Friday, July 20, 2012

Self-refer as: "Follower of Jesus"

Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio
I once referred to myself as an "evangelical." No longer. The term has no clear meaning in the world I live in. It has no cash value. It's not needed to engage in the redemptive activity of Jesus.

When asked, I call myself a "follower of Jesus" or "Jesus-follower." I also self-describe with the term "theist." And, on occasion and depending on the context, I gladly use "Pentecostal." [I never, ever, imagined I would so self-describe!] All require explanation, but in the act of explaining there is a lot of "purchase" for me. Such purchase is not there, for me, with the term "evangelical." I am involved in no discussions about the history of meaning of this term. (I still use, occasionally, "Christian." But in my world context this term is so misunderstood and has such negative and false connotations that much clarification is required. For me, "Christian" is adequately subsumed under "Jesus-follower.")

Like a great ship that crossed the ocean and carried me to land, the term "evangelical" brought me, years ago, to a place where a new language is spoken. I will forever be grateful for this journey. This ship did a good job defining me. But no longer. I don't find the term important, except as, historically, an interpretive fiction.

I look around at my circle of Jesus-friends and there's not an evangelical among them. The term doesn't come into play. It's not longer part of our Wittgensteinian language-game. But "Jesus" is, and so is "God." With words like these I can engage culture. I recommend using these words to self-refer: "I am a follower of Jesus."