Please Stop Saying: “Christian : Church :: Happy Meal : McDonald’s”

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a happy meal.”

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car.”

Can I just say this? Those phrases irk me.  They have for a long time. There are countless iterations, all attributed to countless famous people including Billy Sunday and G.K. Chesterton.

I think they bother me because the people who use them are more or less arguing that their particular standard of what Christianity means is God’s standard, and they’re not-so-subtly hinting that everyone who doesn’t live up to their standard is counting on their church attendance to get them to heaven. And I think this is a lovely display of ignorance.

The social justice types like to think that God is bringing heaven here and that it’s not their church attendance but rather their following Jesus and Jesus bringing salvation that make them Christians. They think that salvation means that God saves us from our wrong ideas about God and our wicked other-destroying ways and that Jesus was serious when he said the king will divide the sheep and the goats based on how they treated the least of these his brothers. Okay, honestly I’m not sure about how that works exactly or what behaviors precisely are supposed to make someone a Christian.

But everybody else is just counting on their church attendance to get them to heaven.

Then there are the born-again types, who think that praying the sinner’s prayer and really and truly meaning it is the way that one becomes a Christian. You have to have a personal relationship with Jesus to be a Christian.

But everybody else is just counting on their church attendance to get them to heaven.

And there are the Catholics, who go to church and take communion and ingest the body and blood of Christ and do penance and pray the rosary and get confirmed and baptized and married in the church and intend to take their last rites through the church…

But everybody else is just counting on their church attendance to get them to heaven.

Do you see how this works? Practically nobody (particularly those Christians with differing ideologies who argue about what Christianity really means) is counting on their church attendance to make them a Christian.

Nobody who takes being a Christian seriously actually believes that mere church attendance makes them a Christian any more than they believe that going to McDonald’s will make them a happy meal.

So could we please stop saying that?

David M Schell About David M Schell
I am a doubter and a believer. I have a Master's in Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, but because faith grows and changes, I don't necessarily stand by everything I've ever written, so if you see something troubling further back, please ask! Read More.

Author: David M Schell

I am a doubter and a believer. I have a Master's in Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, but because faith grows and changes, I don't necessarily stand by everything I've ever written, so if you see something troubling further back, please ask! Read More.

4 thoughts on “Please Stop Saying: “Christian : Church :: Happy Meal : McDonald’s””

  1. I like the thought,and had not gone in that direction, I usualy think of this phrase when I hear someone else passing judgment on others, and forgeting the forgiveness part, hence fortgetting the Christ part, if you sit in the Church weekly and some how miss the forgiveness part, the phrase applys, had not thought of the user being arrogant enough to think that others should live up to thier works, but can now see how someone would think that. I cant speak for everyone But I shurely would not want the responsibility of having anyone apply my standards to thier eventual eternal life, that would be a horrible weight to bear, God forbid (seriously) I could be wrong.

  2. You have elsewhere said that the Christian life is not about changing your destiny from perdition to salvation, but about living a Christian life.

    Taking the opportunity to ask: Which of these alternatives you describe here talks about that?

  3. The born-again types, from my experience. I’ve divided the Christian universe into three neat little piles, and I’m on the verge of merging the catholics with the social-justice types.

    As a famous radio preacher Robert Benchley once said, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t.

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