Tumbleweed Christians

By Jefferson David Tant

Tumbleweed Tumbleweeds are a familiar sight in the western United states. A tumbleweed is a structural part of the above-ground anatomy of a number of species of plants. Once it is mature and dry, it detaches from its root, and then is blown across the landscape by the wind. "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" is a song made popular by Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers and others many years ago.

How well this describes some who call themselves Christians. It seems they have become detached from their roots, and are thus susceptible to be blown here and there by whatever wind of doctrine that comes along.

Our Lord has made provision for His people to be firmly rooted and grounded in the faith. Paul wrote about this in his letter to the church at Ephesus.

"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-15).

We don't know if Paul was familiar with tumbleweeds, but his description of those who are "carried about by every wind of doctrine" surely fits. And what was a danger then is truly a danger in the present. Paul's picture is of a ship at sea that has no fixed course, but is tossed here and there by the winds and waves.

Coexist The culture in which we live today is obsessed with the idea of inclusivism. We all ought to sing "com by yah" (however you spell that) and agree to disagree, because truth is relative and there are no absolutes. The commonly seen bumper sticker expresses the idea very well. We should "coexist" all the way from the religions of Islam to Christianity to Hinduism to Scientology to Atheism, etc.

I once asked a high school student if she really understood the message she was sending out by having the sticker on her car. She really had no idea of the teachings of the religions she was promoting. Basically, she just wanted to be Politically Correct. It was obvious that wherever she went to church, there was no fundamental teaching.

We remember the parable of the sower in the gospels. Some of the seed "fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away" (Matthew 13:5-6). That's the same problem tumbleweeds have — no roots.

The point is that we need to teach basic principles of the gospel, evidences, how to establish authority and what Biblical doctrine really is. We need to make sure our young people are deeply rooted in truth, for they will face many challenges to their faith in their school classrooms. One survey shows that 66% of denominational young people lose their faith by the time they graduate from college. Some professors have plainly stated their intent is to destroy the faith of any of their students who are so ignorant as to believe in God. Consider the following statement:

"We try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own…We are going to go right on trying to discredit you (fundamentalist parents) in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable. We are not so inclusivist as to tolerate intolerance such as yours." [Prof. Richard Rorty, in essay "Universality and Truth"].

This philosophy is spreading in our nation, and is prevalent in our institutions of higher learning. This makes it imperative for both parents and churches to teach God's word to our children, so that they may be planted firmly with deep roots. And parents cannot just leave it up to "Sunday School" to teach their children. Would we expect our children to get a good education by going to school just two or three hours a week? Obviously not! God knew the necessity for parental involvement long, long ago.

"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).

Paul wrote to the church at Colossae: "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Colossians 2:6-8).

Paul expressed his desire for the Ephesian Christians "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love" (Ephesians 3:17).

Without deep roots, we are destined to become "tumbleweed Christians."