Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

The Dover Principle- and What I Learned When I Didn’t Apply It

I’ve coined “the Dover Principle” by way of our recent visit to my in-laws in Boston.

The Dover Principle states this: a three-day limit to visits with extended family is good for everybody.  Visits exceeding three days overstay the welcome and invite unnecessary drama.  (Besides, don’t good things happen on Day 3? You know, “third time is a charm,” and Jesus’ resurrection, and all that?)

Apparently my innovation isn’t really that new.  A friend mentioned the other day that at least in parts of the Middle East, the Dover principle is alive and well (if not by name, then as an unspoken rule of etiquette).  To stay as a guest either less or more than three days is gaúche.


After three days, your atheist father-in-law starts to lecture you at dinner about how we’re all nothing more than a collection of neurons evolving over centuries and why religion is fanatical and only feeds evil in this world.  After three days, the issue of who gets to borrow one of the family cars and when becomes an opportunity for non-blood relatives to tell each other what they’ve really thought about each other all along.  After three days, the weather and what’s for lunch become the safest topics.

But, I learned something helpful at dinner on the fourth day – perhaps appropriately falling on “Boxing Day.”  I learned that when I try to describe what Jesus means with respect to being “born again” (which for me has been not just one moment of conversion but many across a lifetime) I resort to abstractions.


“Oh, Kristina, that is so abstract!,” my father-in-law had exclaimed with great frustration.

When I used the term “tranformation,” he guffawed. “Transformation?  How about adaptation?  Adaptation I can understand!”

Adaptation over millions of years as evolutionary organisms, yes, but transformation- the kind that invites something Other than our own materialistic composition into a redemptive process of life, death and resurrection, no.

An interesting discussion- okay, uncomfortable family disagreement- but I walked away having learned something very helpful.  My father-in-law is right: I can be too abstract when it comes to sharing what I believe with people who think Christianity is bizarre.


Which is also a very helpful insight for me here at this intersection between life and God.

Just the other day, I re-read my reflections from two days ago on the nature of obedience to God.  Earth to Kristina: they really were too abstract.  What, concretely, does it mean to obey God? That remains the question.  It’s the very thing that I, and maybe many of you, struggle with answering.  So, on that note, stay tuned for an attempt at more concrete thoughts on the nature of obedience.  I will want to hear yours, too!

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