"For where two or three gather in my name, I am with them."
It seems to be a growing trend—people who claim to love Jesus but don't want to call themselves Christians. The latest to stake a claim for not staking a claim is Marcus Mumford, of the wildly popular Mumford & Sons, whose Christian-themed lyrics have been a source of fascination to believers and nonbelievers alike.
In a Rolling Stone cover story, Mumford demurred when asked if he considered himself a Christian. "I don't really like that word. It comes with so much baggage," he said. "So, no, I wouldn't call myself a Christian."
I too want to distance myself from hateful statements made in the name of my faith. If this is all that Christianity is, I don't want to be associated with it either. But of course, that is not all that Christianity is. And unless some sane people claim the label, the extremist fringes will have the last word. I tried to make that case in Relevant Magazine.
When people say they love Jesus and not the church, I hear them saying they can't abide the people. If we could just kick all the people out, we might actually be able to do this Christian community thing. But I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind.
The church is something you enter at your own risk. Because you might actually bump into humanity there. You might hit up against something you disagree with. You might have to listen to music you don't like. You might get asked to share your stuff. You might learn from a tradition far older than you. You might even be asked to worship something other than yourself.
May those who love the church learn from those who do not, so that one day the church may welcome the injured with a new vision of what Christian community can be. Amen.
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.