On a humid Arkansas morning, I slipped into the car and flipped the A/C on as quickly as possible. I soon happened to tune in to an NPR discussion in which word “classified” was being bandied about. Not having considered the nature of government-classified documents much before, I learned that “classified” is more of a conceptual status than a documentary procedure. By that I mean that information may be considered classified whether or not a document is stamped “classified”—and whether or not a document exists at all.
The same might also be said of copyright. Janelle Q. or Jesse Q. Public tends to think about copyright only when a notice is so obvious that it can’t be missed, yet copyright is also primarily a concept. Inexperienced creator-owners of intellectual property can be bamboozled into thinking they’re not legally protected until they shell out a bunch of Ben Franklins to register their works with the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright is a conceptual status first and only is sometimes documented. One is presumed to possess the right (“copyright”) of administration and disposition of the material by simple virtue of having created an item covered by copyright law. It should be acknowledged that proving the copyright, in the event of some challenge, may present difficulties in some circumstances; official copyright registration is one tool available to bolster the copyright owner’s claim. [Personally, I have never registered a copyright with the Copyright Office (an arm of the Library of Congress), but if you’re interested, here’s the site that will get you started.]
Christianity, too, is essentially a concept, not the result of some pedigree that may be documented. Those weak and/or corrupted manifestations of Christianity that somehow find peace and purpose in presuming to document new members through such practices as infant sprinkling or membership certificates and rolls ought to have their corporate heads examined and documented . . . so they might eventually realize that to be Christian—to be of Christ—is conceptual, based in real life, not in legal interpretations or paperwork. I do wonder whether the adjective “Christian” has been so misused and misunderstood that it is now devoid of any good or helpful meaning pertinent to faith, but that is a topic for another day.
Epilogue: conceptual truth and discipleship
Many years ago, I asked John, an intelligent 8th-grade student, “Do you think truth is more of a conceptual or verbal thing?” John thought for a few moments and replied, “Mostly conceptual.” I agree. If we would dwell more on concepts instead of on specific words, our “truths” would often be truer. This suggestion is not meant to downplay verbally based studies; instead, it focuses attention on the meaning and import of the words—not on the words as an end.
I have two friends who independently came to use the phrase “intentional follower of Jesus.” This phrase is at once exceedingly rich and ridiculously challenging. It has the capacity both to inspire us to greater heights and to render some of us doddering idiots (in this latter us,” I primarily mean me.) If Christians would expend more energy on intentionally following the Rabbi,
- less time would be wasted in denominational traps
- more good would be done
- fewer people would make immoral decisions
- discipleship would be more in the foreground
- ________________ (please send your comments to add more here)