Ask just about anyone on the street what Christians are all about, and most of it has to do with hate. They hate gays, they hate criminals, they hate alcohol, they hate liberals. Christians, apparently, are better know for what they want to take away from the world than what they want to give. They seem to be more concerned with the notion of leaving this world for Heaven than they are with doing their part to make Here and Now a better place.

(I’m not debating actuality. I’m debating perception. And perception, my friend, is vastly more important.)

Somewhere along the way, christian has come to be equated with judgmental and bigoted, where pietism and otherworldliness is more important than practical generosity, honest caring love and doing the dirty, uncomfortable work required to make sure that everyone has what they need and is truly accepted and loved for who they are, despite their mistakes and baggage.

I have a feeling that a particular 1st century Jewish rabbi would have a difficult time relating to the vast majority of the people today who brand themselves with his name. Anyone with half a brain and a New Testament can quickly discover that this man would have made them very, very nervous. Far from a blond-haired white man in a pale blue bathrobe, Jesus was a barefooted homeless Jew who had the guts to say to the religious status quo of his day, “We can do better.”

He spent time with undesirable people. People that both society and the religious leaders said were to be avoided. He made it clear that no matter what someone had done, no matter how dirty and messed up and different their choices and history might have been, he loved them. He gave the lonely attention; he welcomed the outcast; he fed the hungry; he helped sick people get better.

I don’t want to be associated with a group of people who hate anyone, whether they picket them in public or whisper their hatred quietly in private. I don’t want people to assume that I, too, just can’t wait to get off this rock and leave this “messed up world” behind.

I don’t want to call myself a Christian anymore. It would be deceptive to do that. No, I’m simply a practitioner of a two-thousand year old Jewish sect that believes in making the world a better place. It was founded by a man named Jesus and his teachings were so revolutionary, so countercultural, so anti-religion that his students simply called themselves Followers of the Way.

I don’t want to leave a legacy of assumed hatred and bigotry simply because of a label. I want to leave a legacy of generosity, forgiveness, love and restoration. But for most of my life the people around me have just called me a “christian”. I don’t want the baggage that comes with that name anymore.

Inigo Montoya said it best in The Princess Bride. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Don’t call me a Christian, because I’m not. I believe we can do better than that.