‘The Human Propensity to F*** things Up’

Unapologetic - by Francis Spufford

“One of the major obstacles to communicating what belief feels like is that I’m not working with a blank slate. Our culture is smudged over with half-legible religious scribblings. The vocabulary that used to describe religious emotions hasn’t gone away…instead, it’s still in circulation, but re-purposed, with new meanings generated by new usages…

Case in point: the word ‘sin’, that well-known contemporary brand name for ice cream. And high-end chocolate truffles. And lingerie in which the colour red predominates.  And sex toys; and cocktails… ‘Sin’ you can see, always refers to the pleasurable consumption of something.

If I say the word sin to you…it’s going to sound like as if I am bizarrely opposed to pleasure, and because of the on-going link between sin and sex, it will seem likely that at the root of my problem with pleasure is a problem with sex.

So I won’t do that.  Because that isn’t at all what I mean.

What I and other believers understand by the word I’m not saying to you has got very little to do with yummy transgression.  For us, it refers to something much more like the human tendency, the human propensity to fuck up.  Or let’s add one more word; the human propensity to fuck things up, because what we’re talking about here is not just our tendency to lurch and stumble and screw up accident, our passive role as agents of entropy. It’s our active inclination to break stuff, ‘stuff’ here including moods, promises, relationships we care about, and our own well-being and other people’s, as well as material objects whose high gloss positively seems to invite a big fat scratch.  Now I hope we are on common ground.

For most of us the point eventually arrives when, at least for an hour or a day or a season, we find we have to take notice of our HPtFtU (as I think I better call it).  Our appointment with realisation often comes at one of the classic moments of adult failure; when a marriage ends, when a career stalls or crumbles, when a relationship fades away with a child only seen on Saturdays, when the supposedly recreational coke habit turns out to be exercising veto powers over every other hope and dream…

The HPtFtU dawns on you. You have indeed fucked things up. Of course you have. You’re human, and that’s where we live; that’s our normal experience.”

All text taken from ‘The Crack in Everything’, chapter two of Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense by Francis Spufford.

I would highly recommend Unapologetic, especially for those who are not Christians.  Its unlike any book I have ever read before because it takes seriously the need to communicate faith in a way people actually can hear and understand.  If you are a Christian then buy it, read it, and give it to someone who isn’t.

Buy Unapologetic by Francis Spufford

5 thoughts on “‘The Human Propensity to F*** things Up’”

  1. I loved this book Jon!! I read it early 2013 and then used it as a stock birthday / Xmas present for loads of people!

    My favourite quote from it is this:

    ‘Give as though nothing you gave away could ever make you poorer; for you can never run out of that which you give’ (Yeshua, whichever chapter that is…)

    I often talk in sermons about the human propensity to muck things up!


  2. Unapologetic is by far and away the best Christian book I’ve read in a long time. Perhaps ever. Powerful. Original. And best of all, real, totally devoid of the usual Christian paperback cliche tosh. Loved it. Wished i’d written it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s