This brief article is essentially a footnote to discussions of religion on this site.
My suggestion here is that the term “Christian” and the noun “Christianity” encompass such a broad spectrum of belief systems that they are ineffectual as descriptors of any particular one of them.
This is not a revolutionary idea. Efforts to assemble a set of core beliefs – a definition of what constitutes a ‘Christian’ – are generally unfruitful. Each group defines its own set of definitions with varying degrees of commonality.
In spite of all this, within much public discussion terms like ‘Christian’, ‘Religious’ and ‘Fundamentalist’ are common. These convenient terms often used even where there is limited consensus as to their actual meaning. They can reflect a stereotypical perception of a reality that requires some effort to grasp on a meaningful level.
Rather like the title of this post, general statements about “Christianity” are in fact virtually meaningless. To whom do they refer?
Secondly, is it simply a matter of defining a creed or do moral and ethical considerations come into play? To put it another way, should George Bush and Mother Teresa be assembled in the same religious category?
Needless to say, the term will continue to be used in public discussion and debate – and here on this site. It is virtually unavoidable. But where there is actual dialogue about specifics taking place, more accurate descriptors are required.
- see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian#Modern_usage [↩]