The movie “Saved!,” a very amusing spoof of evangelical Christian culture, came out when I was in high school. My friends raved about it to me. “Lindsey, you’ve got to see it! I know you’re a Christian but…you’re not one of those Christians.” I took that as a high complement and certainly enjoyed the movie (just as I really enjoy “Dogma”-so sacrilegious, but so hilarious).
I knew what they meant by one of “those” Christians. The ones who are heavily steeped in evangelical American Christian culture, who seem to sort of live in an alternate reality. Who make everyone in a room just a little uncomfortable by how they talk about God, in part because they seem to assume that everyone is an evangelical Christian who absolutely believes all of the same things that they do and has the same relationship with God. When they don’t come off as bigots, they often just seem awkward.
Honestly, I’m not quite comfortable with “those” Christians either. Nor with the culture they’re immersed in. Stopping by the few Christian blogs that I periodically visit today had me thinking about this. While I visit them because I can find their writing refreshing or amusing or enlightening sometimes, I also quickly find myself thinking “Your world is so not my world.” Today that’s almost all I could think.
That led me to ask myself how it is that, even though I grew up in an evangelical Christian home, have an active relationship with the Christian God and went to a Christian University, I still feel like an outsider when I encounter evangelical Christian culture. Besides maybe a natural disposition to march to the beat of my own drum, I came up with this little list of reasons why maybe I’m usually not considered one of “those” Christians. If you’re wondering how to not be one of “those” Christians, maybe my list will help you:
- Keep a wide berth from Christian bookstores. I by no means want to dis on Christian literature because there are some very valuable books out there. I’d even highly recommended anything by G.K. Chesterton or Timothy Keller, most of C.S. Lewis’ works (especially The Great Divorce and Til We Have Faces), Rob Bell’s first book and Donald Miller’s books. But you should be able to get these books at your local nonreligious bookstore or off amazon. Barnes & Nobel also usually has a reasonably sized religious section. Why venture into the wildly strange/backwards world of the Christian bookstore?
- Read books, watch films and listen to bands because they interest you and are good, not simply because they are Christian. Enough said?
- Don’t cloister yourself in completely Christian company. It’s very valuable to have a network of people who share your beliefs and have a common worldview, but it is also enriching to have relationships with people whose perspectives and beliefs differ from your own. Similar to that last point, I would recommend that you befriend people because you click with them and enjoy them, not just because you believe the “same things.”
- Participate in the broader culture and engage with it thoughtfully and respectfully. I could write a whole post on this but for now I’ll just say that you should keep in mind that you are a part of a broader culture (that you are more than just a Christian) and should engage with others in a way that is respectful of difference (which means recognizing that you cannot force your values on someone, especially not by using a religious text they do not believe in as the authority for your argument).
- Put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:14). There is something about that phrasing of putting on love that I think is very powerful. Sadly, when most people see Christians they see them as judgmental, condescending, self-righteous or small minded. When people look at you, what they should see is that you are loving.
Is there anything you would add to this list?