Christianity is the world’s largest religion with over 2 billion adherents globally. When writing about Christianity, adherents are often referred to as ‘Christians’. But does this religious label need to be capitalized or not?
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: In most contexts, ‘Christian’ should be capitalized when referring to the religion or its adherents. It is a proper noun that names a specific faith and believer group.
In this approximately 3000 word article, we will examine grammar and capitalization rules for religious terms, look at examples and exceptions for ‘Christian’, summarize major style guide stances, and offer tips for consistently handling capitalization.
Capitalization Rules for Religions and Adherents
When it comes to capitalizing the word “Christian” and other religious terms, there are specific rules that govern their usage. Understanding these rules can help ensure that you are using the correct capitalization when referring to religions and their adherents.
Capitalization of Proper Nouns and Titles
In general, proper nouns and titles should be capitalized, including the names of religions and their adherents. For example, “Christianity” and “Christian” are capitalized because they refer to specific religious beliefs and the followers of those beliefs.
Similarly, other religious denominations, such as “Catholicism” and “Judaism,” are also capitalized.
It’s important to note that when referring to religious leaders or figures, their titles should also be capitalized. For example, “Pope Francis” and “Rabbi David” are both properly capitalized.
Capitalizing Words for Deities
In many religious traditions, deities are given specific names, and these names are often capitalized. For example, in Christianity, “God” is capitalized because it refers to the Supreme Being worshipped by Christians. Similarly, in Hinduism, deities such as “Shiva” and “Vishnu” are also capitalized.
It’s worth mentioning that when using pronouns to refer to deities, the pronouns are not capitalized. For instance, you would write “God is love” rather than “God is Love.”
Other Religious Identity Labels Typically Capitalized
Aside from the names of religions and deities, there are other religious identity labels that are typically capitalized. Examples include “Muslim,” “Buddhist,” “Hindu,” and “Jew.” These terms refer to individuals who practice the respective religions and are therefore considered proper nouns.
It’s important to be aware of these capitalization rules as they demonstrate respect for religious traditions and help maintain clarity and consistency in writing.
Typical Capitalization of ‘Christian’ and Variations
When it comes to capitalizing the word ‘Christian’, there are generally accepted rules that dictate its usage. However, it is important to note that these rules may vary depending on the context and individual style guides.
‘Christian’ Referring to Jesus Followers
In most cases, the word ‘Christian’ is capitalized when it refers to individuals who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. This capitalization is a way to recognize the significance and importance of the religious identity.
For example, one would write, “She is a devout Christian who attends church regularly.”
It is worth mentioning that the capitalization extends to variations of the word ‘Christian’ as well. For instance, ‘Christianity’ and ‘Christians’ are also capitalized when referring to the religion and its followers.
Derivation from Proper Name ‘Christ’
The capitalization of ‘Christian’ is rooted in its derivation from the proper name ‘Christ’. The word ‘Christian’ originates from the Greek word ‘Xριστιανός’ (Christianos), which means ‘follower of Christ’. As ‘Christ’ is a proper noun, it is customary to capitalize words derived from it.
Exceptions: Descriptive or General Uses
There are some instances where ‘Christian’ may not be capitalized. For example, when it is used as an adjective to describe a noun in a general or descriptive sense. In such cases, it is treated like any other adjective and is not capitalized.
For instance, one would write, “He is a kind and compassionate person with strong Christian values.”
It is important to note that while there are generally accepted rules regarding capitalization, style guides and individual preferences may differ. For more specific guidelines, it is recommended to consult reputable style guides such as the Chicago Manual of Style or the Associated Press Stylebook.
Major Style Guide Stances on ‘Christian’
The AP Stylebook
The AP Stylebook, which is widely used by journalists and media organizations, advises that the word “Christian” should be capitalized when referring to the religion or its followers. For example, “He is a devout Christian.”
However, it does not capitalize words like “christianity” or “christianize” when used in a general sense.
Chicago Manual of Style
The Chicago Manual of Style, a popular style guide for academic and publishing industries, follows a similar stance. It recommends capitalizing “Christian” as a noun or proper adjective when referring to the religion or its adherents. For instance, “She identifies as a Christian.”
However, it does not capitalize “christian” as an adjective, as in “He follows christian principles.”
MLA Style Manual
The MLA Style Manual, used primarily in the humanities, also suggests capitalizing “Christian” when referring to the religion or its followers. For example, “The Christian tradition has a rich history.”
However, it does not provide specific guidelines on capitalization for words derived from “Christian.”
Other Guides’ Advice
While the aforementioned style guides are widely recognized and followed, it’s important to note that different guides may have varying recommendations. Some guides may advocate for capitalizing “Christian” in all instances, while others may not consider it necessary.
It’s always a good idea to consult the specific style guide preferred by your organization or institution.
Remembering When to Capitalize ‘Christian’
Capitalization rules can sometimes be confusing, especially when it comes to religious terms. One question that often arises is whether the word ‘Christian’ should be capitalized or not. The answer is, it depends on the context.
Here are some guidelines to help you remember when to capitalize ‘Christian’.
Capitalize for Specific Faith Adherents
When referring to specific individuals or groups who identify themselves as followers of the Christian faith, it is appropriate to capitalize the word ‘Christian’. For example, ‘John is a devout Christian’ or ‘The Christian community gathered for a prayer service’.
This capitalization acknowledges the significance of the term to those who identify as Christians.
Downcase for General Descriptions
On the other hand, when using the term ‘Christian’ in a general sense to describe a broader concept or characteristic, it is typically written in lowercase. For instance, ‘She has Christian values’ or ‘They attended a Christian school’.
In these cases, ‘Christian’ is being used as an adjective rather than a specific identifier, and therefore does not require capitalization.
Apply Exceptions Thoughtfully
There are some exceptions to these guidelines that should be applied thoughtfully. For example, when ‘Christian’ is part of a proper noun, such as the name of a church or organization, it is typically capitalized.
Additionally, when ‘Christian’ is used in specific religious contexts or titles, such as ‘Christianity’ or ‘Christian theology’, it is also capitalized.
It is important to note that these capitalization rules may vary depending on the style guide being followed. Some style guides, such as the Associated Press (AP) style, recommend downcasing ‘Christian’ even when referring to specific individuals or groups.
Therefore, it is always a good idea to consult the specific style guide being used for any formal writing or publication.
When referring specifically to adherents of Christianity or to the religion itself, ‘Christian’ is almost always capitalized. This follows standard capitalization conventions for proper nouns and titles.
In certain secular contexts when used descriptively, ‘christian’ may be lowercase. But uppercase remains the norm, especially in religious writing, due to its derivation from ‘Christ.’
Applying capitalization rules properly for religious terms shows respect and sensitivity. With ‘Christian’ specifically, uppercase is the safer choice in most cases when referring to Jesus’ faithful.