A while back I joined the millions of people migrating over to Facebook, the social networking site. It was fairly simple to set up and have enjoyed networking with friends from around the world. However, when I got to filling out the profile section I was stumped by the last question: Religious Views.
None of the normal choices seemed to fit: Christian, Baptist, Conservative Christian, Evangelical...
Christian? I certainly consider myself to be a Christian. The problem with the term is that here in Latin America EVERYONE is a Christian. So "Christian" is not a very descriptive term. Ask anyone on the street if they are a Christian and they will most likely respond affirmatively.
Baptist? Yes, I consider myself to be a Baptist. However, in our context here Baptists are confused with Mormons. Since the Mormons are so much better known than the tiny Baptist population, when you tell someone you are a "Baptist" they assume you mean "Mormon". I don't know how many times I have told someone I was Baptist and they comment back, "oh, the guys who go around in pairs knocking on doors..."
Conservative Christian? Again, I do consider myself conservative in theology and being a conservative Christian applies to who I am. The problem comes that "conservative" is confused with the evangelical political right: the fundamental, right-wing brand of Christianity espoused by many of the better known TV evangelists. There is too much in fundamentalist Christianity that I do not identify with. The term simply comes with too much baggage that is detrimental to my sharing the Gospel with not-yet-believers.
Evangelical? That leaves "evangelical". Of all the terms this is the one that most conservative, Baptists and Christians in general identify with in our Latin American context. In a Roman Catholic country like the one we live in, there are two camps: Catholic and Evangelical. If you are a Catholic you do not identify yourself as being Evangelical. For ten years I was on staff at Iglesia Cristiana Evangélica Bautista Israel (covers all the bases!)
The only problem is that "evangelical" has become an umbrella term that includes EVERYONE else who is not a Roman Catholic. Jehovah Witnesses are now referring to themselves as "evangelical." The extreme left-field Pentecostals with all the extra-biblical things they add to the Gospel are also evangélicos. Since there are a lot more of the Pentecostal evangelicals around than the conservative Baptist types, not-yet-believers assume evangélicos are all the extreme Pentecostal kind of people. That has become a barrier for many to not want to become one of those kinds of people. So to say I am "evangelical" lumps me into a group of people that has also grown too broad for me to be able to identify with.
So what's left? What best describes my "religious views"?
Follower of Christ. I ended up inventing my own category to reflect what most closely resembles my personal views of my faith in Christ. I am a follower of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I follow Him. His teachings are the guiding force in my life. I seek to make others followers of Christ. I am not out to convert people to being anything other than a faithful follower and disciple of Jesus Christ.
So, what are you? How do you describe or define your faith?