Professional Weaker Brothers - #1

A preacher took the pulpit, scanned the congre - gation, and said, "The world is going to hell and most of you don't give a damn." The crowd gasped, but the minister continued unfazed. "And what's worse, most of you are more upset that I just said 'damn,' than that people are going to hell."

Christians get rankled about lotsa stuff, but not all of our rankling is worthwhile. Sometimes we're guilty of straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

Not long ago, I submitted a short story to one of my writer's loops. This was the opening line:
How in the hell do you drown in the desert?

That's a decent opening line, don't you think? Kind of intriguing. The story was being entered in theFaith in Fiction contest. Well, I subbed it to the group and, immediately, some people pointed out the dreaded curse word. In fact, a couple folks went so far as to say it would incur immediate disqualification. Hmm. Maybe I could navigate some ways around it. So I submitted these four alternatives:

1.) How in the heck do you drown in the desert?
2.) How in the world do you drown in the desert?
3.) How in God's name do you drown in the desert?
4.) How do you drown in the desert?

The votes poured in. Okay, six or seven people responded. Someone offered tarnation, another How in God's green earth. One person suggested, How in blazes do you drown in the desert and another added blue blazes. That was a little different. I began contemplating the blazes options, when someone noted that blazes and blue blazes actually meant hell and should be avoided; furthermore, How in God's name was taking the Lord's name in vain. At this stage, holy hangnail seemed like a viable option. After more gnat-straining, my friend Ane Mulligan finally settled the matter. She said, "Go with your gut."

So I stayed with my original line... hell and all.

The story was a finalist. Apparently, Dave Long, the big cheese at FiF, wasn't that concerned about the four-letter word. Wish I could say that for everyone.

Fact is, Christians get their panties bunched for all kinds of things. But sometimes it's hard to tell which gripes, objections and concerns are legitimate, and which are simply a result of personal preference or snooty separatism.

Joe Aldrich, in his book Lifestyle Evangelism, suggests that the biggest obstacle to sharing the Gospel and penetrating the secular marketplace of ideas, is not unbelievers, but Christians. Unsaved, non-religious folks do not share our standards... and shouldn't be expected to. In fact, their lifestyles often contain the very things we are trying to distance ourselves from. Nevertheless, in order to win their hearts we must develop common ground. But finding common ground with the carnal, the crude, the hopeless and blind, requires some concessions.

Not long ago, some young men came through our neighborhood, bibles in hand, sharing the Gospel. Or at least, what they said was the Gospel. One of my sons spoke to them and afterwards asked, "Dad, will someone go to hell for getting a tattoo?" I laughed and said, "God's more concerned with the inside, than the outside." Then he pointed out an obscure scripture from the Book of Leviticus that the young evangelists used to make their point. Apparantly, the Gospel according to these men was, Repent and believe in Jesus... and for heavens sake, remove those tattoos.

Over the years, Christians have added a lot to the Gospel. Now it's, Repent and believe and... fill in the blank: stop cussing, drinking, dressing like a sleaze, watching R-rated movies, playing cards and gambling. And for heavens sake, remove those tattoos.

But somewhere along the way, we got lost compiling lists of do's and dont's, establishing codes of conduct, ethics and dress, instead of just loving people.

Maybe the preacher was right. The world is going to hell and most of us don't give a damn. But what's even sadder, is that some people are more concerned about the word 'damn,' than that people are going to hell.



Jeanne Damoff said...

Mmm. So true, Mike. What in God's blue hangnails should we do about it?

michael snyder said...

Jeanne, THAT's funny.

Give yourself some points.

Great post, Mike. And your story rocked.

Janet Rubin said...

Preach it Mike! Amen. Dammed good post. My pastor always says, "Jesus plus Jesus plus nothing equals salvation."

Ame said...

Oh, gosh! I'm doomed! "Hell" and "Damn" are disqualifyers for the Kingdom of Heaven??!!!

Gosh . . . if there's a dress code somewhere, it hasn't filtered to my church! A few years ago a woman said to me, "It's really cold in here!" And may husband replied under his breath, "Well, if you put some clothes on it might not be so cold!!!"

Elaina Avalos said...

Okay, I just wrote a brilliant comment and then somehow in all of my brilliance it was deleted.

So here's the summary:

Jeanne, you're hilarious. You crack me up.

Mike, your story was, as I've said before, one of my favorites. I'm not as cool as Dave Long. But I'm close. And therefore, it should be an honor that I liked your story that much.

But seriously now...here's what I have to say about this post. The church needs to UNBUNCH their panties and get over it already. We major on the minors. Meanwhile, we alienate the very people we're called to love, serve, feed, clothe, etc., etc. We miss the point so often. And whereas many would look down on certain "types" of people, my cousin Tim, who happens to be covered in tats, would be able to have a conversation with those "types" about the meaning behind some of his tattoos which are largely based on Bible verses. Much like a poem whose theme speaks to Christ's restoration of the soul, his tats actually preach the gospel. I'm not kidding. It's his thing.

And whereas Sister Self Righteous would cross on the opposite side of the street when she sees the guy with the gigantic ring in his nose and tats covering his body, Tim would probably be able to have a conversation with him revealing the heart change that comes from being truly touched by the Savior, without being one who spews condemnation everywhere.

That wasn't really a summary. It's 0200 I get long winded when I'm up way past my bed time. So sue me.

Thanks for continuing to write thought provoking and challenging posts, Mike.

Dineen A. Miller said...

I'm glad you stayed with your gut, because if you didn't, I'd have to take my "hell on wheels" phrase out of my ms. LOL!

I know I've said this here before, but it boils down to this. Are we as Christians going to be what we are for? Or only about what we're against? Jesus was an example of the former. I choose Jesus.

Gina Holmes said...

Amen, Mike. It's one of the saddest things to me. To see Christians tearing up other Christians or non-Christians for that matter instead of getting to the heart of the matter. I'm not above guilt here either. Judgement creeps into my mind like one of those nasty little bugs from that nail fungus commercial. It's a constant battle.

Is it me or does that preacher look an awfully lot like Ronald Reagan?

siouxsiepoet said...

mike, whose tattoo is shown? eh? kinda creepy to have a jesus tattoo. but to each his own. i couldn't make out the body part either, shoulder? too gimpy to be a knee.

i love my tattoo and am hoping my husband will approve of my getting another one (the thing about the one body thing is, it's only one when he objects to something) very body of christ there. my big question is where? i like to see my tats, i don't get them for others. so the back is clearly out, but where?

still thinking...

Yours Truly said...

Catherine Marshall uses "shit in her novel "Julie." I wonder what the profanity guidelines are for the Christy Awards? Something to think about ...


Ane Mulligan said...

Well, Mike, old buddy, we showed 'em, huh? I'm sure glad you went with your gut, because that was one of the best stories I've ever read, and in my opinion that was your break-through to bold writing. Your just finished manuscript is top notch, too. Go get, brother!

Ame said...

Okay, Mike, this one is true ... do ya think it could get published??? hehehehehe