Walking my son to his bus stop today, we passed a used condom and a blood-stained tampon.
The condom’s been there for at least a week. I keep wondering when my son will comment on it. The tampon is more recent. Or at least new since my last bus stop sojourn before I took ill.
I had to take out the trash today. Plus, I’m normally the one who accompanies my son to his stop in the mornings. Though I’m still feeling lousy, I did it anyway. Planned on going back to bed after the bus came. But I couldn’t sleep.
Instead, I thought about a condom and tampon thrown by the side of the road.
I’ve got to believe that the kind of person who throws a used condom or tampon out of a speeding car onto the side of a rural road is the kind of person who probably never thinks about his or her standing before God. This is not a reflective person, not the kind who goes on a spiritual quest or asks of the family, “What do y’all think about life after death?”
Pondering this more deeply, I believe the kind of person who throws a used condom or tampon out of a speeding car onto the side of a rural road may be the fastest growing segment of the American population.
The state of that person’s spiritual life very much mirrors what he or she tossed out the window: filthy. This is the kind of person who’s got an appointment at the Great White Throne of judgment and the outcome won’t be pretty.
I don’t know how we reach that person. And that troubles me.
Most of us spend time with people who at least give some attention to what really matters in life. The people we tend to fraternize with will at least be willing to listen to us put in a word or two about spiritual things.
But the kind of person I believe is becoming a majority in this country is completely and utterly seared. Spiritual? Who cares. And they stay seared in their spirits and souls for a very, very long time.
I seem to be encountering more and more people who fit that description. I wouldn’t call them anti-spiritual. They’re more aspiritual. There’s absolutely not one genuine thread of spiritual awareness in their lives and no reason to cultivate any, as they see it.
When you look at the world’s cultures, every society has had a religious longing, wrongly placed though it may be. And nearly every one of those cultures has placed that longing on something outside themselves.
But I take a look at the kind of person who tosses a used condom or tampon out a car window and I see nothing going on in that regard. Zero. It’s one thing to not know the way to God; it’s quite another to have no desire to know.
By all surveys, the Church in this country is failing miserably at making disciples. Most church growth figures have come at the expense of other churches—megachurch consumes mom and pop church in a slow Darwinian dance of survival-of-the-fittest. And even as the megachurches continue to grow, the total losses mount up as fewer and fewer of the general population attend church at all.
How does this generation of believers reach a generation that is not just spiritually empty, but seems to lack any apparatus for receiving the spiritual at all? It’s not a matter of filling an empty cup; it’s working to ensure that the cup itself even exists.
I don’t know how to meet that problem. Perhaps it’s too late to meet. We may indeed be seeing the final generation, a generation so spiritually cauterized as to have no desire for transcendence beyond scoring the latest XBox game.
A generation of used condoms and dirty tampons.
52 thoughts on “A Dirty Tampon by the Side of the Road”
Powerful post and, unfortunately, powerful mental images to go with it. I recently had an opportunity to attend a talk by Jerram Barrs, a professor at Covenant Seminary and the resident scholar at the Francis Schaeffer institute. The talk was focused on outreach and I believe he made some excellent points.
One of these is that we need to try to remember that everyone has a spark of the divine within – we are all image-bearers of God. Even someone who would throw a used condom and a dirty tampon from a speeding car on a rural road. As image-bearers, there is something that is good and can be admired and loved in each of us and that is something that we can focus on. Of course, loving someone like that requires that we enter into relationship with them, and that relationship might take years to really develop to the point where spiritual things can be discussed in any depth, but loving someone and finding the image of God in them should not necessarily be focused on getting them to talk about spiritual things. We love simply because they are image-bearers.
Another point that goes hand in hand with the above is to recognize our own sin and how horrible it really is. This brings us all to the same level and if Jesus found that it was good to hang out with the worst of societies dregs and love them, then we need to work toward doing that as well.
Sorry for the looooong screed here. I don’t mean to be all preachy, but Dr. Barrs really has me thinking about how I relate to those around me. The bottom line of what I’m trying to say I guess is that the way to reach the generation of used condoms and dirty tampons is by reaching out to them and loving them for the empty sinners they are. And I don’t believe that anyone lacks the apparatus to receive the spiritual. If indeed we as human beings are all image-bearers, then everyone has the apparatus. Some might just have it buried more deeply than others.
I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know if what Barrs is saying here will work.
To accomplish what you are saying, there has to be something there to work with. To make the pot, you need the clay. Barrs may disagree, but I’m wondering where the clay is with a lot of these people. I’m not trying to take a holier than thou attitude here, but in some of the people I meet today, there is no “there” there.
Let’s talk real numbers here. I’ve read surveys that claim that less than 2 percent of the population falls into the category of born-again Christians who share their faith. If that’s true, that puts an enormous numerical burden on that 2 percent. The question then comes down to this: if I can share Christ with someone who will respond in a year versus sharing Christ with someone who may respond in 5-10 years, which is my best investment given the sheer enormity of the task? I know that sounds clinical, but it’s a genuine question.
Another question. I’m a 45-year-old married father of one. Where is my life going to intersect with these extremely hardened folks who lack even rudimentary spiritual radar? They certainly aren’t my neighbors. I’m not even sure where they come from, though they seem to be out there en masse. They have no reason to associate with me and would not, even if mildly coerced.
Those are massive issues that I don’t know how to overcome. And I want to be truthful here, too: I’m not sure I want to overcome them. That’s not being callous, just hyperaware that the time I spend trying to reach that group may be better spent on a more receptive group. Even Jesus said to wipe the dust from sandals as evidence against people who would not receive you.
This is all very difficult.
Dan, I have the same feelings as you do, but I also agree with Ron. I think that the younger a person meets a CHRISTIAN who can be friends with them and influence them, the less seared over they will end up. There are a variety of programs I think can help influence the younger generations. The question is then “where should I put my time and energy?” I think the answer to that depends on the individual, and their strengths and weaknesses, and their desire. I dont think that everyone needs to reach out to people pf every age or background. The solution is cooperation within a church to reach out to different people in different ways. Reaching out to teens presents unique challenges as opposed to reaching out to younger kids, or even college aged kids. My own strengths lie in the opposite direction, I dont relate well to kids, but I may be able to help in a supportive capacity. On the other hand I relate more easily to young adults, and can take a more direct role. It is a challenge to reach out to people who are not spiritually aware, or are from a different generation. But that is the strength of the church! It is the body of Christ made of different parts for different purposes. I think there is way for everyone to participate and bear fruit as a collective unit, after all we are not in this to rack up points by converting everyone directly. We are a collective unit, working together for a common goal. The only hope some people have is if the Church doesnt give up.
Dan, you wrote;
Less than 2% of the population of this country is actively engaged in production agriculture.
That less-than-2% has a very large impact.
Perhaps the less-than-2% will have a greater impact, through God’s grace, than the 40-some% who are “regular church goers”.
Thanks for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. It is an encouragement to view my world through gospel-tinted glasses.
I need a pair of those glasses myself, sometimes.
I am amazed at the naivete here. What do you think most young people are doing today? Sex without commitment is the norm now–it’s called “hooking up.” Drugs and alcohol fuel this but our countruy has no will to stop the drugs. Parents have to accept responsibility for their children including so-called “Christian” parents. I am amazed at attitudes and slut-dressing at my church and most churches in my area. Many of these parents are leaders in their churches. Do fathers ever look at their daughters anymore? Or mothers? And, do they know what they are doing in their young lives? Younger Christians today are probably the main ones to convert their peers but I don’t think they are going to do too well because of our generations’ lack of discipling them, our need to be their “pals” instead of parents, and 30 years of “clown” youth ministries in this country.
It’s not just teens. It’s people much older than that. We seem to be piling up more and more of them.
I’m thinking too – Dan correct me if I’m wrong – that Dan is not just talking about teen sex and skanky dressing. The used condom and dirty tampon are somewhat metaphorical. They represent a depravity that is fairly new, an emptiness or aspirituality as Dan put it. Even in the most depraved culture in history, there has been evidence of spiritual longing.
I tend to disagree, but I’m still trying to formulate why I disagree.
Yeah, Ron, it’s metaphorical. And in a way, I’m almost more concerned at the extra level of dispassion that makes it so easy for someone to toss that stuff out a window onto someone’s front lawn. Not that “littering” is worse than illicit sex, but do you get what I’m saying?
I’ve had the same sense about modern people–a soullessness. I lay much of the blame smack dab on the modern church. We’ve tried so hard to entice the non-believer through slick marketing, hip trends, and Christianized garbage, that rather than imparting the saving message of salvation to a fallen world, we’ve let the medium become the message. In so many ways, we’ve let it be known that the message of Christ incarnate is dull and lifeless on it’s own merits, so we have to “spruce it up” a bit, make it more relevant lest anyone think that being part of the church isn’t fun, cool, and on the cutting edge of societal trends. I fear we tried, however well intentioned it was, to “drive out demons” but failed to fill up the souls of our generation and the next, leaving them instead “empty, swept, and put in order’ hospitable for seven more demons to come and live, making conditions even worse. (Matt. 12:45)
I don’t want to lay all the blame on the Church. Obviously, people make their own choices.
What scares me is that so many people seem to be bereft of the basic starting place for evangelism. So few care about what used to be the most important questions in life, the kind of questions that make a person…well, human.
There’s a good chance that those fell out of a garbage truck.
Oh sure – go ahead, bring reason and other plausible possibilities into this. My grousing is just getting warmed up! ;0
I know for a fact that virtually no trash we find around our place comes from garbage truck spilloff. I’m pretty sure someone was aiming for a particular something on our property with that condom.
What were they aiming for? A political sign?
I work in healthcare and it’s not uncommon for professionals ( in this context women,nurses ) who are unmarried and have two or three different daddys for their kids and have no qualms about it. I know many attorneys who live together with their SO’s also. Adultry and homosexual relationships are out in the open in the work place also among professionals. I have seen all this. If you knew the stuff I listen to you would be appauled. I feel like I need to take a bath more than once a day just to get it all washed off.
I have been in my workplace 10 years now and it’s only been within the last three that I have been able to share my faith verbally. Before that a friend told me ” maybe you are the only bible they are reading.” That meant alot to me. I have seen some success but it has taken a long time. I am presently faced with another situation, an unbeliever who is interested in me. I am single and he knows he will never sleep with me. He is not sure what to think but seems to be watching me.
Dan is absolutely right. The moral crisis in our culture today is HUGE and it’s worse in black and latino communities at least in inner cities from what I see. The fallout in the years ahead will be terrible. I think that’s part of the reason you see older singles in the church who are not married. They are new converts as adults and “have been there done that” and would rather stay single till Jesus comes IMO.
I think a lot of what turns people off from church, the Bible, and Christ is that, frankly, they feel judged by Christians. I know I did. While I’m sure you did not mean to cruel, this comment comes off as being very bigoted.
One in three women is the victim of sexual assault or coerced sexual contact. One in three. How do we know how single or unwed mothers became pregnant? Would it be better for a woman facing an unintended pregnancy to abort?
Percentage wise, far more African Americans and Latinos attend church on a weekly basis than do white people.
I guess my point is this: we are all sinners. All of us. Just because some of us are more visible in our sinning does not make us aspiritual, or even unsaved. I agree that there is a tremendous void in our modern culture, and I know what Dan means when he talks about the lack of clay needed to throw the pot. I just wonder if the person who leaves used condoms and used tampons by the side of the road is who we think it is.
I forget who said it, and I’m probably stepping all over it, but I am reminded of a quote that goes something like this: “Go sin, and sin boldly, but rejoyce in Christ’s love even more boldly.” That really gets to the heart of my point here.
My post is more figurative than you read it.
Help with Leta’s quote from Luther in her last paragraph…
(Letter to Melanchthon)
A Paper on Sin Boldly
Thank you Leta. Excellent comment.
When I was younger, all of my peers had grown up in a church or at least had had church as part of their lives at a young age. Today, my wife and I are meeting people more and more younger people who never once stepped foot into a church. Something changed.
Dan, I have no solutions. I can only tell you what I believe my role is for now. You see, some (most) of my coworkers are at this level, and no they are not teens, but a 20-something, several 30’s, many 40’s and an upper 50’s. They are opening hostile to Christianity, though they can’t say really what it is that they hate. I pray every morning that God will make me a witness to them and His love, mercy and grace will shine through me. Someday, when they are broken, really broken, when they must make the decision, do I try this road again or do I try something different, I hope they think of me and want to truly know why I am who I am and not what they’ve decided I am.
Sounds like you are in exactly the right place.
Read the book “Unchristian : what a new generation really thinks about Christianity– and why it matters” by David Kinnaman. You are not imagining the anti-Christian hostility.
Ah, the problems with no solution…
There’s plenty of blame to go around, and yes the church bears some responsibility as we Christians have done a lousy job of reaching out to those who are different than ourselves. Instead we stay inside our “safe” cocoons waiting for the heathen to learn to like hymnals and 1950s liturgy.
But the church can’t bear all of the blame. In order to get to a person’s heart, the person has to have a reason to change. That involves both conviction and interest. Many will never feel conviction when the outside world tells them that sin is all relative. They will never fashion an interest in investigating what they know will look down upon their chosen lifestyle.
Dan, I think we have to be intentional about our relationships, but at the same time realize that it is the Holy Spirit who converts. While my heart may be for one group in society, that doesn’t mean that is where God will use me.
I don’t mean we shouldn’t worry about them. I do mean that we cannot force those folks to be interested in Someone who invalidates everything they hold dear and gives them comfort and assurance.
I think you know that I will be one of the last people to leave the Holy Spirit out of the salvation equation!
But again, I guess my weakness here is that I’m not sure how I personally can reach these people. How can they hear unless someone is sent, right? How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, agreed? And what of their complete lack of intersection with me (and their complete lack of wanting to intersect with me, even if given a choice)?
Who among us is going to reach those people? And again, when looking at the complete lack of interest in what lies behind the veil, how does one even begin? When I talk with someone about Jesus, chances are we have some other intersection OR that person is looking for God. Take those two away, and I’m not sure where to begin.
Dan, as usual, great post, so please don’t take what I’m about to say the wrong way:
What kind of christian walks by a dirty condom on the side of the road every day for a week and does nothing about it? Maybe one possible “in” for us as christians is to take care of the earth God has given us, then, Lord willing if someone asks us why we would consider throwing away someone elses dirty tampons we can share what drives us. I try to take my girls out on walks a couple days a week. I got so tired of telling them not to touch the trash along the sidewalk, but leaving it for someone else to deal with that I’ve started taking a small trashbag with me. I know condoms and tampons are a bit beyond gross to be cleaning up, but then again, we follow a King who washed his followers feet.
Just a thought.
I’ll answer the question:
1. My property
2. I pick up as much non-biodegradable stuff as I can
3. Condoms and tampons are biodegradable
4. Given the location of the items, they will be swallowed up by natural processes in due time
5. Some things may best be left unhandled by the homeowner and better handled by nature, if you catch my drift
Reasonable? Given what I’ve posted on here in the past about litter, I’m obviously giving this a blind eye. People litter along my stretch of road like crazy and I do my best to clean it up (though I do need to retrieve the mailbox door lid left over from when someone smashed my mailbox).
I work as a SANE right smack dab in the heart of a large city. We are definately not on the same page.
I can’t help thinking about the conditions in the Roman Empire during the first and second centuries. The people may have been more “religious” with all their gods, but it was still a place where life was cheap and immorality was the norm. The people then, as now, had no concept of the true God.
It was during this time that the Church turned the world upside down with the Gospel. I think the major reason they were successfull, other than the power of the Holy Spirit, is that they not only proclaimed the Gospel, they also lived the Gospel in front of their neighbors.
All peoples at all times have possessed some part of their lives that resonated with the transcendent, the otherwordly. In what appears to be a recent trend, I genuinely believe we live in an age that may be seeing a generation completely oblivious to transcendence.
Darwinism, secularism, pragmatism, utilitarianism, consumerism, and atheism are hallmarks of such thinking. They all seem to be entrenched and gaining in power as they feed off each other. All argue against the supernatural. We’ve had enough years of their lies that they’ve become ingrained in our corporate thinking, even in the Church. We can no longer detect them as lies.
Today’s people, even today’s Christians in America, are beholden to these antichrist belief systems. Christians who understand this must find a way to combat them through a united front because the front on the other side is united as well.
This is not a one man game. Unless we can actively join together, I don’t see that we can wage war as little individual pockets of resistance. While I fully understand that this is a spiritual battle and the war isn’t fought merely on the battlefields of Earth with earthly weapons, we still need a large force of people to make this work.
I admit that I am ill-equipped to reach beyond my peers, whether those peers are Christian or not. That’s my problem. And the people I’m talking about are largely not my peers. So I’m asking who is joining the battle who would be peers of the people I’m discussing.
We need you, wherever you are.
“They have exchanged the truth of God for a lie.”
This isn’t something that just happens, but is an active decision. The results are apparent.
The role of the Church in all this has been two-fold. On the one hand, the Church has been inwardly focusing love and action. We create 200-pound Baby Huey in diapers. On the other, much of the outward expression of the Church has been condemnation and judgement.
From the aspect of the unbeliever, Christianity is an empty and vain pursuit, which is selfish in it’s desires, and cruel and vindictive in its treatment of those outside. Far better to follow the example of the world, which at least professes to be accepting.
I know there are exceptions, but in this case exceptions are not, as they say, the rule. Christ’s Body is the only power for positive change in this or any generation. Every strident tone turns unbelievers away, not from our doors, but from the gates of Heaven. Every hypocritical act has the potential of a soul lost to hell.
If we want to take the mental image one step further, the used condom tossed aside, the bloody tampon scattered on the road are souls tossed from a speeding car with a “honk if you love Jesus” bumper-sticker on the back. So whose souls are without God? Whose souls are seared into indifference? Are the lost among us because they have no ability to hear the Spirit, or because His Mouth is filled with the things of this world?
Your comments always make this blog better. Thanks.
That said, I disagree with you—slightly.
An exchange is a willful action. I don’t believe this is willful as much as it is default. The people who exchanged the truth of God for a lie saw God, but chose the lie. I believe the people I’m talking about don’t even comprehend God in the first place, so how can they willfully exchange Him for something else? This may make them unique in human history. They may be, as I said, the terminal generation.
As to the rest of your commentary, I say amen. It may be possible to reach these people with love. And in time enough love may open the door to Christ, the source of that love.
But in the same way that Paul wiped his sandals against the Jews who would not receive his message, should we wipe our sandals off against a generation that cares to not even think about God in the first place? Some people are genuinely seeking God. Should they not be our first concern in the Church? How many of them will be lost if we spend all our time trying to crack the toughest eggs out there?
If we knew that this world would last two more years, where would we be focusing our attention? Isn’t that how we should always be thinking?
Perhaps this question is too theoretical since we’re not dong that great a job reaching the seekers, much less the transcendent-less. I dunno.
Is there anything new under the sun?
If we are at the very end of the last days, yes, we will see things that have not been seen before. Whether that is the case here, only God knows.
All I know is that humans who have not one ounce of religious thirst is not normal.
To quote Syndrome from The Incredibles: “That’s a little dark for you, isn’t it?”
Usually, you’re the guy who’s all about salt and light and leaven, Dan!
It’s okay to be down – just don’t let it take you out, okay?
When Jesus talked about broad and many and narrow and few, He wasn’t giving us an excuse not to try. He was just being realistic.
Do you think man’s nature has really changed that much since God flooded the known world, obliterated Sodom and Gomorrah, or wiped out 185,000 Assyrians?
See my response to Fred above (two comments back).
I’m sorry, but it seems I got stuck on this line from Ron’s very first comment under your post. Can we really say that EVERYONE has a “spark of the divine” within? Come on, that echoes New Age sentiment to me. Man was made in God’s image, sure, but an unregenerate soul is spiritually dead.
Nothing new-agey meant at all. However, It does seem to be biblical that we are all image-bearers. There are reprobates, but that doesn’t mean they were not created in the image of God. The question is, how can you tell if someone is truly reprobate or not? If we take the parable of the workers the way I’ve always been taught to take it, then even those who come to Christ very late in life have a place in heaven and it doesn’t matter what they have or haven’t done during the rest of their life.
My concern is that we don’t try to determine who is or isn’t spiritually bankrupt. That’s taking too much into our own hands.
In terms of whose reaching these people, well it seems there is actually quite a bit going on right now. Whatever you think of guys like Mark Driscoll, they seem to be able to communicate a pretty solid gospel to some pretty spiritually malnourished people. It is true that someone nearing middle-age (like me) that sits in an office all day in a middle-management type position (again..) might not be able to connect as well as someone else, but there are people out there doing the work.
There is no doubt that we are living in a post-Christian, post-modern (whatever that means), cynical time – but that could end up in the long-term being good for Christianity. After all, this may just be a transitional time in which we get the cultural ghetto Christianity out of the way.
A person’s bview of the nature of Man, bi-partite vs. tri-partite, will greatly influence one’s thinking in this area. A person who lumps the soul and spirit together will naturally be forced into a camp that believes that nothing of God remains in a spiritually dead person. A tri-partite supporter sees the soul and spirit as separate and will maintain that while the spirit is dead, the soul is not, and that soul, though corrupt, retains a spark of the Imago Dei.
I’m a tri-partite supporter, so obviously I have no problem reconciling that a person can be spiritually dead yet still maintain something of the Imago Dei. The very fact that an unsaved person can reflect the same human emotions and actions as God seems proof enough for me that not all has been lost.
I already agreed that we’re made in His image, Ron. But the question is not ‘how can we tell if someone is truly reprobate or not?’ That may be your question, but not mine:-) I simply said that an unregenerate soul is spiritually dead – period. My issue is with the statement that *everyone* has a “divine spark within.” I don’t agree with that..
Depends on what your idea of “the divine spark” is. If it’s the Imago Dei, I’d have to say that it still persists, even after the Fall.
And if we’re somehow getting off-topic from all that Dan posted (which was good and thought-provoking), I will end it here:-)
Maybe my thinking is too black or white:-) I reacted to the phrase “divine spark” due to some reading I’ve done. But again, I agree with you both that we’re made in God’s image.
Very insightful article as usual. What you stated is 100% true
I thought about this article for a couple of days because in my part of the country, you would be very surprised at who would be the culprits that would throw out used condoms and dirty tampons from their car windows…
We got the Christians who are so ‘rapture-ready’ that they believe that Jesus will take them away before the environmental consequences of the dirty condoms/tampons take place. So why care?
We got Christians who believe that not littering is ‘a hippy thing’ and according to them, all hippies are into environmentalism, pagan gods, legalization of drugs, etc. they will show their ‘separatist’ mentality of God by not worrying about litter because to them, worring about litter makes you a ungodly hippy.
We got Christians who threw out used condoms, dirty tampons and leftover marijuana residue at 4:20 from the 1960’s flower power Volkswagen bus of ‘free love’ before they became Christian who never got firmly grounded and still to this day do not think that it is wrong to litter even though there are laws against it. When they get caught, it’s a ‘conspiracy’ from the “establishment”.
We got Christians who would throw out used condoms and dirty tampons on the road because there will be a criminal who got a ‘community service’ sentence to pick the trash up once a month and also because it’s so gross, ‘punish’ him some more because the judge let him off too easily and God needs to do something about that.
We wonder why we can’t reach the ones with seared consciences when it appears many within the church have the same thought processes of carlessness, recklessness, disdain, and apathy about their own spiritual well-being. Church to them is insurance from hell and also a chance once a month to win a XBox or Wal Mart gift card as part of the seeker-sensitive promotional drawing.
I too wonder what will happen to these types of Christians at the Great White Throne of judgment thinking that the outcome won’t be pretty. It may be uglier….
Miss, reading your post here has made it clear to me that you are deeply confused spiritually. I will pray for you. I fear you have lost touch with the meaning of Christ’s mission on earth. You are JUDGING people. Are you really so confident in your own righteousness that you do not fear the warnings of Matthew 7 : 1-5 ? Do you not know that the words you have written here on the web can only influence your brothers and sisters to seek lives littered with intolerance for humanity?
I am begging you. Please search your heart and find the forgiveness and tolerance that god has placed there. Stop losing sleep and stressing yourself out. You are wasting energy that could be better spent loving and caring for each other. You are contributing to the very lack of spirituality which you criticize. In the time you spent writing this hate speech you could have planned something special and exciting for you and your son to do together.
Let God do God’s job so that you can focus on doing your job. Remember to read your Bible for guidance before you post proclamations and religious doctrines. Re-read Job 38 and consider the questions that God asks Job. Can you answer them without help? Be wary of preaching without the force of God’s word to support your own. Perhaps instead of killing yourself attempting to discern the reason why our world is the way it is, you can redirect your gifts towards planning ahead for the inevitable “birds and the bees” talk with your child. I hope that once you have prepared a plan you won’t dread the idea as much.
God bless and good luck!