‘Mankind’s Downfall’: What 9 Non-Christians Say ‘Christian’ Means to Them


What does "Christian" mean to non-Christians? It’s a term society is more than familiar with. But often the term has overlooked connotations. Let's explore.

Merriam Webster defines “Christian” as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” It’s a standard, popular term, with a standard widely understood definition. With 240 million Christians in the United States and 2.3 billion worldwide it’s no shock that the term is widely recognized.

However, how often do we consider how different our personal impressions of the word are? Particularly the perception of “Christian” from those who do not identify with it. What wisdom can we all glean in truly taking in people’s honest reactions to something you devote your entire life to? I’m far more interested in people’s response to the personhood of Christianity rather than the belief system.

This concept has prompted me to ask 9 non-Christians the following:

  • What are your immediate feelings/thoughts/impressions of the word “Christian?”
  • What does “Christian” mean to you?

1. Jason, 29-Years-Old

  • Impressions of “Christian”:Good people. Set in their ways. Hopeful….I feel saddened for the people.”
  • “Christian” means to me…: “Christian is just a word. It means a lot of people following a religion they hope will someway or another make them feel better about life after death… I feel saddened because Christianity gives them hope there is an after life. Most religions, I believe, are put in place to control the human mind and subconscious… Christian is just a word.

2. Stan, 70-Years-Old

  • Impressions of “Christian”:A dangerous, extreme, right-winged term that is very hypocritical.”
  • “Christian” means to me…: “ I don’t believe all Christians are dangerous or hypocritical so I’m hesitant to cast all in the same light. I would simply say they vary from people who are giving and caring and loving of others to those who are intolerant and hypocritical…What I’m seeing is such an extreme turn of forcing beliefs on people. I’m watching what Trump is doing and what he’s saying about African Americans and he’s backed by hypocritical evangelicals who have abandoned what they so-call believe in. Not all Christians are like that… but what I find is most Christians have to proselytize and push their beliefs on others. Evangelicals are pushing their agenda…it’s gone too far.”

3. Jessica, 25-Years-Old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: “Someone who surrenders, vulnerable, loving.”
  • “Christian” means to me…: “Christian means accepting your weaknesses and finding strength and power in community. I believe it means surrendering and admitting you do not know how to move sometimes but through Spirit, you’re lead. It means to link arms with each other to emulate the unbreakable strength of the one that ran the race before us.”

4. Jane, 27-Years-Old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: “Polarizing. I think of a duality but not necessarily divisive.”
  • “Christian” means to me…: “There are polarizing ends to what being Christian means to me…you never know what end you’ll see…On one end I see it empowering people to do more than human beings would want to do…Responding to human disasters, helping the needy. But the other [end] are willfully ignorant and using it to oppress other people. I came from an immigrant community Korean church, it was a big deal. It helped my family when they came to the states…it’s a good outlet for community I see the importance and benefits but I also see how bad it is…I cannot come to terms with what the followers mostly practice or believe.”

5. Miriam, 35-Years-Old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: “The first thing that came to mind is Bertrand Russell’s book ‘Why I am Not a Christian.’”
  • “Christian” means to me…: “Christian really means ‘of Christ’… a way of describing the philosophy of Jesus Christ. That’s where Christianity came from. He was Jewish and it was basically a sect that broke off… Those teachings are very nice…but I don’t believe in teaching religion as fact. The problem with faith is that it requires no thinking by definition—just giving yourself up to an idea. The moment you teach faith as fact then you run into the problem that people stop thinking and thinking is all that saves us from complete destruction as a species…thinking is what enables us to survive and transcend our emotions-the tierney of emotions.”  From my historical perspective coming from a family that was murdered in genocide, I believe blind faith kills. It’s the root of all intolerance in the history of mankind. I did not want my son to have faith in the traditional sense. Spirituality is another thing. But I don’t connect spirituality with any formal religion…. But I will say Christians do have the best music. All the various different churches—the Baptists, they know how to do church…they all have beautiful music.

6. Todd, 38-Years-Old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: “Gullible. Kind. Antiquated.”
  • “Christian” means to me…: “Christian means finding a like-minded tribe with whom you can form a sense of superiority. The 2016 election made me realize that Christianity has jumped the shark meaning lost its credibility.”

7. Richard, 72-Years-Old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: “Religion. Idiots. Mankind’s downfall.”
  • “Christian” means to me… “Being a Christian to me is a non-plus—it’s nothing to me. I have a whole background of religion… I was an altar boy, I went all through Sunday school and eventually wearing the big white smock…I used to sit up with the priest and look at the audience and see who had their eyes closed and who didn’t…. I started reading, researching and trying to understand things. I’ve studied Buddhism, Islam, different religions even Southern Baptist—never found anything that really came close except Judaism. But I gave that up too. I don’t think about it anymore. I don’t condemn anyone for their beliefs, just don’t try to proselytize me…Religion has been here since the beginning because we needed to attach meaning to things…The world today is full of religious tension. People at each other’s throats.”

8. Jessi, 24-Years-Old

  • Impressions of “Christian”:Condescending. Welcoming, understanding, inclusive.”
  • “Christian” means to me…: My views on Christianity has changed. I grew up in mostly a Jewish area where religion wasn’t a big part of town. The first person that talked to me about religion, was my grandmother’s boyfriend. He used to pray that we would be ‘open-minded’ and ‘find Jesus in our lives’ and it was always super intimidating… He was a person that was very stuck in his ways… and very religious in a way I didn’t understand. Since then I’ve met a young, more open group of Christians and I have never once felt pressure or alienation. People are interested in hearing my points of view and thoughts. My views on Christianity has changed from very strict with rules… to being more about relatability, just a different lifestyle I can appreciate more now and understand more about it. More welcoming and a lot less scary.”

9. Lucas, 26-Years-Old

  • Impressions of “Christian”:I feel frustration, curiosity and admiration.”
  • “Christian” means to me…: “In the personhood of it, is so diverse in how Christians act nowadays and how different congregations decide to practice. The admiration comes from, in terms of Judeo Christian principles and morals—the people who hold themselves to high standards and do extraordinary work. Some people are injured inside or have problems and they twist Christianity into something else and those people cause me great deals of frustration.”