Critical Christian
keyword search
Home Page
Book: The Effective Pastor
Memorials & Celebrations
Personal Matters
Williams Connections
Methodist Connections
Betsy's Gallery
Electronic Congregation
Lent 2011 and 2012
Reviews 2011 Forward
Two Blossoms
I am having a problem with an adjective


    I never thought it would come to this, that I would be embarrassed by the word "Christian." 

    In the heady days of seminary (ancient history, I know, I know!), where I cut my eye-teeth on Neo-orthodox theology, I deplored the refusal of the entertainment industry to use the word "Christ" on the lips of actors playing priests.  We who had imbibed deep draughts of Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer would, we just knew, restore to the pulpit and the public forum the name high above every name. 

    Well, that day has come.  And I have learned again to be careful what I pray for.

    Like yesterday morning, a Sunday, in a motel room in Coxsackie NY, waiting for the clock hands to reach an acceptable hour for departure for Sabbath worship, we tuned in a CNN story about a new book flying off the bookstore shelves faster than you can say, "Blessed are the meek."  John Eldredge has written Wild At Heart to help Christian men find the warrior within.  Yeah, yeah, I too have been sickened by the doormat version of Jesus meek and mild.  But to tout the recovery of male masculinity as the key to discipleship, well, that's to turn the Gospel upside down... or into a weight room.

    In Brooklyn in another millennium I listened with skepticism and not a little cynicism when someone was recommended to me as a Christian businessman.  From experience I had learned that that reputation meant the person in question would be hard, unyielding, and unwilling ever to consider he had done anything amiss. 

    Now we have Christian rock, Christian schools, and Christian science (with a lower case "s"). 

    You see what really bothers me is that a word I once was proud to use as a self-reference has been co-opted by those who invest it with meanings I find deplorable.  "Christian" in public discourse has come to mean exclusive, self-righteous, and antagonistic to the modern world, excepting, of course, on this third issue, SUV's and the other material accoutrements of the American Dream.

    In Kansas "Christians" have mounted a campaign to have a theological theory taught side by side with Darwin's theory of evolution.  I, foolish I, thought that issue went out with the Scopes Monkey Trial (think "Inherit the Wind").  When will the Christian church stop picking fights with science?  Biology, chemistry, archaeology, et al are wonderful at explaining to us how.  They will never explain why... or even try to.  Still there are those who in the name of Christ walk around with intellectual chips on their shoulders because the earth is round and, also contrary to Genesis, the universe a few billion years old.

    Meanwhile, a few thousand miles east of Kansas the leader of a billion Christians has gone on record as refusing to admit that the Church (with an upper case "c") erred during the Holocaust by not bringing to bear on the Nazis the full weight of its moral authority, to tell Hitler to cease and desist in the "final solution," the Holocaust.  The pope defends the logic that the church is the Body of Christ and that body cannot, therefore, be in error.  Catholics may sin; the church as a community does not.  There will be no official confession - regrets, yes; sympathy too - of Rome to Jerusalem.

    If  I wore a pendant cross around my neck, I would be tempted to rip it off. 

    What I am doing instead is avoiding the use of the word "Christian."  When referring to my Lord, I prefer to name him simply "Jesus." If others are in a fever to draw lines between the secular and the sacred, I'll follow right behind with my eraser.  My reading of the Gospel convinces me that the church should be doing what the Galilean prophet and Son of God did in his earthly ministry, promoting a pattern of godliness which is a rich and generous humanity.     

< Back to Essays Archive

1990 - 2017 Bob Howard