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.]

Theological Elitism

“The (insert denomination) Church, the one highly educated and wealthy outlier, continues to reject homosexuality largely due to the influence of its poorer, less-educated, and non-white members abroad.”

The previous statement was recently found on Twitter. Don’t bother looking for it. It has since been deleted. I suspect the reason for the deletion was the realization of how the Tweet came across (if not actually intended). Unfortunately, this attitude is one that is often held by many of our theological elitists.

I’ve seen this attitude displayed in many places through scads of people. It seems the more we know (or we think we know) the easier it is to cop such an outlook. Knowledge is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, it’s also true that “a little knowledge can be dangerous.” In this case, it’s dangerous to the health of the church.

It’s Not the Same Thing

A lot of seminaries, for example, pride themselves in their high standards of academia. That can be a good thing. I attended such an institution. There was a lot of learning going on in that place—including my own. But there are times when academic knowledge gets substituted for the knowledge of God. It’s not the same thing.

If it were, only the highly intelligent and deeply educated could attain salvation. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the aim of Christ. Sure, he was all about educating the masses (see Mark 1:35-38). It was his mission above everything else. But educating them to the Good News wasn’t his way of elevating their status. It was an introduction to the means of salvation.

The opening Tweet would have us believe some grossly misled ideals. It more than implies that a person of color who may be poor and less educated cannot understand the will of God. Regardless of how one may feel concerning the issue of homosexuality, it is unconscionable that someone’s Biblical understanding is limited by the circumstances indicated in the Tweet.

Denying Their Own Principles

The Gospel is free. The poorest and most ignorant among us can hear it, understand it, and follow it. Jesus made sure of that. If someone takes a stance that is in opposition to our own, it doesn’t give us the platform to announce that their position is based on their skin color or social status.

People like those who made this statement are denying their own principles. It’s those very people who would stand up for people of color, the poor, and the uneducated as being oppressed (or at the very least, denied opportunities to succeed in life). Yet, they turn these ideologies on their head when they point elitist fingers at their “lowly” brethren.

It causes me to wonder how the illiterate of the world can come to a knowledge of salvation. They can’t even read Scripture. Yet I’m guessing they, somehow, make it through without the rich, educated, white folk coming to their rescue. Having learned how to read, I seem to remember a statement that says, “The last shall be first and the first last.”

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