Thursday, April 19, 2012

Unashamed to Bear His Name: Embracing the Stigma of Being a Christian by R.T. Kendall

    Tradition has it that St. Francis bore the stigmata of Christ on his body.  Stigmata refers to the marks on Jesus’ hands, feet and side of His crucifixion.  This became a sign of special favor or holiness in the Catholic Church.  In actuality, stigmata has a very different meaning.  The original meaning means stigma and it is why Christ’s crucifixion marks were called, “stigmata.”  Stigma is to carry shame.  The cross was a shame.  It was the most inhumane, humiliating, shameful death reserved for the worst of criminals.  Jesus took this shame, this stigma, upon Himself to save a sin sick world from eternal death. 

   In Unashamed to Bear His Name: Embracing the Stigma of Being a Christian, the author, R.T. Kendall, restores the original meaning back to its proper place.  The fact of the matter is, in today’s society being a Christian does carry a stigma.  The media has done a great job stigmatizing Christianity with shows that make Christians out to be idiots at best, judgemental busybodies in the middle, and raving lunatical zealots, “murdering in the name of God” at the other end of the spectrum.

   But I won’t blame the media for producing that attitude in the average person.  Every person is responsible for thinking for themselves (and what they give an audience to).  Be that as it may, in modern thinking, there is a general negative attitude, a stigma, to being a Christian.  The book has fifteen chapters and each chapter discusses a different stigma Christians bear.  He shows how the Old Testament, the Gospel, bearing Christ’s name are all offensive to our post modern culture that specializes in deconstructing everything to the point that their only solid conclusion is that it’s impossible to know anything.  Well they believe it’s possible to know one thing:  Christianity is false, Christians are naïve or delusional, and many are bad people trying to hurt the rest of the world with their narrow-minded thinking.

     Other chapters talk of the stigma of No Vindication (having your name cleared from a false accusation); the stigma of the Holy Spirit-here Kendall points to certain Christians that balk at visible signs of the Holy Spirit working in people’s lives if it gets outside their personal  walls that delineate Spiritual manifestation. His final chapter is about living outside the camp.  In Judaic law unclean people such as lepers or people who had committed certain crimes or in any way were unclean had to live outside the camp of Israel (when they were still a nomadic nation) He shows how many Christian denominations began “outside the camp”:  The Wesley brother’s were kicked out of the Episcopal church, thus beginning the Methodist church.  Martin Luther was kicked out of the Catholic Church which eventually led to the Lutheran denomination and so on.

      Kendall includes his own testimony by telling us about his strict, legalistic upbringing in a certain denomination and the stigma he had to endure from family and friends when he left that church because of his personal convictions.  He became pastor of Westminister Chapel in London for many years where he had to break traditionalist thinking and carrying the “stigma” of reaching people in old fashioned street preaching and changing the demographics of this venerable church. 
     Christians of all denominations will be edified by Kendall’s admonishments and encouragements when he reveals how bearing Christ’s stigma is not a cause for feeling defeated but for rejoicing in sharing the sufferings of our Savior and will feel renewed strength to pick up their own cross and follow Him.

I received this book for free from Baker Publishers.


  1. I think any group of people, be it a religion, nationality, corporation or what have you are often vilified by vocal minorities within. It only takes one to establish and perpetuate misunderstanding. This sounds like an interesting read.

  2. Hi Ryan! Yes it is an interesting read. I don't know that I agreed with everything he said but the book was definitely food for thought.

  3. I think most issues with fanatical religious people is the attitude that "I'm right and all of you are wrong". That's what comes across to me anyway, which religion says that doesn't matter. I think that attitude comes across in Christianity due to its missionary nature.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.