I hinted at this post in the comments section a couple of weeks ago, but now I’m diving in.
I don’t like the adjective “Christian.”
[Take a deep breath.]
No, I’m not one of those who wants to throw out the term “Christian” altogether. It’s in the Bible, and I think it’s a great term. Sure it’s been misused, and that’s why I often identify myself as a “follower of Christ,” but I don’t think we should give it up. After all who wouldn’t want to be called after the name of their Lord and Savior?
I just wish that we wouldn’t use it as an adjective, or at least not use it so indiscriminately. For those who hate grammar, I’m saying that I’m fine with sentences like “He is a Christian” but don’t like phrases that begin with “Christian”: Christian music, Christian fiction, Christian bookstores, etc.
There’s two major problems I’ve seen with using “Christian” this way. First of all–and most seriously–we risk labeling something Christian that is not godly, or at least that we haven’t taken the time to determine if it is godly. Here are a couple quotes that I think bring this point home:
“The danger of labeling things ‘Christian’ is that it can lead to our blindly consuming things we have been told are safe and acceptable. When we turn off this discernment radar, dangerous things can happen.” – Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, p. 86
“In short, we are easily deceived by cultural values painted in Christian veneers (or clothed in Isaiah 40:31 T-shirts).” – “The Gospel and the Gosselins” by Julie Vermeer Elliott in Christianity Today
Just because something is labeled “Christian,” does not mean it is in line with the teachings of that term’s namesake. I’ve read many a Christian book, heard many a Christian song, watched many a Christian video (okay, only a few, because I haven’t seen that many) that has made me cringe because of the poor teaching it was presenting, everything from the misguided to the blasphemous.
As a Christian, I’m called to be discerning in every choice I make, from the type of entertainment I imbibe to the type of thoughts I intake and make my own. In a way, God’s asking that we never turn off our brains. Every moment requires active attention. We should be asking questions like,
What is this author really saying?
How do these lyrics affect my view of myself, others, and God?
What view of the Word of God does this video present?
While many Christians are quick to point out that which clearly is not biblical (e.g. Playboy or Phillip Pullman’s novels), we forget that the most dangerous untruths often present themselves as half-truths. Things that present themselves in Christian clothing often demand the most scrutiny.
So that’s the first danger, passively taking in as good that which we haven’t determined that is good. Secondly, we risk labeling something Christian that is simply of poor quality.
This is clearly the less substantial danger of the two, but it’s something to consider. Let’s face it, your average piece of “Christian fiction” is of lower quality than your average piece of fiction. There’s a big market for things with the word “Christian” on them, and publishers and companies are more than willing to cater to the demand if it’ll gain them an extra buck or two. Sure, there’s some good stuff out there with the “Christian” label, but it’s not all good. By allowing this stuff to masquerade around as “Christian” we’re allowing the world to continue to view us stereotypically as uneducated simpletons.
I’m not seeking to throw out the baby with the bath water, but I am urging my fellow Christians to be discerning. If you’d like a great resource on where to get started, I couldn’t recommend something better than Tim Challies’s The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. It’s not a book of rules, but rather a look at what the Bible has to say about discernment.