Why Won’t Marcus Mumford Call Himself a Christian? I Have a Few Theories…

In the cover story for the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons explains why he doesn’t call himself a Christian:

“I don’t really like that word,” he tells senior writer Brian Hiatt… “It comes with so much baggage. So, no, I wouldn’t call myself a Christian. I think the word just conjures up all these religious images that I don’t really like. I have my personal views about the person of Jesus and who he was. Like, you ask a Muslim and they’ll say, ‘Jesus was awesome’ — they’re not Christians, but they still love Jesus. I’ve kind of separated myself from the culture of Christianity.” Mumford emphasizes that while his spiritual journey is a “work in progress,” he’s never doubted the existence of God.

This is nothing new, of course. Saying you’re not Christian, but more of a “follower of Jesus,” has become increasingly popular. Jefferson Bethke‘s YouTube video about that very sentiment went viral last year, racking up over 24,000,000 views.

Lillian Daniel, author of When “Spiritual but Not Religious” Is Not Enough, is annoyed by Mumford’s admission:

I know what it feels like to want to distance myself from hateful statements made in the name of my faith. If this is all that Christianity is, I don’t want to be associated with it either. But of course, that is not all that Christianity is. And unless some sane people claim the label, the extremist fringes will have the last word.

A few years ago, I grew tired of people claiming to be “spiritual—but not religious,” because I do not believe this is enough. In a culture of narcissism, religious community matters. In our “have it your way” spiritual marketplace, religious community that is rigorous, reasonable and real is still the most nutritious item on the menu.

When people tell me they can’t stand Christianity, they are usually describing a Church that bears very little resemblance to the open-minded church I serve. They describe judgmental hypocrites who hate people of other faiths and are only after your money. They attribute all the world’s problems to the Church, from sexism to sexual abuse to warfare.

My eyes began rolling a while ago. How about you?

The problem isn’t that we look at Westboro Baptist Church, or conniving televangelists, or Ted Haggard and assume all Christians are just like them.

The problem is that we’ve seen the best of what Christianity has to offer and we still want nothing to do with it.

Too many “good” Christians still believe homosexuality is a sin.

Too many “good” Christians still believe women aren’t wise enough to make decisions about their own body.

Too many “good” Christians still believe in Satan, hell, heaven, miracles, prayer, and zombies.

Too many “good” Christians still believe Jesus is coming back in their lifetime.

Too many “good” Christians still believe the Bible reveals more truth than science and they want to rewrite school curriculums to say so. (Hell, nearly 80% of Americans believe in either Creationism or God-guided evolution.)

All that, and I haven’t even mentioned Mark Driscoll yet.

So I get why Marcus Mumford doesn’t want to call himself a Christian. He may be religious, he may even accept Jesus’ divinity, but he sure as hell doesn’t want to be lumped in with those Christians who think other Christians are to blame for ruining their brand.

People like Lillian Daniel would be better served looking at a mirror to understand how the rest of us view Christianity instead of casting the blame on only the fringe elements of her faith.

Until the “good” Christians start acting like the decent people they always seem to think they are, even the followers of Jesus won’t want to be associated with them.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Rain

    Wow, those are some shady looking characters. Remind me not to meet them in a dark alley at night.

    • Stev84

      They make great music though

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Especially in Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, Belgrade, Bethlehem or Baghdad.

  • Kelley

    The lead singer of Mumford and Sons looks like a fat Hitler. Just sayin’.

    • http://twitter.com/tehpandah Amanda Cochran

      A sexy plump Hitler.

  • A3Kr0n

    If I was Marcus Mumford I wouldn’t be saying anything either. I’d be hiding under a stairwell somewhere trying to escape all the people trying to punch me in the arm for being named Marcus Mumford.

  • http://twitter.com/vinimarques Vini Marques

    I’m not into bestiality. I just like fucking animals.

    • http://www.facebook.com/steven.rowlinson Steven Rowlinson

      +10 mate! Sums it up in much less words than it would have taken me.

  • http://twitter.com/Ro542124 Gideon

    “I believe in an objective divine being. My beliefs about it just happen to constantly shift depending on my subjective preferences. I’m so lucky. My god just happens to be an exact match of what I wish my god were like.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003507967305 Neal Lindberg

      Who did you quote? Mumford?

      • icecreamassassin

        I think Gideon just quoted every single monotheist ever.

  • icecreamassassin

    Yeah – Lillian’s article certainly had my eyes rolling.

    “In our “have it your way” spiritual marketplace, religious community that is rigorous, reasonable and real is still the most nutritious item on the menu.”

    I’ll agree with the community part. She has not shown why the qualifier ‘religion’ is of any use in the above statement.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      What do you want, rigorous or reasonable?

  • WallofSleep

    “I grew tired of people claiming to be “spiritual—but not religious,” because I do not believe this is enough.”

    Indeed, that is not enough.

    I am neither spiritual nor religious, because I am not superstitious and I do not believe in the supernatural. There, that’s enough.

  • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    I’m not going to lie. Marcus Mumford’s religious allusions in his music have given me goosebumps and have made me cry on multiple occasions.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bill.zeblinsky Bill Zeblinsky

      That’s about how I usually react to hearing a religious person talk about their imaginary friends, too.

  • phhht

    It’s no wonder Mumford is reluctant to be known as a Christian. Because, for example, this.

    • LesterBallard

      Both hilarious and scary. The type who gets hold of Bushmaster assault rifle and a bunch of ammo and makes their mark on history scary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351473675 Matthew Baker

    Isn’t there an old line about if it looks like a duck…..

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The problem is that we’ve seen the best of what Christianity has to offer and we still want nothing to do with it.

    The problem for me has nothing to do with Christians’ behavior, or their social attitudes, or their political views. Some of those things I find objectionable, and some I find even outrageous. But for me, that’s all beside the point.

    If all Christians were wonderful, loving, fair-minded, and progressive thinking, that would be great, but I still would not be convinced of the existence of He Who Is As Inconsequential As He Is Reputed To Be Mighty. I wouldn’t want to be a member of a club where I had to pretend to believe what I cannot believe.

    • NewDawn2006

      I agree. It is beside the point. If they would leave the rest of us the hell alone and keep their “religious. morals” out of our government and their faux science out of our classrooms I would leave them the hell alone!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ichuck7 Charles Chambers

    Well written article. I totally agree.

  • GregFromCos

    Mumford & Sons reminds me of Daniel Dennett’s word “Deepity” more than I think anything ever has. But I must admit, I love it at the gym. I think for me it reminds me of really bad Christian worship music, but it does a great job of keeping the workout pace going.

  • Bob Becker

    Re: why MM won’t call himself a Christian. Don’t care.

  • Keith Roragen

    Heh. I remember when I used to label myself a “philosophical Christian”.

  • LesterBallard

    I’ve never heard the music. I’d say he’s just another wishy washy there must be something out there type.

    • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

      They have a few really nice songs. Kinda mellow folksy music.

      But yea, like Nicole Introvert said, totally religious connotations at times.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roger.bauman Roger Bauman

    This is one of the best posts I have ever seen on this site.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    If I could add to your list:

    “Too many ‘good Christians still don’t think enough of their religion to purge it of wingnuts, charlatans, hatemongers, and other sorts of folks who make them look bad.”

    Rather than dealing with these folks head-on and solving the problem, Christians like Mumford would rather disavow their Christianity itself. It’s the pinnacle of cowardice.

    P.S. I’m not sure Jesus … if he existed … would be very happy about Mumford denying him before others just to avoid the chance he might look bad. But what could this cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such sacred things?

    • 3lemenope

      I don’t think that borrowing some assorted notions from a religion obligates one to think of oneself as a member of that religion.

      • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

        Is that really what’s happening here? I don’t think so. Mumford didn’t say, “I don’t call myself a Christian because I don’t believe all the things most Christians believe.” Rather, he said he doesn’t call himself a Christian because “Christian” has negative connotations so being called one might make him look bad.

        He was very clear on this. This is not about his specific beliefs, whatever they are. It’s about appearances.

        As Hemant noted, this is the Bethke tactic of avoidance and disavowal. It just doesn’t work. At least, I’m not stupid enough enough to be taken in by it. Maybe someone else is, but not me.

        • 3lemenope

          Uh…:

          “I have my personal views about the person of Jesus and who he was. Like, you ask a Muslim and they’ll say, ‘Jesus was awesome’ — they’re not Christians, but they still love Jesus. I’ve kind of separated myself from the culture of Christianity.”

          “I have my personal views about…” doesn’t sound much like hewing to an orthodoxy to me. There is, from his words alone, more going on than simple label avoidance.

          • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

            It can’t not be a case of label avoidance. He stated explicitly that it was.

  • indyha ramsey cobbs

    I have yet to meet a Christian who “follows” that phantom,zombie Jew whatever that corpse was in the bible that was hung on a cross that neither he nor anyone else could have possibly carried in that day and age. A 90 pound man most likely 5’2 carrying a cross that freaking large?…. would have been impossible. Right there you know the whole story is suspect. Besides, Christians are more like fans of Christ def not followers.

  • Rod

    Never heard of him, never heard his music.
    Question becomes: I care about this because…?

    • eonL5

      If you don’t care, you don’t have to read it. Much less comment to tell us how much you don’t care. 2 billion other people don’t care. Fortunately, they don’t bother filling up the comment threads telling us so. (Why does this keep having to be said?)

  • Jeff Duke

    I just stumbled over this whilst trawling the net, if that isn’t oxymoron.

    I don’t know who I despise more, fundies or atheists… it’s quite the toss-up between who’s the more smug, self-satisfied and infinitely slappable.
    You are what you hate most, folks.

  • http://bashpr0mpt.com BaSH PR0MPT

    My respect for him and them as a band has flatlined. No sentient rational humanistic being of any semblance of education can believe in the supernatural, a divine creator, a god, or any other such voodoo nonsense. I understand musicians are generally ‘artsy’ but that’s no cause to be an irrational fool. I’ll likely have all the theistic nutters foaming at the mouth, but the bottom line is it’s 2013, religion died a long time ago, a few countries (well, one) are slow at catching up with the rest of the world into this era of humanism and our attempt to continue the human race while theists attempt to make us a human crawl, and NO intelligent being of even rudimentary education can humor the existence of the supernatural. There is no god/s. There is no santa too, in case you didn’t know that one!

  • Proud Christian

    I came across this site looking for I Will Wait lyrics, but felt the need to comment. How does not being pro-homosexual or pro-choice make me a “bad” Christian? I have been taught to love everyone regardless of their sins or decisions because none of us are perfect and I see that view practiced everyday with other Evangelical Christians in the US. It doesn’t mean I endorse any sins, but it is not my job to judge because that will be left up to the one perfect person and He is far more forgiving than any human and that is a good thing for all of us.
    I am not blind or oblivious to the horrible hypocrisy displayed by people under the Christian banner and I struggled to believe myself for decades until I actually took the time to learn about who Jesus really is by reading the New Testament and what it means to be a follower. It looks very different that what is portrayed by the media. However, for many of us that are committed followers of Jesus we are not looking to fill stadiums with adoring worshipers or shout down non-believers into submission so they can finally believe in Jesus, but instead we are working on ourselves to overcome our sins and then sharing the Good News with anyone that is willing to listen.