Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Christ-Follower, or Christian?

I had another idea for today's blog in mind, but it looks like I'll be saving that for Saturday.

My friend Ben (you can find his blog here) posed this question on his Facebook: "Ever since the whole Emerging Church movement got rolling, I've noticed more and more people referring to themselves as "Christ-followers" instead of Christians. Also, I've noticed more and more people (primarily evangelical, or maybe neo-evangelical, in orientation) saying things like "It's not about religion, it's about relationship". I have my own thoughts on such ideas and phrases, but I wanted to know what you (my fellow Christians, Christ-followers, or whatever you want to call yourselves) think about such things. So...shoot!"

Today's blog will be my response, edited lightly to make better sense here (the original was in the context of Facebook conversation).

First of all, I must mention that there were responses before mine, most of which seem to indicate that the things which Ben mentioned are at best misguided and at worst wicked. I had had no such thoughts. Rather, it sounds to me that many of the people who choose to call themselves "Christ-followers" are not ashamed of Christ (which would make no sense), but ashamed of what Christians have become. The word "Christian" carries a connotation, for many people, that is very, very far from what the Word actually contains, and people who choose the different nomenclature want, perhaps, to give a fresh start to the Word and to the idea of the believer.

Currently, the term "Christian" takes on a connotation of either the holier-than-thou type, or the painfully naive type, with a good dose of hypocrite thrown it. Many people note their religion as "Christian" on Facebook, but don't live like a follower of Christ. People who choose to go by "Christ-follower" instead are likely trying to get away from this connotation and show that they are "different" from the stereotypical, hypocritical Christian, in that they really actually follow Christ.

As for religion versus relationship, it's the same thing. In our current society, "religion" has a connotation of naivety and superstition, or of arrogance. To put aside the idea of superstition (and all the rest), some say it's not "religion," not just a set of beliefs, but rather a "relationship" with Christ, something real and personal.

I think both issues are just folks trying to shake off the stereotypes about believers--at least as said stereotypes might pertain to themselves.

Those are my explanations.
I still use the word "Christian," but I fully understand why people want to differentiate. Many folks use the term to mean "I celebrate Christmas, I pray when I want something, and I think my father has a Bible somewhere." For the word "Christian" to be redeemed, instead of merely replaced, it would take more Christians living like the disciples we claim to be (yes, I, too, fail in this matter). Such a revolution would result in more than saving a word, of course--we'd be saving our society. Temporarily, at least.

[Thoughts on this? That's what the comments are for! Have at it!]


Ben Cook said...


I pretty much agree with everything you have to say here. I suppose some of these phrases just rub me the wrong way more so because I'm a Roman Catholic (recently converted). And, as I said on facebook, I feel like some of these terms and slogans (especially "relationship, not religion") have implicit anti-Catholic messages in mind.

Rae Botsford said...

I can definitely understand that kind of reaction, though it is good to avoid reacting before looking for the motives, when possible. I know I tend to be unclear sometimes, or accidentally offend people, so I try to take extra care to look for when others are doing the same thing.

Also, Catholics aren't the only ones who sometimes lose God behind rituals and seeming-superstitions ("religion" versus "relationship" as people put it); folks from every denomination are guilty of these things. It didn't even cross my mind (until you pointed it out) that such phrases could be construed as anti-Catholic.