Why I don't call myself "Christian"
Updated: May 16, 2021
Not long ago Charisma Magazine posted a blog I wrote on the history of the first congregation in Jerusalem. Someone wrote in the comments:
They were Christians. (see Acts 11:26, 26:28-29 & 1 Peter 4:16-17)
It didn’t fit the context of the article, as it was merely a blog about history, but it was clear from further communication that he took issue with the fact that I don’t call myself a Christian—which again, had nothing to do with the blog. Nevertheless, let’s address it. His point was that the first believers called themselves Christians, so we should too.
If this is indeed true, that the preferred moniker of those who believed in the Jewish Messiah was Christian, then why do I shun it?
The Goal: Effective Communication
The word Christian today does not mean what it meant then. As a communicator, my goal is for my hearers/readers to understand me. When I say to a fellow Jewish person “I am a Christian,” they are not hearing: I am a believer in Yeshua, the prophesied Jewish Messiah. Instead they hear: I have converted from Judaism to a foreign religion—I am no longer a Jew. And this is not true.
For 2,000 years supposed Christians have been telling Jews:
Convert or leave our country (Inquisitions).
You cannot be Jewish and believe in Jesus (throughout history).
You killed the Christ so we will kill you (Nazis, Crusaders).
Amazingly, while not being a Christian, Hitler loved to quote Martin Luther. He was fond of saying that he was God’s servant only finishing the job that the Church had started (of killing Jews). Most of the German soldiers and many Nazis considered themselves Christians. Everyone I grew up with in Richmond, Virginia who was not Jewish, called himself or herself a Christian—no matter how unchristian they were. At best it meant non-Jews, at worst, anti-Semite.
Some of the most anti-Jewish political parties in Europe use the word Christian in their title. It is sad and dishonest, but true. The blatantly anti-Semitic Jobbik party in Hungary describes itself as “conservative and radically patriotic Christian.” In the nineteenth century there was the Christian Socialist Workers Party that blamed the Jews for Germany’s woes.
The word Christian has lost its meaning.
I am Gay!
Imagine if I announced to my congregation (although they are Hebrew-speakers, but just play along) that I am gay! It would send shockwaves throughout the body of believers in Israel. My wife would be devastated. Emails would be sent, “Can you believe it?! Ron Cantor is gay!” I would be disinvited from all future speaking events.
But after week or two, maybe as my elders are removing me from my position as congregational leader, I clarify, “I don’t understand? Why all this controversy just because I announced I am gay—it is true. I am a genuinely happy person.”
You see the word gay does not mean what it used to mean. Therefore in order not to devastate my wife or lose my job, I would not use that word to describe that I am happy for the simple reason that people would misunderstand me. For the same reason I do not call myself a Christian.
No New Religion
You see, New Covenant faith is Biblical Judaism, not a new religion. Yeshua did not come from a void, but was sent as part of a well thought out plan of salvation, and God used Israel/Judaism to bring it about. Yeshua said, “Salvation” is for the whole world, but “is from the Jews” (Jn. 4:22). The Jewish prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures prophesied about him. Plato and Socrates were silent. This was a Jewish movement, not a Roman/Greek one. In fact, the first disciples were so completely and utterly convinced of this, that they did not even preach the Gospel to Gentiles for nearly 10 years! During this time, they never called themselves "Christians"—at least, not in Greek.
Hebraic Roots of the Word
In truth the word Christian is an exclusively Jewish word that has been highjacked. For reasons already stated, it isn’t today. Let’s dissect. Many of our Biblical English words we use today come from Hebrew, but they take a tour through Greece on the way, and we lose their Jewishness in the process. For example: