I Just Call Myself Denika

As you know, I’ve been writing my senior sem paper on the damages of conservative theology and the emergent response. (Side note: I’m 18 pages in, and not even close to done. This is going to be one mother of a paper). Throughout this time, I’ve been researching conservative, traditional Christian views of several issues in the Church, biblical studies, and the world today.

My whole premise was that our faith has been monopolized by a very vocal minority, and thus Christians everywhere have been associated with the U.S.’s Moral Majority/Religious Right, even though many of us fall in the liberal camp (myself included, quite obviously) and most of us (myself not included…yet) are not part of the U.S.

Therefore, to be “Christian” is not just to follow Christ, but is to also believe conservative theology X about issue Y. It is to align ourselves with Jerry Falwell, Mark Driscoll, and whoever else wants to make sweeping claims for all who follow Christ. It is to be anti-gay, pro-life, pro-capitalism, pro-Israel, anti-welfare, et cetera. And, for some people, these things are true.

The problem is, they’re not for me.

I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Calvinist. I’m not big on tradition for tradition’s sake.*

Truth be told, I’m not big on Christianity.

Because I follow Jesus and I believe the Bible and I want to spend my life doing good in the name of this God, but I don’t fit the mold of Western Christianity.

That being said…I don’t think I can call myself a Christian. Not because the word itself does not describe me (“Christian: a person who is a believer in Jesus Christ and [Jesus’] teachings.”), but because the things associated with Christianity do not describe me.

For quite some time now I’ve been referring to myself as a “Christ-follower,” because it describes me better. I follow Christ. I try (and fail miserably) to live like Jesus. It’s a much more accurate term.

I don’t want to divorce myself from Church history or from Christian community. But I am an outsider to Christianity, whether I call myself a Christian or not. My beliefs put me on the edge or, as is more often the case, well past the edge of what is considered acceptable Christian theology. If I am an outsider, I cannot call myself a Christian (not that I want to anyway).

My problem is that I don’t know how to do both. How do I engage Church history–my history–without being a Christian? How do I partake in Christian community without fitting its primary descriptor?

The truth is, I don’t really know.

I’m curious what you all (and by “you all,” I mean all 5 of my followers) think. Do you call yourself “Christian?” If yes, how do you reconcile that with your difference in belief (assuming you have some, because those who don’t probably don’t follow my blog) from the most vocal sect of Christianity? If no, how do you still manage to fit in?

In the meantime, I think I’ll just call myself “Denika.” It fits me best of all.


*I do, however, support traditions when they are constantly kept in check with a changing world. Also, this is more in terms of theology than practice–I love the traditional practices of some churches. It just bothers me when people believe something simply because that’s what their family/church/denomination has always believed.


4 thoughts on “I Just Call Myself Denika

  1. I’ve had this same struggle. Ultimately, I’ve chosen to keep the title “Christian” because it’s who I am and what I believe.

    The word has fallen, just like humanity. But God can redeem anything, even language. And I refuse to let douchers like Driscoll and Falwell dirty such a great word. So I proudly call myself Christian, but only after I’ve had a chance to earn some respect from the people I’m building a relationship with.

    If that person is not a Christian, they’re usually surprised, which leads to some wonderful conversation.

    If that person is a Christian, especially in the sense you used it above, they get really confused because I don’t match up with their categories. And that leads to wonderful conversation.

    Either way, I let my relational energies lead the way.

  2. I’m not saying I disagree with what you are saying, but I personally feel this is a road you have to be careful going down.

    You’re an outsider of the Christianity that you are currently around. Also, a good chunk of Christianity within America is pushing against the typical Western Christianity that you’re describing. Also there are millions of people around the world who embrace the name Christian while dramatically disagreeing with everything that is Western Christianity.

    I can’t even explain how much I understand a lot of what you are saying. I get it, I do. I’m happy that you make a point of saying that you don’t want to divorce yourself from Church history or community. If that would have been the case I would have been greatly disturbed by this post. As you know there is the good, the bad, and the ugly within church history. But yet to me (at times) that makes it all the more powerful. Don’t get me wrong it is sad and completely ridiculous some of the statements/views that are held (and the way they are acted upon) by many of the leaders of the Western Church. But if we look through the Early Church Fathers/Mothers, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and others I see a bunch of people that I hold dear to my heart, but yet there are aspects of their theology I completely disagree with.

    I guess I just see all of us who are in the area of Christianity as continuing on the journey that has been going on for thousands of years. Is is that idealistic, maybe? But at this current time I’ve not been able to find myself able to live with anything else. It is one of the reasons I have such a love for the old liturgy (and the new). There is a sense with me that we are not only saying it as a community but we are saying it along side those who said it so many years ago. We’re in this together (the good, the bad, and the ugly). So together we walk along one another as sisters and brothers in Christ. We have the fun conversations and the hard ones when we don’t think certain voices are being heard that should be. Even if this means seeming like you don’t belong for a time being. Therefore it’s a good thing that you don’t belong Bethel University, churches of the twin cities, churches in Minnesota, churches in the Midwest, churches in the United States, or even churches of the world. You belong as part of the Kingdom of God where there is more room at the table than any of these other places can provide.

    So if you want to call yourself a Christ follower, go for it. As you know, you will find just as many people you disagree with that carry that label as does Christianity. So in the end it’s good news that we’re all in this together (Every time I type that, I get High School Musical stuck in my head, ugh). Whatever you do, I’ll always be here to walk this journey with you, along with others. So take this for what it is, but these are just some initial thoughts I had when I first read this.

    I would encourage you that after your senior seminar time is over, that you step away from it for a bit and take a deep breathe. Although the amount of stuff you are surrounded by is more then this paper, but it is pretty easy to want to crack when you are only constantly surrounded by classmates of a specific view and research of a specific view.

    In the beautiful words of C.S. Lewis: “We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He has disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ’s death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself.”

    Anyways, love ya sis. Shalom

  3. I just finished reading Randy Alcorn’s book If God Is Good, and in it he said:

    “Any gospel that is more true in America than in China is not the true gospel.”

    I thought that was a very important insight and one we too easily overlook. Especially me. So that’s one of my focuses – see what is truly essential and what is a product of my culture more than my faith.

    I think that, whatever you call yourself, you are part of the Church. I honestly don’t know if using Christ-follower instead of Christian will make a difference in the way people view you when they hear that you believe in Jesus, but it’s possible that it will. I also think that, once you graduate from your Bible college, things may be easier for you – you may no longer be in a situation where you have to defend your beliefs all.the.time.

    In any case, don’t let those you disagree with chase you away from your faith. Just because they say you can’t have it doesn’t make them right. Perhaps one day we’ll all read that bit about “don’t judge someone else’s servant” (..in Romans, I believe) and stop telling others that their faith isn’t genuine when they disagree with us theologically. Until then..well..I don’t know.

    (And we disagree theologically..but I know your faith is genuine.)

  4. Pingback: Following My Feet: An Introduction. | Wandering the Desert

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