I’m not a Christian blogger, I’m a blogger who’s a Christian.

When high school neared its end, a trend started within the Christian music industry.  Some committed Christian bands began to get recognition outside of contemporary Christian markets.  P.O.D. was of the first of several bands with a Christian message that signed with a secular label.  For many of my friends, we saw this as a victory for the Kingdom of God because now we could point to the creativity of fellow Christians.

Over time, many more bands started putting out records that sounded awfully ChristianPerhaps the quintessential Christian-sounding-yet-popular-in-the-secular-music-scene-band was Lifehouse. They had a hit song with the ambiguous lyrics, “I’m falling even more in love with you…”  Christians told their non-Christian and barely-Christian friends, “The song is totally about Jesus!”  To this, many replied “No, its about a girl.”  Back and forth the arguments would go, until bands like Lifehouse made a clear distinction.  We are not a Christian band, we are Christians who are in a band.

This distinction used to feel a bit silly to me.  Really?  You’re a bunch of Christians who just happen to make music together, influenced by your shared faith in God, but you’re not a Christian band?  Come on.

The more I think about this silly qualification the more it might be a positive corrective to a tendency in Christian culture. Stating that they’re Christians who just happen to be in a band, rather than being a Christian band counteracts the dichotomy between the secular and the sacredMany of us grew up with the belief that the world is split up into neat little categories of “Christian things” and “secular things.” But for the earliest Christians, this distinction didn’t exist.  Our tendency to divide reality in this way can be seen most clearly in our Western approach to political beliefs.  N.T. Wright puts it this way:

The first is the assumption of a split-level world in which ‘religion’ and ‘faith’ belong upstairs and ‘society’ and ‘politics’ belong downstairs. This assumption has effectively privatized religion and faith on the one hand, and on the other has emancipated politics from divine control or influence. God lives upstairs (many of the Enlightenment philosophers were Deists) and doesn’t bother about what goes on downstairs.[1]

This dichotomous paradigm – if we’re not careful – can lead to the belief that what we believe, promote, and do as citizens of the United States is different than what we do in our private Christian lives. Splitting up the world in this way has often been legitimized by the famous words of Jesus in Luke chapter 20 on whether or not to pay taxes:

24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”  Luke 20.24-25

Many have assumed that this passage is an attempt by Jesus to split life into two spheres. What a mistake!  This principle has been used to justify many things in the name of government and empire, especially war, because that kind of activity fits into the public / political box, not the spiritual one.  Jesus’ answer to “…give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s…” basically meant, as Joel Green has said: “Give to Caesar what is his already.”[2] For Jesus, there was a greater issue at stake: to give to “God what is God’s.”  This begs an important question: What exactly is God’s?

In Genesis 1.26 God sets up humanity as image bearers.  If this is true, then Caesar’s claims to allegiance are weak compared to the claim that God has on his image-bearers.  And what are image-bearers to do?  Bearing God’s image means that we show the world what God is like by reflecting the love of the Divine.  Greg Boyd paraphrases this passage in the following way:

Why should we who bear the image of God fight over what to do with coins that bear the image of Caesar?  The only thing we should worry about is giving God everything that bears his image—namely, our whole self.[3]

Here’s the point: For the disciple of Jesus who bears the image of God, all of life is sacred.  No divide between the “secular” and the “spiritual” exists because in every single action, both private and public, we are called to live in the world as reflections of God’s love and care for all of creation.  The Kingdom of God encompasses the totality of life!  To call ourselves a Christian ____________ too easily lends itself to the temptation to split other areas off as not part of our Christian image-bearing vocation. Therefore you can say…

I’m not a Christian teacher, I’m a teacher who’s a Christian.
I’m not a Christian musician, I’m a musician who’s a Christian.
I’m not a Christian athlete, I’m an athlete who’s a Christian.
I’m not a Christian husband, I’m a husband who’s a Christian.
I’m not a Christian animal advocate, I’m an animal advocate who’s a Christian.

 

And I will add one for myself: I’m not a Christian blogger, I’m a blogger who’s a Christian.



[2] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, 716.

[3] Gregory A. Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing Your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution, 26.

  • Auner

    I feel the same way but sometimes I don’t write like it.  There is still this battle in my mind when blogging that puts writing from the heart against writing for the expectations and approval of others.  I guess when I give in to the fear of man rather than writing how I’m thinking and feeling it makes me a liar, not very Christlike.  smh

  • Anonymous

    I understand your point, but it seems you are calling out the people who agree with you most. The reason people make this statement that they are not a Christian band is because of the very fact that they don’t want to make the distinction between sacred and holy like you are talking about here. They don’t want to be considered a band that is only meant for Christian ears, and thus sacred. 

    So anyways, this was a worthwhile post, but the bands (at least most who make this distinction)  are on your side on this issue.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @KDanC:disqus … I think you forgot to read this key transitional set of lines: “The more I think about this silly qualification the more it might be a positive corrective to a tendency in Christian culture.
      Stating that they’re Christians who just happen to be in a band, rather
      than being a Christian band counteracts the dichotomy between the secular and the sacred.” (Paragraph 4)

      Thanks for your thoughts… I agree with them.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah. I must have missed that. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/jhwise John Wise

    Awesome post! I completely agree. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1171554115 Joe McClurg

    Agree completely, Kurt. Seems to be a great deal of this dualism in the church today. Christian stuff (i.e. God’s stuff) and secular stuff..like the nonsense about vocation or even the real clergy-laity divide.

  • https://creativeharmonies.wordpress.com/ Lew Curtiss

    As a Christian who creates God glorifying art, I too have been chased around by the “Christian Artist” label and the ” that’s not me” baggage it carries.  I admit that in my current body of work God has me making happens to be directly from the Bible, but it’s not low quality, irrelevant, kitsch.  It’s certainly not “Christian Art”, whatever that is.  I call my self an artist, more precisely I am a faith-driven artist.  I make meaning (art) as inspired by the indwelling Holy Spirit and my Judeo-Christian worldview.  My creative heroes are the likes of Mako Fujimura (IAM Founder), Edward Knipper, Luci Shaw, Jeff Berryman, and others. I join you in shunning the label of Christian ______________.

  • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

    Case in point: The Shack, which passes for Christian literary fiction. 

  • Anonymous

    It should all be fed through the screen that reads – as we have heard before, “I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God….”  That is the life, there is no other life.  And we need to be aware of our responsibilities – to live life in a manner consistent with the teachings of our Lord.

  • JIm

    It there such a thing as a hyphenated Christian. Is it possible to be a Christian gangster. And still us the traditional definition of gangster? Somehow I think not.

  • http://twitter.com/billdaviswords Bill Davis

    Excellent thoughts, Kurt. Yes, “What exactly IS God’s”? Everything, of course. The world doesn’t want to acknowledge that. If everything (including each breath you take) calls for thanks for God, you um… you might have to respect his claim on your life! But even we who carry his name struggle with this. I took a class once called Economic Anthropology. Sounds boring, but it was awesome, dealing with “gift exchange.” In short, if I buy Fritos, it’s a commodity exchange (cash for chips). But if you do me a favor and I do the same down the road, it’s gift exchange. A lot of religion is GE (give offerings, the gods give harvest, etc.) And sadly, we let that “God owes me” mindset creep into our lives. Everything already IS God’s. It’s a high-level version of “What do you give to the person who has everything?” Even the strength we have to produce something comes from God. Talents? God. Health? God. The one thing we can freely give is ourselves, our life, our loyalty, in short… our will. Our decision to let him have what is already rightfully his!

  • Anonymous

    It easier to be a ___________ who happens to be a Christian than a _______ who happens to be Christian, unfortunately

  • http://boehadden.wordpress.com/ Erik

    Great post Kurt! Always enjoy reading your stuff.

    I’ve made the same distinction with my psychotherapy. I’m not a Christian psychotherapist (that’s as ridiculous as saying I’m a Christian Cardiologist)–but I’m a psychotherapist who happens to be a Christian.Another great blog that I like is by Father Stephen (http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/). He often uses the language of a two storey universe or a one storey universe–arguing that much of Christianity seems to teach that the universe is two storeys when in reality it is one and God is everywhere present. In fact, he has a book called Everywhere Present about this very topic. 

    Interestingly, that topic gets into some nitty gritty things. Because those who say that the sacraments are just symbols are creating a distinction between the material and spiritual that smacks of a sacred/secular divide or a Neo-platonism. The earliest Christians had no such distinction, as you point out…

  • http://twitter.com/Liejefry Jefry Lie

    Kurt… I totally agree with the worldview that you’ve written above.
    But I think that there is a difference between ” We are not a Christian band, we are Christians who are in a band” (Lifehouse version) & “I’m not a Christian blogger, I’m a blogger who’s a Christian” (yours)The difference is in structure of sentence.In the Lifehouse version seems they emphasize “christian” as their main identity, rather than “a band”, but in yours seems you emphasize “blogger” as your main identity rather than Christian.Why don’t you just say yourself as “a Christian who blog”?Is that true if I just prefer to define myself as “a Christian who teach” because I’m a teacher and I want to emphasize my main identity as Christian?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @twitter-275526578:disqus … i certainly see the semantic issue you raise here.  I would be fine also saying I’m a Christian who does such and such.  To me, thats the same as saying that I’m a such and such who’s a Christian.  But I get the point your making.  The key to my article is this line: “To call ourselves a Christian ____________ too easily lends
      itself to the temptation to split other areas off as not part of our
      Christian image-bearing vocation.”

      • http://twitter.com/Liejefry Jefry Lie

        Ok thanks Kurt. I got your point.
        and I wanna ask your help here. I think I want to write this issue (I ask your permission to included your writting in my paper) but in academic paper (maybe in 12-15 pages). So that I can share it to people in Indonesia.  Could you help me to find out the online source that relate with this issue.

        Thanks a lot Kurt.
        Blessings

        • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

          I would look at the article by NT Wright.  He also has another article at http://ntwrightpage.com called “God in public” that might be helpful.

  • Paul

    Kurt, I appreciate the post, but I see things from a policy standpoint. As a political scientist (one of those “downstairs” people), with a Masters in Theology, I am interested in the normative discourses that occur as this is unpacked. I think one of the rationales for the divide is how we project our beliefs onto the world. If I identify as “X”, but with an identity related to the Divine, does that then “privilege” a moral political position?  So if I don’t like X behavior because it is against “my beliefs”  do I have a right to make it wrong (or illegal) for *everyone*. Herein lies the problem, as I see it. As a liberal Christian (Quaker) I am troubled by the way in which many self-identified Christians use this label as a justification to force their views, legally speaking, on others. For instance, I am anti-war for biblical reasons (as I interpret), but I am forced to pay war taxes. I accept this as part of the social contract we have in the United States. I would, however, not force other people not to go to war or not to pay taxes. However, other Christians have viewpoints that they believe give them the prerogative to impose their views on others. What we practice is between us and God, when we start intervening in “Caesar’s Realm” then we cross a line. So the mingling of realms is not, a priori “wrong” in my mind, it is the potential risk of revisiting what is perhaps the worst case of this bleeding over, the Spanish Inquisition. Finally perhaps we should keep in mind Matthew 6:5 “”And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray
    standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.
    I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”

  • josh

    Love the high school thing.
    http://www.inbetweenchurches.com


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