Drowning Christian story

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Devil's in the details

The Drowning Christian story is a lighthearted fictional anecdote that encourages Christians to try to help themselves and use common sense instead of relying on God to fix their problems for them. Christians and atheists alike enjoy the story. Other names that the story goes by are "Parable of the Flood", "I Sent You a Rowboat",[1] and "The Drowning Man".[2]


This version is told by Troy DuFrene.[3]

A storm descends on a small town, and the downpour soon turns into a flood. As the waters rise, the local preacher kneels in prayer on the church porch, surrounded by water. By and by, one of the townsfolk comes up the street in a canoe.

"Better get in, Preacher. The waters are rising fast."

"No," says the preacher. "I have faith in the Lord. He will save me."

Still the waters rise. Now the preacher is up on the balcony, wringing his hands in supplication, when another guy zips up in a motorboat.

"Come on, Preacher. We need to get you out of here. The levee's gonna break any minute."

Once again, the preacher is unmoved. "I shall remain. The Lord will see me through."

After a while the levee breaks, and the flood rushes over the church until only the steeple remains above water. The preacher is up there, clinging to the cross, when a helicopter descends out of the clouds, and a state trooper calls down to him through a megaphone.

"Grab the ladder, Preacher. This is your last chance."

Once again, the preacher insists the Lord will deliver him.

And, predictably, he drowns.

A pious man, the preacher goes to heaven. After a while, he gets an interview with God, and he asks the Almighty, "Lord, I had unwavering faith in you. Why didn't you deliver me from that flood?"

God shakes his head. "What did you want from me? I sent you two boats and a helicopter."

Other versions mostly follow the same plot, with minor detail changes, such as the man being religious instead of a preacher,[4] him clinging to his house instead of a church,[5] or hanging from a branch off a cliff. Also, different things (cars, canoes, etc.) might be sent to his rescue.[6] It even shows up in a movie, The Pursuit of Happyness.[7]


Arguably, this story stands against the Bible story of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33), in which Peter leaves the safety of the ship to join Jesus walking on the water, but then briefly loses faith and falls into the sea (but still survives when Jesus reaches out and lifts him up). In contrast to Peter, the preacher in the Drowning Christian kept his faith without wavering, yet he still drowned.

The story is a contrast to how Jesus responds when tempted by the tempter/Devil/Satan in Matthew 4:5-7 and Luke 4:9-12 (and, presumably, whatever happened in Mark 1:13), where Jesus essentially points out that God says, "Don't be an idiot."[note 1]

This story provides an excellent counterpoint to denialists like antivaxxers who say that they should rely on faith instead of modern medicine to protect them (how do they know God didn't send vaccines?). The COVID-19 pandemic led to a version of the story in which the person dies of COVID, having refused to get vaccinated or wear a mask.

In Islam, there is a similar instruction given by Prophet Muhammad, “Tie your camel first, and then put your trust in God.” (Hadith relayed by scholar Al-Tirmidhi)

Atheists may use this story to point out the uselessness of faith. "We're capable of overcoming just about any tough situation — it requires perseverance and loved ones. God is nowhere in the equation," comments a guest writer at Friendly Atheist.[8]

See also[edit]



  1. Sound advice, really. (Fundies tend to ignore it.)