Mumford & Sons is on the cover of the current Rolling Stone magazine and lead singer Marcus Mumford speaks about his faith in the article inside. Much has been written about what he said, so I won’t belabor it here. In summary, he says that he has his “personal views about the person of Jesus and who he was,” but wouldn’t call himself a Christian because that word “comes with so much baggage.”
When I read what he said, I was reminded of a story that came out around the beginning of the year about the growth of the ‘nones,’ the group of Americans that no longer self-identify with any religious group. It’s a group that contains many “spiritual but not religious” people.
I get all of this. Completely. When talking about my own belief in Christ, I’ll often use the phrases “Christ-follower,” “disciple,” or even quote the Robert Robinson hymn, “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” and say I’m “prone to wander.” To me, all of these are more descriptive labels in this day and age than simply “Christian.”
But what this article and the surrounding commentary have really got me thinking about is the importance of committing. I may choose to use a different phrase to describe my faith in order to promote more thoughtful discussion but, if asked, I’ll say yes, I am a Christian. I’ll say so even though all of the baggage around the word gets me down too, especially in this country with our code words and ways of weeding out those who aren’t from our tribe of Christianity. I wince every time I see something ridiculous in the news that is attributed to a Christian church, be it from Westboro Baptist, Pat Robertson, or any red or blue politician on any day of the week. But what can I do? I believe in Christ. I’m a Christian. I’ve committed.
I feel the same way about the United Methodist Church, of which I’ve been a part in some way for almost 20 years. I didn’t choose this denomination. I grew up (nominally) Catholic. But God chose it for me and the more I learned about Wesleyan theology, the more I realized why. I identify and agree with what we are (supposed to be) about. The UMC is one of the most fractured and messed up denominations right now, and going to an Annual Conference and seeing the politics and the lack of strong leadership and direction at times makes her worthy of all the criticism and looking down upon that she is often given. But, again, what can I do? This is who I am and this is what I believe.
I don’t think my wife would be too happy if I told people that I don’t really like to call myself a husband because, you know, our marriage isn’t perfect and sometimes it’s hard to do and we both mess it up so there’s a lot of baggage. She’d probably smack me. She’s funny like that. We made a commitment to each other in front of God and family and friends and so we both wear our rings and are proud to call each other husband and wife despite the baggage.
I love Mumford & Sons (who doesn’t). I think they are exploring some amazing depths of honesty with regard to life and faith. And I don’t really have a problem with Marcus Mumford’s position. It’s where he’s at and I make it a habit to never question anyone else’s journey. But, as much as I find it appealing, I can’t say the same thing even though I hate the same baggage that he hates. It wouldn’t be fair to the Jesus who openly claims me in spite of my ugliness for me to not claim him and his church despite theirs. So, my only option is to commit.