Well, I’ve seen these lists crop up on blogs and all over the web many times. I generally really like to read them, so I’ve decided to make my own list. Some of them might just echo some things in other lists, in which case I would just like to reinforce those ideas… however, I’ve also tried to be a bit creative in my approach.
1) Saying that Catholics, Mennonites, Lutherans, Anglicans (insert denomination other than your own) are not Christians – okay, this just really bothers me. Sure, not everyone agrees with the way that you worship. Some people don’t agree with all of your doctrinal theology, but that DOESN’T mean that you are the only one who is right and going to heaven and the rest of them aren’t. In my opinion, Christianity does leave much room for interpretation and creative expression as long as our core tenets are the same – that Christ is Lord and that we should love one another. Saying that your denominational tradition is the only correct one shows a lack of understanding towards other traditions and borders on intolerance.
2) Saying that Catholics, Mennonites, Lutherans, Anglicans (insert denomination other than your own) are different RELIGIONS – Friends, I want to introduce you to two very different words: RELIGION and DENOMINATION. Christianity is a RELIGION, Catholicism is a DENOMINATION. They are not two separate things. Religion encompasses the general beliefs of a specific group of people, denomination shows the finer points of their theology. Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism are different religions from Christianity, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and Mennonitism are simply different expressions of worship, liturgy, and theological expression from a belief system that shares more similarities than differences at the end of the day.
3) Twisting the Bible to Say What You Want It to Say – How often have I met people who take one single verse of the Bible completely out of context in order to make a point and to justify a pre-existing cultural belief that they already hold. The truth is, if you are going to use Scripture to back up your opinion then it’s important that you not only know hermeneutically what it is saying (what happened before and after), but also that you are aware of how Church tradition has influenced it positively or negatively throughout history.
4) Saying That You Will Pray For Someone When You Really Have No Intention of Doing So – This one is generally on every single list I have seen, but I cannot do without naming it here as well. I’ve been guilty of this one myself, I’m pretty sure every Christian has at one time or another. Often times, Christians use the phrase “praying for you” as a derivation of “thinking of you” or as a pat answer to lessen tension, but truly praying for someone involves commitment. It involves actually going to God in prayer and interceding for them. Prayer is a power tool so it’s not something we should be taking lightly.
5) Using the Christian Title When They Aren’t Living the Christian Life – Oftentimes, people say that their religious affiliation is Christian perhaps because they grew up in the church or because they think it is the acceptable answer, but outwardly they aren’t living that life. You know that song, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love?” Well, it speaks volumes. To be Christian is more than to just go to church, it involves loving others, taking a stand against injustice and poverty, and engaging with acts of mercy in this world.
BONUS: Saying “I’ll pray about it” when you what you really want to say is that you have no interest in the opportunity. – There is an unfortunate misconception among Christians that they must always be happy, always accept any ministry opportunity even if they have no interest in it (because remember friends, God ALWAYS calls us to do thing we hate doing), and that we always need to be nice and never hurt anyone’s feelings. The truth is, if you have no interest in a ministry, don’t do it. You’ll just be dragging your feet the whole time and dragging everyone else down while you do it. If your skills don’t lie in childcare or the choir, have the grace to decline and free up a spot for someone who does have those skills. Christians ARE allowed to be honest, and in fact NEED to be honest. So next time you get asked to be the kitchen supervisor or soundboard person and really don’t want to, just politely decline.