Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater

I have been feeling that those championing the cause of social justice are well intentioned but are doing one of two things: they are “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”—which means “to lose valuable ideas or things in your attempt to get rid of what is not wanted” (Cambridge Dictionary) or as expressed in the book by Amy Tan, Saving Fish From Drowning, that even what seems noble has severe and devastating consequences. She writes,

A pious man explained to his followers: “It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. ‘Don’t be scared,’ I tell those fishes. ‘I am saving you from drowning.’ Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes.”

C.S. Lewis sums this up well for me in how I have been thinking and contemplating about the social justice movement and what seems like “cancel culture” is really after. He states, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

In an attempt to rid our country and ourselves of the shame of the past and present we are forfeiting our very freedoms; this in itself is creating something shame worthy. Shame cannot heal shame which I believe is at the root of the hypocrisy and our “whataboutism” we see and are experiencing. We have moved away from relativism—your truth is your truth—to a culture of shame and blame.

You see, I find myself grateful for my faith in Christ, because He has stated a different case for our lives. In our sin, He didn’t come to throw the baby (humankind) out with the bathwater (sin). He allowed Himself to be thrown out with the bathwater. He died, conquering sin and death AND the shame associated with sin and death, and He redeemed what was lost by dying the death I deserved. The beauty of the cross and empty tomb is that he conquered shame. Shame is not just feeling guilty about something. Shame at the core says, “I am not worthy of love or value.” I know my moments of surrender, as I pursue this deeper understanding of my faith, always came in the moments I knew I could not carry the burden and weight of my life and the sin and havoc I was causing myself and others. My experience of Jesus has never been one of shame…but of forgiveness and the opportunity freedom in Christ gave me.

The conflict I often experience with my faith and my understanding of His Gospel is then how it is played out in our churches. We either reject the mercy or grace our faith offers or we reject truth. Our churches have to embrace both grace and truth, mercy and justice. Jesus often commanded us to “love our enemies,” “speak truth IN love,” “to stand firm…knowing we battle not against flesh and blood,” but typically many are turning away from the very truth we have been taught to uphold because of the hypocrisy of our doing not lining up with our being.

A world that is broken and seeking answers sees the very hope I cling to as nothing more than religion: a bunch of rules that are oppressive. If that is what we are teaching, we have become the very thing Christ detested. Did Christ die for nothing then? Of course not but I have to wrestle with the significance of my salvation. Is there evidence in my life that his death and resurrection have actually made a difference in my life and those around me?

I continue to find myself being drawn back to Philippians 2:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

I am glad Jesus’ approach wasn’t “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” I am glad He saw in us something of value and significance, that our sin and all of its messiness was worth redeeming. It cost Him everything…and I cannot be afraid of it costing me everything.

Here is the full quote from C.S. Lewis.

May you contemplate your own life, like I am, to see the truth of what really is at stake.My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position [imposing “the good”] would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some points be satiated; but those who torment us for their own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to heaven yet at the same time likely to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insults. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on the level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

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