe it’s a side effect of spending my adult life surrounded by ‘professional Christianity’– when business is mixed with beliefs, sometimes the lines can get a little blurred. Russ and I were young and idealistic when we were first exposed to this world, a world that included TV evangelists, religious record labels and Christian celebrities. We were friends with people who were very closely involved with mega-ministries and famous preachers and we got an earful. We knew too many inside stories behind some of the most unsavory spiritual scandals of the last few decades, and it definitely left us a little disillusioned and jaded. Now we’ve also had the opportunity to witness first-hand some truly unselfish, humble servants of God, too– the kind that have quietly spent their lives trying to put feet to their faith and leave the world a better place. So we’re not all cynical and surly about Christianity or anything, but there have been some times over the years when we’ve kind of taken an extended hiatus from some forms of Organized Religion– like church, for instance.

Then we had kids.

When Madi was about 2 or 3, we did that classic hypocritical baby boomer thing of deciding that though we hadn’t had always felt a burning desire to go ourselves, we definitely wanted our children to be raised in church. That was also about the time we met our new neighbor Becca Stevens, who just happened to be an Episcopal priest as well as a beautiful, hilarious, earthy, wise, fabulous woman who became one of my closest friends. And my pastor. God must have gotten a huge kick out of watching Russ, the son of a jumpin’, shoutin’, rollin Pentecostal preacher and me, raised on family Bible studies by deeply spiritual, lapsed Christadelphians (don’t even ask– no one else has ever heard of them either) end up in a tiny Episcopal chapel on the campus of Vanderbilt University with a woman priest and an eclectic congregation that ran the gamut from Yale to jail! I will always cherish our time at St. A’s. It allowed us to let down our defenses and become part of a community again, to unlearn and relearn what that truly means. But after a number of years, it seemed our season there was drawing to a close, and we moved to Brentwood at exactly the same time that St. A’s began a period of displacement because of major construction, so it kind of turned into a natural break.

Fast-forward two years, and here we are, three Sundays into a new relationship with a new church and new pastor and new congregation. It had been a while since the four of us stood side by side in a house of worship together, and it felt really good. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not ‘heatherns’ as Russ’ mom used to say (she also used to think ‘lesbian’ was pronounced ‘lezben’, but that’s another post…)– between Russ’ concerts, the girls’ schools, and our travels we put in a lot of pew-time; but that’s different than really having a church home. So you’d think that my reaction to this new development would be nothing but positive, right? All warm and squishy and full of singing angels and unicorns, right? Yeah, so did I. So imagine my chagrin when that judgmental voice in my head started in almost as soon as we walked in the building! I found myself absentmindedly critiquing everything from the hairdo on the person greeting us at the door to the lack of windows in the sanctuary. It was a completely unplanned knee-jerk response, like my brain was on auto-snark or something. I had a running commentary going- “I hope we don’t have to stand here for thirty minutes while some gospel cheerleader tries to “lead worship” by browbeating us into singing the same praise chorus a hundred times…” “If I take one of those cards when they ask who’s a visitor, we’ll probably have to endure a lot of awkward hugging by complete strangers…” About 10 minutes into the service, I finally woke up to what I was doing and was completely appalled. I was embodying the kind of small-minded, fault-finding attitude I cannot STAND in other people. If someone outside of my head had been trash-talking any group of people like I was inside my mind, I would have punched them out. And it was all so completely unnecessary! There was nothing there, nothing going on that remotely warranted my reaction. I think it was almost self-protective, like if I started out identifying the weak points maybe I wouldn’t get blind-sided when that church and those people (inevitably) let me down. It made me realize just how vulnerable I was, how wary I was of Organized Religion, and how very much I really did want to let my guard down and find a community again.


Once I became aware of what I was doing and why, it didn’t take a lot for me to give it up, to tell the sarcastic, snotty little teenage voice in my head to sit down and shut the hell up. In Christian love.  Like, I didn’t have to raise my hand and ask for an exorcism or anything, I simply decided not to do that anymore. Would that all of my character defects were that easy to get rid of! That is one of the benefits of getting older– the ability to look at things with clarity, and then just make a decision on whether or not that is something you want in your life. Almost makes up for the other things that come with getting older, like wrinkles and a saggy rear end. I said ALMOST.


So, that’s the story of how Tori Quieted Her Inner Snark and Got Her Church Groove Back. Coming soon to a Flip camera near you! Just kidding! I don’t think they’d let me film inside the church– although that would be fun, wouldn’t it? I could surreptitiously smuggle the camera in my purse and then keep up a running smart aleck commentary on everything that happened… Uh oh. 

Apparently I still have some work to do with that whole Inner Snark thing. (Also the Saggy Rear End thing, if we’re being honest here.)  Oh well. ‘Progress not perfection,’ you know.

25 Responses

  1. morgitta

    Loved this post and can so rely to it. Gave me a warm feeling too. Aren’t we all the same, in the end ?

  2. BrownEyedGirl

    You are only saying out loud what I have never admitted.

    I have to laugh about the hairdo’s in particular. We had a sweet old lady in church with a boufant hairdo ( actually we still have one and she’s only in her early 50’s – Yes, I was thinking things in my head too)

    Anyway, my 16 y/o was probably about 8 yrs old and not too quietly asked me if that was a bulbous boufant??? My husband listens to the Dr. Demento radio show and one song is about a bulbous boufant. I couldn’t crouch low enough in my seat. See , Tori, you’re family is fine…WE have the problem LOL

  3. gracelynn

    BrownEyedGirl is right – you just said what the majority of us never admit. The truth be told, we all have an inner snark in us…myself included. It’s even harder when you grow up in a home where your parents are constantly belittling another denomination and praising their denomination as if they sat on the right hand side of God Himself.

  4. belinda

    I have been right there with you. Isn’t it amazing when you realize what you are doing and stop, how much better things are? Great post!

  5. rockin robyn

    The way I see it, if we all had the same “pure” spirited personality this world would be very boring. The very fact that you’re admitting to your inner “snarky” streak tells me that you’re a better person than most who “do” actually sit back and criticize and stand in judgement of others.

    Everything we do and experience in life (whether we are aware of it at the time or not) is purposeful and helps shape our lives and our personalities-good or bad. That’s just who we become. Looking back in your lives, the things you and Russ experienced in the Church world that left you disillusioned and jaded with organized religion was perhaps purposeful to get you to this place now, and to find this church or “a” church that would fill that void and how lucky for them to be able to welcome you and your family to their family. Besides the true Christian in you came out in defense. The devil was truly at work here… Four people looking for a Church home – he wasn’t going to let that be **so he tried to talk to the writers heart. But you fought him off and “quieted your Inner Snark and Got your Church Groove Back”. You go girl!! Job well done!

  6. auburn60

    Well, this blog gave me a lot to say–and I’m trying to be brief and to-the-point.
    First: I know a LITTLE about Christadelphians and know how very different that group is from Pentecostals and often wondered how that translated between you and Russ. But,of course, I was too polite to ask. (Ahem)
    Second: Thank you–I read parts of this to my 20 y.o. who definitely believes ‘organized religion’ has let her down and she said,’Wow, I love this woman!’
    Third: I have, to my regret, not always been wise enough to keep my own ‘inner snarky’ to myself and been horrified when I heard similiar comments from my children.
    I have never gone very long without my church family,not because of my own ‘holiness’ but because I NEED that interaction,vulnerability, and accountability.I have trouble leaving my ‘snarkiness’ at the door and have to make a concious effort and pray a lot to keep my focus where it should be.
    *organized religion*–a term that has always intrigued me. Is there some ‘unorganized religion’ out there? I think that would be a better fit for me.

  7. meb

    Wow! What a great post Tori.

    Having worked for a Christian television station, and 2 churches I can completely relate to the “professional” Christian environment. And that snarky voice was inside my head too (and sometimes coming out of my mouth too). Especially during the telethon times. Don’t even get me started about those.

    I love my church family that I am with now. It’s a community that holds each other accountable, but doesn’t judge when that snarkiness comes out. They just keep on loving just as God commanded us to do.

    This will be another one that I share with our creative team and Pastor. It will help us when we are planning the messages and illustrations to help get the message out there.

  8. themema

    I like snarky a lot better than pious. It just seems so much more honest. ;>)

    Now, just where is it that says we all have to be alike or worship alike. God wants us to worship Him with our own personality, not someone elses. I have been in and out of churches all my life, depending on my needs at the time, God’s prompting in a certain direction, and my other responsibilities. There is some phrase is some book about where two or three ……… Yeah, I believe that.

  9. dijea

    My inner snark would have to go to the snark rehab facility, it would never respond to just me, the sweet and funny mother of two – three if you count my overgrown husband, who is incredibly spiritual and wouldn’t say anything about anybody I wouldn’t say to their face.

    The Snark is a monster we all need to tame, but its so much fun to party with. I’m also with auburn60, I want some unorganized religion, I feel judged in a lot of churches because I’m more of a its better to have some faith than my faith is better than yours. I don’t do well with people judging my faith. Big secret – my husband is of another faith (jewish) and some churches just don’t accept me and condemn him. Its just not right.

  10. Steve Weber

    Being involved in the music ministry I can have a pretty snarky attitude myself although I rarely let it out (Thanks to God). God keeps reminding me that this is a church family. We are all here to worship Him together. We are workers together with Christ. That is what has kept me it line for the most part.

    Like meb I am in a church that just keeps on loving. It has make a tremendous change in the community and the whole church family is involved.

    Tori, I’m really glad that you’ve got you groove back.

  11. LindaB

    Well, I found this discussion interesting. I had to Google “snarky” to find out it means “sarcastic and irreverent, usually out of irritation”………….and not a person who turns in narcotic dealers to the police, like I thought at first. (I’m kinda glad, Tori, that you are not the latter, ’cause I think that’s dangerous.) I’m just not up on my terminology here!

    I’m glad you’ve got a hold of your “snarkiness”, Tori. (You better never make fun of MY hairdo!). I think I have some “snarky” moments too. But then, I’m sixty now and I think I’ll just keep mine and enjoy them……quietly.

    I wonder if atheists meet together and have “snarky” thoughts about each other? Like, “I think so and so is being judgmental! Just because I have skipped a few meetings and just happened to park my car in front of a church doesn’t mean I’m not a good atheist! Ya know, I’m just as good as the next atheist…….I just like to define atheism differently than those people over there! I’m more independent and unorganized.” LOL

    Was I just snarky? Oh shoot! Another thing to worry about.

  12. LindaB

    “we’ll probably have to endure a lot of awkward hugging by complete strangers…..” (Tori)

    Sounds like a good time to me! Or…… a wedding, relatively speaking.

  13. LindaB

    OMG! What if there are snarky trolls……..and they get organized?! (Or is snarky trolls redundant?)

    Now I can’t sleep.

  14. CarolynR

    Tori, speaking as someone with an inner snark and saggy rear end issues, I can also identify with your church related awkward hugging phobia. Glad you found the groove again!

    Love your blog. Cheers me up :>)
    PS I’m a Brit but am getting help with that ;)

  15. themema

    I have to rat on someone here.

    If Linda is ever snarky, you will never HEAR it from her. As prolific and funny as her fingers are, she is always the quietest one in the room!

    Now, Tori and me…. that is a different story. That snark inside us will just spit something right out of our mouths without us even knowing that it is going to happen. l o l

  16. LindaB

    Betty, you are mistaking extreme laziness with “quietness”! And starvation mode! LOL

    But you are right about one thing—–if I have a snarky thought, it will probably not be spoken. (I hope my daughter doesn’t read this and become snarky herself!) I think I am the opposite of snarky—-I can make up excuses for just about anyone, and believe them myself! “Well, she doesn’t really mean that. He’s having a bad time lately. It was the way she was raised. Poor girl, her hairdresser doesn’t like her.”

  17. emilythemom

    ah yes. snarkiness is my favorite pastime. I honed my snarky skills at the lunch table at my all-girls high school, a place where yes, we did learn to empower ourselves, but also how to out-snark the best of ‘em.

    i loved this post! sometimes it feels like you are saying exactly whats in my head….hmmm. maybe i’ll start calling my inner-voice Tori.

    I’ll let you know how that turns out.

  18. tori

    morgitta– I love that– ‘we are pretty much all the same in the end’, I guess– (except mine is, you know, saggier…)

    BEG– ‘Bulbous bouffant’ is my new favorite phrase– and would make a great band name!

    gracelynn– Yeah, being raised around snark doesn’t help, does it?

    belinda– You’re right–it’s the realizing that’s important.

    rockin’ robyn– I totally agree that everything we experience in life is, as you said, “purposeful”– great phrase.

    auburn– I swear, I almost called this blog “Disorganized Religion”– but it was already taken!

    meb– OK, come on, even Michael The Archangel would get snarky during a telethon!

    themema– I just love you. And yes, in the snarky vs. pious wars, I’ll have to go with snarky, too! (You’re also totally right about Linda– God only knows what goes on behind that sweet face!)

    dijea– “snark rehab”- BWAAHAHAHAHA! And congrats your Jewish husband– Zach Glickman, our business manager of 25 years (and the only Jewish manager in Christian music!) has always told me, “Jews make the best husbands!”

    Steve– Yeah, music ministry can sometimes bring that snark out big time…

    Linda– An athiest snark-fest! Your mind never ceases to amaze me. Also, I love your hair. And your ‘gift of excuses”!

    Carolyn R– WELCOME!!! I’m so excited to have you! I am a bit of an Anglophile, I have to admit… So don’t get too much ‘help with that!’

    emily– Yeah, an all girls school qualifies you for a black belt in snarkiness!

  19. CarolynR

    LOL Tori I understand in some countries being an anglophile comes with a custodial sentence! Thanks, happy to be here :)

  20. Jerri Ann

    Hey, I so see where you were going and coming from and headed to. Just recently when we owned a daycare, I lost several kids because the church my mom goes to split into three congregations. I don’t go there, my mom did. The people who went with either of the two congregations that she didn’t choose, took their children out of MY daycare. What the heck?

  21. nancy

    Tori –

    I’m a RECOVERING BAPTIST so your current post evokes very strong
    emotions for me!!! My mother’s words are running through my head
    “Be as nice as you can possibly be……” so in that spirit I won’t
    respond to this post – only to say thanks for going there!! I don’t
    have many in my life who understand my church experience but after
    reading your post YOU UNDERSTAND!! Thanks for daring to go there!
    I wish we could meet at Starbucks for weekly therapy – if I ever get
    back to Tennessee I’m looking you up!!!!!


  22. Hazel

    Oh my word!!! I have never been able to do a cartwheel (stop it now – don’t even try to picture it!). Ennywho, after that post, i may go give’r a whirl again! Tori, that is my heart. You know it. I don’t want to be a Pharisee dawg gone it! i am so there with you but i guess those few years between us make you WAY more mature than i b/c it would take me months of counseling to figure out what you did before the offertory! You are AMAZING with words and i continue to be amazed at how well you know yourself! Proud to call you friend. By the way, don’t i remind you of a Hazel? Thought that would be a good username. Mallory misses Char! We must get them together! Can she go to the BA game tonight? Love & miss you! Oh, let’s talk about my big butt please!

  23. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Oh my goodness, I have a confession. I was the first here to read your latest blog, Tori; however, I could not reply. No doubt my age is showing….but I am getting younger. At first reading, my motherly protective thoughts came forth and I thought, “Oh dear, Tori has said too much this time.” Then, coming back just now and reading all of the replies here, I silently thanked our Lord that He has placed someone like you here to be such a blessing and a breath of fresh air to all who come here and read your honest feelings. I hope this doesn’t make me a pharisee because I don’t stand on corners and pray. ….well, not until now because I feel led to go stand on that corner and pray real loud for all you snarky people.

  24. tori

    Jerri Ann– Ok, your daycare story is unbelievable! Or sadly, a little TOO believable… People can be so weird.

    nancy– Bring it on! My Starbucks or yours? Although truth be told, you’ll probably need more therapy AFTER we meet than before…

    “Hazel”– (Hazel???? Where in the world did THAT come from?!) You delurked!!! Yay! Charlo misses Mallory too, so much– I suck as a mother, they should have gotten together way before now. You’re my hero.

    Momma Lloyd- I just LOVE that after all this time, I can still make you nervous, bless your sweet heart ! (I read your ‘praying on the street corner for our snarky hearts’ comment to Russ and he laughed out loud!)

  25. auburn60

    Momma Lloyd–as I’ve told you before–you are welcome to pray for me every day,on street corners or wherever. I’ll give you a list-A to Z.
    Just think what all is on that list before you even get to ‘S for Snarky’.

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