Mark Kleiman: Concerning the Word “Christian”

Mark Kleiman says this about as clearly as it can be said. When I was growing up fundamentalist in the 1960s, though, this was already the attitude: Not just Catholics & Mormons were beyond the pale, but also what we then called "nominal Christians," or sometimes "church-going Christians," who, because they were not "born again" -- at least not in the right way -- were headed down the broad highway to hell just as surely as the others. It made for -- & continues to make for -- a cozy sense of safety in the face of complexities, particularly the challenging complexities of modern science.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

2 thoughts on “Mark Kleiman: Concerning the Word “Christian””

  1. My wife, who came over from London several years ago, never understood why the word “Christian” could, in some contexts, send a chill down my spine. She had grown up with the Church of England, whose theology is built more around keeping up appearances, being nice and making tea than notions of the saved and unsaved in a violent Manichean universe.

    But here, sadly, there is a sinister and judgmental side to symbols that in theory should be purely positive – symbols like the cross (on display everywhere today) and even the American flag. They have been tainted with fractious, judgmental bigotry so much that Jesus’ message of forgiveness or America’s notion of democratic freedom are hardly the first thing I see or think about when someone waves a flag or a cross in my face.

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