"Christian": Adjective or noun? - U2 Feedback

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Old 03-28-2002, 05:41 PM   #1
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"Christian": Adjective or noun?

This is something that I have thought about and discussed quite a lot with various friends over the last few years. Is there really a place for the word "Christian" to be an adjective? Or is it simply a noun? Now before you roll your eyes and say "oh come on, sula, picky about silly grammar, aren't we?", hear me out.

Adjective: A word that describes a noun, characterizes it.

Noun: A person, place, thing or idea.

So here's where I'm going with this. If "Christian" is a designation for a person who has made a decision that would lead them to call themselves this, how is it we so often use it to describe inanimate objects? "Christian" book, "Christian" values, "Christian" music, etc. Did the book decide to become a follower of Christ? Is there something inherent in the music that makes it Christ-like? I personally would argue in the negative.

The reason I feel this distinction is an important one has a lot to do with my views on Christianity and the arts. Why can we not allow artists who hold Christian beliefs (U2 being my best example) to let the music be a separate entity, a work of art that has its own voice, rather than put it in a box and stick a label on it saying "Christian product inside"... It seems that often within at least Evangelical circles (I can only speak of what I know and that is the area with which I have had the most contact) we tend to require art that is done by Christians to have some deeper "message" to it, to moralize, to preach, basically to have a utilitarian function of some sort. Why can art not simply be a reflection of God's amazingly diverse beauty as reflected in the world around us?

K, that was a bit of a ramble and really goes into more than one topic, but see what you think.

Recommended reading:
Hans Rookemaker "Art Needs No Justification"
Franky Schaeffer "Addicted to Mediocrity : 20th Century Christians and the Arts"
Madeline L'Engle "Walking on Water : Reflections on Faith and Art"
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Old 03-28-2002, 08:25 PM   #2
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Verb, hehe...
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Old 03-28-2002, 08:26 PM   #3
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Christian lyrics are often mediocre (in a secular, music-industry sense) because they have to appeal to a broad base of people, hence the words have to be repetitive and simple.

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Old 03-29-2002, 02:55 PM   #4
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Christian is all sorts of stuff. Christian is a verb, it's something you do. Christian is an adjective, you can describe sula by saying she is a Christian. You could use it as an adverb, like 'that was Christianly of her' (adverb= adjective + verb). I don't know how it would be a noun though...'cos if you call someone a Christian it's an adjective, it's not really a place, but I guess Christianity can be a thing, so that can be a noun.

In personal terms, I would call Christian a verb, because it's something I work on. But I don't think using it as a adjective or noun takes away from it at all.


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Old 03-29-2002, 05:57 PM   #5
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Well, sometimes people say "That wasn't very Christian of you" hence it becomes an adjective. But so what.

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Old 03-30-2002, 03:18 AM   #6
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Actually, not to get technical, but if you called someone a Christian, that would be a noun. And in the statement, "Sula is a Christian", the word Christian is acting as a predicate nominative...a noun form.
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Old 03-30-2002, 02:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by sulawesigirl4:
Actually, not to get technical, but if you called someone a Christian, that would be a noun. And in the statement, "Sula is a Christian", the word Christian is acting as a predicate nominative...a noun form.
OOOOH You have foiled all of my bad grammer plans!!!! NOOOO!!!! *giggle*

Sometimes, I'm too weird....

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Old 03-30-2002, 02:24 PM   #8
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yeah, but Sula should have written:

And in the statement, "Sula is a Christian," the word Christian is acting as a predicate nominative...

punctuation goes inside the quotation
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Old 03-30-2002, 05:33 PM   #9
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Christian can be used as an adjective or noun. This is what I found from www.dictionary.com

Chris∑tian Pronunciation Key (krschn)
adj.
Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
Relating to or derived from Jesus or Jesus's teachings.
Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus; Christlike.
Relating to or characteristic of Christianity or its adherents.
Showing a loving concern for others; humane.

n.
One who professes belief in Jesus as Christ or follows the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
One who lives according to the teachings of Jesus.

From this description it appears, Christian is only a noun when it refers to a person and in all other cases it's an adjective.
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Old 03-31-2002, 04:25 AM   #10
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sula,
I was itching to reply to this when I first read it, but then you posted that reading list and I felt like maybe I shouldn't reply until I read at least one... but I can't he'p m'self.
See, 'cause this is a pet topic of mine -- as an editor of the "proofreading" ilk as well as the manuscript-development kind, and this IS an important question. Okay, not so much about grammar -- "Christian" refers to the tradition as well as to the Teacher -- but the question of the "label" is a sound one.

Stockman made a passionate case for the tradition's disservice to the arts. I WILL read the books you suggest, thank you, since I am woefully ill-informed about that relationship -- and yet, that isn't exactly true.
I am a lifelong Christian, and as hungry an artist as Bono ever was. My favourite artists -- Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Dwight Yoakam, Beethoven, Bach and Van Gogh, even -- are deeply compassionate people who write about the Spirit's place in our messy lives. Part of the problem with the "Christian" adjective usage (Editor talking, here) is its connotation as representative of a particular conservative community within Christendom; and/or of a kind of positive-praise voice, as limited as what we call "love songs" or Hallmark sentiments: safe, positive, inoffensive.
By no means am I suggesting that Christianity is a "Hallmark" faith! Quite the opposite, and I need only refer you to most of U2's repertoire for evidence. Most artists are moved to their calling by just such struggles as these -- inspired, I suppose, by the cold reality of their weakness -- Christian or not, their subject is ultimately the human condition. Christian artists, however, put that in a still larger context. Bruce Cockburn wrote infamously, "If I had a rocket launcher, some son of a bitch would die..." See, that's a snapshot of a Christian life -- of Christian anger -- I relate to! And yet, Cockburn, as fine a Christian thinker and activist as I could name, is not known as a "Christian" artist because he writes (thank God) outside this perceived formula.
In short, the label "Christian" seems to connote a sort of sell-job for the Church -- the positive spin. Artists are naturally non-conformists, and the deeper the vision, the more they'll bristle at expectations of any kind. The church, as a social institution, requires conformity. All "communities" do to some extent, but healthy communities also have space for the different among them; ages wiser than ours had a place for artists. The modern church, the perceived "owner" of the term "Christian," hasn't figured that out...it still puts conformity ahead of creativity, consensus ahead of free-thinking.
Pity, because Christ is the most radical pious man I know.

I've finally gotten to a place where I'm comfortable calling myself a Christian, just to see the subtle shock register in my acquaintances' eyes. I believe my life is an effective enough rebuttal to whatever they think a Christian looks and acts like.

Sorry, maybe I'm just regurgitating Stockman after all (and Tom Harpur and Yancey and...) Maybe I wandered way off-topic, sula. But you said enough in your original post to have got me started, so here we are.
Can we take back the adjective for the rest of us??

Happy Easter, brothers & sisters!
in Christ,
Deb D

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Old 03-31-2002, 09:51 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by The Wanderer:
yeah, but Sula should have written:

And in the statement, "Sula is a Christian," the word Christian is acting as a predicate nominative...

punctuation goes inside the quotation
Yea, so there! Whatever, I didn't even catch it....oh my...

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Old 04-02-2002, 12:36 PM   #12
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Great post, Sula. Kara have actually talked about this a number of times since we talked to you about it. I really agree. At least as far as art is concerned. Here's what was posted above from dictionary.com:

adj.
Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
Relating to or derived from Jesus or Jesus's teachings.
Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus; Christlike.
Relating to or characteristic of Christianity or its adherents.
Showing a loving concern for others; humane.


Who judges if a song or a sculpture "professes belief in Jesus as Christ?" Sure, there are some that do so very overtly, but how often do we really know the artist's intent? There are a lot of songs that manifest the qualities or spirit of Jesus that would never be called Christian. I don't know...maybe truecolours is right, maybe it's just that the adjective is normally misused. Hmmm.
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