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By John Pierce

Marcus Mumford, front man for the popular musical act Mumford & Sons, has caused a stir among evangelical Christians.

When asked by Rolling Stone magazine if he considers himself to be a Christian, Mumford said: “I don’t really like that word. It comes with so much baggage.”

He added: “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.”

Mumford went on to say that he holds very personal views about Jesus but has “separated myself from the culture of Christianity.”

It is not surprising that many Christians responded with all kinds of words of condemnation about him denying Christ, blah, blah, blah. However, Mumford said he separated himself from “the culture of Christianity,” not from Jesus.

It is that evangelical culture, he refers to, that wants to own celebrities and define them — whereby every move the person makes and every word that is sung is parsed for its orthodoxy.

No thanks, said Mumford. He’d rather not carry that baggage.

While continuing to embrace the term Christian myself, I get the young musician’s hesitation. Even without the bright spotlight, one can spend a lot of time trying to escape the well-earned reputation of American evangelical Christians as narrow-minded, judgmental and cocksure about how God views everything from Middle East politics to science textbooks.

And if Mumford thinks the title “Christian” brings baggage, he should try being a Baptist.

Some of us spend half our lives explaining that we have less in common with Robert Jeffress and Bob Jones than more than half of the world’s population — and that our efforts to faithfully follow Jesus have no connections to what they hear on Fox News and talk radio.

Interestingly, there is this funny dynamic within fundamentalist Christianity, especially those of the Southern Baptist variety. On one hand, they will cast aside fellow Baptists and other Christians over a minor difference in biblical interpretation — like whether women can serve in certain leadership roles.

Yet, they will jump full force at any chance to embrace a celebrity who gives a hint of sharing their religious and/or political ideologies, with no regard for the person’s Christian doctrine or personal history.

Such is the case with sports figures like Tim Tebow (although he got sideways with some fundamentalists in Dallas recently), actors like Chuck Norris (who spout favored rightwing political rhetoric), and of course the funny, praying “Duck Dynasty” guys who have church people dressing in camo and quacking at every opportunity.

It is as if, for some Christians who otherwise condemn modern culture at every turn, there is an underlying need for their faith to be validated by the rich and famous.

But these same people will drop you like a rock star if you — like Marcus — draw outside their lines of acceptance. Good for him. Keep pursuing Jesus and giving us good music with a banjo line.

Other Christians may cast aside young Mr. Mumford, who was raised in a Christian family and whose lyrics often affirm the great themes of Christianity. But I will wait. I will wait…

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