It was a hot June day in Tulsa, maybe 35 years ago, and I was attending a regional Christian conference. One of the speakers was Alan Bryan – a good ol’ boy with a heavy Alabama accent who began his presentation with those words. Dogs don’t bark at tombstones.
It was almost delicious – these remarkable words, contorted through the accent that was almost a caricature, laid out over the audience and caught us up as if in a butterfly net. We all stared at him, wondering what was coming next.
Alan went on to explain, and then defend his title. Dogs don’t bark at tombstones. So, if you are figurately dead, content to stay within your comfort zones, afraid to verbalize your Christianity, then the dogs won’t bark at you. You will have no verbal enemies, and no one will bark, growl or bite at you.
However, if you take a stand for Christ, verbally giving God the glory, holding tight to your morals, and focusing on him – if you actually try to live out your Christianity – you’ll have detractors. It comes with the territory. If you are alive and active, you will attract the dogs who will accuse you, criticize you and belittle you.
I hadn’t remembered that for a couple of decades. But now, as I roll that around in my memory, I am impressed with how timely that thought is for our current times.
While the dogs have been around since the beginning of time, truly, in our time, the dogs have been unleashed and are running loose.
Who Are The Dogs?
Those dogs include the legions of social media addicts who find it so much easier to anonymously criticize someone online than to actually talk with someone in person.
Those dogs include the hordes of Holywoodians who live in their secluded homes, employ their servants, and pontificate on what other people should do.
Those dogs include the talking heads on mainstream media who are more content on shoring up their distorted view of reality than accurately reporting on anything.
The dogs include the godless left-wingers who decide what can and cannot be discussed on social media.
And of course, the relatively new breed of politicians whose ideal world is a Marxist godless society where all personal responsibility has been obliterated and the all-seeing bureaucrats rule without accountability.
These dogs have multiplied in recent years and have gotten more and more aggressive in the pursuit of their goals, and in the attacks on those who don’t agree with them. Most Christians find themselves in that category. While the attacks on Christians have been irregular, the frequency and intensity will continue to grow.
At first, it has been and will continue to be, attacks on Christian morals. Christian businesses, like Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby, to name some of the most visible, have had to endure dog attacks because of their stand on moral issues. That will eventually morph from attacks on Christian morals to attacks on Christians themselves, just for being followers of Christ.
Unless God intervenes and Christians rise up, the specter of economic isolation and marginalization – persecution – is very real. All of these dogs are sniffing around, looking for Christians to criticize and Christian principles and ideals to belittle.
Who is Responsible?
We are, of course. 21st Century Western Christians. We have been content to believe some very convenient distortions that have become so common as to be accepted as unassailable truth. We’ve been content to remain lifeless and beyond the notice of the dogs.
Churchianity vs Christianity
Probably the biggest distortion is this – Christianity is about being involved with a local institutional church and has little to do with our lives in the marketplace. As long as we are active in a church, we can live pretty much under the radar screen, and no one needs to know that we are Christians.
That is one of the greatest lies in history.
We’ve substituted churchianity for Christianity, and the impact has been devastating. Literally, millions of people, across geographies and generations, have been lost because the Christians in their workplace were hiding under the cover of churchianity.
Instead of active Christians sharing the resources God has entrusted to us with needy people around us, we’ve been content to write a check to the local church and see the money used to maintain church buildings and pay professional staff. Millions of people could have been touched by the real expression of God’s grace through a gift by an individual Christian and were not.
Instead of a real relationship with God we’ve been content to be ‘fed’ by a legion of professional Christian pastors. The impact has been to instill the idea that the only truth we know must come through the lips of a professional Christian and encourage passive pew-sitting instead of active involvement.
Instead of real relationships with other Christians, we’ve been content with the perfunctory greeting by the volunteer of the week, or the awkward “greet someone next to you,” rituals in many of our worship services.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. We’ve allowed the dogs to multiply because our sights were cast elsewhere. We could justify being anonymous at work because we were invested in a church. Since we were occupied with the vagarities of the local institution, we felt absolved of any need to be visible in the marketplace. We attend every Sunday morning and serve on the worship committee. Isn’t that enough?
This substitute of churchianity for Christianity has taken its toll on our day-to-day behavior. For example…
We could ask someone going through a difficult time if we can pray for or with them, and we don’t, because by doing so we unveil ourselves as Christians. Better to let the moment go by than risk an awkward, self-revealing scene.
We are occasionally tempted to post something on social media that holds up God or Jesus, and we don’t, because we don’t want to have the internet dogs barking at us. Better to remain neutral than to actually take a stand.
When the conversation meanders around to world-views and belief in God, and the consensus is that “all roads lead to God,” or all religions are the same, we nod in soft affirmation instead of voicing Christ’s claim that “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Better to be in lifeless anonymity than stand for the truth.
Alas, the dogs have multiplied because of our indifference.
14 and My people [a]who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NASB)
Accept the dogs barking as a necessary consequence of living a visible Christian life.
The louder and more vociferous they bark, the greater is your threat to them. It’s time to venture out of the grave and onto the field. Don’t be a tombstone!
*WAS-164; XI-CB-LP-Significance; CBI-182