Monday, February 06, 2012

What is "Christian?"

What is "Christian?"  What does being a "Christian" look like?  You can ask different people and you will get different answers.

There is a "look," though.  There is an ideal in the minds of people of what "Christian" looks like.  "We will take God's opinion, not man's," is the cry of many Bible-thumping Christians, who would readily confess proudly that they thump-away.  "God's Word defines what is and what is not."  I agree.

That sounds really good, but we need to be careful of something.  We need to be careful of how our thinking is influenced by our culture, our biases, and our traditions -and I don't mean American culture but the Christian culture we live in.  Notice I did not say, "We need to be careful if our thinking is influenced..."  To me, all of us have biases.  All of us live in a collective faith-culture that forms an impression, an image of what "Christian" looks like.  All of us have an ideal, an idea in our minds, that is shaped by a combination of facts merged with biases, assumptions, impressions, and ways of looking at things that are given to us as truth.  When we are not aware of these things, and worse -when we think we don't have any of these things influencing us, we are simply blind.  We can think and speak the words and ideas and opinions of man and think quite confidently, "This is what God thinks."

Again, what is "Christian?"  For lots of people, a "real Christian" goes to church every week, doesn't go out drinking, tithes regularly, is very active in evangelism, and doesn't watch R-rated movies.

I remember a conversation with someone where we were talking about a particular movie.  He would not watch it.  He felt it was sinful and evil.  I asked him why.  He said, "Hey, if I would not feel comfortable watching it with Jesus right there, I will not watch it."  That is a fair answer.  But it begs another question: what do you think Jesus is like?  Is He really like what you think He is like?
With some folks, you get this impression that Jesus must have been dour, no fun, always walking around pointing out the sins of other people, always calling people hypocrites... covering his eyes and ears to anything profane, too pure to step his big toe into the cesspool of this world that is going to hell in a handbasket.  In other words, Jesus was a Bible-thumping fundamentalist and wants us to become one, too.
To be sure, Jesus wasn't into pornography and orgies and drunkenness like one would find in the Roman culture.  But he wasn't into the religiosity of the Jews, either.  That is what is so interesting.  Jesus didn't fit.  The time and place Jesus lived in had a very clearly pagan, secular realm to it mashed right on top of a staunchly religious, ultra-serious-about-God-and-morality realm to it.  And Jesus stood apart from both of them, but in different ways.  In fact, one could argue very easily that Jesus' biggest beef was with the blindness of moralistic, self-righteous, gotta-police-the-world-and-show-sinners-they-are-bad religiosity of the Pharisees.  Some of his greatest parables demonstrate a greater danger for the blindly religious.
Where am I going with this?  I guess I am hoping that anyone reading this will seriously challenge their own assumptions, their own image of the "Christian ideal."  I am hoping that you will become aware that they exist and be willing to put yourself and your assumptions and presuppositions an biases at least into view. 
Why wouldn't Jesus watch this R-rated movie?  Too violent?  Well, have you read the Bible lately?
Why wouldn't Jesus drink alcohol?  His first miracle was at a wedding, after everybody drank all the wine.  Are you trying to tell me people weren't buzzed?
Would Jesus go to a night club?  Why not?
Would Jesus go to a bar?

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