Swinging from the Vine / 808 posts / 2,772 comments / feed / comments feed

Bathtub musings and a bit of a rant

I have always really liked water. I swam competitively most of my childhood and teen years and I still enjoy swimming. I also find that I am the most “in my element”, relaxed and uninhibited while in the water. This means a night rarely goes by without a tub soak before bed (often with a glass of wine and some chocolate). I’m generally a very fidgety person but the bathtub is the one place I am able to be still and relax.

The other night, during one of my baths, I had an epiphany. I think that many Christians of my tradition (in part) struggle to have relationships with “non christians” because it requires us to realize and find peace with the fact that we can’t “fix people with the gospel”. It’s uncomfortable for many Christians (in my opinion and experience) to have deep meaningful conversations with those outside our own faith because it challenges much of what we believe (you mean, someone can be happy and not be a Christian? improbable, highly improbable) AND, in order to have a positive, healthy, flourishing friendship, we can’t constantly correct their spiritual ideas and insist that they’re wrong and don’t know what they’re talking about. Christians in general have a very hard time letting perceived errors go by without correction. We fear having the blood of damned souls on our hands if we don’t present the gospel (which is not THE GOSPEL by the way, it’s a get out of hell free token) within 2 days of knowing someone.

So instead of living in that place of tension and discomfort for the purpose of having meaningful and profound relationships we stay in the safety zone of preaching to the choir…why? Fear.

I see this so often in churches and each time it makes me more and more sad. Someone “comes to faith” and for awhile they still hang out with their “pre Christian days” friends, they look pretty much the same and for the most part, they talk the same. They listen to a lot of the same music they did before and watch essentially the same TV and movies. Are they changed? Yes, usually, but often in very subtle and slow growing ways.

And then slowly, but surely as the day is long, they start to turn inward to the church culture. They throw away their old music (can’t sell them because then you’d be encouraging others to listen to devil music) and exchange them for CCM and worship music only..maybe some classical or jazz…MAYBE. They stop watching rated R movies. They suddenly get the heebie jeebies from any references to fairies or magic or sprites or elves. They start talking like a televangelist and praying like one too. They take down their fine art in exchange for trite paintings of Jesus lifting someone off the ground and scripture verses scattered all over the place.

They get the church hair cut and the proper clothes. Before, they were easy going and fun, now they’re high strung and boring. Before, they thought children were human beings deserving of respect and now they’re reading “Growing Kids God’s Way” (gag) and smacking their little babies and forcing them onto feeding schedules like they were a naughty pet. Before, they had every intention of sending their kids to public school. Now, not only are they home schooling but they’re sending their kids to the church home school co-op. Before, they had a well rounded social life, now, they spend every waking hour attending prayer meetings and church services and spending all their free time with other Christians. They begin talking about non christians as if they were aliens from another planet sent here to taint their puerile existence.

This is a problem. It’s a symptom of a fracked up hard drive. And until we see it as a problem and change the hard drive, all the cosmetic changes in the world aren’t going to do anything.

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  1. Erin — June 19, 2007 #

    I claim guilt to everything you mentioned, except that I have been a Christian since birth. Ooh the R rated movies and OMG Harry Potter and we shop at Eddie Bauer now because it’s acceptable. And I was at church nearly every day of the week for something, and suffered withdrawal when I wasn’t…

    However, there is hope. Some of us do rotate out of the cycle, eventually. I went in Eddie Bauer the other day at the outlet mall, and it gave me the heebie-jeebies like Linkin’ Park used to. And if I ever have to sing anther Hillsong for the rest of my life…

    (No offense to people who truly like EB or Hillsong because they actually like it; not because it’s what they are “supposed” to like. I’m the latter.)

  2. sonja — June 19, 2007 #

    “… puerile existence…?” ROTFLOL …

    That’s one of your best rants EVER!!!

  3. Mak — June 19, 2007 #

    Erin - how do you think I know all of this? I’ve been there, done that, bought the tshirt with the nail through the bloody hand screen print on it. I could obviously go on and on and on with church sub culture rants…but I’ll save some of that material for another rant ;)

    Sonja - hehe…thanks.

  4. Mak — June 19, 2007 #

    oh and I “grew up” “in the church” as well.

  5. Erin — June 19, 2007 #

    Suffice to say, I too loved your rant.

    The geek in me shivered at the hard drive reference.

  6. jim — June 19, 2007 #


    Thanks for this, the other day I was thinking about how the gospel often gets presented by way of polemics against the unchristian life and how miserable of an existence that is.

    Yet as you say, we know all sorts of people for whom if we are honest we’d have to say are pretty happy, normal, stable people (maybe even more so than some christians we know!) who simply happen to also live without any faith in God.

    A conundrum for sure…which makes you wonder what is the best way to present the gospel both for those who are already in the “in” crowd and for those who are perfectly happy with life as they know it on the outside?

  7. Atalia — June 19, 2007 #

    I can completely relate to this. I just had my own very similar rant with Jordan shortly after we got here. One of the reasons why I am so glad we moved here is so we can start over, actually living life the way it was intended to be and not in some kind of christian secret society, cut off from the rest of civilization. I’ve been coming to the realization that I really don’t agree with alot of what I was taught to believe and what chrisitan culture has become, or that there even is a chrisitian “culture”. Well it’s cool to see that you feel this way because I agree!

  8. Julie Clawson — June 19, 2007 #

    awesome rant. I’ve so been there and done that. I’m still at the stage where I feel slightly guilty for not being that way - more in a I’m aware I’m different now and that’s strange. But I am finding how refreshing normal life is…

  9. Mak — June 19, 2007 #

    Jim, very good point. Here in this part of Colorado, we have a lot of happy spiritual people with very few “felt needs” (which is how much of evangelism is “successful” in many cases, you appeal to the felt needs that you believe God can “fix” which explains many of the high conversion rates in certain places) and because of this, many of us are having to reshape our idea of the Gospel, the Kingdom, the Atonement (Atonement for a ’sinless’ Society by Alan Mann is a good read on this issue) and how to communicate those concepts to a perfectly content and fulfilled people.

    Julie - I still have those feelings too.

  10. Mak — June 19, 2007 #

    thanks Atalia - that’s great to hear that we’re on the same page :) we’ll make you a revolutionary yet ;)

  11. Paul — June 20, 2007 #

    clearly you’ll need to invest in a hot tub as an extension of your ministy ;)

    then after chilling, cab sab, chocolate and conversation - if anyone wants to convert they can just be ducked under the water…

    probably tax deductible that way too :)

  12. Anna — June 20, 2007 #

    Golly Gee Whillickers! I’m one of THOSE people now….except I still watch Monty Python, LOTR, and other bits of idleness and ENJOY it.


    who would much rather be as cool as a non-Christian, atm.

  13. Mak — June 20, 2007 #

    hehe…well, at least you’re holding on to monty python, that says something ;)

  14. Dianne — June 22, 2007 #

    I’ve been having much the same thoughts lately. One, that being a Christian makes me no better than the next guy. I am still the same kind of sinner, just have access to a marvelous grace. In that respect, I’ve been trying to spend time with “not-yet-Christians” (to coin a phrase that I read recently and think is a better way to view others).

    Second, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “fear.” I think it all boils down to control. We don’t believe we have a big enough God or something so we have to step in and do his work for him. Ugh. I’ve been doing that so long. Amazing what happens when we step back and allow him to to work.

    Great GREAT post . . .

  15. Mak — June 22, 2007 #

    thanks Dianne. I agree about thinking we don’t have a big enough God. we all do that to different degrees about different things don’t we?

  16. Sensuous Wife — June 23, 2007 #

    Word. (that’s suburban white girl shorthand for ‘my jaw dropped when I read this because I recognize Truth when I hear it’) It’s been my experience that Jesus is all about Appearance vs. Reality. Your point is well-taken.

  17. Kimberly — June 23, 2007 #

    Hey Mak–found you on emerging women–great rant. Growing up there was a clear line between Christians and non: those who had said the prayer and those who hadn’t. Very “us and them” which created the fear you mentioned. I like what Diane said about there not being much difference between me and everyone else except that grace and the idea that living wholly/holy (the way Jesus did) mark my journey. Most people I meet are trying to do the same thing in some form, they just don’t know (or acknowledge) that its the Spirit in them that is prompting them. Also, I find there’s a lot to learn from other peoples journey whether they profess Christ or not.

  18. Mak — June 23, 2007 #

    thanks Kimberly and sensuous wife!

  19. Nadine — June 23, 2007 #

    Nifty rant. I couldn’t agree more.

  20. Medium Guy — June 24, 2007 #


    I resonated with your rant and found it hilarious. I wonder what portion of it could be due to a feeling of insecurity, such as, “Well, gee, I read that God is great and omnipotent and all, but I’m afraid that God can’t really love me or ’save’ me if the following conditions are not met…” I recall a dialogue with a member of the first church community I ever knew, where I was asserting that my understanding was that there are no limits to what God can accomplish for and with us, and he very emphatically insisted that, “When it comes to sin, God can’t do anything about that.” In retrospect, I wish I had reminded him about Jesus.

  21. Mak — June 24, 2007 #

    thanks Nadine. good to see you here :)

    medium guy - yeah no doubt, I think insecurity is a huge part of it - - probably a lot of the root of the fear in fact

  22. Joi — June 25, 2007 #

    Thanks for posting this rant. I find myself in a similar position, realizing I am different from who I was taught to be as a Christian. This may be a little to “real” but sometimes I think we secretly enjoy the fact that a non-Christian who becomes “saved” has to give up all those fun things we have been told are evil or lead to sin. Misery loves company. I no longer will be misery nor its company.

  23. Mak — June 25, 2007 #

    misery loves company .. hehe…isn’t that the truth? but how sad. I think what bothers me the most about these externals that people are expected to adopt is that it makes for a very self righteous attitude not to mention that it masks the disciplines that are really important. In other words, I have this long list of things I don’t do, don’t watch, don’t say and that makes me feel good enough to allow myself to ignore the fact that I spend money I don’t have on a house, cars and various “goodies” I don’t need which takes away from my ability to serve the poor the widow and the orphan. I might not buy disney movies because of their “homosexual agenda” but I have no problem buying chocolate made by child slaves or clothes made from exploited workers. By focusing on little things that make me feel better because they’re more external and sound more holy, I completely miss out on the disciplines of “sermon on the mount” kingdom living.

    IMO, that’s why this sort of teaching/living is dangerous and not just an issue of personal opinion

  24. Matt Stone — June 30, 2007 #

    Makeesha, agree totally, I think we need to shift our attention from “fixing people with the gospel” to “trying to be a blessing to people in whatever way God calls us to be”. Sometimes that will mean sharing the gospel, sure, but it probably never extends to being a highly strung basket case. That’s never a blessing for anyone.

  25. Jonathan Brink — July 13, 2007 #


    I think we all need to go through this conversation at some point. It’s the subtle realization that what Christendom promised us is not really what the gospel is about. It hard sometimes realizing that everything really is sacred and learning how to redeem even the darkest of people. It requires that we conquer our fear, which is not the easiest of things to do. Being in the world but not of it requires a willingness to trust in the dark, and sometimes we’re not so good at that.

    The question for me is how not to become cynical and to keep love at the center of my heart. How do I begin to shed the trappings of what so many churches teach me that it means to follow Jesus when it “feels” so far from the truth. To let go of that means to be subversive in a way that often feels like I’m taking on the giant. The risk is that I could be wrong. Thank God for grace.

  26. Mak — July 13, 2007 #

    Jonathan, I think a little bit of cynicism is good ;)

    thanks for your comment and for popping over here :) welcome.

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