I Don’t Want to Be Called a Christian Anymore
I don’t want to be called a Christian anymore.
Don’t misunderstand me; I want everything to do with Jesus.
But when I see a so-called fellow Christian holding a sign that says, “God hates fags,” and someone asks me, “Are you a Christian too?” I want to say, “hell no.”
When I hear Christian groups claiming God’s “justice” has been done in Newton CT, and New Orleans, or I listen to Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer blaming gays, contraception, and atheists for the slaughter of innocents, and someone associates my faith with theirs, I want to run as far away from that connection as I can.
If that’s the kind of nonsense associated with the name “Christian,” I want nothing to do with it.
So what choices does this leave me with? And what are the consequences of these choices?
A) Dissociate myself with my nominal “Christian” identity.
I don’t want anything to do with the name “Christian” if it associates me with hate groups or bigots. I also don’t want any association with the historical atrocities that have been done in the name of Christianity, ie: The Inquisition, the Crusades, Witch-hunts, etc.
But I do want everything to do with the name Christian in association with people like Mary, Paul, Peter, James, Lydia, Phoebe, St. John, Augustine, John Chrystosm, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Calvin, Knox, John of the Cross, Mother Theresa, Henri Nouwen, Fanny Crosby, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie ten Boom, C.S.Lewis, my mentors, my family, my friends at Cedarcreek Covenant church . . . You get the idea.
Disassociating myself with the name “Christian” means removing myself from rich tapestry of faithful saints—or does it? The Scriptures use phrases like: “family of God,” “children of God” or “household of faith.” And as we all know, families are messy. I bear the family name Hill, and now Worl. There are many things that have happened in the Hill-Worl family that are sinful, hurtful, and treacherous in many ways. Am I responsible for some of our bad history? Yes I am. For better or worse, it is my family story. I do not wish to dump the name Hill or Worl because of these things, for along with my family name is also a story of great faithfulness, courage, triumph, love and grace.
Is it any better if I ditch the name “Christian” and go with “Christ-follower?” or “Jesus Disciple?” How does that change anything?
B) Disown those other “followers.”
Maybe the easiest solution we tend toward is to simply point the finger at the hateful picketer on the corner, and say “Well, obviously they are not “real Christians.”* Jesus says we will know a follower by the kind of fruit they bear. What kind of fruit is growing? Hate, discrimination, disgrace. Aren’t we told we are able to decipher through the wisdom of the Spirit what is false teaching, and what isn’t?
But does this make me a horrible hypocrite? Am I claiming to be a better Christian above all those “sinning” ones by drawing a line between us? I have done more than my fair share of misdeeds, while a Christ-follower, that I look on with great remorse. I can readily share the same sentiment as the apostle Paul did, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” However, is there a difference between sinning followed by: repentance and redemption—and—unremitting hateful behavior, which continually produces nothing but pain and harm?
If I begin down the slippery slope of drawing a line the sand and saying “These were real believers,” and “these were not,” am I not then entering into the self-righteous vocation of a Pharisee, the “holy” religion wardens of Jesus’ day. And if I remember my Bible right, Jesus had more than a few things to say against the Pharisees. Does the Great Commission read, “Go into all the world and decide who is a real follower and who is not?”
What are my options? Avoid. Disavow. Disassociate. Hate them for hating. Is there another way?
C) Confronting, engaging and praying is the best option I am left with.
I will not disassociate myself from the name “Christian,” and yes, all the ugly baggage that comes with it. When asked if I am a Christian, I will happily and eagerly explain what exactly that means to me, including an honest examination of my family history.
If I am then critiqued for the evil done in my family name, I will enter into that discussion and express on behalf of my family name our deep sorrow and remorse for those events. I will express my genuine grief over deception, actions and speech that are so contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I will help examine what is false teaching and deception, and how Scriptures can become mishandled and abused.
I will ask God daily, hourly, “Have mercy on me, have mercy on us, Oh Lord, according to your steadfast love.” I will ask God to shine the light of truth and grace into deception and darkness. I will ask God to turn the hearts of men and women from hate to love.
Engage. Confront. Pray.
What do you think?
Are you tempted to ditch the name Christian because of all the connotations and associations that come with it? Have you?
What does that mean for you and what does that look like?
How do you confront, engage, and pray in these situations?
* It looks as though the Baptist groups have disavowed extreme hate groups that call themselves “Baptist” like the Westboro Baptist Church. I believe disavowing is a solid option in many cases.