Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Now Here's Something You Don't Hear Everyday

Leif Rigney, a fellow at the Boars Head Tavern, is trying an experiment, and he speaks to it at his blog. In effect, he's eschewing the word "Christian" to describe himself. None of his Christ-following beliefs have changed. He's not renouncing the faith in any way. Only the label "Christian" to describe himself.

Before anyone comments off the cuff, please read his reasoning behind it -- I'm linking it again here and you may want to scan the bar script at the BHT to hear a little more. [Note: the BHT is a running conversation just like a bar, and if you want to go chronologically, you'll need to read from the bottom up - and there are a multitude of conversations going on - you'll just have to find this one. If it's too much for ya, just skip this post.] Personally, I think it's an interesting experiment and, truth to tell, a bold one. I'd wager most Christians walking the streets, at least here in Huntsville, AL, have no idea where the term came from and how it came about.

Leif has quite a few good points, and I'm going to follow how his experiment goes. Michael Spencer, the imonk, has a constructive critique of the experiment called "What's in a Name" at his web site, and the comments are really good, too.

I guess the key point Michael made that I'd end up questioning in the whole experiment, and Phillip Winn hits on it in the comments section of "What's in a Name?": What’s the difference between what you are and a Christian? I think Leif is going to try to answer this one as he goes.

It's sad that so much baggage comes along with the term, and the commenters are likely correct that any alternative term (and Leif is not proposing an alternative term, it should be noted - but I'm fairly certain he will labeled by others sooner or later. of course, he can choose to eschew those as well) will be inundated with negative connotations before long, too.

So will people see him differently as an unlabeled person that carries Christ on his way? Will they call him or file him as a Christian despite his own distaste for the label? Or will they come up with another label for him? Time will tell, and I'm interested to hear.

A cautionary note - I realize some people reading this may have hardline opinions one way or another. I'll just say that I'm not going to let through comments like, "This is stupid" or anything questioning Leif's, uh, well, his "Christianity" (read: salvation). Something like that (more a misunderstanding, I think) happened at Thinklings, and Bill deleted a post on the subject. I don't want that to happen here. We don't have near the traffic as Thinklings, but I never know what someone might say. Bottom line: if I take the time to write a post, I'd like to keep it up, so I'm going to make sure it stays civil. Probably nothing to worry about here, but I just thought I'd note. Of course, if this is like a lot of our posts, it may not get a comment anyway, so maybe I've nothing to worry about.

7 comments:

codepoke said...

You know, I tried something like that back in '86. It turned out to be a huge mistake. I missed 6 months of a chance to know one of the dearest brothers I had ever met in my life. At the end of the 7th month, he shipped back home, and we never met again.

Cisco Gonzalez, if you are out there, I really wish I had called myself a Christian for those 6 months. I loved you, brother. I'm sorry for every prayer we missed.

DugALug said...

Rich,

This is kind of like the argument about 'Organized Religion'. I know quite a few folk who say they are against 'Organized Religion'. This is a silly statement to me, so I ask them to clarify.

I ask:

Do they believe in God? Yes!

Do they believe in the Bible? Mostly yes, some no.

Do they believe that God has impact, or has a hand in their lives? Mostly Yes.

Do they believe it is good for people of like-minds to gather and articulate their beliefs? Yes!

Do they believe that there are right and wrong answers and there are consequences to our actions? Yes!

Well based on these questions and their answers, I conclude that they don't know they are talking about because the concepts articulated in these questions are the foundation of an organized religion.

At this point, they will site things like the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition that were done by 'Organized Religion'. I cannot help myself and I point out that Josif Stalin, Gingis Kahn, and Mao Tse Tung all killed and tortured far more people without religious affiliation. At this point there is no further progress.

I think people confuse things done 'in the name of God' with being godly things. This distinction makes them appear inconsistant, as if trying to justify a hesitation about going to a church.

What I think is that these people are missing faith. Religion is man's attempt to explain God and His nature. Faith is accepting God and His nature with the promise of understanding.

All of this puts a stronger burden on believers to make sure that thier actions truly represent God, and not our own agendas. The problem is not with 'them': In many ways, it is with us.

Just a thought.

-Doug

codepoke said...

Hello Doug,

I gotta say a little something for those who oppose organized religion - since I am one. :-)

I don't think anybody wants disorganized religion. But a religion that looks more like Ford Motor Co. than like a family seems pretty unscriptural to me. One might call a family "organized" or not, but the organization of a family is a bazillion miles from the organization of any of the hundreds of denominations we have out there.

So, you are right. The foundations of organization are a good thing. But what has been built on that foundation? I can live without 3 layers of management in the local assembly 6 layers of accountability at the denominational level.

I'll still gladly self-identify as Christian, though. I learned my lesson.

Rich said...

I can go either way with the organized religion discussion. I'm in a Baptist church with all the committees were famous for, so obviously I'm not opposed to worshipping with my family of God there. But I've worshipped in homes with other Christians before, too, and gotten a lot out of that. Because the setting's more intimate, I think there's a different dynamic. Truthfully, and this'll sound like I'm walking the yellow lines with all the dead possums and skunk, but I think there's room for both and if I searched hard enough would probably be able to find scriptural backing for both. Please don't ask me to do the research, though.
-- -- -- -- --
As far as the point...

I once had a friend (once...), and we went out and threw the football together. He was trying out for QB on the HS team I had just graduated from. Well, I dropped a lot of balls that day and cussed up a storm. I prayed a lot that night about what a crappy witness I had been. Two days later, we're playing tennis -- I'm not good -- and he's cussing up a storm, but we're both playing badly.

Anyway, he stops and asks me across the court, "Why aren't you mad?" probably thinking of the other day. I told him I was but I didn't want to go off cussing in front of him like I did the other day. He asks me, "What are you, religious or something?"

I say, "Well, I'm a Christian, if that's what you mean."

My friend tosses his racket, shrugs wildly, and says, "A Christian? I'm a Christian. You're a Christian. We're all Christians. What the hell does that mean."

Fortunately, he was willing to listen to what I believed. We talked a lot about Christ, the Gospel, what it meant to believe. Some of my answers were wrong, btw. But, no matter. The Lord really "moved" a lot then, because after swearing like a sailor in front of him a couple days prior, I really thought I'd disgraced Christ to the point that this kid would never take me seriously.

But my point, if I have one, is what my friend thought the word "Christian" meant. Really, it meant nothing to him. Or, worse. He had seen Christians, or people who confessed Christ, rip-roaring drunk with him at parties, talking down other people, etc. I was lucky. We had a good enough relationship that when I used the word "Christian" he still listened. But he was close to ready to tune me out, I know. And though this example may defeat the case because "Christian" actually opened the door, I really feel like it almost closed it. He didn't care what "Christian" meant. Basically, God just worked in him enough so that he wanted to know what I believed. If I'd have said, "I believe in Christ" instead of Christian he would have listened. Of course, he'd have had a lot the same prejudices because of what I had mentioned him seeing out of "Christ-believers" before.

[I know this story sounds like it happened like in what you might read in one of those Christian tracts people hand out, but it really did happen this way. One of my only "ABC Christian encounters," believe it or not.]
-- -- -- -- --
Anyway, I get what codepoke's saying in how an experiment like this could hurt someone else. At the same time, we each have our separate journies, and for Leif, I think it's worthwhile, brave, and I'm anxious to hear what comes of it. Maybe, like codepoke, he comes back and says, "Man, what a mistake." But maybe he comes back and says, "Hey, this has really opened some doors for great discussion with my non-Christian friends, and I don't think I'll ever label myself a Christian again."

I'll let it play out. [And sorry to have written a full-length treatise here.]

DugALug said...

Codepoke,

I go to an Assembly of God church for the exact reason that you describe in your text.

Their 'organization' is much more like a loose confederation of churches, rather than a strong centrist organization. At the core of this denomination is a set of values and beliefs that all affiliated churches agree too, and there is some reference material and support for doing global things like hurrican relief and missions work. There is a college associated with AOG where pastor can come and be descipled, but anyone is welcome to attend the college.

All in all, their input in local churches is truly minimal. Jimmy Swagert was an AOG preacher and when he went totally off the rails, their only recourse was to revoke his charter.

Coming from a very Homogenous denomination as a child, (translation: Catholic). AOG government is wonderfully liberating.

I really don't think there is anything wrong with organizations in genral, there is lots wrong with power that leads to graft and corruption. This and many other similar issues are how the larger mainline denominations have had to struggle with their behomoth: it chokes, the life and spontineity out of the local church, and makes life in these denomination more of a set of guidlines to follow, rather than a true relationship with God and a local family feeling.

In saying that, I guess I am opposed to much 'organized' religion too.

I guess I am a hypocrite.

-Doug

codepoke said...

:-D

I was converted and raised AoG back in the '70's. These days I am attending Christian and Missionary Alliance, which is kind of like AoG with a lighter charismatic feel.

Way too organized for me.

My name is codepoke, and I am a hypocrite.

DugALug said...

Codepoke,

So AoG is too organized or CaMA is? I'm confused.

I've been to a CaMA church here in Orlando (longwood actually). It was pretty close to my AoG, if not a little more conservative. Oh well!

-Doug