Fozzie takes the position that he is able to self identify as a bear. Kermit plainly points out that in fact Fozzie is not a bear. He is made of foam rubber and fake fur. He does not hibernate. He is not a real life bear. Now you and I know this, but this comes as a huge shock to Fozzie who then, in a turn of tit-for-tat, informs Kermit that he has a wire attached to his arm.
As silly as this conversation is, it is an example of how Christians think of ourselves.
Christians in America tend to think of Christianity as an identity that we can claim all on our own. We are like Fozzie who thinks he is a bear because he says he is a bear. I am a Christian because I say that I am Christian. We live in a place where self-identification as Christian goes unchallenged. There are few Kermit-type people saying, "You cannot say you are a Christian and condemn people like you do." Or "You cannot say you are Christian and do not practice the spiritual disciplines that Jesus taught."
Christianity is a religion that is practiced by the individual but confirmed by a community. It is like saying you can study medicine all you want but unless people agree to be treated by you, you are not a doctor. We are not Christians unless the community (and as a Methodist I affirm the community to be Bible, tradition, reason and collective experience ) confirms that your actions reflect what the community understands a Christian to be.
We all know this in the extreme. When someone says they are Christian then murders and steals and lies and cheats, the community agrees that the person in question is not Christian - no matter how they self identify. It is the actions of the person that defines who they are, not their words.
This idea requires more space and time to unpack everything, but this is not a thesis paper. This is a blog post designed to kickstart a conversation.
So let the conversation begin!