Capital offense

“The Church of God initially called itself the church of God to indicate its understanding of unity. To my knowledge, no one has traced the shift from church of God to Church of God.” So wrote Susie C. Stanley, in her chapter “‘Bumping’ into Modernity,” in The Primitive Church in the Modern World, ed. Richard T. Hughes.

And I thought the Church of Christ was the only non-denomination that had a weird notion of capitalization! In our case, it doesn’t appear to be so much to emphasize unity as it is to try to place a veil over our own denominationalism. Either way, it is disingenuous to try to cloud matters by using a lower-case “c” on the word “church.”

Those from my background have seen church letterheads that proclaim, “The Main St. church of Christ greets you” and the like. Why do we feel it incumbent on us to decapitalize a clearly proper noun? It looks silly. It’s a mistake not to capitalize a proper noun in English.

I know, we just want to avoid the look and feel of “the denominations.” And the reasoning of some may stem from a well-placed desire to honor Jesus by using the only capital letter on the word “Christ.” But when it’s an institution we’re referring to, a label like “Dallas church of Christ” throws up a smokescreen between our very valid, Biblical aspirations on one hand and the status quo on the other. We need to accept that there is a difference between God’s original ideal and the fractured reality in which we exist.

The Church of Christ is a yellow-pages-identifiable group; in English, this type of things is signified with a capitalized proper noun. (Aside, to the unlikely few conservatives who might be scanning this post: I would add that this “Church of Christ” is not equivalent to the church organism conceived by Jesus.)

As we of the American Restoration Movement tradition continually endeavor to achieve deeper levels of non-denominationalism, may we face head-on the facade of the lower-case “c” in “church of Christ” when used as a proper name. The linguistic impropriety is only moderately offensive to sticklers like me; the spiritual arrogance of assuming we are the only ones, joined with the smokescreen of the lower-case “c,” is much more off-putting.

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