Why I’m Considering Dropping the Term “Christian”

Why I’m Considering Dropping the Term “Christian” September 12, 2018
Courtesy of Pixabay

Last night my friend Carlos and I were chatting over some drinks about how we have become increasingly hostile toward self-identifying as “Christian.” Not because we don’t love Christ, and not because we don’t find value in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but for the simple reason that Christianity seems to want nothing to do with those who approach the faith different than they do. And sometimes, when one feels as unwelcomed as I currently do, when one is told over and over how they are not “in,” when they are told over and over how they are going to hell and leading others there in the process, they simply run out of patience and withdraw. That’s about where I’m at with things.

Now, while I am struggling with self-identifying as a Christian, I hesitate to completely drop the term. Why, you might ask? Simple. It’s because I don’t want to continue to see Christianity co-opted by self-righteous bigots who seem to have no interest in the actual teachings of Jesus. I don’t want to see Christianity continue to be used as a weapon to keep people in bondage. I don’t want to continue to see a Christianity void of the Good News that Jesus came to proclaim, the Good News that was supposed to be all about liberating the poor, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed (Luke 4:18–19)—yes, I’m talking to you Johnny Mac.

At the same time, however, it seems like such an uphill fight that I’m not sure I have the mental, physical, and spiritual fortitude to do anything about it any longer. Furthermore, what is the point in trying to gain approval from one’s abuser? Is it not a death sentence to stay in relationship with those whom oppress you? Listen to some of the recent crap that Christians have said to me:

“Enjoy the hell you enter. You will believe in it then, clown.”

“You are deceived by Satan and are in a cult; you need to repent of your sins and be born again, and make Jesus the savior of your life.”

“Guess what little guy, you have a small, finite mind and as such have no way of comprehending the infinite. But I’ll just keep praying for you.”

“We are no match for this professor of word vomit, who, in all reality, is getting ninety percent of his info from Wikipedia or a bitter Rabbi who has no reason to revere Scripture as holy.”

“You are a Pharisee. That’s pretty clear.”

I could continue, but I think you get the point. If this is the spirit of Christianity—more often than not it certainly seems to be—then I want nothing to do with it. Sorry. I tried. For years and years, I tried. I’m just not sure I can any longer. The self-righteousness just stinks too bad. The hypocrisy is simply too foul.

I mean, I don’t even care that Christians, like all other human beings, mess up and act like complete jerks from time to time. Hell, I can be one of the biggest assholes around. What gets me is that Christians will sit and act like they don’t have blemishes, like their shit doesn’t stink. But it does. And it stinks bad, which is okay, just stop telling me I’m smelling roses when I’m really smelling last night’s Taco Bell. I’m not an idiot. My olfactory senses are doing just fine, thank you very much.

So, what term will I start using? I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it yet. Like I said, I’m still hesitant about whether to drop the term “Christian.” I’m leaning that way, but I’m not quite there. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just keep pressing on, focusing my attention not on the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of the faith but on those who actually have a bit of humility in life. These are the folks worth talking to. Not the ones who act like they are God’s anointed spokespersons and who seem to get off on condemning others to the divine Auschwitz down below.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jeff Laborda

    Hi Matthew, I hear your hurt and frustration. I am not a public figure, yet I get the same crap from my small circle, and feel the same way you do about it. It is overwhelming at times, and for me, it certainly is risky from a depression and suicidal perspective. I just discovered your blog recently and have enjoyed the reading I have done. Whatever your decision, I’m for it. Your health is more important that anything else. Even though we don’t know each other, I feel a real compassion and empathy for you. I hope things improve, for all of us. Thanks for all you’ve done, Jeffery

  • chemical

    It’s because I don’t want to continue to see Christianity co-opted by self-righteous bigots who seem to have no interest in the actual teachings of Jesus. I don’t want to see Christianity continue to be used as a weapon to keep people in bondage.

    You know, you would make a good atheist — not in the sense that you would be good at getting people to abandon religion, but a good person that is also an atheist.

    Said self-righteous bigots would use some other bludgeon if they couldn’t use Christianity to be holier-than-thou.

  • Ellen Hammond

    Matthew, I totally get it. It breaks my heart when I read some of the things ‘Christians’ write to you and others. While they take pride in calling themselves Christians, their words seem more anti-Christ to me. The way I see it, Christ came to show us a better way and set us free from oppressive religions, NOT to start another religion. And seeing how unloving, bigoted, and cult-like, many who are involved in the religion called Christian, have become, is what lead me to refuse to wear any labels, including Christian, for many years now.

  • Ursula L

    While I’m no longer Christian, I was raised in liberal American Baptist churches. And to hell with those who would deny what I grew up with. Aside from AIDS in the news, the first truth I learned about gay and lesbian people as an adolescent in the 1980s was churches starting to bless same-sex relationships and perform same sex marriages. It never occurred to me that women couldn’t be clergy, or that welcoming refugees wasn’t normal.

    If you are ever in Rochester, NY, please visit Lake Avenue Baptist, where I grew up. They aren’t perfect. But I embrace their values, even if I no longer share their faith.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I would say hang in there. I think i intend to. Christianity is in its self-inflicted death throes. Christians have nailed Christianity to a tree and are watching its life bleed away, but our God needs us to stick around through Christianity’s miserable, forsaken, lonely Easter Saturday so there is at least someone left to greet the resurrection come Sunday morning.
    Christ is risen!

  • Nimblewill

    “Guess what little guy, you have a small, finite mind and as such have no way of comprehending the infinite..”

    This literally describes every person who ever lived.

    I sometimes call myself a “Jesusian.” (ja-su-see-un)

  • Al Cruise

    You are an heir to the Kingdom of God. Along with many others. By their fruits you will recognize them. They will be sisters and brothers with worldly labels like Christian ,Muslim, Buddhist , Sikh, Hindu , and many others. They have these labels by circumstance , such as place of birth , culture , indoctrination by tribe and so on. An heir to the Kingdom of God is defined solely by the individuals transformation of the heart. When we meet each other , we recognize our sister or brother immediately.

  • TinnyWhistler

    Meh, I’m not sure Jesus needs a long unbroken line of the word “Christianity” any more than he needs a long unbroken line of popes.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Perhaps not, but I’m damned if I’m going to surrender 2000 years worth of ordinary faithful people’s struggles under the banner of “Christianity” to a bunch of johnny-come-lately fundangelical fascists quite yet.

  • pen44

    Ursula L, so was I….American Baptists are pretty liberal. I’m now a member of an Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is the liberal branch of the Lutheran tree. So, I have to contend with the trump mob about both of the names Christian and Evangelical….I’m not a trump christian, nor a pence evangelical because they are decidedly NOT Christian, and their evangelism is not The Good News. I am a Christ-follower, a follower of Jesus!!! At the age of 74, I know Who I believe in, and it’s not the tv preachers’ version, nor pence’s, nor trump’s……

  • pen44

    Exactly, Iain Lovejoy! This all started when Reagan let the tv preachers into the Party….they lost me then. I follow Jesus the Christ, not some thieving telepreacher. The trumphumper christians have lost Jesus the Person, and His message to greed and worshipping a Golden Bull!!

  • Lee Burnside

    Why do you have to label yourself as anything? Can’t you just be Matthew?

  • Yep

  • LastManOnEarth

    How about Humanist?

  • Roger Wolsey

    “Some progressive Christians prefer to refer to themselves as “followers of the way of Jesus” instead of as “Christians.” It helps keep the focus on what..Jesus intended — off of him, and more on the Way, and the God, he was seeking to invite people to experience and follow.” p. 55, “Kissing Fish”

    Yet I refuse to allow the religious right to co-opt, hijack, and monopolize the word Christian. So instead I refer to myself as a progressive Christian
    – Roger Wolsey

  • The Mouse Avenger

    That is so beautiful…& so very, very true! ^_^

  • The Mouse Avenger

    Well, lucky, lucky you! ^_^ You are really fortunate to have grown up to see such wonderful things in your church… 🙂

    As for me, I’m not so lucky. All of the Baptist churches that I’ve seen in my state, are of the Southern Baptist variety…Blech! XP

  • The Mouse Avenger

    Amen, amen, amen! ^_^

  • The Mouse Avenger

    Indeed. (nods sadly in agreement)

  • Ursula L

    Maybe see if the Association for Welcoming and Affirming Baptists has something in your area? http://www.awab.org/

    Or something on this list? https://www.gaychurch.org/find_a_church/

  • I’m with you on that Matthew, at what point does a label cease to mean anything? If Trump and I are both Christians, the term says absolutely nothing about me that would be useful. I usually just end up qualifying it as “Christian Mystic” or “Progressive Christian” or just say “Jesus follower” or “Christ centered life”. At least that usually leads the other person to ask better questions about what I mean instead of making incorrect assumptions about me.

  • Jocelyn

    I go with Mystic and person of faith.

  • Grace Cangialosi

    I’m an Episcopalian, and our Presiding Bishop says Jesus intended to start a movement, not a religion, and he simply calls himself a follower of Jesus. And he says we are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.
    I share your ambivalence about the term “Christian.” It has been co-opted by the religious right…

  • pen44


  • MEB

    When I discovered your website a few months ago, I thought it was one of the most refreshing things I’ve ever found when it comes to anything Christian. To think that a Christian minister can say the things you do, mirroring my own thoughts and opinions; since I consider myself Christian too–although virtually no one else does. I felt less alone. If you drop the Christian I.D.–well, I can certainly understand you wanting to drop the grief that goes with it–but I think those of us Christians (of the progressive-type ) who do feel beleaguered have maybe lost an ally and friend for our side. Of course, I may be guilting you right now–which would no doubt mean that I’m asking you to take the pain that I don’t have to in my public anonymity. I realize that’s not necessarily fair. So please do whatever you must. But I just wanted to throw something out there to consider in making your decision. Regardless of what you choose, I think you are to be commended for your courage and fortitude.

  • MEB

    Matthew, I want to add something else (I don’t care if these are posted or not, by the way). Don’t let the effing bastards get you down. That’s what they’re trying to do to you, you know. The best way to tell those a-holes to go eff themselves (I’m trying to be genteel here) is to keep right on plowing through! However you decide to do it.
    P.S. And if I was a little over the top before, while that’s the way I really feel, you are certainly not responsible for my feelings. Do whatever is right for you. But still—don’t let the @%*!&# bastards get you down.

  • Thank you for your kind words!

  • Tim

    Christian is just another label anyway. If it no longer describes you, use something that does!

    Jesus follower does quite well in a pinch.

  • Mr. James Parson

    It has been a month. I wonder if the author has decided anything.

  • disqus_0acdxpAYIy (: