The lead singer for the Grammy-winning Mumford & Sons talks about God, faith and whatnot in the April issue of Rolling Stone. And even though he's the son of the founders of Great Britain's evangelical Vineyard movement, and even though the group's lyrics are saturated with themes of faith and redemption, sin and salvation, Mumford avoids the whole "Christian" label.
I don't really like that word. It comes with so much baggage. So, no, I wouldn't call myself a Christian. I think the word just conjures up all these religious images that I don't really like.
Those three sentences have already stirred quite the reaction from Christians who love both Jesus and Mumford & Sons. A couple of thoughtful reactions can be found here and here, but it seems that most Christians are saying something like this: Marcus, I get it. I really do. Christians can be kinda lousy at showing the world what Jesus was all about. But you can't just hang out with Jesus and ignore all his sometimes inconvenient followers. It doesn't work that way. As Matthew Linder wrote in his nice piece on patheos.com:
It is much easier to take the route of “I just love Jesus” or “Jesus is a cool dude” in a culture that would mostly concur with that sentiment. Accepting the label of Christian is difficult, especially when we inhabit a post-Christian culture, but one that I will gladly take on, as should all of us who love Jesus.
I get, and I agree, with Linder's point. For years, I was a lot like Mumford--loving Jesus (in my own stunted way) but reluctant to associate myself with the other "Christians" that I knew (or thought I knew). It just wasn't a group I wanted to be associated with. I wanted to get to heaven. But kinda hoped that, once there, I'd be able to hang out in my own little heavenly neighborhood--away from the sorts of Christians who annoyed me.
And, honestly, I haven't quite outgrown that arrogance. There are days when I might hear somebody say something I disagree with and I think, "do I really share a faith with this person?"
On the surface, I think most of us Christians (particularly in protestant, evangelical circles) view Christianity as a kind of club. It's not a particularly picky club: You don't have to pay dues or do community service or anything (though all that, of course, is appreciated). As long as you accept a few basic premises--that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the grave is a biggie--you're in. And from then on, no one can revoke your membership.
But in practice, sometimes we Christians can treat Christianity more like a clique. Or, rather, a collection of them. And those of us who hang out in one clique point to the others and whisper snide comments to our friends. Because our clique, naturally, must be more Christian than the others.
I've heard that you can't possibly be that Christian if you vote for a Democrat, or a Republican, or if you drink, or if you see R-rated movies, or if you or prefer hymns or don't keep a prayer journal or like reality television or commit any number of ethical, intellectual or social sins. I'm irked by this attitude. And yet, the very fact I'm irked can push me into a clique of my own. I'm not like those Christians, I might grumble deep in my gut somewhere. I'm different. Less judgmental. Better. Which naturally, makes me just as judgmental and no better at all. It seems that many of us are forever carving heaven up into cliquish neighborhoods
And yet, when you mingle amongst these various cliques--as I've had a chance to do in my career--you find that in every one of them there are folks who love God and Jesus passionately.
I think that Marcus Mumford is critiquing our cliquish culture--even as he forms a bit of a clique of his own. And here's the funny thing: I think most Christians would feel like they'd fit in just fine in Mumford's little circle. Of all the Christians I've talked to, almost every single one has lamented the hypocrisy seen in Christianity--the baggage that our glorious faith has been so burdened by.
I don't know where Mumford's faith stands. I have no way of judging his or anyone else's relationship with God or Jesus. Sometimes, it doesn't feel like I'm in a great position to judge my own. But I do believe that, whatever religious cliques we affiliate with within Christianity, we're also part of the same messy family. And I wouldn't have it any other way.