Welcome to Mere Chris-ianity!

Welcome to Mere Chris-ianity! March 5, 2018
Image via Pixa Bay

I know, I know: The name might seem narcissistic. When I told my wife that I was going with “Mere Chris-ianity,” she rolled her eyes; “It sounds like you’re worshiping yourself.”

But I’m sticking with it. Not only because it was suggested by an author I greatly respect (Jeffrey Overstreet, back when I was considering “Through a Smartphone Darkly,” suggested it in a Facebook group; my original idea was probably too close to the title of his fantastic book, “Through a Screen Darkly”). Originally, I’ll be honest, I just dug the pun. But the more I mulled it over, I realized it’s a perfect summation of what I hope this blog will be and the dialogue I hope to enter into with all of you.

Putting the ‘Chris’ in Chris-ianity

Obviously, the title refers to my name. I’m Chris. I’ve been writing professionally for 13 years as a journalist, film critic, freelancer and blogger. My work has appeared in weekly papers, film blogs, a former column here at Patheos, at Christ and Pop Culture, and elsewhere. But this venture is new and, to be honest, a little scary. I’m no longer solely appraising film and pop culture (although the conversation will definitely feature that); instead, I’m also opening up my life, exploring my faith, and asking just who I am and what faith looks like in this world.

I hope the allusion to one of my favorite books isn’t too on the nose. But if it is, I’m okay with that. This blog is going to be about my outlook and dialogue with faith; if it didn’t include a painfully obvious pun and a mention of the work that has been vital to my own growth, it just wouldn’t be me. So maybe “Mere Chris-ianity” conjures up images of literature or a bit of navel-gazing. Maybe it sounds silly, corny or a bit pretentious. Good; all of those things can probably describe me. It’s more obvious that it’s the right choice.

What kind of Christian am I?

I think it’s fitting that this blog is launching on the General Christian channel here at Patheos because I’m energized by the possibility of writing about my faith outside a strict denominational or sectarian box. For years, I grew up with an easily definable grid by which to view my Christianity. I could be described as a Baptist, an Evangelical and a Calvinist. For much of my life, those labels would fit. I grew up in the Baptist church; the church I attend now is part of a Baptist group of churches, even if that denominational description isn’t part of the name (I consider myself Bapt-ish). Theologically, I probably fit into the mold of Evangelical, although there’s obviously cultural, spiritual and political baggage I can’t claim. And yes, a decade or so back, I went through a pretty serious bout out cage-stage Calvinism.

As you get older, you see that God doesn’t respect your boundaries, and He’s not a fan of our boxes. I could rattle off a dozen arguments about Calvinism only to have them stopped cold when I wrestle with their implications in my daily life. I’m a Baptist who finds great beauty in the liturgies, rhythms and traditions of the Catholic Church. I’m a theological conservative and politically left-leaning moderate who likes a good wine and finds great beauty in the theory of evolution. The more I grow spiritually, the worse those man-made boxes fit. Issues that used to be cornerstones get muddier and, honestly, less important the older I get, and my concern about whether we choose or are chosen seems less urgent when I’m trying to figure out how to trust God as I raise two kids and pay a mortgage.

At the end of the day, there’s great relief in stepping out of my boxes and understanding that once you get past the main truth of Christ crucified, buried and resurrected, there’s a lot of room for questions, doubts and reconsideration. Am I Baptist? Calvinist? Evangelical?

I’m merely Christian. And while theology is good, head knowledge gets you only so far; you must engage your faith with everyday living and real-world challenges. And my greatest spiritual growth these days comes with striving to reconcile what I believe with how I live, the culture I’ve been raised in and the questions that remain. So, in a way, this is what Chris-ianity is: Faith through the lens of my life, looking at the culture I love, the questions I wrestle with and the things that interest me. Again, the name feels appropriate.

From Chris-ianity to Christianity

My wife is right about one thing, though: I tend toward self-worship.

I like having a platform to share my thoughts with the world. Part of it is because writing helps me crystallize my thoughts, mulling over my own beliefs while I try to put them into words. But honestly, part of it is that I just like the attention. I like knowing people are reading my words and listening to the things I say. It makes me feel important, like my beliefs might have influence or power.

That’s not a good thing. Time and again, I’ve learned that thinking too highly of myself is just a good way to bring the whole works crashing down. And so, it’s my prayer that this blog is also called Mere Chris-ianity with tongue firmly in cheek, an acknowledgement that although I often think highly of myself, I know I’m a fool and that I am often very wrong. In fact, the constant refrain I hope to echo throughout this site is the simple answer, “I don’t know.” This site isn’t my record of having it right. I’m not a preacher and I’m at best an amateur theologian. These words aren’t meant to be prescriptive, nor are they meant to end with “Thus Sayeth the Lord.” This blog is simply my attempt to understand faith in today’s world, what God’s doing in our culture and how I fit in with that. I write these words, I hope, with humility. I could be wrong; sometimes, I likely will be. That’s part of the journey. These words are part of “Chris-ianity,” which often falls short of “Christianity.” The goal is to get myself closer to where I need to be.

Let’s start the conversation

These entries are not meant to be sermons, but dialogues. I view this blog as a conversation. I’m going to put thoughts out there; there’s a comment section where you can agree or disagree right back (a brief digression: I don’t delete comments that disagree with me; I do liberally block and delete comments that are abusive, trolling or seeking to be contentious for the sake of contention). You can follow me on Twitter or visit my Facebook page. I hope you’ll tell me if something moves you, encourages you or makes you laugh, but I also hope you’ll tell me where you disagree and maybe where I’m off my nut. Iron sharpens iron, and I firmly believe that the sharpening can be done digitally. We’re all fumbling around, trying to do this Christian walk of life better. We’re going to do that by being open, honest and loving with each other.

So let’s get started! I hope this is fun. Yes, I have some serious topics in mind, but I’m also eager to dive into the Christian culture I grew up with. I have some interviews in the hopper I’m thrilled for you to read. ’m excited about looking at our culture through the eyes of faith. I hope I can write something profound. If I can’t, I’ll settle for funny. Maybe it’s the other way around.

Whatever it ends up being, welcome to Mere Chris-ianity. The name might be mine, but I hope you’ll find a home here, too.

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  • Tracie Perry

    Excited for this new adventure for you, and for the chance to have a fresh perspective on the internet!

  • james warren

    Most Christians worship Christ. Few of them, however, follow Jesus.

    Jesus was and is disturbing.
    Christianity has become a religion Jesus would have rejected.
    His message was for the House of Israel. He referred to the Gentiles as “dogs” and mocked their praying style.
    The irony is that a first-century Jew is now worshiped by Gentiles.

  • Ed Senter

    Why was/is Jesus disturbing?
    What was his message to the House of Israel, and what do you mean by “House of Israel”?

  • james warren

    He preached “love your enemies.”
    He said “Give to everyone who begs from you.”
    He said we cannot love both God and mammon.
    He said “Do not judge.”
    He said “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

    These teachings are disturbing. And that is exactly why our churches by and large ignore them.

    In Matthew Jesus asserted “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
    In an alternate translation he says “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”

    Jesus was a Jew. He pushed the envelope of the Jewish faith and did not start a wholly new religion.
    That came later in the early 300s when the tiny band of Jesus people were united into the Roman Empire by Constantine.

  • Jesus was offensive, absolutely. And I totally agree that it’s why many people who profess to follow him are content with a shallow religion that preaches power, security and safety. The gospel is beautiful and offensive. My hope with this site is to lean into that tension. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  • Thanks, Tracie! Thank you for reading!

  • james warren

    Well put.

    People can argue the resurrection, the virgin birth or the many miracles. They are mostly still unable to grasp the meaning of the metaphoric truths Jesus taught.
    If both [or all] sides get back to the meaning of the New Testament, we can possibly all come together in faith.

  • Ed Senter

    Since I now know that you are an idealist, the Bible is meaningless to you because Jesus was a realist.
    Jesus taught himself- “I am the way, the truth and the life…”. He never taught an ethic apart from himself.

    Did you know that God divorced the House of Israel yet remained married to the House of Judah?

  • james warren

    The Bible has a great meaning when you know that the God of Jesus had a passion and character that stood for repentance, mercy, forgiveness, nonviolence and grace.

    “I am the way, the truth and the life… no one comes to the father except through me.”
    And who is “me”? Jesus is the definitive disclosure of the God of mercy, repentance, forgiveness, nonviolence and grace.

    All of the world’s great faiths have mercy, repentance, forgiveness, nonviolence and grace. And Jesus follows that path. No one can see God without those qualities that Jesus has.

    By the way, the “I am the way, the truth and the life” are statements of theology and faith. Simply put, Jesus never talked like that. He was not some mystic philoswopher.

    John’s account is filled with the early theology of Christianity. John’s Jesus totally contradicts the Jesus of the synoptics. There are 180 degrees different from the peasant rabbi from the glorious King with a golden crown.

    John even asserts that Jesus died a full 24 HOURS BEFORE the day Mark, Luke and Matthew attest.

  • Ed Senter

    Your Jesus is milquetoast and is not what the Bible teaches. You pick and choose what you like. Fine, but you are not a believer. The gospels do not contradict. They compliment each other. I have proven this to you but you just run and hide.
    Jesus did not follow a “path”. He was and IS the path.

  • james warren

    The Bible is a human product, Of COURSE it contradicts itself. Christians know this very well and are desperate to twist every contradiction into some logical, rational remedy.

    Just do a focused study of Genesis or compare the gospel of John’s Jesus with the rabbi teacher of Mark, Matthew and Luke.

    Some actually believe that any discrepancy left to stand on its own means to them their entire faith will collapse.
    God has already won, but they feel sinful and guilty and are gearing up for the Divine Spanking just over the horizon.

  • Ed Senter

    If the Bible is a human product, then I have no use for it. Fortunately, it is not. The more I study it, the more I realize how much it is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
    I think you make up contradictions because in your heart you really don’t care to know God. You seek some legalistic way of life. Too bad.

  • james warren

    Your attempts at mind-reading and trying to guess at my motives are pure silliness.

    If God wrote the Bible, then fine. I believe the Bible was written by inspired men who sought to articulate the power of God in their lives.

    For some reason, most believers do not yet realize that God has already won. Jesus clearly said he saw Satan “fall like lightning from heaven.”
    They are unable to take the holy and sacred metaphors in any way but literally. They forfeit the Bible’s great epic claim and hope.

    They actually believe if there are any discrepancies or contradictions in the text, then their faith is destroyed!


  • Tim Terhune

    Excellent introductory post, Chris! I wish you all the best in this new venture.

  • Ed Senter

    Ok, give it to me straight.
    What has God already won?
    And, What is the Bible’s great epic claim and hope?

  • Close, but not quite. He referred to the Canaanite woman as a ‘dog’. She was not a Gentile. Gentiles are Israelites of the earlier dispersion (the ‘nations’- the word translated ‘gentile’ simply means nation, not ‘non-jew’)
    He also used a dog-synonym for Herod – “that fox”. Herod was an Idumean (Edomite) installed into Kingship over the Israelites by the Romans (also Israelite ‘Gentiles’ aka ‘the lost tribes’)
    Jesus was not a “Jew”. He was a Judahite (of the Tribe of Judah), a “Judean” (from the geographic area around Jerusalem, formerly the kingdom of Judah, but the name was changed when the Idumeans were forcibly integrated into Judah [cf 1 Maccabees / John Hyrcanus]..Judah + Idumea = Judea, at least that is the way the historians named it. Judahites were NEVER known as Jews). the Pharisees were the religious sect that became what we now know as Jews. They have no pure blood relation to Jesus or any of the Israelites and they admit to such in their literature.
    So, your Irony is only mistaken.

  • Yahshua (Jesus) “came not but for the lost tribes of the house of Israel”. He was speaking of the offspring of Jacob, the 12 Tribes ‘lost’ because they had rejected Yahweh’s rule hundreds or thousands of years earlier, dispersing as prophetically predicted, creating ‘many nations, and a company of nations’.
    Yahweh (God) used these same dispersed Israelites to destroy Jerusalem and the ‘Temple’ in 70AD

  • God divorced both, but Israel first.

  • Ed Senter

    The King James called them “Jews”. see 2Kings 16:6

  • Ed Senter

    The 10 Northern tribes, first ruled by Jereboam, were “lost”. They were lost pursuant to the words of the prophet Hosea, that is, “Not My People”. They were the first of the Israelites to go off into idolatry. The Southern Kingdom was never lost even though they too went into idolatry. They never lost their identity.

  • Ed Senter

    Where did God divorce Judah? God only gave Israel a bill of divorce. Jeremiah 3:8

  • By abandoning the Lord for other gods, Judah had put herself in this predicament. Having divorced God and remarried other deities, a reconciliation and remarriage between Judah and her Creator was impossible from a human perspective

  • Are you still a White nationalist?

  • Ed Senter

    None of that says God divorced Judah. As far as I know, under the old law, a woman does not divorce the husband. The husband divorces the woman. Yes, Judah committed adultery, but no where does it say God divorced her. God only divorced Israel.
    You do know that God saw the two kingdoms, House of Israel (10 tribes to the north) and House of Judah (2 tribes to the south) as two entities? He saw them as two sisters- Ezekiel 23. To this day, God still sees them as separate. It will be at the end times when the House of Judah goes to the House of Israel and returns to the land- see Ezekiel 37.

  • I’ll go for Christian Supremacist, will that work?

  • antisemitic misinformed troll is probably closer to the truth

  • How can I be anti-semitic if I am a Shemite and I only hate impostor semites?

  • Semite and Shemite are two different things, lets stop being silly.

    You hate the Jews, probably black people and any one (smarter) different than you. Time to leave the trailer and grow up…