i’m not a Christian

[legacy post from blogspot]

How’s that for a provocative statement to start out a Saturday morning blog entry? The term “Christian” just holds so many negative connotations. Dallas Willard (who’s coming to Christ Community in September) is known for saying to inquirers, “No I’m not a Christian. I’m a follower of Christ.” When you tell many people you’re a Christian, their minds may race to the worst stereotypes imaginable. I’d like to explore this a bit today, invite comments, and continue a conversation for a while.

Take the example of Kansas’s own Fred Phelps. His Topeka-based “church” of 91 members (75% of which are his own family) is known internationally for picketing at various events holding signs and spewing drivel to the effect that “God hates fags.” Their latest gig is picketing the funerals of fallen soldiers because their deaths are “proof” that God is punishing America for “teaching homosexuality.” Apparently that’s because America hasn’t passed laws mandating that all people who engage in homosexual practices be stoned. They also express pleasure that so many people died in 9-11 and hurricanes like Katrina.

Why in the world would any self-respecting person, with any concept of the dignity of all of humanity as created in God’s image, want to be associated with such hatred? I heard a recent interview with one of Phelps’ numerous children, and I’m fully convinced that they are not just completely outside the mainstream of evangelical Christianity, they are a cult. But to the minds of many, the “religious right” includes everything from evangelicals to Fred Phelps and crew.

So, yes, I’ve decided to not refer to myself as a Christian much anymore. Instead, I’m consciously trying to think of myself as a follower of Christ. Does that mean I’m completely removing myself from any association with “Christians” throughout the world and throughout history? Of course not. I am as ever a student of what it means and has meant to truly follow Christ where and when people have found themselves.

I hear in my church frequently that “the local church as God intended it is the hope of the world,” and I do agree. But there is much to explore about being the church even if it means doing things differently than we’ve done before.

Thoughts?

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About andrew burden

andrew blogs about being a volunteer youth leader, teacher, video editor, husband, friend, child of God
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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06363956970739537563 Jim

    I understand what you are saying and at the core, agree. And who am I to challenge Dallas Willard. Yet, I have made some serious mistakes in this area – use of language. While trying to prove a point, we can at times cause more division than we need to. I would encourage you to not make a big deal of this. When I am talking, I seldom use the term “Christian” and usually use terms like “Christ-follower” or “follower of Christ.” But I don’t wear the “I’m not a Christian” on my sleeve any more. I have just found it isn’t useful and the people who need to understand it most get offended before I can even engage them. So… I have reconciled to talk more about “who I am” or “what I love” than “whom I am not” or “what I don’t like.” It seems to be more useful and cause less division. Just my two cents (since you asked for it).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06363956970739537563 Jim

    I understand what you are saying and at the core, agree. And who am I to challenge Dallas Willard. Yet, I have made some serious mistakes in this area – use of language. While trying to prove a point, we can at times cause more division than we need to. I would encourage you to not make a big deal of this. When I am talking, I seldom use the term “Christian” and usually use terms like “Christ-follower” or “follower of Christ.” But I don’t wear the “I’m not a Christian” on my sleeve any more. I have just found it isn’t useful and the people who need to understand it most get offended before I can even engage them. So… I have reconciled to talk more about “who I am” or “what I love” than “whom I am not” or “what I don’t like.” It seems to be more useful and cause less division. Just my two cents (since you asked for it).