Christian – No Longer a Noun?

January 25, 2013

Dr. Clyde Millhouse
Word Application and Definitions Committee
Global Council for the Usage of English
London, UK

Dear Dr. Millhouse and Distiguished Members of the Committee,

I am writing to urge the Council to consider removing the noun designation of the word “Christian” from the English language, and retain only the adjective usage.

Noun-Christians, who are known to proclaim,  “I am a Christian”, “they are not Christians,” “You can’t be a Christian if…”, are entirely ruining the good that honest adjective-Christian thoughts, words and actions impart. It seems to me that one cannot claim the noun Christian (Christ-follower) if the adjective Christian (Christ-like) cannot be applied to their thoughts, words and actions. Unfortunately, many who insist on the noun usage seem to do so with such a lack of grace, absence of active love and with an overwhelmingly arrogant, judgmental, bullying selfishness, that they abandon the adjective altogether, as if the noun usage can somehow be separated from its adjective companion.

This situation is critical.  Since those who are obsessed with the noun usage continue to display a complete lack of Christian character and judgement, I feel it is time for the discussion to be removed from places of worship, and tribunals of the self-righteous, and placed in the capable hands of those who take seriously the use of language.

Christian in its adjective form, “Christ – like”, is a notion many can get behind, regardless of noun-identity.  Even those who do not have faith in Jesus Christ, in the biblical narrative sense, may acknowledge that the identification of the humble, sacrificial, healing, giving, inclusive love as described by the adjective Christian is a positive force.

The conflict arises when certain groups claim hold of  “Christian” as a noun, and then vehemently refuse to apply the adjective in their defense of it.

In doing away with the noun Christian, we can in fact begin aspiring to thoughts, words, actions as Christian in quality, without identifying that they originate from “noun-Christians” or “non- Christians”. And, by removing the noun, it may cause us all to stop thinking that people can be destructive, bigoted, selfish and arrogant, and retain the Christian noun definition in their own opinion.  Perhaps we will begin to see that each thought, action, word, can be assessed on its own merit as being Christian or not.  And of course, it will eliminate the need to dismiss true Christian love, for example, as coming from those who are not included in a definition of  the noun Christian, prescribed by an individual, group or organization.

I dare say the reverberations of the Council’s decision will create wonderful ripples throughout the known world. What on earth will happen to the noun-Christians when the adjective is applied to all the proper nouns of the world?  A Christian husband, a Christian wife? How about, a Christian thief, a Christian whore? A Christian accountant, a Christian homosexual, a Christian lover, a Christian Muslim?

What strange and powerful possibilities!  Could it be that all of humanity would have equal access to the adjective Christian?  The applications have the potential to be truly beautiful, and perhaps draw the whole of humankind closer to a Christian worldview. For those that believe in God, it may mean that God indeed loves all of humanity enough to be the sole cosmic noun-definer, and pays no attention to  human noun designations, and  who only asks that the adjective be applied with diligence. It would be an acknowledgement that God that creates, and has dominion over, the noun definitions, and human-designated nouns would not apply.  What kind of God would that be, I wonder?

And, for those who do not believe in a higher power, the adjective would be a positive one, since it would signify the qualities of the character of Jesus Christ, as described in the narrative of the Christian scriptures (adjective Christian here, of course).

With the removal of the noun, the adjective becomes noteworthy for its usefulness in a hopeful society.  And, it seems to me, to be a much more productive, dare I say, Christian use of language to insist that a Christian person be one who in fact displays Christ-like behaviour. And, the adjective applies whenever appropriate, to whatever the noun, and when the adjective cannot be used, no one can hold claim to it.

In anticipation of the Council’s favourable decision, it will be my pleasure when I hear people say, “I am a Christian” to reply, “a Christian what?”.

Of course, I will petition all who are currently trapped in other restrictive religious proper nouns to request alteration of their definitions as well.

Thank you very much for your consideration, and I eagerly await your reply.

Tom Carson

About The Transmission

The Arts Engine is an organisation that powers professional Christian artists and arts projects into action. We connect artists with communities to inspire, challenge and encourage the world around them through meaningful arts experiences.
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