Real Christians

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Over on Religion Dispatches, Schultz engages Melissa McEwan on appending the unvarnished term “Christian” to Ann Coulter and her ilk. McEwan resists bracketing those folks off with, say, “Christianist,” while Dan gently suggests that distinctions can be made. One of the problems here is that from time to time, “Christian” has been used by certain right-wing Christians as an ideological club. During the 1930s, “Christian” was coded language for fascist/anti-Jewish–as in groups like the Christian Defenders. (In response, liberal Protestants started using the term “Judeo-Christian.)

These days, evangelicals are increasingly likely to identify themselves as just “Christians,” in a way that is meant to differentiate them from those who prefer denominational labels. Indeed, “Protestant” is falling away as an self-identifier for non-Catholic Christians in America. So what should academics and survey researchers call those people? Personally, I stay away from calling anyone just “Christian.” The word just isn’t specific enough.