What’s So Christian About Christianity?



The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates is famous for saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Those words have become something of a Philosophy 101 cliché since Socrates first uttered them centuries ago, but cliché or not they’re as true today as they were in ancient Greece.

And should be just as convicting.

Particularly for those of us who call ourselves Christians.

I worry that far too many of us attach the name “Christian” to ourselves without ever really stopping to consider what that name implies or the demands that name makes (or should make) on our lives.

For example, we wouldn’t call ourselves vegetarians if steak was a regular part of our diet because that name describes not just an ideology, but a particular way of life. If you don’t live like a vegetarian, you can’t call yourself one. And if try to, the world will call you out on it in a heartbeat.

In theory, the name Christian should work the same way. Yet we seem to feel free to call ourselves Christians so long as we simply believe that Jesus was the Christ.

But is that really all that Christianity is about? Believing something the Bible says even the devil believes?

Shouldn’t Christianity be more than just a list of beliefs? Shouldn’t it also be a particular way of life? And shouldn’t that particular way of life resemble the life of the person who gives Christianity its name?

If that is true, then I think we have an obligation to our integrity to pause, examine our lives, examine the church, and ask a really hard question, “What’s so Christian about Christianity today?”

Particularly in America.

That is to say, how well do we who call ourselves Christians actually resemble the Christ we claim to be following and embodying for the world?

Because if we’re being really honest with ourselves, and compare our lives with the life of Jesus, then I’m afraid the answer is not much.

Or at least not enough.

Jesus made love the foundation of his ministry. We make doctrinal purity the foundation of our faith and treat love like a nice afterthought.

Jesus said to turn the other cheek and put away the sword. We go out of our way to justify violence.

Jesus called his followers to love their enemies. We pray that they’ll be put to death.

Jesus called his followers to give up everything, relying on God and each other for our needs. We idolize financial independence, prosperity, and self-reliance.

Jesus grew in wisdom. We know the absolute truth about absolutely everything.

Jesus battled religious authorities in order to bring the marginalized and outcast into the kingdom of God. We try to use our religious authority to keep people out of the kingdom who don’t believe like we believe.

Jesus fellowshipped with sinners. We damn them to hell.

Jesus looked at the big picture of scripture in order to liberate people from legalism. We take a microscope to scripture in order to shackle people to rules and dogma.

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” We try to sanctify America through the ballot box.

Jesus blessed the poor, declaring that the kingdom of God belonged to them. We blame the poor for their poverty and treat them as charity cases instead of brothers and sisters.

Jesus made healing the sick central to his ministry. We treat healthcare as a luxury for the employed and well insured.

Jesus made women a central part of his ministry. We bend over backwards to keep them out of ministry.

Jesus said the kingdom of God is made up of little children. We too often do too little to protect them from systematic abuse at the hands of religious leaders.

Jesus never stopped forgiving. We hold grudges in the name of righteousness.

Jesus embraced the aliens living in his homeland, praising them for their the love and faithfulness. We pass laws and build walls to keep foreigners out of our homeland.

Jesus died to bring the “wrong” people into the kingdom of God. We fight to keep them out.

Jesus made hard demands of his followers. We reduce Christianity to little more than a list of beliefs.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m just as guilty of most of things as the person sitting next to me in the pew on Sunday morning.

But it’s because of that, because of my own complicity that I worry that being a Christian today has come to mean little more than believing Jesus was the Christ.

If that is true, if our identity as Christians is primarily found in our heads and not in our lives, then perhaps that is part of the reason so many of us in the Church today feel persecuted for our Christian faith.

Perhaps, like a vegetarian eating steak, the world recognizes our hypocrisy, the chasm that exists between our lives and the lives of Jesus, and we’re being called out for it.