When driving home recently, I heard a story on the radio about a nonprofit organization called United in Purpose. UIP was created to get more Christians to register to vote. To accomplish this, they have to be able to identify: a) everyone who is not registered to vote, and b) which of those unregistered voters are Christians. The first part is fairly simple, since you can get voter registration lists, and deduce that anyone not on the list is not registered. It is the second part—identifying which people are Christians—that presents an interesting problem.
UIP has tackled that problem through data mining. You cannot buy a mailing list of all Christians in the country, but you can get mailing lists for many other things—lists of people with kids, for instance, or people who have donated money to certain causes, or who subscribe to certain publications. The data miners looked for things that might correlate with being a Christian—supporting a pro-life charity, for instance—and literally came up with a point system to determine who was a Christian. According to the NPR story, you might get awarded points for home-schooling your kids, supporting traditional marriage, or if you enjoy fishing or NASCAR. (Seriously…NASCAR?) They then add up your points, and, “If [your score] totaled over 600 points, then we realized you were very serious about your faith.”
This brings up all sorts of interesting questions, such as: which NASCAR driver should I root for? If I am really serious about my faith, should I be fly fishing or noodling?
It kind of makes me wonder how I would rate on their point system. The story does not go into any more detail about what items are worth points, or how many points each item is worth. But, it is not too difficult to come up with our own point system, based on things that are culturally associated with being a Christian. For example, here are the points you can add to your score if you…
Went to a Bible college: +100
Went to seminary: +250
Went to Baylor: +20
Went to A&M: +5
Went to Texas: -5
Carry a Bible with your name written on it or in it: +10
Know how to correctly spell “Metaxas”: +15
Have Christian radio presets in your car: +5 (per station)
Wear a cross necklace: +5
Are in a community group, small group, home group, discipleship group, or accountability group: +50
Attend church most Sundays: +25
Have ever been on a mission trip:
Have ever played this game: +30
Are currently reading a Christian blog instead of working: +100
And so on. You can find out your score at FreeChristianReport.com.
OK, so these are intentionally cliché. And no outward appearance or action truly makes you a Christian, any more than dressing up on Halloween makes you Dracula or Satan. But, Christians would hopefully live out their lives in a way that would make them stand out, and make it clear that they are not playing by the world’s rules. But that doesn’t mean wearing a bracelet or sticking an Ichthys on your stock car. The Bible actually states quite clearly, and quite simply, how people should be able to identify a Christian. In John 13:34-35, Jesus Himself spells it out:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
Why do I get the feeling that we are somehow missing this? Is this how non-believers look at Christians when they are deciding not to believe? Do people say, “Well, I would consider this Jesus fellow, but I just can’t stand the way that His followers are so dang loving?”
Yes, love does sometimes mean speaking truth, which can cause problems with people who do not love the truth. But the Bible also talks about “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Which means there is more than one way to speak the truth; we are to do so “in love”.
Hey, I am just as prone to focus on appearances as anybody. But appearances, like a Halloween costume, can be a lie. It is our actions that truly define us; let those actions be defined by love.