I hope it goes without saying that identifying myself as a Christian is an integral part of who I am. I believe what the Bible says about Jesus, about how he died and rose again, about how he was both God and man, about how his death rescued me from the bondage of being enslaved to my sin, and about how he will one day return and call his children home.
That doesn’t mean I have any idea what most of that looks like (especially that last part), but they don’t call it “faith” for nothing.
I’ve grown up identifying myself as a Christian, and in my lifetime I’ve heard (and had) a lot of assumptions about what it means to be a Christian. Some assumptions about Christianity are basically harmless, but some aren’t, and I want to cover what some of those dangerous assumptions are and hopefully give you a better idea of the wide range of what it means to be a Christian – as well as what it doesn’t mean. One thing I want you to takeaway from all this is the idea that Christians are like everyone else. It’s a theme I think you’ll notice in all of the points listed below.
So, without further adieu, here are 10 myths about Christianity.
1. Christians are Republicans
I’m starting you off with a big one, I know, and I’m pretty sure 90% of any extended family members of mine who are reading this are gasping in shock (which is part of the point). I don’t like talking politics online; mostly because I’m not super into politics and I don’t want to claim knowledge that I don’t have. But in order to give myself a little credibility on this point I feel like I should tell you that I am politically moderate. I identify with some Republican ideals and some Democratic ideals, although I won’t get into which ones. As you can imagine, this last election was a major struggle for me, but that’s not the point here.
Being Republican is not equal to being Christian and vise versa. I know several hard-core Democrats who are incredibly strong Christians, and just like Republican Christians, they base their political beliefs on biblical principals. I think the reason this myth persists is because there are a couple of very popular political platforms ever-present in the media that Democrats uphold that go against scripture. However, political parties are not religiously affiliated, no matter which politicians claim they are. That’s part of the separation of church and state. There are also Republican platforms that go against scripture.
The truth is that we all find ways to justify our beliefs – political and otherwise. Sometimes those justifications are valid. Sometimes they aren’t. No politician is perfect, just like no human person is perfect.
Not all Christians are Republican, and that’s OK.
2. Christians have set themselves above non-Christians
I will admit that some Christians – just like any other people – believe they are better than the rest of the world. That trait is not limited only to Christians and it never will be. There will always be people in the world who believe they are inherently better than others, and sometimes even the best of us can fall into the delusion that there is something special about us that makes us a step above the rest.
The truth of Christianity is exactly the opposite of this. Christ teaches us to be humble. Just look at this passage from Luke (it’s also covered in Matthew) where Jesus is speaking to a small crowd.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor…For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:8 & 11
This advice from Jesus is both spiritual and practical. One one hand, Jesus is telling those listening that they should not think so highly of themselves. He points out that there might be another guest at the feast who is held in higher esteem than you, and if you take the most honored place, you may be asked to move, which would be humiliating. However, if you take the lowest place and the host invites you to move to a higher place, then you will be exalted among the guests. The practical advice in this is that it’s always better to be lifted up because you aren’t putting yourself on a pedestal than to be dragged down off a self-imposed pedestal that you don’t deserve. It’s also spiritual advice, because Jesus did not exalt himself. He socialized with the outskirts of society – those who no one else would be seen with. He was continuously humble and kind to all those around him because he had a serving and gracious heart. The spiritual advice here lets us know that our heart is what matters, and a haughty heart leads to a nasty downfall every time.
So, while some Christians may act like they are all that and a bag of chips, that isn’t biblical and they are actually called to act always in humility. We all make mistakes and we are all capable of thinking too highly of ourselves. Give Christians as a whole the benefit of the doubt. Just because some of the more vocal ones are all high and mighty doesn’t mean that all of us are – or even that they’re supposed to be.
3. Christians are obsessed with going to church
If you aren’t a Christian and you have Christian friends, they’ve probably invited you to come to church with them at some point. I hope you don’t hold it against them. They care about you and they just want to share their faith with you. Of course I don’t advocate shoving your faith down someone’s throat, but you have to be understanding when someone is passionate about something.
Church is a good thing. Christians thrive on the support and community that the church provides. But some Christians have had bad experiences in church and they are wary of those walls and the people inside. Having a church family is important to a Christian, but some struggle with finding and fitting into one.
I hardly ever sleep in. It’s a luxury I can’t afford. So, it would be nice to sleep in every Sunday. It takes discipline to get up and get myself to church. I don’t always succeed. I always feel fulfilled and refreshed after a church service, but as much as I wish I would I’m not going to win any “perfect attendance” awards.
A lot of Christians love church. I’ve always felt at home in a sanctuary, singing worship songs, shaking hands with strangers around me, and praying – but I’ve grown up with it and become accustomed to it. Not every Christian feels comfortable in church. It’s a flaw in our church system that many church-members I know are trying to remedy.
We aren’t part of a weird religious cult. We just enjoy the community that church provides. Everyone likes to surround themselves with like-minded people. That’s what church is for Christians.
4. Christians only believe what they believe because they are uneducated
This is one of the myths about Christianity that annoys me the most. I have a college degree. Most pastors I know have doctoral degrees. Christians are like everyone else. We have varying backgrounds, lifestyles, education levels, and cover all socioeconomic levels and ethnicities.
C.S. Lewis was one of the most famous Christians of recent history. He was a novelist and a poet who held positions at Oxford, Magdalen College, and Cambridge. He was a friend and contemporary of J.R.R Tolkien. He was raised in a religious family but declared himself an atheist at age 15. Yet as much as he tried to use logic and reason to disprove the existence of God, he couldn’t, and he eventually converted to Christianity. He even wrote a book that logically defends Christianity and argues that it makes the most sense. (If you haven’t read Mere Christianity you should). No one could call him uneducated.
C.S. Lewis is only one popular example. For every “uneducated” Christian that you introduced me to, I could introduce you to another Christian with a college degree or higher.
Believing what the Bible says requires faith, not ignorance. They are not the same thing and I would argue the ignorance lies in the belief that they are.
5. Christianity is boring and Christians live repressed lives
This popular myth about Christians makes me laugh. There is nothing boring about the Bible. If you think it’s boring, then you haven’t read it – and I mean really read it. It is full of so much truth, nuance, inspiration, and action that you’d be hard-pressed to find a story that’s more interesting. And the idea that Christians never do anything fun and are constantly preventing themselves from enjoying life is even more laughable.
Anything that Christians restrict themselves from is only to keep themselves safe. Just like everyone else, Christians practice moderation (or they try to). Too much of anything is a bad thing. Too much alcohol leads to poor behavior and a hangover at best and injury or death at worst. A loose sex life leads to emotional damage at best and STD’s at worst. Some Christians are more strict on themselves than others, but that doesn’t make them boring either.
When you make this assumption you are effectively doing what Christians always get a bad reputation for – judging someone else’s lifestyle. Christians are just like everyone else, and like everyone else they find ways to live their lives that make sense to them. There are just as many boring non-Christians as there are boring Christians. Being Christian isn’t what makes a person boring. Being boring is what makes a person boring.
6. Christians never slip up or make a mistake
This is a frustrating myth because it takes for granted the fact that Christians are human and imperfect. So many people in the world seem to be waiting for Christians to mess up so they can hold that mistake over their heads as proof that Christianity is a farce.
That’s crazy. Are you perfect? Have you never made a mistake? Of course you have, and if you say you haven’t you’re either lying or incredibly unintelligent. I could give you a list of all the things I’ve done wrong in my life but it would take you way too long to read it. I screw up literally every single day.
Christians mess up. Everyone messes up. Grace and forgiveness are an integral part of being Christian and being human. The minute we forget that is the minute we turn against each other. Don’t expect Christians to be perfect. That’s just setting them up to fail.
7. Christians can’t drink
I know people don’t think this is true necessarily, but a lot of non-Christians do have a tendency to make a big deal out of it when a professed Christian has a drink. Jesus’ first miracle was turning water to wine. Alcohol is not sinful in and of itself. Alcohol, like most things, only becomes an issue when you can’t control your intake. Contrary to popular belief, there is no rule against alcohol in the bible.
Some Christians choose to abstain from alcohol because they are in positions of leadership and they don’t want to give the wrong impression of themselves. Some abstain because they struggle with alcoholism or because someone close to them struggles with alcoholism and they don’t want to tempt that person. I can’t reiterate this enough, but Christians are just like everyone else. If they choose not to drink, there could be a multitude of reasons why.
8. Christians aren’t allowed to acknowledge their sexuality
At the risk of things getting incredibly awkward, I’ll try to keep this short and sweet. This is a myth that’s founded in the whole “the church preaches abstinence until marriage” thing. I get it. Christians believe that God created sex and that sex is a good thing, but only within the confines of marriage. A lot of people think that God is just being mean here; that he’s restricting pleasure, but the truth is that there are consequences to a loose sex life. God just wants to protect his people. If you think about the time period in which the Bible was written, there were some major consequences for adultery and fornication. Some laws required that the accused be put to death. So, for the original apostles keeping sex within marriage might literally have been a matter of life and death, and while that isn’t the case in America today, there are still health risks associated with sex. It’s just another form of moderation that prevents uncomfortable consequences.
The idea that Christians are called to wait until marriage to have sex is meant to protect them emotionally and physically. It is not meant to repress their sexuality. Christians are not all straight-laced, prudish, stiff-necked people who believe the only use for a sex drive is to populate Earth.
Sexuality was created by God. Christian couples enjoy sex just like everyone else. More than that, it’s even encouraged in the scripture and not just for procreation. The only restriction involved is the idea that it should only be experienced with a spouse. Some people struggle with that more than others, but that doesn’t make sex a bad thing.
9. Christians are all the same
Remember when I said before that the theme I wanted you to follow throughout this post was the idea that Christians are just like everyone else? Well, like everyone else, Christians are all unique. There are different denominations that interpret the bible in different ways. There are Christians who drink and dance and those who don’t. There are Christians who are covered in tattoos and Christians who only wear floor length skirts. We all like different things and have different tastes.
So many people have the assumption that we all like to sit around holding our raised hands high with our eyes closed singing worship songs, praising Jesus and condemning others who don’t believe.
10. Christians prefer not to befriend or associate with non-Christians
This is the worst myth of them all, mostly because there is a good reason for it. Most Christians are either too afraid of being corrupted by the world to really be a part of it or they are so high on their own self-righteousness that they refuse to deign to step down to the world’s level.
The truth is we have to be a part of the world. Otherwise, we will never be able to fulfill the Great Commission. Paul himself told the church at Corinth that they could not avoid non-believers unless they had plans to leave this world. We are supposed to love all people. And a lot of us do. A lot of Christians have friends of varying backgrounds and religions. Jesus asked us to be a light to the world, and we can’t do that if we aren’t associating with people in the world.
It’s natural to be friends with the people who are most like you. Everyone does it. While a lot of Christians do only surround themselves with other Christians, that’s not the general rule. I think I’ve mentioned this already, but we aren’t an exclusive cult.
Christians are flawed, but Christ isn’t. Don’t judge the Redeemer by the acts of the Redeemed. There is freedom in Christ, not bondage and restrictions. We are all loved and cherished by the Creator of the universe, even when we aren’t perfect.
I hope this can clear up some misconceptions you may have about what it means to be a Christian. Christians come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and styles. Each of us varies in the way we express our beliefs. We are all individuals, and just like any other group of people, it is inconsiderate and ignorant to make assumptions of the whole based on the acts of a few.
What are some other misconceptions about Christianity that you’ve noticed in your life?