Friday, May 15, 2009

Who am I?

Labels can be useful, but difficult.
First of all, there is the tendency to identify someone by their job--You are a carpenter, you are a CEO. you are an accountant. The truth is, we are so much more than just what we do to make money. But that is for another time.

Then there is the changing connotation of words. The word that might have been perfect one day, now has colors and overtones that may or may not apply today. This has been happening with the words we might use to describe ourselves as followers of Christ.
Christian used to be a strong, powerful, positive label. It still might be, in some circles, but in others it has been colored by the negative examples people have seen.
Even a thesaurus shows some of the variations. gives the following four lists of synonyms for 'Christian'. Notice how they degenerate.
1. Definition: moral, righteous
Synonyms: Christian, clean, conscientious, correct, decent, elevated, equitable, fair, fitting, good, high-principled, honest, honorable, humane, just, kosher, moralistic, noble, principled, proper, respectable, right, right-minded, square, straight, true blue, upright, upstanding, virtuous
Antonyms: corrupt, dishonest, immoral, improper, unethical, unjust, unrighteous
2. Definition: In accordance with principles of right or good conduct.
Synonyms: moral, principled, proper, right, righteous, rightful, right-minded, virtuous
3. Definition: fundamentalist
Synonyms: Christian, apostolic, divine, evangelic, orthodox, pious, religious, scriptural
4. Definition: characterized by missionary zeal
Synonyms: evangelistic, fervent, proselytizing, religious, zealous
What starts out as a list of positive character qualities ends up as pushy, perhaps even brainwashing.
And that is the gamut of awareness people at large have about us. Thanks to TV preachers, politicos, and Academy Award speeches, the name 'Christian' is pretty much meaningless or worse.
'Born again' is another word for in-your-face proselytizer.
'Evangelical' equates to Conservative/Republican with enough baggage to sink an ocean liner.
'Believer' is still insider talk, and doesn't really say anything.

So what is left? How do we describe ourselves?
Perhaps it is time to get back to the basics.
I am tending use 'Christ-follower', hoping it leaves off most of the inferences of being an arrogant, pushy know-it-all. There's enough of that already attached to Christ.
I like the associations connected with 'Christ-follower'. To me, it says that I'm trying to be like Him, to do what He does, to represent Him. It's what I think being a disciple is all about. There's been too many words, and not enough quiet action.
'Christ-follower' leaves room for learning and individual expression. But it doesn't leave much space for unchristian attitudes and actions. And that's a good thing.

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