Six months ago, in the middle of a conversation at work, a coworker pulled the “let’s ask Mikey” Christian card. Not familiar with that? Well in the 80s there was a commercial for Life cereal. The older brothers were worried about trying Life so they just kept giving it to Mikey to see if he ate it. When he did, they shouted, “Mikey likes it!”
Sometimes, at work you’ll become the token Christian and be called upon whenever there are any questions or issues involving God. In this particular case at my last job, my coworker said, “Well, let’s ask Jon, he’s into religion.”
Like any good Christian, I immediately said what we’re supposed to:
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m not into religion, I’m into Jesus. I’m a Christian.”
If you’ve been a Christian for longer than 5 minutes, you know that’s what you’re supposed to do. The word “religion” is our kryptonite, able to crush even the best conversations at a single appearance. But there are five important things you need to consider as you wrestle with the word “Religion.”
1. No one falls for it.
There’s not a person on the planet who is antagonistic to religion who will have all their worries instantly removed by you clarifying the “Christianity” vs. “Religion” point. Nobody says, “Oh wait, you’re a Christian, not into religion? Phew, in that case, please proceed to witness to me about your beliefs.”
2. Get ready for Facebook.
The “Religious Views:” field of Facebook is like a landmine. How do you answer? Do you go funny? Do you say “Christian?” or something more elaborate like, “Born again Christian?” I once said, “Yes, please,” but what does that really do? If you’re going to fight the good fight against religion, you better get ready for Facebook.
3. “Christian” is becoming the new “Religion.”
I wrote about this in the Stuff Christians Like book. We’re getting weirder and weirder these days with doing everything we can to say, “We’re not a Christian band, we’re a band of Christians” or “We’re not a Christian business, we’re a business that is founded on the gospel.” I completely understand the fear, that you’ll be associated with all the worst parts of Christianity and be forever closed out of secular circles you really want to speak into. But we are getting crazy with the labels. I fear that soon, we will try to Teflon ourselves from all sorts of different words which is not a horrible thing but can be a great time waster and distraction. Which brings us to point 4.
4. People react to actions more than words.
Unless you’re talking about the difference between the words “love” and “hate,” a shift in vernacular alone rarely changes someone’s life. Words can be incredibly important, but don’t lose focus on your actions while you worry about the specifics of the labels people give you.
5. You can’t say “Spiritual” instead.
You might be thinking, “I’ll avoid this whole silly situation by just using the word ‘spiritual.’” You’d be wrong my friend. At this point, the word “spiritual,” can mean yoga, candles or the reason you’re quitting your job as an accountant and opening a llama ranch in Northern California.
I don’t really have a solution for this issue, if it even is an issue. But I promise you my coworker didn’t feel like I had clarified things helpfully when I corrected him about the difference between “religion” and “Christianity.” He felt like a loser and that’s not an awesome way to start a conversation about faith.
Be honest, have you ever told someone you’re not into “religion?”