Conventional histories have understood Christianity as a religion that has sought to transcend ethnic and racial distinctions. Denise Kimber Buell challenges this view and argues that ethnicity and race played a crucial role in early definitions of Christianity. In her readings of early Christian texts, Buell considers the use of "ethnic reasoning" to depict Christianness as more than a set of shared religious practices and beliefs. By asking themselves, "Why this new race?" early Christians positioned themselves as members of a distinct ethnos (nation) or genos (race). Buell's reconsideration of Christian identity pays close attention to the ways early Christians viewed ethnicity as both fixed and fluid. Many early Christians characterized Christianness as an ethnicity that had a real essence (fixed) but one that could be acquired through conversion (fluid). Buell also shows that discussions of early Christian self-definition offer insights into contemporary issues concerning race.