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The 'Nones' and the 'Noons'
by Tom Goodman
July 30, 2014

The Islamic State sweeping over Iraq has been marking the homes and businesses of Iraqi Christians with a red nûn.  The Arabic letter (pronounced "noon") looks like a "u" with a dot above.  It is equivalent to our "n" and stands for "Nazarene," a pejorative Arabic word for those who follow Jesus of Nazareth.

It easily calls to mind the requirement that Jews display the Star of David in Nazi-controlled Germany.  The Jewish identifier was a precursor to persecution in twentieth-century Europe, and it's no different with the Christian identifier in twenty-first century Iraq.

Yet Iraqi Christians have embraced what was meant as a derogatory mark.  And now social media has exploded with believers around the world embracing the Arabic "noon" as they stand in solidarity with their persecuted brothers and sisters.  The "noon" has become profile photos and the hashtag #WeAreN has spread rapidly.

Reading reports on the "noons" made me think of another label growing in popularity: The Nones.

No, not Catholic nuns.  The "Nones" is the label researchers have given to those with no religious affiliation.  When asked to identify themselves from a list of religious groups, one of every five now mark the option "None."  Among the under-30 Millennials, one of every three do so.  That makes the "Nones" the second largest "religious" group in America.

Most Americans were raised in families that were at least nominally Christian.  So why do so many now check "None" on a religious survey?  One reason is surely our too-human reluctance to identify with a mocked group.  We're astute observers of the professor's smirk and the late-night comedian's snark.  And we quickly learn that Christian beliefs and morals create severe social liabilities.  So, when asked to identify our religious affiliation, it's become convenient to shrug and say, "None. I'm spiritual but not religious."

So, in one part of the world people identify with the convenient label "None" while in another part of the world people accept the costly label "Nûn."

What about you?  Will you accept the mocked mark?  True, as compared to Middle Eastern Christians, Western Christians "have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed" (Hebrews 12:4 GNT).  But that doesn't mean it won't cost you.  So, follow the Nazarene who "thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross" (Hebrews 12:3).  He's holding your eternal reward in two nail-scarred hands.


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