Why I Hesitate To Be Called A Christian

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It may sound terrible, but I have concerns with calling myself a Christian. I understand that saying something like this may automatically put me in a category to either be pitied (he is giving up on “the truth”) or despised (he is against us) by the Christian world, but I beg you to give me a chance to explain.

Originally, the title of “Christian” was assigned to a group of people that were culture changing agents.  They were actively changing a culture that made the sins of our current culture appear tame. They were making the changes without political activity, boycotts, well organized campaigns or church conferences and programs.  They were simple people that had given up their lives to follow Jesus. This insanely foolish strategy was the key to their culture changing power. Additionally, the first Christians were known for their love, not for their opposition to the cultural ills that they no longer participated in.

When I read about their lives, in the pages of the Bible, I am inspired to be a Christian.  I am desperate to be a change agent in my culture and to be empowered, by God, to effect practical change.

It is at this point that I am forced to examine our culture’s perception of the Christian. There are some positives, but the overarching perception is that the modern Christian facilitates little or no culture changing power despite political activity, boycotts, well organized campaigns, church conferences and programs. As a result of all of their striving, they are known for what they are against, instead of their love. They meet week in and week out, while their communities curl up and die. Suicides, self harm, drug use, depression and sin of every kind have free reign while the Christians are having a good church service, conference or rally. As a result, this group’s actions look more like a modern version of the Biblical Scribes and Pharisees. Click here for more on this subject.

I am fully aware that most Christians will read this and feel that they are an exception to my handling of modern Christians. How do I know this? I know because I spent many years actively being a modern Christian (see this post for more on that) and was blind to the lack of lasting impact that I was making. Somehow I was able to ignore the lack of power and content myself with glimpses of God in a “good” church service. I am not saying that I did not see good things happen, I am saying I did not see great things- culture changing things. I willingly sacrificed the great in favor of the good.

All of this leads me to a hesitation in referring to myself as a Christian. I am desperate to be an authentic Christ follower, but I am uncomfortable with the modern connotation of the term. I guess the only option is to surrender my life to Jesus (as the original Christians did) and experience the power to be a culture changing agent.  Then we will see what the freshly changed culture calls me. It worked for the first followers, in Antioch (See Acts 11), I don’t see why it won’t work for me.

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8 thoughts on “Why I Hesitate To Be Called A Christian”

  1. Thanks for posting this, Aaron. There are few things worse than a Christian with a cause, something Lewis referred to as “Christianity and” in contrast to “mere Christianity.” Specifically, Christians who want laws written so that the rest of us have to live Christian lives drive a wedge between themselves and the rest of the world.

    “I am fully aware that most Christians will read this and feel that they are an exception to my handling of modern Christians.”

    You couldn’t be more right. I appreciate the fact that you avoided specifics in this post and kept your hands clean, but I think many Christians may need some examples. When you speak of making progress without “political activity, boycotts, well organized campaigns,” some Christians are likely to picture a caricature of the problem, a wild-eyed sign-bearer shouting on the capitol steps. The behavior I think you’re referring to is far more common and subtle than that.

    Here in the US, Christians are not oppressed. They are just not. They are free to spread the love of Christ, to attend their (tax free!) religious services, and participate in whatever sacraments they please. Why not use this wonderful freedom to make our world better? Why waste it fighting to keep gays from marrying, controlling what science is taught in schools, worrying about what kinds of cells we use in life-saving scientific research? Why waste it fighting to ensure the Church can exempt birth control from health insurance? Why waste it fighting to make sure the word “God” stays on our money and in our pledge? These are trivialities. They are tangential to the Christian cause AT BEST at yet have come to represent it almost in its entirety.

    Two billion people won’t get a drink of clean water today, and one person dies from malaria every second of every day. There are hordes of hungry to feed, sick to care for, and distraught to be consoled. Why focus instead on what laws can force the rest of the country into the same religion you were brought up to believe in?

    1. Thanks for your comments Cole. While I can appreciate your efforts to make this (yet another) debate post about the homosexual issue or stem cell research, it is not. I agree with you that there are far more pressing, biblically mandated (feed the widows, poor and fatherless) issues that we should all be focusing on. Endless debates and legislated morality will not make our world a better place or fulfill the great commission given to all Christians- make disciples by teaching…

      1. I’m confused by your response. I did not bring up any of those issues to start a debate on them. I brought them up as examples of causes which can distract from, even contradict, what we both agree should be the mission of Christianity. Reminding Christians they are not oppressed, that they have very many freedoms to exercise, struck me as relevant to this end.

        I *will* debate, ironically, your comment on debate. Time spent in honest and civil argument is almost never wasted. Even if we can’t come to an agreement, we will (hopefully!) leave our debates with refined positions and a better understanding of our opponents. The world needs more, not fewer, discussions of this nature. At one time, slavery was a political issue, and I flatter myself in thinking it may have been said of me, were I alive at the time, “Oh, great. There goes Cole, making this discussion into another endless debate on slavery.” I see many of the above issues as important and, though I was NOT opening a debate on them here (I was in fact, taking time to thank you for and add thoughts on your post), a refusal to engage on them is not the noble, civil, or even the polite thing to do.

      2. I apologize if I my comments came across as scolding to you. It was not my intention. I agree with you regarding open minded debate (a very rare commodity). My comments were directed at the close minded (on both sides of issues) debates that are so often seen on the Internet. These tend to reaffirm biases and cause more hatred and division than real change.

        You and I can agree that a Christians time is better spent fulfilling the great commission, feeding the poor and changing one mind at a time through loving kindness, rather than passing a law that dictates compliance, and that is a beautiful thing.

        Now if me and my compatriots can only do what we were instructed to do over 2,000 years ago, you will get some more free time. Always a pleasure interacting with you my friend.

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