Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

There’s a very excellent discussion going on over at Elspeth’s place in regards to the Christian Bubble. http://lovingintheruins.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/meanwhile-here-outside-the-christian-bubble

There’s a dichotomy: On one hand, we have folks who haven’t ever lived off the island. Their lives are “perfect”, their families are “perfect”. When they see someone who doesn’t have as externally perfect a life as they have had, they just don’t get it. They might have plenty of Christian kindness and compassion, but they don’t relate. I’m pretty sure that was what E was talking about.

On the other hand, we have churches set up to deal with folks who have had no Christian education whatsoever, and who are relating to God very emotionally. You start to get a reverse Bubble mentality, where if you haven’t been saved from your life of drug addiction and homelessness, you don’t know what it’s really like to be a Christian.

Ahem. Do you see anything in common here? “This is what it means to be *really* Christian”. Um. No. What it means to be really Christian is that you have a transformative personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and you place your faith in Him, utterly. That’s it. We’re not supposed to be exclusive. Once you’re in the family, you’re in. Done. He came for the sinners, not for the righteous. But – there aren’t any righteous. We’re all sinners. And we’re all *different*. Hands, feet, hearts, brains, eyes, ears, bellybuttons. We’re *different*, and we have different talents, different purposes.

We’re humans, and our churches are where we congregate for community, to get together not just with those in the family of faith, but with those who are like us. One sees the benefit to the parish mentality… but we don’t use the parish mentality as modern Protestants, so … onward. The tendency to make our friends like ourselves and to then define “real folks” as the folks that we hang out with is entirely natural. Notice I said, “natural” – not good.

The other thing that isn’t good is setting different fences around where you “should be” as a Christian. You know – I’ve been saved since I was four. If I don’t know more about the Bible than someone who got saved last week, I should hang my head in shame. (There are churches where people stay all their lives and never crack open their Bibles. That’s shameful, and no sugarcoating it). There are things that someone who has been addicted to heroin and come to Christ can teach me about utter dependence on the Lord and the Lord alone that I just don’t know from my safe and pleasant experience. We’re all one body.

Hypocrisy and self-assurance *are* something the church has to guard against. Who were Jesus’ biggest enemies? The Pharisees. None of us want to go there. But pretending to be what we are not, and have never been, is just as wrong.

Strive for temporal good – including temporal spiritual good – as you are ready to drop it all at the call of God.

(speaking of reality, I was interrupted while in the middle of thought and it’s run off, so … I’ll catch it later. For now, you can have this).

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10 thoughts on “Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

  1. Renata

    “They might have plenty of Christian kindness and compassion, but they don’t relate.” We all feel more comfortable around people like ourselves. And that is a numbers game. Beyond that natural connection, I think that “relating” shouldn’t be an end goal. Compassion, courtesy, friendship, empathy- sure, but not nebulous moving-goal-posts like relating (to whom? Can one really be everything to all people?). That is an overused phrase by teenagers everywhere. You can’t relate to me- you lack my life experience and my personality. And I lack yours. So what? Why is relating a goal? That would assume on some level that sameness is a virtue.

    Reply
  2. hearthie Post author

    I agree that perhaps the goal of church attendance shouldn’t be relating to the other congregants, but at the same time, we call our church of attendance things like our “church home” and our “church family” which presupposes that having a relationship beyond worshipping shoulder-to-shoulder is part of the experience.

    We have had a culture where we only associate with birds of a feather for decades now, some of us don’t know any other sort of culture. So we expect all people to be like us. We define normalcy with our own life experiences. It makes it hard to wrap our minds around other people being really real, if they aren’t similar to us. We EXPECT to relate to everyone!

    So, how do we build community (and church is definitely a community) that breaks the class/race/age barriers and stop acting like people who aren’t just like us aren’t “real Christians” at all? That’s the only way we’re going to pop the bubbles, imo – get everyone inside!

    Reply
  3. Renata

    Why is the natural response to “church family” wanting those in the happy bubble to adjust their lifestyle to better relate to those whose background is societal disorder? To relate, I would have to acquire some deadbeat relatives and a divorce or two. I don’t think that building a community upon leveling the differences between people is a wise idea. It is Christian co-opting of multiculturalism. We can acknowledge that others who are unlike us are “real Christians” without popping bubbles, relating, or any of that. There are people who like to worship without clapping, there are people that like to worship with dancing; the ultra intellectual and the emotional- how can these people relate? The best solution is two churches that have friendly relations between them. I think it is wrong when we try to judge the faith of others based on superficialities or preferences. I think that God loves all of these little micro-cultures. It is very personal, very customized to have your church family be an actual extension of your family culture and personality. Only in this context is it rational to expect to relate on that level with those in your church. I don’t know if this is something that can be created today. Communities are too diverse. I’m not against diverse churches- I am against the idea that people should change to accommodate differences not addressed in Scripture.

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  4. hearthie Post author

    I agree with you. We shouldn’t be changing ourselves unless God tells us to change ourselves. But we’re supposed to fellowship, and just because one person is younger in Christ or has … interesting… situations, that doesn’t make them less in the faith. I’d rather one ex-drug addict than one self-assured person who has been in the church all their life and never read it all the way through.

    But how much of this is stylistic difference (which I think we should strive to overcome, even though I have preferences that match yours) and how much is calling good evil and evil good? Sometimes we’re posers… pretending that we know someone else’s pain and someone else’s story.

    How do we even have this conversation without “you’re not good enough” seeping through?

    I THINK I have an answer, which is less to worry about gathering birds of a feather, and more just being ourselves, in ALL of ourselves, even if what we are isn’t fashionable in the moment.

    So – I’m a smart chick who likes theology, reads her Bible pretty much every day, and prefers quiet to crowds. I’m part of the family. What can I do for God today?

    I think we have to stop pretending to be other than we are, just because we’re trying to be polite. It comes off as being a poser. No one wants a poser.

    Reply
  5. Elspeth

    The issue isn’t relatability. The issue is pride; both in and out of the “bubble”. People who got it right tend to feel they are better in some way (even I’ve been guilty of that as most of those I grew up with have not been as blessed as I have these past 2 decades.

    Then, people who were redeemed from an overtly horrible life feel like they are more spiritual, closer to Jesus in some way. I have been guilty of that too, even quoting Scripture to back me up:

    For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

    Pride, pride, pride all around. I am the worst of the worst having been, as I said, on both sides of the equation.

    So no, it’s not about relating. I told Hearth and a few others privately who kow most of the story I don’t want anyone to relate to all that I’ve been through. I am not a sadist.

    we just need to get over ourselves.

    Reply
  6. Renata

    I agree with you, Hearthie.

    When you start to think of the weight of the purity of God’s judgement, some things become clear. When God judges you, do you think He will give me a free pass for this or that just because I was provoked? Or that He will excuse pride and condemnation of others just because I believed I was a better person or Christian? The older I get, the more clear it becomes that I need to keep my eyes on my own page, which looks worse every time I study it closely. It is too easy for me to assign unpleasant motives to others or boost my ego by looking for someone to tear down (every good judgement can easily be corrupted by pride into an ugly thing). What this leads to is a ‘shrine’ to myself that I try to enforce other people to “worship in” by validating my life choices and thoughts (a few compliments wouldn’t hurt either, lol). So I hear you, Elspeth… finally.

    Reply
  7. Renata

    I think it is not enough to say, “self, no more prideful attitudes” because it just never seems to work. One takes off pride and immediately should try to fill that void with Phil 2:3- looking at others with the intention to see and focus on their areas of excellence.

    Reply
    1. hearthie Post author

      Yes. And part of that is being honest about your own areas of excellence AND your areas of weakness.

      Example: I *suck* at home repair. My IL are all very ept at this, and they have family parties where they fix someone’s house. (No, seriously, this is what they do on vacation). I offer to help and they shoo me off.

      So, if we define a Real Familymember as someone who knows how to lay sheetrock, I’ll never be a Real Familymember.

      And yes, I wandered around being sad because they wouldn’t let me help the first couple of times, then I realized that no one was doing anything about refreshments. So – I did some stuff that’s very easy for *me*… I made lunch, I made iced tea the way they like it, and when they came in, they were thrilled.

      So although I can’t do what everyone else is doing, I’m still making a contribution to the goal of the family.

      We’re still a family.

      Reply
  8. Elspeth

    One takes off pride and immediately should try to fill that void with Phil 2:3- looking at others with the intention to see and focus on their areas of excellence.

    Agreed.

    Reply

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