Throwing Out the Baby

I remember my Mom telling me about growing up during the depression. She was the youngest of nine children. There was no such thing as a water heater (at least in their home). To draw a bath, water was heated over the coal stove in the kitchen. It took quite a while—not to mention, a considerable amount of coal. For that reason, everyone took one bath a week—usually on Saturday.

That thought is bad enough for twenty-first-century Americans. It gets worse, however. Everyone used the same bathwater. Let that one sink in for a moment. In my Mom’s home, they had two parents and nine kids. Even using modern math, that seems to add up to eleven. Eleven people using the same bathwater. Thank God for the showers in my modern, super-comfortable home.

The Pecking Order

It doesn’t stop there, though. There was a pecking order at bath-time. The oldest was always the first to get bathed. Once the eldest was clean, the next one in the age line took their turn. Consequently, the baby always got to use the dirtiest water. Yikes!

In my Mom’s home, they would place a metal tub in the kitchen (closer to the hot water). When everyone had taken their bath, the water—now tepid and grimy at least—was finally tossed out. I don’t know who coined it, but someone finally said, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Since my Mom was the baby in her home, I’m glad someone came up with this sage advice.

Like many old sayings, this expression has been adapted and applied to various situations for passing along good-sense counsel. Essentially, in the absence of the communal bathtub, it is now taken to mean, “Don’t eliminate the good while tossing out the bad.” I like it.

A Thousand Reasons

Regardless of the fact that most of us are well-versed in that maxim, we often end up doing it anyway. A lot of people are doing this with their faith these days. Because the church is so messed up in many people’s eyes, they have not only rejected the church herself, they are rejecting Christianity in its entirety. 

As a retired pastor, I could give you a thousand reasons to reject the church. There are things that occur in congregations that are upsetting. In fact, some of them are disgusting, and others are downright vile. Not only are there distressing occurrences, but there are also parishioners—ostensibly Christians—who can be repulsive as well. There used to be a joke among pastors that said, “The church would be great if it wasn’t for the people.”

When I was a young pastor, I had a neighbor (who also happened to be one of my parishioners) who, over the years, had earned the nickname, “The Devil on the Hill.” He was credited with singlehandedly driving out several pastors. Folks like him have been catalysts for others to toss out the baby (so to speak). My simple suggestion—don’t reject Jesus because of the devils.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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