Orange Is The New Black is one of the hottest things on TV right now. If you have a Netflix subscription, chances are you’ve checked out the show or at least added it to your queue. If you make it past the opening lesbian shower scene you’ll be treated to a show that is in many ways usual, in other ways unusual. But it is definitely handy for this discussion in that it pictures (to a degree) the two paths I’m talking about.
I’m waiting for the inevitable blog post about how the villain in the show is a Christian, how her Christianity is portrayed as a whackadoo power play and how the enlightened main character counters her by saying “I believe in science.” (I, too, believe in science. Much the same way I believe in economics and other mental disciplines.) That inevitable blog post may or may not mention how there is another character on the show who is devout and yet not crazy, who uses her faith as a way to help her help others.
There are two main branches of this faith of mine, and at times I feel like they are diverging farther and farther apart. I used to not mind telling people I am a Christian, because that used to mean that I believe in the Grace of God providing a redemption from my old nature and showing me a new path.
Christ-following is the basic heart of Christianity. While “Christian” has become a cultural term loaded with additional cultural co-identifiers, Christ-following is the philosophical and aesthetic heart of the matter. Christ-following is drilling down the teachings of Jesus and using the guidance of the Holy Spirit to follow those teachings.
Christ-followers are often part of the cultural Christianity in one way or another. Our call to fellowship with other believers leads us into that camp. The Christian culture itself isn’t entirely bad–no cultural expression is entirely bad. I’m quite fond of casseroles and old hymns. I’m less fond of militant purchases of chicken sandwiches and blog posts denouncing television shows. “Christian” increasingly means that I identify with a certain set of political beliefs, that I actively dislike specific outgroups of people and that I cling to the idea of Christianity as a cultural safe-zone, seeking out others who use the teachings of Jesus Christ to build a fortress of sameness and exclusion.
The irony is that what is culturally Christian is often NOT Christ-following. I suppose what I call myself shouldn’t matter. What other people call me shouldn’t matter. But in the end I want to answer before Him that I followed him into all the valleys of shadow and didn’t use His name as a hiding place.