What Do You Make of the Christ Followers?

Christ Crucified Between the Two Thieves MET DP-1360-001

I don't know about you, but I've never been entirely sure what to make of the evangelical fundamentalist Christians who adamantly deny that they are Christians and instead claim to be "Christ followers." At one point, I thought I had them figured out. I thought they were expressing their dissatisfaction with much of what organized religion (and Christianity in particular) has become and indicating that they sought to return to the words attributed to Jesus in their bible. In essence, I thought that they were aiming to strip away all the trappings of religion and try to emulate Jesus to the best of their ability.

I think I must have been wrong. For starters, many "Christ followers" seem to be quite selective in which trappings of organized Christianity they discard. For example, many still attend church and participate in pastor-led bible study. But more importantly, surprisingly few seem to be making a genuine effort to emulate Jesus. I have not encountered many "Christ followers" who spend much of their time serving the poor or who do not hoard wealth. Most seem to be more conservative than liberal in their political views, and many are downright authoritarian. It sure doesn't look like they are serious about applying the teachings attributed to Jesus in their own lives.

On this latter point, I don't mean to pick on the "Christ followers" by suggesting that they are somehow unique in this respect. After all, most Christians pick and choose which parts of their "holy" book to follow based on which parts coincide with their personal preferences. What I find puzzling is that some of the "Christ followers" are quick to call this out and claim that this is an important part of why they do not consider themselves Christians. When they then do the same thing they've repeatedly criticized mainstream Christians for doing, it looks hypocritical.

You've undoubtedly seen the memes about how "Jesus was a liberal." Every group seems to want to claim Jesus, and the lengths to which some will go to twist his alleged words into something that appears to support their views is quite astounding. From what I recall of the gospels, it seems awfully difficult to deny that the Jesus character was depicted as being far more liberal than conservative. It seems reasonable to expect that a genuine "Christ follower" would probably be liberal in many respects. And yet, this rarely seems to be the case.

I can respect the desire of the "Christ followers" to distance themselves from organized religion in general and Christianity in particular. Some of their critiques are the sort of thing with which I'd expect most atheists to agree. The problem is that they inevitably seem to end up doing many of the same things they claim to dislike about organized religion, and this is especially true when it comes to cherry picking which parts of what Jesus allegedly said to follow.