This is a topic that has been bubbling back up among some of my friends lately. As I mentioned a few days ago, there is an abandoning of the common practices and beliefs of some of my friends, and it’s resulting in an abandonment of the Christian label. I am taking a different approach. I’ve decided to hold onto the label.
I think it’s been something that has grown for me. I went through a stage where I did not want to identify as a Christian even a little bit – as I was horrified at the evil in the world, especially the evil done in the name of that identity. I still am horrified by it, but I have a much more nuanced view of good and evil now. Everyone is evil. Everyone is good. Trying to force my identity into either of those categories proved to be an empty task. Trying to force all of Christianity (or any religion/belief system) into a binary category of good and evil only resulted in more ignorance. I found it important to accept this evil that I saw in Christianity as also evil that I found within myself. To disregard something because it is evil results in being naive to my own capacity for it.
I wrote this letter back in the day about the church needing to start owning it’s failures and embracing them as part of their identity. It’s the same sort of approach. Rather than abandoning everything that we hate and isn’t right, we embrace it, own it and work to change it. The alternative is usually cognitive dissonance and believing that you are somehow immune to everything you think is evil.
I think I’ve identified as a Christian throughout my life for different reasons. When you are a kid, you do it because everyone around you does and that’s just what you do. Then you get into teenager life and you do it because if you don’t you go to hell. Then you grow up a little and you realize that is just a juvenile way to understand God and reality but that there is still some good things here or there that you can hold on to so you hold loosely onto the label.
I am a Christian in the same way as I am a Canadian. I was born here. I was born into it. So I inherit all the shit and the privilege that comes with it. I can renounce my citizenship to Canada, but that seems useless. Or I can stay in Canada and help redefine what it means to be a Canadian. I can fight for justice and stand with those that are oppressed. I can apologize for my ancestor’s mistakes and celebrate the good. Same with being a Colquhoun. Sure I can try and run away from this identity because of the bad sides, but then I’m also abandoning the good sides, and the relationships and and everything that comes with being a Colquhoun. I’m owning my identity as a Christian, Colquhoun and a Canadian that I was born into, and had no choice of, and taking responsibility for changing what that identity means. I’m going to do my part to make it better and keep pushing what it means to be all three.
Abandoning a label only means that I would be accepting another one and then I would be attempting to live into that new label. Maybe it’s Christ follower instead of Christian. Maybe it’s human, or atheist, or brother, or father or lover or Buddhist. These labels are pretty useless but so is trying to run away from them.
I think Christian theology (philosophy/ideology) is a very good worldview. It is so significantly better than those that don’t think they have any and at its core it is exactly what resonates with me (ie. God is love). So along with being born into it – I also think that I ‘buy it.’ But I don’t buy a fundamentalist view of it – this is why I’m reading biographies from people like Oscar Romero. Because I resonate with that. I resonate with a God who is on the side of the weak and the oppressed and I want to be part of a faith that makes that a priority. I resonate with a faith that, in one shape or another has been around for five thousand years and I think that a modern manifestation of that faith looks a lot like Mother Theresa, Jesus, Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King Jr, Daniel Berigan – and so I want to follow them – and go down that road.
I don’t think Christianity is defined by the majority, or by the creeds, or by the powerful ones. Christianity after all is just a label. It’s people who identify as Christians who get to define what it is. Heretics are still Christians. Labels evolve and change and grow and devolve and disappear and will constantly mean different things. It’s a tradition that I want to stay identifying with. Most of the people that I identify with closely in the Christian tradition were seen as heretics and shit disturbers and the majority likely wouldn’t call them Christians anyway.
So, that is why I still call myself a Christian. Certainly not because I am proud of it all, or I think everything the church does is right or good. I am ashamed for things my own family has done, my country has done, my religion has done. I’ll live in the midst of the good and evil and live with the labels I can’t escape and continue to work towards justice and love no matter what label I am attached with.
1 thought on “Why I Still Call Myself A Christian”
Thanks for the post, Nathan. Most people give rudimentary explanations as to ‘why I don’t want to be called a Christian’. So it’s a breath of fresh air to hear someone who’s actually thought it through.
“They were first called Christians in Antioch” – referring to Paul and Barnabas. Probably because there were so many miracles that people were like, “These guys are doing the stuff Jesus Christ did! Let’s call them ‘little Christs’… they look like that Jesus dude!”
So I think if you are following Jesus you are a Christian. Otherwise the label is just a label. I guess the main question would be, “Do people SEE Christ in you?” Do they see him in me?