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Generic Christianity? I Don’t Think So!

Written in response to a report by Dennis Hokama in the most recent issue of Adventist Today.

She: Hear you’re getting a new dog!

He: True.

She: Looking forward to choosing it?

He: Yes.

She: Bet you’re going for a puppy, not a grown up.

He: Exactly.

She: What kind are you looking for?

He: None.

She: Pardon?

He: None.

She: I ask you what kind of puppy you want and you say “none?”

He: Right.

She: You don’t care if the puppy comes with papers. Is that what you mean?

He: No.

She: Maybe you don’t care if your puppy is not a purebred. Now am I following you?

He: No.

She: I don’t get it!

He: Frustrating.

She: Are you telling me you want a puppy with no breed?

He: Right.

She: That’s impossible!

He: Why?

She: Because every puppy is some kind of puppy.

He: Really?

She: No one can buy a generic puppy.

He: Sure?

She: Every puppy is this and not that.

He: Oh.

She: Remember Philosophy 101?

He: Yes.

She: That’s where we learned about the “ontological necessity of particularity.”

He: Right.

She: Now that I’ve brought it up do you remember?

He: Partly.

She: Philosophers make a pretty good living by pointing out what everybody sees but no one notices.

He: Sickening.

She: They have to feed their kids too.

He: True.

She: Everything that exists in the real world exists as something particular, something specific.

He: Continue.

She: If it’s any thing, it’s some thing.

He: More.

She: Generic things exist only in our minds.

He: So.

She: So you can’t buy a generic dog or a generic kite or a generic ice cream cone. You can’t buy a generic version of anything!

He: Sad.

She: Even the “generic” medicines we buy aren’t really generic. Each one is some special mix of stuff.

He: Kidding?

She: We get them for less because they don’t have labels.

He: Good.

She: You haven’t tried to buy a generic puppy, have you?

He: Yes.

She: Any luck?

He: Nope.

She: Not surprised. Except that you tried. That does surprise me.

He: Sorry.

She: Let’s change the subject.

He: Fine.

She: You’ve decided to become a Christian?

He: Yes.

She: What kind? Adventist, Baptist, Catholic, Disciples or whatever?

He: None.

She: I suppose you want to be a generic Christian.

He: Right.

She: That’s impossible too!

He: Why?

She: Every Christian has a religious pedigree of some kind even if he or she doesn’t know what it is.

He: Yes?

She: Nobody ever comes to Jesus Christ as such.

He: Explain.

She: Everyone comes to him as he is presented by some group that has a particular history and understanding of him. No exceptions.

He: Pardon?

She: Some groups think they’re the only ones.

He: Sure.

She: Nobody can be a generic Christian. It’s impossible!

He: Kidding?

She: Little things, like whether the person who presents Christianity wears a robe or suit, tell you a lot.

He: True.

She: This is Sociology 101.

He: Interesting.

She: Do you remember when we took it?

He: Partly.

She: It’s time for me to get out of here and do something.

He: What?

She: Straighten the rear view mirror in my car. That’s what!

He: Excellent.

She: Take care.

He: OK.

David Larson teaches in the School of Religion at Loma Linda University.

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