A week ago I stood in the courtyard of Arizona State University's campus and listened as three self-proclaimed Born-Again Christians took turns screaming at the gathering crowd of college students while holding up a sign that read: “Sinners, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, and Masturbators beware, The Judgment Day is Coming!” As I approached the man wearing the “God is a capitalist” t-shirt, which consequently made me wonder is the economy in heaven was crashing as well, he stepped off his temporary pedestal to make room for a weather-beaten old woman who looked as if the fires of hell where burning within her eyes. This was actually quite an accurate description because she started off her dissertation by shouting at a student about 20 yards away that if he was going to interrupt, he “might as well go home and masturbate because he was going to hell anyway.” I then thought to myself, if by some miracle Jesus Christ was here to hear her speak those words, wouldn't she be embarrassed? She had already identified herself as a Christian, thus she was acting and saying these things all in His name. Unfortunately, I was unable to put forth my question as she was busy in a feud with a lesbian she had just told was disgusting, and unless she changed her ways was also going to hell. As I walked away to the crowd's developing chant of “F—k you” I thought to myself, “what a waste.” Here you have some of the most open, malleable minds in the state of Arizona and under the masquerade of God's will, you have just systematically ostracized and infuriated every single one. It bothered me to think that students would believe those idiots to be accurate representations of true Christians. America is a Christian nation, so it begged the question, "If that's not Christianity, then what is?” Better yet, what does it mean to be Christian in America?
It has been known far and wide for centuries that Christianity is easily among the most dominant and wide spread religions in the world. Beginning in the early decades of the Roman Empire, Christianity was deliberately separate from the patterns of Roman history. Yet it has since had a gradually wider impact on societies everywhere. By the 4th century A.D. 10% of the people in the Roman Empire were Christian, during the Middle Ages most of the remainder of Europe was Christianized, and as of the 21st century, Christianity represents about a quarter to a third of the world's population. This percentage is growing almost as fast as the growth rate of the world's population and has remained steady for years. America alone is a nation in which somewhere around 85% of its citizens identify themselves as Christians (McKibben). To many of these people, being Christian simply means professing a belief in God and Jesus Christ. And considering “only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments” and “twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah's wife” (McKibben), many people do indeed fall short of the Biblical definition of what it means to be a Christian. The word “Christian” was first used in the Book of Acts to describe the people's Christ-like behaviors, actions, and speech. Unfortunately, over the years the word has slowly lost its meaning. It no longer is an indication of a person's nature or conduct, as it should be. Basing my conclusion on the most rudimentary beliefs of Christianity, there are really only three main components of being a Christian; one's lifestyle, display of works, and intentions.
It seems as if Christianity is in desperate need of being redefined, so again we rephrase the question; what should it mean to be Christian in America? To define what it is to be a true Christian, one must first have a basic understanding of Christianity. Christians believe in one God (Major). They believe this God is completely spiritual and, as being such, created the heavens and the earth, and created man in his own image (Major). This means that he created man as a rational being, capable of making decisions and capable of forming relationships with each other and with him (Major). Christians also believe in Jesus of Nazareth, or “Jesus Christ, His only son” also being in God's own image (Major). Christians believe that Jesus was put on this Earth to die for all mankind's sins and that the only way to salvation is through Him (Major). It is through the life and teachings of Jesus Christ that a Christian can be defined, and the historic accounts of his life and teachings can be found in the Bible.
The phrase Christian literally means “follower of Christ” or “belonging to the party of Christ” (Christian). The word first appears in the Bible in Acts 11:26. Early Christians were given this name because “their behavior, activity, and speech were like Christ” (Christian). Essentially, they lived Christian lifestyles. The same should ring true today. Christians should strive to be as Christ-like as they can, to the point where every action and every thought is guided by ones Christian beliefs. The most inspiring Christians are the ones with a mantra of “What would Jesus do?” running through their minds instead of stuck to the bumper of their cars. The bible portrayed Jesus as completely selfless individual; “for even the Son of Man did not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He was honest, kind hearted, and compassionate; “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). He was also forgiving, even in his last moments as he was being brutally put to death "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). Finally, Jesus Christ gave his followers two main principles with which to live their lives by; first, love God, with all your heart, soul, and mind, and second, love your neighbor as yourself. A definitive Christian would manifest these traits within their own hearts and allow them to guide their day to day lives. The problem is that that simply does not happen. We live in a nation that has undergone some kind of Christian revolution. People have begun to focus on adapting Christianity to fit their lifestyles instead of adapting their lifestyles to fit Christianity.
So in the richest Christian nation in the world, where exactly do we fall in the "be like Jesus contest?" “In 2004 as a share of our economy, we ranked second to last, after Italy, among developed countries in government foreign aid. Per Capita, we each provide fifteen cents a day in official development assistance to poor countries” (McKibben). As a nation that models itself after a man who was completely selfless and earnestly advocated helping those in need, this is pretty embarrassing. We even fall short when it comes to looking after our own as “18 percent of American children live in poverty” (McKibben). Among the wealthier nations, we also rank very close to last when it comes to infant mortality, access to preschool, and childhood nutrition (McKibben). It is also worth noting that we are “the most violent rich nation on earth” (McKibben). In contrast, our murder rate is four to five times greater than that of countries in Europe, and when it comes to our prison populations the figures rise between six and seven (McKibben).
Even when it comes to the quieter more mundane aspects of life we still fall short. Our ability to make a marriage work seems to be rather pathetic as according to divorcerate.org: “50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.” This is even more proof that Christians today aren't leading truly Christian lives, as it really shouldn't be that hard to get along with someone who is constantly striving to be kind, selfless, and forgiving. What it comes down to is that in a world that's falling apart, true Christians should find it quite easy to stand out, as it easy to see that the majority of people are more interested in making Christianity about themselves than they are living a lifestyle that is worthy of attributing Jesus name to it.
But is living the lifestyle enough? No, not really. Part of being Christian is a display of works that allows one to develop a relationship with God. Most Christians would agree that to be qualified as Christian, one must read the bible, pray, and attend church. Essentially true Christians should take part in activity that allows them to strengthen their relationship with God and with other fellow Christians. What we see today is people becoming more and more complacent in their Christianity. This is a popular trend among teenagers and young adults who were raised Christian and identify themselves as such mainly because their parents guilted them into going to church when they were younger. Of the 85% of Americans that identify themselves as Christian, 75% pray on a daily basis and only 33% attend church once a week (McKibben). That being said, one also has to be mindful of the other extreme. Going to Church on a regular basis doesn't make you any more Christian than the individual that goes once a year if it is not done with the right intentions. Christians don't go to Church to glorify themselves, they go to glorify God. To put it in the crudest terms, being Christian means having the knowledge that it is not quantity but rather quality. “Not everyone saying to me ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord' did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?' and yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, your workers of lawlessness.” (Mathew 7: 21-23) Christ taught that God is a reader of hearts and is not one to be mocked, so it could be argued that the most definitive part of being Christian is the intentions of one's heart.
It is so easy to declare oneself Christian without any thought, the problem is it has been done so many times, by so many Non-Christians, that the term Christian has lost its significance. People have taken to going through the motions of Christianity. It became part of America's routine. People have developed the mindset that Christianity is something you can turn on and off. That you can live your life if a way that's most pleasurable to you, because come Sunday, you will repent of your sins and start all over. But again, God is not one to be mocked or easily deceived; “mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for God, he sees what the heart is.” (1 Samuel 16:7) To be Christian you have to have an honest love for God and an earnest desire to serve him. Being Christian means you're doing all that you can to please God, and to live a life that portrays your belief in him.
What it comes down to is that Christianity has become largely commonplace in this country. Proclaiming yourself Christian has no weight anymore. The majority of the nation has grown so complacent in their own Christianity, that to be Christian in America means only that, when the subject is brought up, you don't mind mentioning that you believe in Jesus, even though you don't live the lifestyle, practice your beliefs, or have the heart condition. As a result, Christianity as a whole has been tainted. There is no difference between the honest, God fearing man, and the crazy people that stand on college campuses screaming at those meandering by about the fury of god's wrath. Christianity needs to be redefined in America to the point where proclaiming yourself Christian is quite so embarrassing.