Skip to content

Are You One of the “Bubble People”?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

There’s a TV commercial from one of the cell phone companies that shows people walking around inside of bubbles with other people. For the purpose of the commercial, it represents the limitations of that person’s calling plan (whom they can call without having to tap into their allotment of minutes for that month). But for me, it’s a much sadder commentary on the people who call ourselves Christians.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, I taught a workshop at a Romance Writers of America chapter conference in Shreveport, Louisiana, the first weekend of March. Though I feel like I do a good job of staying in touch with what’s going on in the world at large, I realized once I was there, it’s been since 2006—since I finished grad school and left my job at the Nashville newspaper to work for a small Christian publishing house—that I’ve truly been part of that “world at large.” Sure, I read general-market books and go see movies of all ratings. I listen to NPR regularly, watch the local news each evening, laugh along with The Daily Show on weeknights, and have a designated cable news/opinion channel of choice. I read blogs from across the spectrum—from very conservative to very liberal. I read selections from several publications—from The New York Times to Huffington Post to The Wall Street Journal.

And I feel like I’m a pretty well-rounded person. I don’t let any one source dictate what I believe or stand for.

Yet when it comes to my writing, and to the writing groups of which I’m a member, I’m most definitely in a “bubble,” just like those people in that commercial. You see, up until last week, the only writing groups I was a member of/actively participated in were Christian writing groups, both local and national. Those groups, in addition to my extended family, pretty much make up the extent of my social life, as I’m not yet actively involved in the church I’ve been visiting since last fall. I’ve lost touch with most of the people I used to work with at the newspaper. And even though I’m still in contact with a lot of people from graduate school, I’d consider them more acquaintances than true friends.

Something I said to the members and visitors at the Middle Tennessee Christian Writers meeting Saturday really struck home with me—but in a different way than what I was talking about. I was conducting a workshop on the Fundamentals of Critiquing, and at one point told them that it’s important to find critique partners whose strengths match up with our weaknesses and vice versa; that if we work with critique partners whose skills and knowledge exactly match ours, not only are we not going to help each other, we’re eventually going to start hindering each other—because we’ll never grow, we’ll never learn, we’ll never extend beyond what we already have.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and start getting to know better several other authors here in Nashville—authors who not only write for the general market (cozy mysteries, thrillers, steamy romances) but who are most definitely outside of the bubble in which I’ve increasingly wrapped myself; a bubble that, at times, is barely big enough to hold me. A bubble that, I fear, has been impacting me negatively for quite some time.

If you’ve read my posts on the Singleness page, you’ll know that I’ve grown tired of the elitist, cliquish attitudes I’ve found at most of the churches where I’ve been a member or visited over the past decade of my life. That I’ve railed against people who cling so mightily to only those people who are like them, who hold the same values, live the same lifestyle they do.

Yet here I am, doing the same thing by allowing myself to become disconnected with that “world at large.” I realized, coming home from that conference, that I don’t have one friend who isn’t a “church person” with whom I spend a lot of time. I do have a couple of cousins who have left the organized church to seek their own paths, and I try to stay in close touch with them just so they remember someone in the extended family doesn’t condemn them for that decision. But we’re not close. Not close enough that they’re holding up a mirror for me or that I’m holding up a mirror for them—challenging who we are and what we believe.

There are certain topics, certain issues I would love to include in my books. But I can’t, because it would rattle cages—would challenge strongly held beliefs by the majority of my readers, and, thus, the sales of my books would suffer. (Don’t get me wrong, I love writing the kinds of stories I write with the kinds of characters I write. I’d just like to go out on a limb every so often, like having my hero and heroine meet for a glass of wine instead of a cup of coffee—oh, horrors!)

I’ve been a member of Romance Writers of America for about two years now, but hadn’t been at all active in it. Mostly because the other RWA members I already know, I know from other (Christian) writing groups. So a few weeks ago, I decided I should join the Published Author Network (PAN). Then, after attending the North Louisiana RWA chapter’s conference and meeting someone there from the Nashville chapter (Music City Romance Writers) I started thinking about joining the local RWA chapter. A couple of days after getting home, I attended a new writing friend’s book signing at Barnes & Noble and ended up sitting next to someone else from the MCRW chapter. So I took that as a sign and came home and joined the chapter that night. I’ll be attending the first meeting this coming Saturday.

I don’t want to be one of the “bubble people” anymore. I don’t want to be so wrapped up in the Christian circles I’m a member/leader of that I forget that to be a light for God to the world I must be actively participating in the world and not just feeding all of my energy—creatively, spiritually, physically, emotionally—back into the bubble; while also not allowing myself to be conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of my mind. And how can my mind be renewed if I’m never presented with any new ideas, new questions, new doubts—anything outside of the bubble—with which to challenge and thus help strengthen and grow my faith?

Are you living in a bubble—church, small group, Bible study, homeschool group, Christian writing group? Do you have friends who aren’t other “bubble people,” whose regular speech isn’t embroidered with religious lingo, who don’t pray about everything, who don’t read “Christian” books, who don’t know the words to every song on the CCM Top Ten list, who go see Rated-R movies, who wouldn’t even know how to find the “Religion” section of a Barnes & Noble? Do you know anyone who is an atheist or agnostic—whom you haven’t tried to evangelize but only befriend? Are you renewing your mind by being open to those with different ideas, different beliefs, different sexual orientations, different family structures, different stances on political and social issues and engaging in conversation with them and allowing your own beliefs and stances to be challenged so that you can grow, both intellectually and in your faith? Are you expanding your knowledge of God by looking for Him at work outside of the bubble (or box) we as Christians try to keep Him in; by being able to admit that we can’t know and understand all the ways in which God chooses to work in the world and in those outside of our bubbles?

Are you personally reaching out and connecting with those in the world with love and fellowship or only to those inside your bubble?

  1. Carol permalink
    Tuesday, March 16, 2010 4:07 am

    Hmmm, Kaye, this article gives me some things to think about. In some ways I’m a bubble person. Other than church and MTCW I don’t socialize much outside of work. But, since I do work in a relatively liberal academic medical center I am exposed to all kinds of people. But I don’t have deep, meaningful conversations with them.


  2. Tuesday, March 16, 2010 5:49 am

    I think it is good and right for our “closest” friends, as Christians, to be fellow Christians. These are the people we are learning from, helping us grow, and gaining encouragement from.

    But I agree that we need to be a light to the world, and need to socialize out side of it as well. We need to love our neighbors, enemy’s, and not be opposed to socializing/being friends with those who aren’t Christians. (personally, the Bubble thing doesn’t do a lot for me… because I think God does tell us to be apart and separate from the world in our actions and the way we live our life…) But I’ve also seen many Christians go so FAR outside that they are influenced in an unhealthy way by those people they went to save. I’ve also seen people use “saving” others as an excuse to live a lifestyle that is NOT pleasing to God.

    As with everything, there is a balance. We DO need to surround ourselves with people who will help us live a life for Jesus and be those who we can mutually draw encouragement from. But we also need to love and show Jesus to the world as well, to truly be a light. The moon reflects the sun, but if it gets too far away from it… it’s not going to do much reflecting.


  3. Tuesday, March 16, 2010 7:37 am

    Balance. That’s the hard part. A few years ago my church was in the midst of calling a new Children’s Minister. A good friend and I took on the task of organizing and running our Wed. afternoon children’s ministry, on top of, for me, a full-time job. I loved it. I immersed myself in it. I wanted to do THAT instead of my regular job. I honestly thought about applying for the job. When I found out that the search committee wanted a MALE, ordained minister, I admit I was hurt. I knew I could do the job.

    Honestly? I think God used that to pull me OUT of the bubble I’d placed myself in. I pulled away from that particular ministry, just this year, to concentrate on writing, and to give me more time that wasn’t designated for everyone else in the world but ME. Do you think I had TIME for God during all that? As a result of stepping outside that bubble, I’ve been blessed. I’ve used that time to get to know people outside my immediate sphere of influence, and I look forward to expanding it even more in the future!

    Thanks for a truly thought-provoking post, Kaye.


  4. Tuesday, March 16, 2010 9:43 am

    My longest-standing connection with writers is the Books & Writers Community, the oldest writers forum on the net. It draws writers from all over the world, from every walk of life imaginable, and I’d say Christians there are probably in the minority. It’s where I learned most of what I know about writing, since the mid 1990s. It’s an intelligent and respectful group of people who have heated disagreements about all sorts of things (but if they aren’t articulated politely, they get the boot pretty quick, which is probably why it’s still in existence). The forum has spawned–or been a hanging-out place for–many published writers, including best sellers. Dale Cramer, Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabaldon, to name a few. Diana was discovered there, and has her own section on the boards, and is super-woman-generous with her time in mentoring other writers. I just generally avoid the journalism section because I don’t care much for politics–or heated debate–and besides, I don’t go the forum except to learn more about writing and hear about great books.


  5. Tuesday, March 16, 2010 2:06 pm

    I struggled so much with this very issue years ago, not relative to writing but just life in general after marrying into a very large ministry family. For my family, church and spirituality was a part of our life; for them, it was life. Different takes, neither right or wrong.

    It’s all relative. One person may need to come out of the bubble, another may need to enter in while another still, already inside, might need to hang out and move around for a bit . The important thing is knowing where you are and what will benefit you most according to His will and your goals for your life, then feeling free and empowered to do what’s right for you.


  6. Tuesday, March 16, 2010 3:39 pm

    Kaye, thanks for this post. Very good food for thought!


  7. Someone Outside the Bubble permalink
    Wednesday, March 17, 2010 8:58 am

    I think for anyone raised in it, stepping outside the bubble is absolutely pivotal. I grew up completely entrenched in Christianity, but always felt like an outsider because a lot of their viewpoints never really made sense to me. I still love everyone I know that had raised me the way that they had, but when it was time for me to venture out on my own, I tried new things, and you know what? I suddenly felt comfortable.

    Christians have a tendency to be extremely judgmental. That’s not the case for all of them, and I still have a couple good friends in the faith I was comfortable staying close with. The friends that didn’t needlessly deem things as “evil” that make NO difference in the long run. Swearing, drinking, pre-marital sex – there are stupid ways to go about all of the above to be sure, but the idea that any of them are “sins” is absurd to me, and the thought that my actions in any of the above scenarios had any inverse effect on anyone except myself is just silly. Just because rape is evil doesn’t mean two people in love that have sex without a minister’s written consent should be put on that same level. Just because drinking can result in abuse doesn’t mean the people capable of controlling themselves shouldn’t be allowed to have a safe, good time. Just because Christians killed a bunch of people during the Crusades doesn’t mean other Christians can’t worship peacefully. There are extremes to everything.

    I have NO problem with people that choose to use other words when frustrated, or abstain from alcohol or sex, but when they take it upon themselves to condemn those who do, it just solidifies whatever system they subscribe to as something I want no part of.

    Maybe I’m the poster-child for why those against stepping out of your bubble are against it, but if you want the no-holds-barred truth, my contentment with life has grown to the Nth degree since I stepped out. I’m far happier in my sea of non-religious friends where I’m free of judgment and equally free to discuss honest opinions, than I ever was among my Christian friends.

    Deeming stepping out of the bubble as too great of a risk because you might find greater happiness in the “world” is a silly limitation to put on yourself. Greater happiness is greater happiness. Everyone isn’t wired to work the same way. And I’m not even going crazy and saying “TRY EVERYTHING.” I’ve never done any kind of drug despite having easy access to it, because it’s not something I want to have in my personal life. Know your own limitations. I know I can indulge in the occasional drink with my friends or girlfriend without becoming reliant upon it. I know I can wait until having sex will mean something without it having to mean there’s a wedding band immediately involved.

    Maybe the space outside the bubble you’re in is water, and you’ll discover you’ve actually had gills all along with a huge ocean to explore.

    As a sidenote, I’d very much like to see you try to tackle non-Christian fiction now that you have as many published books under your belt as you do. Your audience may be bigger than you allow them to be.

    (Side-sidenote: I thought it kind of odd that Major, as a chef, never used wine with a meal. A regular glass of wine can actually be very healthy for you.)


    • Wednesday, March 17, 2010 9:17 am

      “Christians have a tendency to be extremely judgmental.”

      I think you’ll find that people in general have that tendency and it’s very easy to point out that tendency in people with whom you disagree on things while not realizing we have the same tendency ourselves.


      • Someone Outside the Bubble permalink
        Wednesday, March 17, 2010 9:29 am

        That’s true, but a lot of Christians take it a step farther by judging you for all of eternity. If my friend thought I had too much to drink and told me he thought I should stop for the night, I’m going to take it a lot better than the person who says “never again.”


  8. Wednesday, March 17, 2010 9:13 am

    Good post, Kaye. Very good food for thought.

    Me? I have no bubbles. I have the occasional bubble party I may attend (like MTCW) but I’ve fought all my life to stay in my own little world. You could call that a bubble of sorts, I guess…but I don’t limit potential friends to people who meet X, Y or Z. I tend to drive away a lot of the “Christian” people because I’m very open about my past and the non-Christian-y things within it. Heck (word written to irritate the uber-Christians 😉 ), you and I are almost polar opposites when it comes to political issues and we can sit and have a rational conversation. I know MANY Christians who wouldn’t even sit and have coffee with you because of where you placed the X on your ballot in the last election.

    I’ll say this for bubbles, though…especially for Christians…I think they’re necessary items. Granted, I haven’t had as much experience with the literary arena as you Kaye, but I’ve found a lot of groups that aren’t specifically for Christians tend to be very hostile toward those with conservative Christian beliefs. If you are not in line with the liberal thought process on politics and social issues you’re usually quietly nudged to the exits or sometimes outright attacked for your positions. Christians have a safe place to go to recharge the batteries or meet with others who share similar interests in an environment that’s not hostile is good.

    Now, people who stay there…well…we’re not called to have country clubs where church buildings stand.


  9. Carol permalink
    Wednesday, March 17, 2010 5:14 pm

    I am a Christian. One of my very favorite verses in the Bible is Matthew 9:12-13 (The Message) Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”
    I do agree with “Someone outside the bubble” that Christians, in general, can be overly judgemental. Some of the harshest judgmental comments ever made to me were by other Christians.
    Jesus certainly lived and ministered outside the contemporary Jewish bubble of his time. Sometimes I wonder if Jesus would recognize the ministry He started if He attended one of our local services?
    We all need a home base, a place where we can let ourselves relax, where we don’t have to explain ourselves. But am I staying in that bubble by choice or out of fear? Some days, for me, it’s fear. Some days I’m just too tired to challenge the bubble. But sometimes I put my big girl panties on and push out of the safety zone, and I’ve learned that for me, that’s when I feel closest to God.


  10. Cheryl Klarich permalink
    Wednesday, March 17, 2010 10:10 pm

    Sounds like you are trying to be true to who you are in Christ while staying true to your characters. When I read something, I crave that authentic ring.
    Yeah, I get sick of characters that have diet coke habits too…


  11. Becky Miller permalink
    Monday, March 22, 2010 2:22 pm

    Good post. I’m proud of you for challenging yourself and passing on that challenge to us!

    I really appreciate the book club I’ve been in for almost 3 years. I am the only Christian and the only conservative in the group, and we’ve had a fantastic time together! We take turns picking the books we all read, and they’ve helped me read books I would never have picked up on my own!


    • Becky Miller permalink
      Monday, March 22, 2010 2:24 pm

      Hm. That comment had more exclamation marks than I normally use in an entire day, maybe an entire week. I must be feelin’ good after that Chai latte I just finished.


  12. Thursday, May 20, 2010 3:44 pm

    Good post-thank you! My thought is that it’s so easy to operate in extremes because its where we find safety. Those extremes become our belief system, not Christ and the Bible…and while the Bible calls us to extreme living in one sense, the theme I see as I dig into scripture more is a life of balance and obedience. This seems to produce the most freedom. In that freedom we can relax and our relationship becomes about making decisions due to our relationship and reverence for the Lord…not legalism to fit into a bubble for man’s approval.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: