How To Let People Know You’re A Christian

One of my skeptical friends who hangs around Christians a lot posted the following: “HERE’S A THOUGHT: Maybe you wouldn’t have to say you are a Christian all the time if you would just act like one most of the time. Ya think?”

This sort of exhortation among Christians to show they are Christians by what they do rather than by what they say is rather pompously prejudiced in favor of Christianity, even as it attempts to be a dig at Christians who are “all talk and no action”. Because what are these behaviors that are supposed to “tell people you’re a Christian”? Is it giving to the poor? How would that tell anyone you’re a Christian? Are you implying that only Christians give to the poor?

Is it forgiving people? Refusing to judge people? Sacrificing for others? Being compassionate? Being gracious? Showing humility? Loving others? Doing unto others as you would have done unto you?

Which of these things are so uniquely Christian that when people see you doing them they should assume you must be a Christian? Which of these valuable things are you implying that Jews, Muslims, Hindus, pagans, and atheists characteristically don’t do?

Because people from all faiths and none exhibit all these virtues. Christianity does not have a lock on them or on any other virtues. The only people who would assume that those behaviors are signifiers of Christianity and not of general moral decency are people prejudiced to assume that only Christians can be good people. When Christians say that a Christian should be recognized by what she does rather than what she says, they’re implicitly assuming Christianity has a unique lock on moral goodness. It’s obnoxious and false. And atheists shouldn’t be encouraging that attitude by repeating such expressions.

When it comes right down to it the only way to show people you’re a Christian is with distinctively religious Christian words, signs, symbols, ritual behaviors, and deeds. And church attendance. Lots and lots of church attendance. Especially church attendance when poseurs would never show up. And proselytize. Do lots of that. Also go out of your way to bring up Jesus in contexts that no one but a Christian could possibly want to hear about him. (Or in ways that drive even other Christians crazy.) And create conflict and alienation with your friends and family and colleagues who don’t believe by taking their non-belief as inherently offensive and any criticisms they level at your faith as personal attacks. Also try to get Christianity established as an official religion in your country, demand laws be based on Christian teachings, and get Christian theology into science textbooks.

And whatever you do, don’t try to literally follow out that stuff that Jesus says about not being judgmental. Because not only will that make you seem outright unChristian to many, it may have the totally unintended effect of just making others think you’re gay.

If you really really want to prove you’re a Christian, be really really religiously Christian and go out of your way to be as public about your being a Christian as you can. Claim every sphere of life for Jesus. Do these things and everyone will get the point that you’re a Christian.

But just being moral? Loving others? Refusing to judge others? Tolerating others who are different than you or believe differently? Taking care of the poor? Doing unto others as you would have done unto you?

There’s nothing distinctively Christian about any of that.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.