Adolescent girl walking hand in hand with Jesus

The “Christianite” Movement

The first nine years of my life I grew up in a small Illinois farm town named Sullivan. Sullivan was somewhat eclectic for a small rural town in the 1960s, with a population of probably only 3,000. Predominantly, there were the traditional white, middle class, Leave-It-To-Beaver seeking families. There was also a subset of families who found weekly worship in a faith community to be important. Our family certainly was not one of those. There was even a constituent of individuals who loved the performing arts and acting on stage. Right on the courthouse square was a small theater named of all things, The Little Theater On The Square (not because of its size, but the name of who founded and owned it). And that small venue drew some fairly big names in the acting world — from both Broadway and Hollywood. They were the likes of Alan Alda, Margaret Hamilton, Ann B. Davis, Cesar Romero, Betty Grabel, and Mickey Rooney to name a few.

The Harshmanites

But one element of that small town’s uniqueness has always stood out to me: the “Harshmanites”. They were a small group of families — largely intermarried and socially isolated — who aspired to a shared set of beliefs. These beliefs didn’t require anything of them aside from being expected to accept the status quo. What made them a community was that everyone believed in the same set of beliefs (and being married to a member of the family didn’t hurt either). And therein lies the name “Harshmanites” — a collection of people who created a community based upon shared beliefs, teachings, and ideals. And a guy name Samuel Rufus Harshman was the one who created it well over a century ago — in 1871 to be exact.

This small, very local movement has always fascinated me. Is it a religion? Or is it a small community of like-minded people? Or is it maybe a small community of like-minded people who have merely turned the community that Mr. Harshman created into some sort of “religion” in itself. I believe the latter to be most accurate.

Regrettably, this has become the state of affairs in many churches in American today.

161 “-ites” in the Bible

To the best of my knowledge and research skills, I have not been able to find that the word “Christianite” exists in any dictionary or online search engine. Nonetheless, the suffix “-ite” is used in an astounding number places, most relevantly in the Bible. After my lengthy scouring of God’s word, I found that “-ite” is used 161 times, largely in the Old Testament (for my primary source, click here). Check this out — 161 different people groups thousands of years ago with the suffix -ite in their name:

  • Aaronites
  • Abiezrites
  • Ahiramites
  • Amalekites
  • Ammonites
  • Amorites
  • Amramites
  • Apharsachites
  • Apharsathchites
  • Apharsites
  • Archevites
  • Ardites
  • Arelites
  • Arodites
  • Ashbelites
  • Ashdodites
  • Ashdothites
  • Asherites
  • Ashurites
  • Asrielites
  • Avites
  • Bachrites
  • Beerothites
  • Belaites
  • Benjamites
  • Beriites
  • Berites
  • Canaanites
  • Carmites
  • Cherethites
  • Danites
  • Dehavites
  • Dinaites
  • Edomites
  • Ekronites
  • Elamites
  • Elonites
  • Ephraimites
  • Ephrathites
  • Eranites
  • Erites
  • Eshkalonites
  • Eshtaulites
  • Gadites
  • Gazathites
  • Gazites
  • Gershonites
  • Geshurites
  • Gezrites
  • Gibeonites
  • Giblites
  • Gileadites
  • Girgashites
  • Gittites
  • Gunites
  • Hagarites
  • Haggites
  • Hamulites
  • Hanochites
  • Heberites
  • Hebronites
  • Helekites
  • Hepherites
  • Hermonites
  • Hezronites
  • Hittites
  • Hivites
  • Horites
  • Huphamites
  • Ishmaelites
  • Ishmeelites
  • Israelites
  • Ithrites
  • Izeharites
  • Izharites
  • Jachinites
  • Jahleelites
  • Jahzeelites
  • Jaminites
  • Jashubites
  • Jebusites
  • Jeezerites
  • Jerahmeelites
  • Jesuites
  • Jezerites
  • Jimnites
  • Kadmonites
  • Kenites
  • Kenizzites
  • Kohathites
  • Korahites
  • Korathites
  • Korhites
  • Levites
  • Libnites
  • Maachathites
  • Machirites
  • Mahlites
  • Maachathites
  • Machirites
  • Mahlites
  • Malchielites
  • Manahethites
  • Manassites
  • Maonites
  • Merarites
  • Midianites
  • Mishraites
  • Moabites
  • Mushites
  • Naamites
  • Nazarites
  • Nemuelites
  • Netophathites
  • Ninevites
  • Oznites
  • Palluites
  • Pelethites
  • Perizzites
  • Pharzites
  • Puhites
  • Punites
  • Rechabites
  • Reubenites
  • Sardites
  • Sepharvites
  • Shaulites
  • Shechemites
  • Shelanites
  • Shemidaites
  • Shillemites
  • Shilonites
  • Shimeathites
  • Shimites
  • Shimronites
  • Shuhamites
  • Shumathites
  • Shunites
  • Shuphamites
  • Shuthalhites
  • Simeonites
  • Suchathites
  • Susanchites
  • Tahanites
  • Tarpelites
  • Tekoites
  • Temanites
  • Tirathites
  • Tolaites
  • Uzzielites
  • Zareathites
  • Zarhites
  • Zebulunites
  • Zephonites
  • Ziphites
  • Zorathites
  • Zorites

What is an “-ite”?

So, what is an “ite”, regardless what word it is attached to, albeit Harshman or Moab? I was really intrigued to learn more about this interesting (at least to me) suffix that we see throughout the scriptures. Here are my discoveries of the various definitions attributed to the this powerful three-letter suffix:

  • “A suffix of nouns denoting especially persons associated with a place, tribe, leader, doctrine, system.”
  • Collins Dictionary: “A person associated with a place, tribe, leader, beliefs, ideals, system, or doctrine.”
  • “Has its origin or derivation from, or immediate relation with, a person, place, or thing.”
  • “A person born, raised, or living in a specified area or group.”
  • Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary: “A native, resident, or descendant of.”
  • Cambridge Dictionary: A person who supports particular beliefs, actions, tenets, or ideas.”

One or the other

In my blog article entitled, “Christian? Or Disciple?”, I contrasted these two terms through the eyes of Jesus Christ in the first century:

  • Christian:Follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ.” — the word used by unbelievers to describe us.
  • Disciple:  “A personal follower of the person, Jesus Christ.” — the word used by Jesus to describe us.

Could it be that calling ones self a “Christian” is not an affirming or even desirable term, especially in light of what Jesus speaks and teaches in the Bible. We’re not merely to be a follower of His teachings (a Christian). We’re to be a follower of Him (a Disciple)!

How I perceive it

It seems to me that individuals in today’s society who call themselves “Christians” might more accurately refer to themselves as “Christianites” — descended from, raised by, living in, or associated with a place, tribe, group, doctrine, or system, where all participants support particular beliefs, actions, tenets, or ideas related to Jesus Christ.

In contrast, my heart is committed to the group of men and women who choose to place their faith and trust in Jesus Himself (not merely His teachings), and actually surrender to, pursue, and follow Him as the object of their faith and trust. In the Bible, Jesus called this group His “Disciples”. The word disciple translated into our modern English would be said, “Christ-Follower”. This is what I want to be referred to and seen as!

As does the Christianite, Christ-Followers certainly ascribe to the Biblical source of the Christianite group’s shared beliefs. However, those beliefs, doctrines, actions, tenets, and ideas are not an end unto themselves as they seem to be for the Christianite. To the Christ-Follower, however, God’s word is the beautiful, unfolding story of His redeeming love for us. And the truth that He came to earth and became fully human. That is Jesus Christ — “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Further, Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Not merely through obeying His word.

 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6 NIV


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