Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes

#154 The word “backsliding”


Backsliding is a word used by Christians when people fall away from the faith. The adjective form is “backslidden,” the present participle is “backsliding,” and if you want to sound southern about it the past participle is “backslid.”

This word isn’t used in many contexts outside of Christianity with the prominent exception of a Rancid song. Christian musicians who question their beliefs seem to gain the most notoriety. Nefarious musical backsliders include Amy Grant, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson and David Bazan.


Christian culture views backsliding as something that can be prevented by one’s earnest efforts. (In Christian culture, most faith-related things should involve earnest effort.) Backsliding isn’t viewed with much clemency or seen as a valid and perhaps vital part of someone’s spiritual journey. Ergo, 10 handy steps to stave away backsliding can be found by clicking here.

Those who admit to faltering faith typically receive a healthy dollop of rebuke and admonition from the Christian culture, followed by an urging to “do what’s right.” The notion that they are doing right by themselves and by God in being honest about their misgivings has little if any validity in Christian culture. But if the Bible is true then the God of the Bible can withstand questioning and even demands it. He blessed Jacob after Jacob wrestled with him and he didn’t promise to spit his naysayers out of his mouth, only the lukewarm. Christian culture doesn’t know quite what to do with this. Be warned that if you express your doubts or struggles to someone enmeshed in Christian culture these will be met with disapproval and handled with severity.

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posted May 15, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Those who admit to faltering faith typically receive a healthy dollop of rebuke and admonition from the Christian culture, followed by an urging to “do what’s right.” The notion that they are doing right by themselves and by God in being honest about their misgivings has little if any validity in Christian culture.
Translation: If you’re questioning your faith, or you feel like you’re losing it, you’re encouraged to lie about it or cover it up. Yet, lying is a sin! So, they’re encouraging you to sin! Meep!

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posted May 15, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Except they do love C.S. Lewis. When he questioned his faith and wrote a book, christian culture glorified his ‘struggle’ and ‘return’. I wonder if they’d feel that way if once he had decided to turn away from his faith he had remained turned away.
I myself am a backslider who thanks the gods that be I had the courage of my convictions. I know the hell it is when you just can’t find the so-called truth, and the beautiful peace that you get when you become totally okay with that.

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posted May 16, 2010 at 5:05 am

I will not incur the Christian’s tittering disapproval of “backsliding.” I will earn their wrath. Backsliding will not be my path of squalid back-alley sidetrack, but rather the road of my life’s journey. Iniquity flows in me as chi flows through a Karate master. As the force flows through a Jedi. You will find me, always, not slouching toward Gomorrah in shameful self-reproach, but running toward her with outstretched arms.

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nauseated by christian culture

posted May 16, 2010 at 2:42 pm

additionally, back sliding is code for “those who decide not to participate / fellowship with the 501c3 church.” if you’re butt is not in the pew, then your faith hangs in the balance…

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Wayne Watley

posted May 16, 2010 at 2:54 pm

This is, in my opinion, the best blog in this series thus far! It’s a very constructive and edifying piece. Thank you for this.

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posted May 16, 2010 at 4:08 pm

The Toadies also had a song labeled “Backslider.” That’s all for this one 😉

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Appalachian Prof

posted May 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm

“Except they do love C.S. Lewis. When he questioned his faith and wrote a book, christian culture glorified his ‘struggle’ and ‘return’.”
What is the title of this book? Are you referring to A Grief Observed, perhaps?

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posted May 17, 2010 at 9:21 am

Backsliding, could mean anything from not doing your Bible reading for a while to going out to kill someone. Usually, the lack of Bible reading caused a prayer circle to form around you. Higher offenses caused you to be surrounded by Elders, or Deputy Sheriffs depending.

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posted May 18, 2010 at 7:29 pm

@App. Prof
a Grief Observed is the one where he questions his faith in the face of bereavement. Surprised by Joy is the one I mean. In it he details his loss of faith (not that I think he ever really had a lot besides what he had been raised to believe) and his reluctant return to it after lots of denial and running away from God. I think there might be another one, but I’m not sure which.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like C.S. Lewis. I know he’s a bit controversial with his weird sexism and stuff, but hes a product of his era. A Grief Observed is one of my favorite philosophical books. I don’t see it as a ‘questioning of faith’ book so much as I do an intent look at what grief does to one. I think Lewis summed up the experience of loss perfectly, whether it be death, or the end of a relationship, or even a transition in life.
I re-read it from time to time, whenever I’m feeling blue, and it always makes me feel less alone.

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posted May 20, 2010 at 10:29 am

You are dead on, again.
And being the self-professed resident southerner (and newbie) here on
the blog, “backslid” is certainly the most appropriate term, yall. It
even has the hard “d” sound at the end with a definitive ending to a
terrible word. No fun-sounding “ing” at the end of this word. Nope.
It’s a hard “d”. Sharp. To the point. And filled with the subtle
southern slap in the face of the equally self-righteous “bless your
I am guilty..(so please, “bless my heart”.)
And I fear being the lukewarm, too. (I blogged about it here in a post called “I Learned Today That I Just Might
Be Lukewarm..”)
So, I realize the tension. No one wants to admit to being backslid. It
comes with plenty of stigma, long Southern Baptist stares, and plenty
of “we’ll be prayin’ for ya”s and “bless your heart”s..but there is
freedom and beauty in the broken.
If you haven’t seen the People of the Second Chance video
here..broken is beautiful:
Thanks for letting me share.

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posted November 24, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Where I come from, backsliding is when you are doing something and you know you should not be doing it. Like partying Saturday night and going to church Sunday morning. It doesn’t really have anything to do with questioning your faith. That would be “falling away”.

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posted December 8, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I don’t agree. Backsliding isn’t about being honest, courageous, avant garde, intelligent, or faithful to oneself. It isn’t about having sincere questions and seeking answers. Backsliding is failing to ask questions, failing to seek, failing to knock, or not even failing, but refusing, choosing to be hypocritical and dishonest. It’s refusing to search any further lest you find an inconvenient answer that may change your life and turn it into a direction that your cowardice, greed, lust or comfort won’t let you go. And as for hypocrites in the church, the devil puts them there to give the hypocrites outside the church someone to point their fingers at.
Backsliding is seeking out dishonest questions in hope that it will fool someone or provide an excuse to shelter a person from the shame of using the blessings of God as a weapon against all He loves and stands for. Backsliding is the one who plays the whore on his or her marriage and demands everyone else pay for his or her sins. It is for the person who feels entitled to rob others of property, reputation, and rob God of honor. It is cursing the man dying on the cross paying the penalty for your sins.
Backsliding is an opportunity God provides each person respecting his or her freedom to present his or her character on a stage before the universe to be watched without a single detail missed. It is the undeserved opportunity for forgiveness purchased at an infinite price and thwarted. It is the sin that provides joy for a moment and infinite agony forever.
And while people are free in this era to throw around tricks and games, all heaven watches as the rights of people to reveal themselves for who they are is respected. Then in the end, justice will be seen to be real and necessary and an expression of infinite love.
Some will choose to love God infinitely, tracking Him down, seeking Him diligently with all their hearts and living and dying to bring glory to God. Others strive to separate themselves from God, from truth, from justice, from integrity and would rather sentence themselves to an eternal, infinite agony than seek God.

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