For some, "Christian" (adj.) no longer includes Lutherans

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Oct 14 16:17:24 UTC 2005

There are nuances conveyed by current uses of "Christian" that are difficult to characterize neatly.

The historical, textbook use of "Christian" is entirely descriptive, neutral, and, as I see it, nonproblematical.  A "Christian" is any follower of Christ in a broad sense, as distinguished from Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.  Anybody who's had high-school world civ should know that all Catholics and Protestants are "Christians" in this sense, and one may discover in higher education that the word also applied to groups such as Albigensians, Waldensians, and Arian Goths, even though they were regarded as heretical sects by the Catholic Church. "Christian heretic" is not quite an oxymoron.

When I was growing up (not long after they gaveled the conclusion of the Diet of Worms), it was customary for Roman Catholics to describe themselves simply as "Catholic," and for Protestants to name their denomination: Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Church of Christ, or whatever.

But nowadays when I hear people identify themselves as "Christians,"  they seem  to be distinguishing themselves from all other "Christians" no less than from from Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.  They describe themselves with the noun too, rather than the less aggressive-sounding adjective, which used to be usual. ("I'm Church of Christ" is not nearly as ambiguous or emphatic as "I'm a Christian" -- not that Church of Christ members are necessarily the source or the leading proponents of this, to me, more recent usage.) There seems to be a gratuitous assertion of real superiority to members of all other denominations and faiths.

The outspoken policy aims of some churches and pastors perhaps make this usage of "Christian" seem more interesting than it would be otherwise..


"Mullins, Bill" <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Mullins, Bill"
Subject: Re: For some, "Christian" (adj.) no longer includes Lutherans

> It wouldn't surprise me if some mainstream Christians avoided
> applying the word to themselves because of a popular
> identification of "Christian" with "fundamentalist Christian"
> and a certain pejoration of the word that comes with that, at
> least in the minds of
> some. But my guess is that the vast majority of mainstreamers
> do not feel any constraint in applying the term to themselves
> because it hasn't acquired a narrow, much less a negative,
> connotation for them, and they couldn't conceive of it as
> having one.

OTOH, part of identifying oneself as a Christian is recognizing and
stating that one is apart from the "world", thus embracing a "narrow"

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