The Christian Label

I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way “Christian” became an overused adjective. I’m sure the creation of a Christian sub-culture in America helped in this respect with a wide variety of Christian products to serve up. We have Christian variations of television, radio, music, movies, singles websites, social media and on and on. It seems with the advent of any new type of trendy cultural contrivance the sub-culture seems to need to devise a Christian version of said device. This need to subvert culture in such an impetuous way seems a betrayal of the way of Jesus.

This reactionary recklessness is evident in the recent destruction of Serrano’s controversial artwork. Keith Giles offers an insightful response in Christians Unclear on the Concept. The need for a Christian sub-culture will only produce artistic works that are sub-par. This encourages the retreat to a Christian ghetto mentality. The need for clean, safe and holy artwork neglects a great deal of our human situation. The challenge for Christians in any sort of culture creation is the need to move beyond safe sub-culture to fully engage culture. The perpetuation of a Christian sub-culture is nothing short of cowardice. We are called to go into the world so why create things that are labeled “Christian?”

The people are Christian not the stuff. Going to the book of Acts, the followers of Jesus were commonly called followers of the Way or disciples. They are first called Christians in Antioch. Also, take into account how Paul spoke of the believers in the churches he raised up. He called them, saints. Also, brothers and sisters. Off the top of my head, I don’t believe he ever called them, “Christians.” So as disciples and followers of Christ, let’s drop “Christian” as an unnecessary adjective to describe what we do. Instead, let Christian be what we are.

grace and peace,

JWR

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2 responses to “The Christian Label

  1. Jeffrey, well said. Indeed St Paul tells us that nothing in this world is unclean. Christianity is a supporter of freedom of expression. However we are called to not be of the world but be transformed to a life of righteousness. So when a Christian radio station for example is selective in its choice of music, it is a non-conformant station. As Christians we pride ourselves on living a godly, righteous life. Christ loved and interacted with all, but did not necessarily conform and share in their ways. He told prostitutes and tax collectors to sin no more.

    Yes, Christians shouldn’t create a safe subculture or ghetto mentality of any sort, we are no better than the rest of the non-Christian population in order to separate and keep to ourselves. But perhaps we should get in there and redefine culture? Change the world’s ways? Be Christ’s examples to the rest of the majority? How will Christ’s message be spread if it is not done in his name?

    • Gabrielle,
      Thank you for your kind words. The issue for me is that the church in many respects has retreated into a ghetto mentality. The life of holiness should be in the midst of the world not in safe enclaves where we expect some sort of outward conformity to rules and dress. The church should help define culture. The church should have influence in politics. The church should be an example as Christ is our example. The church should proclaim the Gospel in the character of Christ. Yet so often we say only thus and so culture and politics is ‘Christian.’ We offer easy answers when we should be struggling along side those in the world. In my opinion, fear is the greatest reason the church doesn’t rise to such challenges. We crave comfort, certainty, safety and easy answers yet a life of faith, following Christ involves risk and constant change as Christ is formed in us.
      Peace, JWR

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