defineDoing Research in the Age of Information

Leading high school students through the arduous process of writing a research paper leaves me feeling exhausted. Since the advent of the Internet, Google, Wikipedia, and social media, kids define cutting and pasting content from other sources as ‘research.’ I beg to differ.

And so we do things the old-fashioned-sort-of-technologically-advanced way in my classes. The students make photocopies of everything they plan on using that comes from a book. They print out web sources. And then they make notecards.

I try to explain the difference between writing in your own words and plagiarizing. Convinced that they understand, I give them highlighters, notecards, colored pencils, and the use of the stapler and sit back and watch them work.

When they hand their papers in, I either glow with satisfaction or shake my head in frustration. Sometimes, I just laugh. Yesterday I received this notecard from a student.


It made me question our current politically correct society and the need to define people. The original passage read:By far the largest group is the blacks, who, at times, also have been called Bantu, natives, or Africans. They number approximately 20 million…” The student, a Native American, evidently felt confused. Should he use the word ‘native’? Or should he use the word ‘black.’ In an attempt to honor my ‘don’t-plagiarize-or-you-will-fail-this-class dictum, the student chose to define the non-white residents of South Africa as ‘African Americans.’

Genius. Politically Correct. Only Not.

A New Way to Define Christian

It made me think of how the name ‘Christian’ has gotten a bad rap in the last few decades. Due to the radically unchristian acts carried out in the name of Christ (such as that church that traveled to military funerals to spew hate), the word has left a sour taste in many mouths. ‘Christian’ has become synonymous with right-wing-conservative-uneducated-hate-filled-lemming.

Let the cross define your life in such a way that being called a #Christian is a compliment, not a curse. #fmfparty Click To TweetLet the cross define your life in such a way that being called a #Christian is a compliment, not a curse.

In some cases, we might deserve the definition. I’d like to think that more often than not we as Christians have let those who claim Christ’s name spout their un-Christlike opinions without protesting vocally enough.

We cower in the corner, not wanting to rock the boat. And by default, those erroneous definitions of Christian get pinned on our backs. We need to take back our name.

Don’t think about staging a protest to do it. We don’t need to express anger or hate. Quietly, courteously, refuse to let the media define us as something we are not.

If Jesus truly lives in our hearts and we hunger after a relationship with him, no one would dare define us as bigots. No one would confuse our acts of love and service with screaming protesters tearing down God’s children.

We need to carefully consider before condemning (that’s God’s job, not mine) and convicting (the Holy Spirit’s job)—whether it be on social media or church. We need to live our lives in such a way that when someone bashes Christians, other non-Christians pause and say, “Wait a minute! My neighbor is a Christian and she would NEVER do that!”

Don’t let the world define us. Let Christ’s love define our every action. And when we mess up—fess up. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t very Christ-like of me. Will you forgive me?”

Q4U: What can you do to redefine Christian for someone in your life today?

#Christians, when we mess up—fess up! #IamaChristian Click To Tweet


  1. Hi Anita – I’m next door to you in the linkup today. I laughed at the notecard from the student. Ouch, that’s what happens when you twist yourself like a pretzel to try to avoid offense: good intentions, but the result doesn’t make sense!

    I really like your challenge at the end of asking what we can do to redefine Christian for someone else. It’s really easy to place blame in very general terms, whether it’s blaming the poor representatives of the faith, or blaming the biased media, or whatever — but if we narrow it to our own world, then we can look at practical things WE can do to help change the general misconception about Christianity.
    Jeannie Prinsen recently posted…A Five Minute Friday Book Review: NEVER UNFRIENDEDMy Profile

  2. You post made me think of 1 Peter 2:12 – Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.

  3. Great essay, Anita. Powerful and to the point, and a challenge for all of us.

    My definition – all I’ve ever needed – is put into words by Crocodile Dundee, so wonderfully portrayed by Paul Hogan:

    “God and Jesus and all the apostles, they were all fishermen, like me. It’s straight up to heaven for Mick Dundee. Yeah. Me and God…we’d be mates.”

    #1 at FMF this week.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 291 – Peter Pan Will Live ForeverMy Profile

  4. Great story, and yes, it is sad that so many people’s definition of a Christian would be a negative one. It would be amazing if we were truly known for our love as Jesus said.

  5. Right?! I also think God calls us to show love to different faiths and no nbelievers too. Our love might change them or we might have our hearts and minds opened to love more people too! I’m in the 55 spot this week!

  6. Anita, such a spot on and relevant post. I have struggled with perceptions of Christians recently. Those in my denomination have even discussed omitting the word “evangelical” in our name because of cultural nuances. You have adequately summed up those questions we need to ask ourselves in order to help others (and remind ourselves) what defines a follower of Christ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

You may also like

%d bloggers like this: