Resist student culture of ‘performative Christianity’

Morgan Dowler | Cartoonist

Christianity has a large presence in the Baylor community, which can be seen through the Waco churches that many students, faculty, staff and alumni attend. Even though not everyone participates, these churches are a cog in the performative and cultural Christianity global movement.

The issue of “performative Christianity” is a long-time problem that is driving movement away from authentic Christianity into the habit of elevating prideful life more than a rooted mission in biblical Christianity itself.

Performative Christianity — or when people “act Christian” in an unauthentic way — manifests itself in many ways, including in the modern age of social media when you are posting Bible verses simply for show and religiously appropriate things like going to church, praying, loving your neighbor and worshipping at church. On a smaller level, it’s doing “Christian” things not because of a desire to worship but because other people are doing them or because you want to be seen.

The truth is that if you participate in the sins of cultural Christianity long enough, you will forget that it’s a sin altogether. We must ask ourselves if we’ve already reached that point in certain aspects of our lives and society.

Going to church isn’t a personality trait or resume builder. It shouldn’t be a competition of who is involved the most or who goes to the best church. It shouldn’t matter if you worship with your arms raised high or on the ground or in silence. A lot of people will agree and say it doesn’t matter, but they will turn around and feed into the praise of those who worship in “bigger” ways. There should not be a hierarchy of worship.

Going to church also shouldn’t be something that you do simply to mark off your to-do list every week. Being a Christian isn’t just a hobby or an addition to your life, like adding volunteer work or charitable giving to your list of good deeds.

You are doing Baylor a disservice if you claim to be a Christian but walk around feeding into a dangerous counterfeit gospel and life. This isn’t to say that Christians have to be perfect, because that is far from the truth. And this doesn’t mean “Christian behavior” like sharing Bible verses and worshipping are bad things. When done with the wrong intentions, however, they are detrimental. It is important to take a step back and make sure you are adhering to an authentic faith and not participating in certain things simply to make sure it seems like you have it all together.

Posting a Bible verse on your Instagram story or working at a Christian camp over the summer doesn’t prove that you are a better Christian or love God more, especially if your actions don’t align with these choices on a daily basis. There is pressure to attend the same church that your friends attend — or where it seems “cool” — but you should go to church where you personally think is best, even if it’s not the popular decision.

It’s not your job or our job to judge others’ faith, but it is our collective duty to hold others accountable, and there is a right way to go about it.

Community through things such as life groups, worship and even casual small gatherings should be inclusive. These opportunities shouldn’t be exploited for what we are called to do in fellowship for a personal narrative. Different denominations do not deserve more scrutiny simply because they are not our own.

At the end of the day, if you are a Christian, then be a Christian and live out the word of God first and foremost in every area of your life. But do it because of a love of God, not a love of self-image or a desire to impress or fit in with others. Making social gains or earning the approval of the world isn’t going to get you a spot in the kingdom of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If you do choose to do something in public, you should make sure that it is because you have the best intentions behind it. Our culture has a serious problem with performatism that keeps us acting yet never achieving. Your faith is yours alone, and you shouldn’t have to participate in certain events just because “everyone does it” in order to prove the level of a Christian you are. If there isn’t meaning behind your repeated actions, then they really are pointless. Doing works, gaining followers or even going to church on Sundays isn’t going to save you; it’s God’s grace that brings you to faith.

Matthew 6:5-6 says, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”