I’ve seen this going on for awhile. I’d say a good amount of my friends on Facebok put something other than Christian in the religion part of their profile. Many say “follower of Christ.” It isn’t a rare thing, so the article is definitely based on real changes, not just a few people.
A couple observations about the change in semantics:
- It isn’t just a change of semantics, it is a change in mindset. The word “Christian” invites the feeling of being a part of a group. “Follower of Christ” is more personal. I think people want a personal relationship of Christ and the ability to not feel responsible for the sins of Christianity. It says ‘yes Christians are hypocrites, but I’m just doing my best to follow Jesus.’
- The word “Christian” makes people think of the institutional church, which is what young people are running from.
Here are some points the article makes:
“Follower of Jesus” has at least two advantages over “Christian” or “evangelical,” its boosters say. First, it doesn’t carry baggage. You can wear it abroad, in Islamic countries, or at home with your Jewish or Buddhist friends, without causing offense. Second, it distances the bearer from the culture wars that have made American politics so divisive. David Durenberger, the former Republican senator from Minnesota, puts it this way. “As my party in particular has begun to characterize its base as ‘Christian’ and to express its values as ‘Christian’ values … it has been really important to identify myself as a follower of Jesus.”
So my questions are: