A theological discussion about toilet paper...

My recent trip to Germany got me to thinking a lot about an all too often underestimated utility of our society…toilet paper.

You don’t know how important toilet paper is until you experience a bad product or no product (aka – primitive camping). 

I’m not sure what the rich history of European toilet paper is, but based on my experience, it is neither rich nor fit for a toilet.  It isn’t toilet paper; it is quite simply just paper.  Rough, recycled, brownish card stock paper.

You know you’re in for a treat when you can barely tear it off the roll.  You know you’re in for a special experience when you have to fold it back and forth before you rip it at the crease.  You know you’re in for a harsh encounter when you could either use it to cover tables at a wedding, sand a antique piece of furniture or twist it up and use it as a tow strop to pull someone out of a ditch.  If you haven’t been to Europe, imagine wiping with reams of paper from Kinko’s. 

They haven’t been introduced to the idea of the “tissue”.  What we call toilet paper in our society could better be described as toilet tissue.  It isn’t paper.  It is sometimes doubled up for more cushion, it is often quilted, sometimes even impregnated with aloe to for a medicinal purposes.  No, we don’t have toilet paper…we have rolls of pillowed cotton made for pleasure as much as purpose. 

Pleasure is something that wasn’t associated with my bathroom experience in Germany.  If there was any pleasure or relief being experienced, it was soon clouded by the inevitability of having to wipe.  I never knew how important wiping was to me in the whole bathroom experience.

But I did say this was going to be a theological discussion about toilet paper, so allow me to explain.

When looking for a church home, how do you determine the health of a church?  So many people check out the church website to see how technologically savvy they are.  Others stop by the information hub and gather all the literature and pamphlets available for their curious perusal.  Others want to meet the leaders to get a horse sense of their people skills.  Many just want to attend the weekend service to see if they like the music and the preaching.  They look for creativity and relevance.  Still others are interested in the children’s program…is it safe?  Is it fun?  Is it biblical?  Many walk in and are tallying how many people introduce themselves and how friendly the church is in general.  Do they feel welcome?  Do they feel at home?  All these litmus tests and so many more are employed by many to determine the credibility of a church. 

I have a little different criterion for health.   I walk into a facility, past the greeters, past the welcome hub, past the worship space, past the coffee shop, past the pastors, past the ushers handing out bulletins and onto the bathroom.  I open the door and head for the first stall.  If there is someone occupying it, I patiently wait my turn.  When the coast is clear, I enter and close the door behind me.  Even if I don’t have to go to the bathroom, I lock the door to give the impression that I do.  For the next several moments I engage in a thorough examination of the “church toilet paper”.  How soft is it?  Is it doubled up?  Is it too thin?  Is it brittle and harsh? Is it quilted with ornate designs?  Does it tear too easily?  Is it see-through?  Does it tear easily enough?  What does it smell like?  Does it have an aroma or an odor?  What does it feel like on my fingertips?  What does it feel like rubbed up against the sensitive skin on my face?  Are their backup rolls anywhere in sight?  What is their girth prior to use? 

Toilet paper matters.  When a church doesn’t think it matters, I’m bothered by that.  And here’s why. 

If a church doesn’t think to take care of my butt, I highly doubt they will take care of my heart.

It is loosely connected to the verse in I John where it states that if you don’t love you brother whom you do see, how can you claim to love God whom you can’t see.  My rendering of this passage would go something like this, “If you don’t care about my butt which you can see, how can you possibly take care of my heart which you cannot see.”  It’s holistic ministry. 

I don’t know what it is, but when I go to a church that doesn’t cut budget in the toilet paper line item of the budget, I have a warm feeling rush through my whole being.  I can entrust my heart that that kind of church.  I can relax and feel at home in that setting.  They care about my rear end, not just the end times.  That gives me great confidence in their leadership of my heart.

Toilet paper matters.


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Suzanne said…
My dad thinks that there could be a song in "if the church doesn't take care of my butt, then how can it take care of my heart."

I feel that same way about toilet paper though. I hate using public restrooms because of the toilet paper.
kevin said…
i've really enjoyed reading your blog and listening to your podcast this past year. thanks for your passion both in your writing and preaching.

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