What do you think when you hear the word “Christian?”

Do you think of peace?

Do you think of love?

Do you think of forgiveness?

I don’t, and I wear the title — albeit haphazardly, in no small part because my particular brand of Christianity was used as a weapon — on me, on everyone. No one escaped the condemnation and shame. Then, too, I’m lazy and being a Christian — the kind I think one is meant to be — is damn hard.

Plus, I cuss. Good Christians probably don’t cuss, I think.

Yet even now, with all my accumulated wisdom, when I hear “Christian” I get a little bit defensive and I go on guard. How sad is that?

I sometimes wonder if the brand hasn’t played itself out. I don’t mean that I think Christianity is a spent theology. I think it still has a lot to offer the world, if it was interpreted as it was originally intended (read this but try it with inclusive language) — and I don’t say that to sound judgmental, I promise. We talked recently about how certain members of the tribe interpret the text in ways that in no way resemble what we think was the original intent. That guy who put a billboard up in front of his church condemning both Muslims and every one but evangelical Christians comes to mind, but he’s just one example.

So what if we rebranded ourselves? What if Christians called themselves followers of Jesus, and then those who rebranded themselves go back to the text and live their lives by that creed, not the hateful, judgmental, condemning misinterpretation, but the peace-loving, sharing, do-gooding approach patterned by, well, the one they purport to follow?

O.K. It’s not even 6:30 a.m. and this feels like a sermon. Over and out.

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17 responses to “What do you think when you hear the word “Christian?”

  1. When I hear the word “Christian” the same thing pops into my mind as when I enter the Baskin-Robbins; “What flavor?”
    It’s all ice cream, except this flavor adds a little of this, that flavor takes it out and adds a little of that. The next flavor doesn’t even look like ice cream, but here it is in the ice cream store, so it must be ice cream.
    Christians seem able to identify flavors much more readily than non-christians. But to the illiterate witness, after checking for sidearms, there’s nothing on the face of it to distinguish one from the other. Except for Catholics, they have their own brands. Roman or Orthodox. Simple, like butter or margarine.
    On any given day, with any given group of Christians, the inquisitive, albeit illiterate, witness can encounter any number of interpretations as to what it means to be Christian.
    I don’t think the term “Christian” needs to be changed. It’s all ice cream, after all. But a little, readily recognizable, addition to the brand would make things easier.
    Like:
    Jesus Roeder, or
    Jesus Robertson,
    or Jesus Falwell, or
    Jesus Swaggert, or
    Jesus Ratzinger, (oops…Catholic…sorry)
    or Jesus Waagner
    Jesus Dinwiddie.
    In that way, the illiterate witness could carry around a little card, well…maybe not little, to reference when encountering a Christian. It would help to avoid any misunderstandings, which in concealed-carry jurisdictions, could be troublesome for the witness.

  2. I am the illiterate witness…

  3. If people stop talking about the “Christian Right” or “Christian Conservatives” like those words must be together, then maybe we wouldn’t have to rebrand ourselves. When do people (the media) ever refer to the Christian Left or “Christian Liberals”? The frequency of mentioning this segment of Christian people is much less. We really can’t stop people from putting those things on billboards or from preaching about their church as the one true Christian church. But, the media and all of us can change the way we talk about them and other Christians. For one, we could talk about the other Christians and the good deeds done and the loving ways they express their Christianity. I just don’t think it’s given its fair share of recognition.

    • I think you’re right. And I’m a member of the working press.

    • I think it’s because the Christian left doesn’t necessarily believe in labeling their politics according to their religion. The Christian right is called such because that’s how they define themselves.

      • Do think think that’s changing? I mean, people like Jim Wallis at Sojourners, etc., seem to be quick to label themselves the Christian Left.

      • Yes, there is certainly a movement interested in reclaiming the Christian label within politics.

      • You’re probably right about that. Still, there could be a campaign to let people know that Christians (who are not right-wing conservatives) are doing some pretty good things for people of all faiths. The same could be said about Muslims, Jews… There are interfaith projects that go on (eg. Habitat for humanity, Project Connect for Homeless etc) that are rarely mentioned. It’s not that we need to toot our own horn, but if no one else knows these things are going on, they may not get to know about those good parts of our religions.

  4. I believe Moby calls himself a follower of Christ. I liked that the first time I read it but I can’t say it because it sounds pretentious coming from normal people. Or maybe just when it’s not in an essay.

    • I waffle back and forth. Most days, I say “I’m trying to be a Christian,” except on days when I’m not really trying. Then I just kind of smile sickly. The word is so loaded for me, but that’s my own thing and I can’t really blame any one else for that at this point in my long, long life.

      • Christian was definitely a loaded term for me growing up and I wasn’t even in your church. For some reason, I got the impression that sacrificing self for others was what Jesus was all about and so the more I did that, the better I was at being Christian. That view was not a healthy one for a kid in a dysfunctional home, believe me.
        Maybe its loaded, but you still find something there that is alluring and worthwhile. I think there is so much good in Christianity. Knowing of the harm that can come from misdirection probably just makes us more fierce about protecting the good parts from the damage of a bad reputation. AND protecting some else from being damaged by buying into things that are unhealthy. I don’t know about religion sometimes. Maybe it’s better to just live by a code of following the Golden Rule.

  5. YES! Very cool! My preacher friend had a poster of that! I put it up in my church school classroom a few years ago when I led an interfaith unit. Why can’t we just start there and all agree to do that? (I know I’ve asked that before but no one seems to know why that is sooo hard.)

  6. I know I’m chiming in late on this one but its been a busy day.

    Most of us have a difficult time differentiating between the major Christian denominations. What are the finer differences between Methodism and Congregationalism? Or Lutherans and Baptists? Never mind the different versions of Islam and Judaism.

    I think I like the idea of unting under a Golden Rule banner. Golden Rulers? The Society of the Golden Rule.

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