In the cover story for the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons explains why he doesn’t call himself a Christian:
“I don’t really like that word,” he tells senior writer Brian Hiatt… “It comes with so much baggage. So, no, I wouldn’t call myself a Christian. I think the word just conjures up all these religious images that I don’t really like. I have my personal views about the person of Jesus and who he was. Like, you ask a Muslim and they’ll say, ‘Jesus was awesome’ — they’re not Christians, but they still love Jesus. I’ve kind of separated myself from the culture of Christianity.” Mumford emphasizes that while his spiritual journey is a “work in progress,” he’s never doubted the existence of God.
This is nothing new, of course. Saying you’re not Christian, but more of a “follower of Jesus,” has become increasingly popular. Jefferson Bethke‘s YouTube video about that very sentiment went viral last year, racking up over 24,000,000 views.
I know what it feels like to want to distance myself from hateful statements made in the name of my faith. If this is all that Christianity is, I don’t want to be associated with it either. But of course, that is not all that Christianity is. And unless some sane people claim the label, the extremist fringes will have the last word.
A few years ago, I grew tired of people claiming to be “spiritual—but not religious,” because I do not believe this is enough. In a culture of narcissism, religious community matters. In our “have it your way” spiritual marketplace, religious community that is rigorous, reasonable and real is still the most nutritious item on the menu.
When people tell me they can’t stand Christianity, they are usually describing a Church that bears very little resemblance to the open-minded church I serve. They describe judgmental hypocrites who hate people of other faiths and are only after your money. They attribute all the world’s problems to the Church, from sexism to sexual abuse to warfare.
The problem isn’t that we look at Westboro Baptist Church, or conniving televangelists, or Ted Haggard and assume all Christians are just like them.
The problem is that we’ve seen the best of what Christianity has to offer and we still want nothing to do with it.
Too many “good” Christians still believe homosexuality is a sin.
Too many “good” Christians still believe women aren’t wise enough to make decisions about their own body.
Too many “good” Christians still believe in Satan, hell, heaven, miracles, prayer, and zombies.
Too many “good” Christians still believe Jesus is coming back in their lifetime.
Too many “good” Christians still believe the Bible reveals more truth than science and they want to rewrite school curriculums to say so. (Hell, nearly 80% of Americans believe in either Creationism or God-guided evolution.)
All that, and I haven’t even mentioned Mark Driscoll yet.
So I get why Marcus Mumford doesn’t want to call himself a Christian. He may be religious, he may even accept Jesus’ divinity, but he sure as hell doesn’t want to be lumped in with those Christians who think other Christians are to blame for ruining their brand.
People like Lillian Daniel would be better served looking at a mirror to understand how the rest of us view Christianity instead of casting the blame on only the fringe elements of her faith.
Until the “good” Christians start acting like the decent people they always seem to think they are, even the followers of Jesus won’t want to be associated with them.