There’s this post that’s been on my dash the past couple of days that’s like “if the world doesn’t know you’re a Christian that’s a problem” blah blah but like um if the world knows you’re a “Christian” only because that’s the label you’ve slapped on yourself and wear with pride but no one knows anything of your love and kindness then that’s a MUCH bigger problem and really how dare you label yourself “Christ-like”?
There are many, many people who are known as “Christians” not because of their behavior, but because of their self labeling. Who cares if the world knows you’re a “Christian” when it’s probably in title only? There are many people who don’t claim Christianity who are far more Christ-like than many self proclaimed “Christians”. Fact of the matter is, you could behave as much like Christ as you wanted, and many people would probably just assume you were a very kind and caring and good person, rather than assuming that you did these things because you’re a “Christian.”
This is, of course, largely because most people don’t associate actually behaving like Christ with being a “Christian” because of self proclaimed Christians acting nothing of the sort. There is very little merit in everyone being aware that you’re a Christian, for many reasons besides this.
I looked up “Christian” in two dictionaries recently. The current Merriam-Webster dictionary (online) defined “Christian” simply as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” My mom’s Webster dictionary, published in the 1970’s, gave a similar definition, but it also had a few meanings that many modern dictionaries do not include: “Exhibiting a charitable spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ; Christlike”, and “decent, respectable.”
How things change.
The Barna Group did a study* of Outsiders (non-believers, atheists, adherants to other faiths, etc) between the ages of 16-29 on their perception of present-day Christianity:
- 87% believed Christians to be judgmental.
- 85% viewed Christians as “hypocritical - saying one thing, doing another.”
- 85% thought Christians were “too involved politically”.
- 75% considered Christians “out of touch with reality”.
- 70% perceived Christians as “insensitive to others”.
- 91% thought Christians are homophobic or “anti-homosexual.”
As to positive traits, very few could connect favorable qualities with Christianity:
- 10% considered Christianity “relevant to your life.”
- 11% thought Christians to be “genuine and real” people.
- 16% knew Christians to be “consistently loving to other people”.
- 19% believed Christianity “offers hope for the future”.
- 16% considered it “a faith [I] respect”.
I guess that the question I would ask is this: Do you even want to be considered a “Christian” by those outside the faith if that’s how they are viewing Christianity? Just last night, I spoke with a friend who’s been to maybe two churches in her life, once for a funeral, once for Easter Sunday. She had expressed some interest in Christianity as something she might persue when she got older, but that it would be hard to find a community she could fit into because she “couldn’t go to a church that was just bashing gays and lesbians all the time.”
People, this is how the world views you - 70% of your peers views your faith as boring, while 78% consider your beliefs “old-fashioned.”
Just look at the scandal our faith has become - At best, they see little old ladies in floral-print dresses shuffling into a creaking church, singing hymns that are so old-school no one cares to listen, struggling through their hearing-aids to make out the preaching of a text which has no relevance to the lives of anyone under seventy. Or maybe they see Megachurch pastors jetting around the world with their trophy-wives to vacation in exotic locales as their parishioners suck down a steaming latte from the Starbucks conveniently located in the foyer of their multi-million dollar church complex, blissfully unaware of the suffering going on around the world or just outside their doors as they plan their next pro-gun rally or picket a woman’s health clinic. But, at worst, they see the priests, pastors, and elders molesting children and taking advantage of their young, female (or male) receptionists, or else using church funds to buy sex. They see embezzlement on a grand scale. They see people whose heads are in the clouds, grasping for something that doesn’t make sense. They see the intolerant, shallow-minded kids in their highschools shaming gays/lesbians/anyone different than them.
Of course, I’m a Christian, and I certainly don’t believe that this is all there is to our faith, or even that this is mostly true, but this is the perception of the world around us, kids. And the saddest thing is that Christ said “They shall know you are Christians by your love.”
So, instead of making this about being “Christian”, let’s point this all back to Christ. Instead of making this about winning converts (as many believe it to be), let’s make this about being Christ here, now. His hands and feet. His love.
*UnChristian: what a new generation really things about Christianity … and why it really matter, Kinnaman and Lyons, Baker Books, 2007. pg. 28,29.