Friday, November 2, 2007

Stop caring about what they think of "us"

Lately, amongst those who share my faith in Christ there's been a lot of talk about how "we" are perceived in public. There's almost no end to the search for a semantic solution to the bad-rap "christianity" has been given: "I'm a small-e evangelical," "I'm a Christ-follower, not a christian" etc etc. The list grows almost daily.

Despite making a few suggestions here or there myself, I am very quickly growing weary of the conversation. In fact, I'm pretty sure it has run it's course and moved from potentially interesting and worthy of some thought to an all-out waste of time and energy.

Please consider the following a modest attempt at a common-sense solution to the "problem of public perception." It's my hope that learning and practicing this simple maxim will skirt the pitfalls of a naval-gazing search for a semantic saviour.

So, without further adieu:

Stop caring about what "they" think of "us" and pay attention to what "he or she" thinks of "you."

End rant.


jshelley78 said...

I think its partly an act of self-discovery too. As soon as I question what makes "Christian music" actually "Christian" (and what, exactly, could make a bicycle a "Christian bike"), there is a growing perplexity in what makes a human a "Christian person". For myself, this discussion has more to do with myself than how others perceive me, but I think we often discuss it in terms of "what others think" because its a lot safer in most of our faith communities to use that kind of language than to expose what we're wrestling with at a very deep, inner faith level.

James Kingsley said...

thanks for the comment james. i think the heart of what i'm trying to get at is a move from caring about "public" perception to one where "personal" perception takes priority. i realize that larger conversations have a great trickle-down effect and i'm not arguing for the big-picture to be totally ignored, but what would happen if a good amount of those of us who were concerned about the public face of christianity merely decided to attned to the perception of "ourselves as christians" in the eyes of those we actually know? what if we stopped caring about what they (the public) think, and instead took notice of what our co-workers and neighbours thought?

Christa said...

Hey Bro- I couldn't have read this at a better time...amen to your comment.
The funny thing with your blurb is we should all stop caring what "they" think anyways..
At work- what do my associates think of me as a manager
At home- what do my housemates think of me as a housemate
Who cares? Really..who cares?
Simple point...we can't change other people's perception, we only have the power to change our own perceptions. Instead what we can do is practice what we preach. Easy peasy.
You want to know what "they" think of what it means to be a Christan..blah blah...Show them what it means.

Your sis- Christa :)

jshelley78 said...

If I told my neighbor/coworker I voted Liberal in the last election, it would be fair to assume that my neighbor would have a number of instant assumptions about my political leanings. If I told them I was a Muslim, again, they would have a number of perceptions about my values, ethics, etc. "Christian" is no different. In the most human, direct, intimate relationship, it is still merely a label.

The point is not what my neighbor thinks about Liberalism, Islamic or Christian beliefs. The point is, do I love my neighbour? And is framing my love in the context of a label really a beneficial thing for anybody?

I think we're both saying the same thing. I'm just saying, what good does the label possibly do? so why keep it?

James Kingsley said...

i agree that we're both saying similar things...or at least that we've got the same attitude/end goal in mind: loving people.

the reason that i haven't specifically responded to calls (from you or others) about dropping or changing labels is that to do so would only keep the loop of introspection going round in circles. my hope is that the conversation from those of us figuring out how/what to identify ourselves would take a back seat and that our lives would lead others to add lables like loving, caring, kind, gentle etc.

Tangira said...

...And I would add the following Maxim, " what other people think of me is none of my business". What my wife and kids think of me, what my friends and faith community thinks of me is important to me. Other than that, I'm just trying to pursue Christ and I believe he thinks well of me.