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Empty Statements of Faith

February 23, 2012

So, there’s this thing that goes around Facebook every now and then:

I am out to prove that 80% of my friends will repost, I hope I am right! Let’s lift up His name and make a statement! Sadly 97% of Facebook Users will not repost this… when Jesus died on the cross he was thinking of you. If you are one of the few 3%, repost this message. Praise God He died for me and you!! Phil. 4:13 [1]

What I find really interesting about this is not just what it says, but what it implies, and what it conveniently ignores.  Namely that if you don’t repost it, then you must not be willing to “make a statement.”  What that statement might be isn’t quite clear.  That the poster is Christian?  Alrightly.  That the poster is somehow a better Christian than everyone who didn’t post?  Or maybe, that they aren’t afraid to declare themselves to be Christian?  That they somehow need the strength of their savior to get up the courage to say “I’m Christian, damnit, and you can’t do anything about it!”

This may come as a shock to some people [2], but 78% of Americans identify as some form of Christian [3].  Chances are good that unless you are a member of a social group that is openly accepting of non-Christian faiths (or non-faiths, as the case may be), your personal circle of friends is more than 80% Christian.  The cashier who didn’t wish you Merry Christmas?  The one who wished you Happy Holidays instead?  Very likely also Christian.  Even the ones who did wish you Merry Christmas aren’t guaranteed to be Christian.  Many people of other beliefs say it because it’s a social norm, much like saying “bless you” when someone sneezes.  It’s simply easier than dealing with what might happen if they didn’t.

There seems to be a growing belief among Christians that they are somehow becoming an oppressed minority.  Not all Christians believe this, I know.  In fact, those who hold this belief are a very small minority amongst that majority faith.  But they are a very vocal and very insistent group who honestly and deeply hold this belief.  They don’t look at the statistics that 78% of Americans are Christian and think “Hey, I’m in the majority!”  They instead look at the 22% who aren’t Christian and think “We’re losing ground!”  I’m not saying that the people who repost things like the example above are in this group.  They are, however, displaying one of their typical behaviors.  That of declaring their faith loudly, as though it is somehow daring, reckless, and possibly dangerous.  And by extension, that those who do not join in on their declarations are somehow less for not doing so, regardless of why.

The difference between this minority and the actual religious minorities in this country is that we are reminded every day that we are truly a minority.  If you sit next to a random stranger on the bus, chances are good that they are the same faith as you.  If we do, chances are good that the random stranger will not only be of a different faith, but will also try to convince us to convert to their faith.  If you choose to keep your faith personal and not discuss it at work, changes are good that if it slips out, no one will think it’s that big of a deal.  If we choose to keep our faith personal, chances are good that if it slips out, people will think it is weird and wonder why we were so secretive about it.  We may even be fired, though of course no one will come out and *say* that it’s because of our faith.  If you don’t wear any specific signal of your faith, people will assume you are Christian and they will be right.  If we wear a specific signal of our faith, people may use it as a starting point to start a conversation about why we should embrace Christ as our Lord and Savior.  Worse, they may harass, threaten, or otherwise attempt to intimidate us.  We may even be subject to violence, depending on what we wear, where we wear it, and the political or social influences of the time.

I am not out to prove anything, but I am here to make a statement.  That 97% of social network users won’t repost this sort of thing because they don’t repost memes, because they don’t care, or simply because they don’t see it.  That this sort of copycat religiosity does nothing to prove the strength of your faith. That your faith should be deep, personal, and more than just a flag to wave on a social networking site. The only thing that can be proven by these empty statements of faith is that you know how to use copy and paste.

If you want to prove to people that you have courage and strength in your faith, you have to do more than just make it a meme. You have to actually get out there and demonstrate the tenants of that faith, like charity towards those who have less than you and good will towards your fellow human beings, regardless of whether or not they are the same faith as you.  And if you honestly want to know how much strength it takes to proclaim your faith, try declaring yourself as something other than Christian sometime.

——

[1] Philippians 4:13 – I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
[2] Probably not my regular readers, but you never know where these sorts of things wind up.
[3] Christianity Remains Dominant Religion in the United States

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 23, 2012 9:42 am

    Amen! 😉

    I refer to those posts as spiritual blackmail.

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