Well, here’s something the Lord has been convicting me of lately; the use of “most Christians” or “many Christians” when describing something I think is important when evaluating the Evangelical landscape. And I know I’m not alone. Since I’ve been more cognizant of it, I’ve noticed that others do it too – in conversations, on social media, in blog posts and even in books. It’s normally accompanied by a lament of something that is wrong that these “most” or “many” are guilty of.
I’m coming to the increasing realization that what is behind the “most” or “many” is an attitude of superiority. Because when the “most” or “many” is used it is to say what this common mass of Christians are behind the eight-ball in some way. They don’t get that they should be getting, aren’t doing what they should be doing or doing what they should not be doing…unlike me of course, or my kind (church, denomination, or otherwise doctrinally aligned) who obviously gets it, understands and is living. Yep, I or we get it but the most don’t. Otherwise, why even bother pointing these things out about this common mass who are the source of much trouble?
Needless to say, I’m learning that this attitude really does highlight some trouble:
1) It portrays the one making the proclamation of having exhaustive knowledge about what the entirety of Christian body knows, believes or is doing or not doing. How in the world could I possibly know this? I would have to be omniscient. I am not and neither are you. Now I realize that there are trends that arise with Evangelicalism and broadly through Christendom that can be observed. I don’t deny that there are some trends that are troubling. But the minute we say “most Christians” or “many Christians” we have basically swept a whole mass of people under the bus, who we don’t know and don’t know what they know.
2) It minimizes the good that can come out of a diverse body. For every problem that I might identify that I have now laid blame on this common mass, there are those within that common mass that can encourage or edify me in some way. Sure they may be valid concerns with problems identified. But that does not mean that those who exhibit those concerns have nothing to offer. I have been taken back so many times at the kindness, generosity or humility that has come out of someone I’ve identified as the “many”.
3) It promotes a divisive attitude within the body of Christ by pitting us against them. It creates a two-tiered type of Christianity – the haves (us) and the have-nots (them, the “most” and “many”). Implicit in that is a presumption that we (the haves) have it all figured out and that common mass does not have a clue. And if I’m throwing this common mass under the bus, it’s because I’ve identified myself as a have. If we are not careful, that can create hostility as well. People are never so clueless that condescending attitudes get missed.
4) It undermines our contributions to the body of Christ. The more time and energy spent in classifying this common mass of people as the problem, is the less time that we can contribute to the solution. Presuming of course, that there is a solution needed. Sometimes it might just be us elevating our knowledge over the less knowledgeable. If there is a real problem that is being observed why not instead focus that energy on encouragement, instruction, training or any other type of activity that might provide a cure?
Yes, there will be troubling trends and yes, we will no doubt encounter those who we think fit within that trend. I do get alarmed at what seems like blind popularity following, shallow Christian education, or the reliance on experiential factors especially when pitted against scripture. That IS troubling to me as well as other factors. But the solution is not to create this common mass that serves as the whipping boy for everything wrong.
Look, I write this as one who has been guilty. I’ve made these classifications. And I’m learning that there’s a stench of pride that comes with it. So what’s the solution? I don’t know. Humility for starters. Be mindful of it for one and remember your own fallibility. For whatever wrong is being assigned to that group, there might be something worse going on with us.
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