The Modified Christian

August 27, 2013

Lillian Daniel

"I am the vine; you are the branches." - John 15:5

I'm frustrated with the many labels we attach to Christianity in order to modify its meaning. I know why we do it, of course. I do it myself. I want to explain to someone that I am "this kind" of Christian and not "that kind" of Christian.

So one might refer to "Progressive Christianity," or "Red Letter Christians," or "Emergent," or "Liberal Protestant," or "Evangelical and Liberal," or "Generously Orthodox."

And then there are the other terms, that sometimes get thrown like rocks.  "Bible Believing," "Jesus Following," "Christ Centered," "Seeker Sensitive," all of which seem to imply that there are other misbehaving churches that are not.

At this point, I want to throw all the modifying words out. They just don't do our faith justice. Any of our faiths.

First, many of the terms are based in the broken vocabulary of the right and the left. Do we really want to preserve the old paradigms of "liberal" and "conservative?" They haven't served us well in politics. Why would we think they would be anything but divisive in the church?

Next, many of the terms are about trying to be new or edgy. Every generation of the church has its reformers and they have all suffered from a certain terminal uniqueness that they are the new big and best thing to rock the church. But if they ever get a toe hold, those names will seem silly. How long can we be emerging, progressing and seeking before we just admit that we're a church?

These days, I am increasingly frustrated with the modifying labels and the phony boxes those adjectives put Christians into. If anything is going to modify the definition "Christian," it is not going to be that one perfect adjective. It will be the people. Wierdly diverse, unpredictable, saved and broken, how we treat each other will determine if the word Christian can have room for us all.

Prayer

For all the odd wings and vocal varieties of church in the world, even the ones that drive us crazy . . . we pray for them all. And in doing so, we pray for ourselves. Amen.

About the Author
Lillian Daniel, author of When "Spiritual But Not Religious" is Not Enough, has a chapter in the upcoming anthology, What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most. Follow her on twitter @lillianfdaniel.
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