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Alienation, Isolation & Paranoia

Updated on October 7, 2012
Johnny's in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I'm on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he's got a bad cough
Wants to get paid off
Look out kid
It's something you did
God knows when 
But you're doing it again
You better duck down the
alley way 
Lookin' for a new friend
The man in the coonskin cap
By the big pen
Wants eleven dollar bills
You only got ten. . ."
        ~Bob Dylan~

In The World

Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues is all about alienation, isolation, and paranoia, which in my observations is an ever-present tension in the church.

As believers in Jesus Christ we are supposed to be instruments of peace and redemption, which means being engaged in the world around us. Far too often the reality is entirely different.

We alienate ourselves from nonbelievers—we isolate ourselves from the larger culture—we become paranoid about art and motives.

Living out our faith is so much easier and safer when we are surrounded by other Christians so we’ve created this subculture where we attach the word Christian as a prefix to everything.

We have Christian TV, Christian Radio, Christian Books, Christian Music, Christian cruises, Christian This, and Christian That.

Let me be clear: The world doesn’t need any more Christian writers, Christian musicians, Christian artists, or Christian movie makers. We are, however, desperate for writers, musicians, artists, and movie makers who are Christian.

The difference is subtle, but radically real. I'm a Christian, but that doesn’t make me a Christian writer. I'm a writer who approaches the craft from a Biblical perspective and worldview.

The idea that attaching a Christian prefix to books, movies, music, or art somehow elevates it to a pure and righteous level is a fallacy that distorts and skews our thinking. It only serves to alienate and isolate us from nonbelievers, and causes us to become paranoid.

Jesus said that those who follow him are the salt of the earth—when he used that metaphor those first disciples comprehended the meaning completely. They were familiar with the practice of rubbing salt into fresh meat and fish to preserve it.

Scripture is fundamentally clear—God never intended his people to hide within a subculture. With discernment and discretion believers in Jesus Christ are to fully participate in society and make disciples as we go.

This cannot occur when we put ourselves upon a Christian pedestal that separates us from others. We are to be on level and common ground so we can involve nonbelievers in serious dialog—this happens when we make friends and build meaningful relationships.

There’s a fascinating story in Acts where we can learn much from the example set by Paul of Tarsus.

Acts 17:16-34 - NIV

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him.

Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

“Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

A depiction of Paul at Athens.
A depiction of Paul at Athens.
Christians need to be intentional about getting outside the supposed safety of their self-contained bubble.
Christians need to be intentional about getting outside the supposed safety of their self-contained bubble.

Paul's Example

Take note that Paul didn’t alienate himself from nonbelievers, isolate himself from the culture, or become paranoid about the mores or values of Athens. Instead, he used their poets as an entrance point and platform to present truth.

Paul knew what he believed and why he believed it—he had worked through the dynamics of a God-centric worldview. We are to do likewise, which is extremely difficult to accomplish if we remain sequestered within a Christian bubble that allows us to put our brains on automatic pilot.

To sort through these issues can be messy and problematic. It isn’t easy to connect with a culture that is rarely faith-friendly and often hostile to Christianity, but exactly where is it written that it’s supposed to be easy?

We should never be threatened by people who challenge our faith. While interacting with others if there is a consistent error believers make it is this: We somehow think we have to defend God.

Too many times we function on the defensive. We’ve got this deeply rooted idea that when someone says they don’t believe in God, it means that God is diminished or that our faith experience has been negated.

We seem to think that God—the Creator of the universe—needs us to validate him. Consider that concept for a moment, and one soon realizes the truly ludicrous nature of the idea.

At Athens Paul demonstrated the practical application of what it means to embrace our mission as ambassadors. Later in his life, in a letter to a cluster of believers at Corinth, Paul wrote: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

As though God were making his appeal through us. Make no mistake about it: God does not alienate or isolate himself from creation, and he is certainly not paranoid about the motives or machinations of those who refuse him. From everlasting to everlasting God pours out his mercy and grace—God is always in the business of restoration and redemption.

How many pre-Christian friends do you have?

See results
Out in the highways and byways
of life, many are weary and 
sad; carry the sunshine where
darkness is rife, making the 
sorrowing glad.
      ~Ira B. Wilson~

Gospel In Action

Unfortunately the church aligns itself with politics, which can be a volatile and harmful mix. We attempt to bring about transformational change through a siege mentality with boycotts and legislation, but there is a much more relevant course to take.

Rather than fostering a view of Christianity as just one more special interest group clamoring for a power base within our politics, we should attempt to show the gospel in action in every aspect of our lives.

We ought to strive to engage the culture in constructive ways through building friendships with nonbelievers and using our skills and talents to contribute positively to the culture.

We need to question our assumptions about nonbelievers, and take the time to genuinely get to know people. That requires that we listen with interest and respect rather than trying to give them prepackaged answers to every issue in life. In my experiences real-world theology never comes wrapped up in a nice neat box.

People are not to be regarded as projects. We should see everyone as no different than us—individuals whom God loves. With that reality clear we ought to be intentional about building relationships with people that allow them to see Jesus at work in our lives.

One mistake that is often made is that we develop this division between the secular and the sacred. This compartmentalization is exacerbated by the Christian subculture, and is impossible to maintain—it’s detrimental to our witness because life is saturated with ambiguity and hardness.

We must understand that the sacred and profane mix in daily life. No one is all bad—no one is all good. We are all sinners who need to be redeemed. We all need Jesus.

 Give as 'twas given to you 
 in your need,love as the
 Master loved you; be to the
 helpless a helper indeed,
 unto your mission be true.
     ~Ira B. Wilson~


Alienation, isolation, and paranoia are wedges that create dissension and roadblocks. Good ambassadors keep communication lines open and fully operational, which means working to eliminate points of contention and dismantling barriers.

Believers in Jesus Christ must be honest and vulnerable. Others need to see us working out our faith in the context of being human—others need to know that we fully understand that we’re not perfect, but that we trust in God’s grace to help us in all the ups and downs of life.

It is essential to grasp that God desires to fulfill his purposes in our lives. A crucial part of that is living out our faith in front of a watching world that God is calling and beckoning to himself.


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    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Loves To Read - Thank you. Appreciate your encouragement & also your thoughtful words & perspective. Blessings.

    • Loves To Read profile image

      Loves To Read 

      7 years ago

      Ken this is a great hub. I agree with you totally. I always say we have to live in this world but we don't have to live like everyone else. We cannot keep our good deeds and Christian traits just for our fellow Christians. Jesus went out among the sick, the sinners, the Kings and the Religious. He did not start out by telling the multitudes He was a Christian speaker. He went about healing and speaking of His Fathers love. When people say "I am a Christian" writer, speaker or teacher, it is the first thing that turns people away. Our actions speak louder than words. Great hub....

      Love and Hugs

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      jasper420 - Thank you so much. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      good hub great topic very intresting info

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      UlrikeGrace - Thanks for the big AMEN. I respond to your words with a big AMEN. Peace & much encouragement to you.

    • UlrikeGrace profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      Absolutely Ken...can I say a big AMEN! Often I am asked if I write for the Christian world or for the secular answer: I write for people. We all need the message, all the time. Often we think it's so hard to live in the secular world...but why? If we live our lives honestly and openly it should not matter who we live amongst, it would still be the same life. How it impacts is another story and not our responsibility. How "people" react to my life in Christ is something they have to take up with the Spirit as it should not change how I am going to obey or respond to my Lord and Master. Now I know that is the ideal...but keeping this in mind has helped when at times I am intimidated by the "world." Thanks for the thought provoking hub...your insights always challenge me to look at my life with the Spirit. Thanks Ulrike Grace

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      sunflowerbucky - You are so kind in your words of affirmation & encouragement. I'm glad we connected on here & hope I can be as encouraging to you in your writing & faith-journey as you have been & are to me. Peace & blessings to you.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Wayne - Thanks for very thoughtful words. I appreciate your insights & think you are exactly right. Your perspective is an encouragement to me. Blessings.

    • sunflowerbucky profile image


      8 years ago from Small Town, USA

      This hub really illustrates much of the hypocrisy that I find disturbing about organized religion. Now, that being said, I am a Christian and a believer. This is one of the things I love about your writing. Your writing embraces your Christianity and your belief system without being judgmental of others, and without having a "holier than thou" attitude. You are not afraid to acknowledge sin and faults, and in my mind, this makes you a fantastic writer, Christian, and most of all...human.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Excellent point and message Ken. As I read your article and your examples I found myself thinking how much the demonstration of of Christianity for so many people seems to be a the "visual". The use of the term in front of everything they do. The "fish symbol" on the car trunk and the list goes on and on. Your points here certainly promote a visual sense but it is different in that it is the offering of a "visual example in both words, deeds, and actions" that is the difference". It is the point of saying simply, "This is who I am" as opposed to the more visual, "Hey, look at me, I'm a Christian." I do not want to sound calloused as I know many people are very proud of their religion and that is fine but the points you make hit home in terms of living it day to day. I think many of us can see the difference when we shift the symbolism away from religion. Take for example a person who might describe themselves as "African-American" as opposed to just saying "American". Is the first reference really necessary when expressing your love of this country. That same would be true for Irish-American, etc. In the end, we are all just "Americans" who should put America first just like many of writer...who coincidentally may also be of the Christian faith. Hopefully this makes does to me! Thanks for great write! WB

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thanks, carolina muscle.

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 

      8 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I like your approach, and think it is more effective!

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      AM - Thanks for stopping in & sharing. I appreciate your perspective & thoughtful words. Blessings.

    • A M Werner profile image

      Allen Werner 

      8 years ago from West Allis

      Awesome hub Ken. Straight to the point - sharp and accurate. An ambassadors job is to keep lines of communication open even when it sometimes seems fruitless. As you said, if we regard people as projects, we tend to elevate ourselves and without even realizing it, make them feel inferior. The salvation message comes through in many different administrations of the Spirit. Sometimes we are simply planting a seed that someone else down the line, at some future date, will water. Peace.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thanks, Norma. Reading Schaeffer is always good for the brain. Blessings.

    • profile image

      Norma Allen 

      8 years ago

      Well said, Ken. I particularly appreciated your comments about the church and the arts. Franky Schaeffer writes about this in his book Sham Pearls for Real Swine. You would resonate with his point of view, I'm sure.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Tamarajo - Thank you for your words. They are much appreciated. Blessings.

    • Tamarajo profile image


      8 years ago

      Your hub is true and challenging. I think it is true as you say that maybe we are not confident in our faith enough for the challenge because as the New Testament shows to get involved can get ugly.

      Yet I also see the opposite occur sometimes in that some go so far to reach the lost that they get lost themselves in the things of this world.

      Thank you for you thought provoking Hub

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      "The pump don't work because the vandals took the handle." Thanks for stopping in & sharing. Glad you enjoyed the visit.

    • FCEtier profile image


      8 years ago from Cold Mountain

      "Get sick, get well,

      Hang around the ink well.."

      Nice article. Very thought provoking!

      "Look out kid,

      It's something you did.

      God knows when,

      But you're doing it again."

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thank you, bayoulady. Your observations are exactly right. Blessings.

    • bayoulady profile image


      8 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

      Great hub ,Ken! I think every church should have a sign above the EXIT door so we could see it when WE LEAVE church. The sign should say"ATTENTION,YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE MISSION FIELD- YOUR COMMUNITY." What message are we projecting if we keep to ourselves and have a better -than -you image? We would appear as the Pharisees, I think.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Dusty - Thanks for your observations. Right on. Peace & blessings to you.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Ken,a good all around message. It made me think of those that put a cross, fish or bible image on their business cards from back when. Seemed they were trying to show me they were extra trustworthy and that is why I should choose them above all the others who bid a job. It mostly panned out that I couldn't use them at all due to prices double the next higher bid. Now that is just one thought you invoked in my mind as I read along. I guess it was mainly don't tell me, let me see the metal that makes you stand out from the rest, something I personally need to work on.

      Good message, worth returning to until I absorb it all, Peace and Love, Dusty

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      dallas93444 - Thanks. That's a great line. Blessings.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      8 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      I have an Ax and Two Thirty Eights! (Acts 2:38)... I remember this from an old "Rival Preacher!" Keep them coming.. Great hub.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      dahoglund - Thank you for your thoughtful words. Good stuff to consider. Blessings.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Dave - Thank you for your good, thoughtful words. Much appreciated.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      fred allen - Thank you for your affirmation. Your words are humbling. Peace & blessings.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      CMCastro - Thank you for stopping in & I'm glad you enjoyed the visit. Your words are encouraging to me.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Heart4theword - Thanks. Your observations are exactly right. Blessings.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      RevLady - Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Your words are right on & much appreciated.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thanks, H.C. I appreciate your words. Blessings.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Unchained Grace - Thanks for sharing good words of affirmation & encouragement. Blessings.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      ericsomething - Thanks for your good & thoughtful observations.

    • Ken R. Abell profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Deaconness - Thank you. Peace, blessings & much encouragement to you.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      The term Christian writer is a bit perplexing. In terms of my own faith which is Catholic, I find those known as "Catholic writer" like James Joice, Graham Green seem to have some insight into the faith that is more subtle than writing "propaganda " for the church.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 

      8 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      We are required, simply because we are spiritual children of God, and we are here to live according to the laws of this earth, work and live amongst all of the various peoples,with their beliefs,creeds, sects,religions,cultures.

      We are asked, required, commanded to share and teach about God and Jesus, to love our neighbors as well as our enemies.

      We obey out of our recognition that God is Our Creator and our devotion to Him as our Father,and our love and respect for Him, as well as out of our appreciation, and our admiration, and love, and respect, for Christ Jesus our redeemer, our saviour, and our intercessor with Our Father.

      This is what being a true Christian is all about.

      Brother Dave.

    • fred allen profile image

      fred allen 

      8 years ago from Myrtle Beach SC

      You are a bright and shining star! I always look forward to your next hub. This one was most stirring. I agree with everything you wrote. This is a wake up call to the church. We are to become all things to all men so that by all possible means we might save some. 1 Cor 9 beginning with verse 19. The world is indeed watching. there is no such thing as an undercover Christian.

    • CMCastro profile image

      Christina M. Castro 

      8 years ago from Baltimore,MD USA

      Your hub was read by me at the time when my husband and I were just talking about how so many Christians are expecting to "play" church, by containing themselves inside a "church" building. We agree with your hub. There also needs to be more "walking" instead of just "talking". Going to a building on Sundays to worship is more of just a routine, and its content loses its "saltiness". There should be more street ministry, and then to go into the environments of "homeless" hearts would win more souls to Christ. How many people actually go out and just join a church cause they feel like it?

    • heart4theword profile image


      8 years ago from hub

      Great Hub, for what is going on in our world today. Things can get overwhelming, when we look at the tragedies of life. You are right in saying, we need to try to view people similar to ourselves. That God's will and love for all of us, is that we come to know Him:) Well thought out writing, Ken!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Whoops. Light, not sight. My fingers are lysdexic.

    • RevLady profile image


      8 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      We seem to be so far removed from the early Christians to whom isolation would be an insulting idea. Jesus clearly taught us to go into the world, not separate ourselves. How can the light be seen if it is hidden? "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."

      Great hub Ken with much to think about. Thank you.

      Forever His,

    • H.C Porter profile image


      8 years ago from Lone Star State

      I am so glad that you are a Christian that writes and not a Christian Writer... You are right-the world has no need for yet another 'Christian Writer', job well done Ken-Rated Up for sure!

    • Unchained Grace profile image

      Unchained Grace 

      8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Ken, believe it or not, Unchained Grace Ministries has long since been labelled the "Outlaw Ministry" by some who have developed a paranoia about the world wherein alienation follows and subsequent isolation is the result. Paul spoke vehemently about division in the church and the same mindset exists even within any group of followers who meet on any Sunday under some roof somewhere.

      Church is everywhere. We mix with gangbangers, convicts, inmates, prostitutes, the homeless and whomever we happen to run into. Preach the message? That's all well and good but until you can 'be the message' you ain't but a punk in the pulpit. Afraid to bring the fight to the enemy. Scared to death to stand on the gospel for fear of losing congregants. The enemy has them living in fear minus the Holy Ghost. The numbers that fill the pews and the money that hits the donation plate and tithing envelopes has become their real god.

      You're 100% correct. What we need to do is lose the 'Christian' prefix and start acting and being what our little nickel-slick titles allege we are. Spiritual Warfare is all about the possession of the Mind of Christ yet people are so hung up on their hangups they wouldn't see it coming even if they saw it coming.

      Ken, I watch what I want and listen to the music I feel like listening to and I defy any "computer Christian" to run their little bopeep mouth when they ain't about nothing.

      Your Hub, Ken, needed to be written and what you said needed to be said. You can't bring souls to deliverance nor into the Kingdom of God when you huddle yourself like little scared rats under the porch cuz there might be a pitbull out there somewhere. Where's the faith with these jokers? It ain't about that. People get big and bold amongst themselves in church and then run and hide when they're out in society. Where's their supposed anointing? It ain't.

      Keep it coming, buddy.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Excellent, Ken. Your Hub does outline some of the problems with modern-day Christendom. We were not meant to form our own society, but all of us are put where we are for a reason. And it's not to make God relevant -- the relevancy problem is not with God, but with so many Christians.

      The apostles turned the world upside down. Now, too many Christians are trying to turn the gospel upside down. It don't work that way.

      Besides the salt thing, Jesus also said we are the light of the world. And you don't hide that light under a bushel (or in a closed society), but "let your sight so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

    • Deaconess profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow, I just wrote a discourse about this very same subject this morning, titled: Set Apart. Amazing... just goes to show how we are all connected through a higher mindstream. Wonderful article! May God bless and keep you.


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