When was the last time someone questioned you about your faith? Whereas once the question would have been ‘are you a Christian,’ the phraseology is now more often along the lines of ‘would you call yourself a Christian.’
The first is an objective statement of being, an absolute. The second a subjective assessment – you might not call me that, but that’s what I call myself. Perhaps the move from objective to subjective ontology is part of a wider cultural shift…
The question of disclosing my faith been a problematic one for me, not through any shame about my beliefs, more through issues about the culture that has grown up around it, and the way that it is popularly perceived. To declare myself ‘Christian’ is to enter an ecosystem of misunderstanding and judgements about what I believe. It is, too often, to be labelled homophobic, unscientific, intellectually closed.
Ironically, rather than answer the question, or offer to denominate ourselves, we should do as Jesus did and turn the question round. Who do you say that I am? was Jesus’ piercing question to Peter, and perhaps this offers something important. Jesus did not self-identify, and may be we should follow this lead.
Perhaps Christians should be non-self-identifying. If you want to call me ‘Christian’ then go ahead. But perhaps it’s best if I don’t identify myself as that. Aim to be known for my actions, not hiding behind my labels. What I think this does is turn the tables on our ethics. Our actions are not based on ‘I call myself a Christian, so I should do x,’ but more on ‘she does x, that’s a Christ-like thing to do.’
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