We've had a couple of questions in the format "Are members of $sect_or_subgroup_or_movement really Christian?", and a few more that are asking that exact question, but trying to couch it in terms that sound more reasonable.

Now, I realize that some of you may be reality TV fans, so you might think that you can vote people out of Christianity. (What does that mean? Revoke their license to pray? Ban them from purchasing Bibles? Issue restraining orders against Jesus? How is this productive?) The thing is... once you start voting people off the island, you've given up on the site. There will always be a least popular contestant. If we vote whatever sect we like least this week off the island, soon there will not be enough people to sustain the site. Not to mention, this isn't Baptists.SE, Catholics.SE, Lutherans.SE, and so on -- it's Christians.SE.

It's certainly true that the various Christian sects think the other sects are doing something wrong, else they wouldn't be separate. However, there is one Christianity.SE, and in order for it to be useful to anyone, it must be respectful of everyone. Pointing out who doesn't think $group are real Christians doesn't do anything to share expertise (what we are supposed to be doing here), it only creates drama and conflict.

TLDR;

Christianity Stack Exchange is not a game show. We aren't here to vote people off the island. For the purpose of this site, please assume that the answer to "is X Christian?" is always the same as "does X self-identify as Christian?" It's the only way a group with such diverse cultures and beliefs can get along and do something productive.

All posts asking for the site to pass judgement on some person or group (as opposed to describing a belief system, examining an idea, explaining history, and so on) are off-topic and will be closed/deleted.

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+1 because even though each of us will disagree with considering some group to be Christian and there are groups that most of us would not consider Christian, this stack needs to err on the side of caution and allow questions to be asked by and about any group that considers themselves Christian but stay away from any judgement regarding whether or not they actually are Christian. –  jimreed Aug 25 '11 at 17:31
    
I would like to just ask if we could append that ruling. Can we ask for an answer relating to how WE know that we are Christian? –  Jonathon Byrd Aug 26 '11 at 21:05
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Your TLDR is kinda long. You should practice that :) –  Jeff Aug 26 '11 at 23:00
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+1 for (What does that mean? Revoke their license to pray? Ban them from purchasing Bibles? Issue restraining orders against Jesus? How is this productive?) –  RCIX Sep 4 '11 at 19:21
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I can't edit this, but wouldn't it be more correct to say "This isn't Baptist.SE, Catholicism.SE, Lutheran.SE etc - it's _Christianity_ .SE" –  norabora Jun 6 '12 at 15:04
    
Though the "refocusing" (or whatever one wants to call it) means that "if you don't believe in the Bible (doctrinally) and have no actual doctrines (or, rather, a doctrinal tradition) you are not". –  Jürgen A. Erhard Jun 19 '12 at 14:11
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I am Christian Fundamentalist Baptist, so I am in the minority. I personally think that The Sheep Will Hear his voice. People don't need to kick people off the site because God will guide a seeking sheep to the right answer. I however would appreciate that Catholics (for example) state that their viewpoint is Catholic. That's my personal gripe. State view points everyone. It will make the site more inhabitable. –  dongle26 Sep 30 '12 at 23:45

4 Answers 4

I support the direction this site is taking (or I wouldn't be here) and appreciate your efforts to keep the train on the rails. Your wording here is both funny and to the point.

I would just like to suggest a few extra considerations. These are MY views and reflect how I intend to behave here. I will listen to feedback and try to adjust to the community, so please anybody chime in if you think there are things that can be improved.

  1. Christianity.SE is not here to either dictate or define the views of it's users. My answers will always reflect my views. In so far as my views line up with some major corpus of professing Christians I don't think it's too difficult to mingle. However, this site should not mandate that I hold a certain position or even censor my stating said view so long as long as it is identified as my view.

    For example, I do not consider either the LDS of JW faiths to be Christian (In return I understand that they do not consider me to be Christian). I used the word faith instead of tradition on purpose. My answers will reflect this view. That does not mean I will not welcome LDS and JWs on to this site. I just tried to help a user edit an LDS question so that it might be on-topic, it would be nice if it could get a real LDS member to answer. I would never advocate a ban or safe zone to isolate US from THEM. I think questions ABOUT and and answers FROM them are on topic and welcome. I will up-vote them per the normal guidelines as long as they are clearly identified. If I see JW views in an answer that does not identify that faith's unique view is being represented, that will get a down-vote an objection comment from me.

    While I expect to see a huge diversity of viewpoints here, I do not want to see the views of my particular tradition mis-represented. Which brings us to the next point...

  2. The history of Christianity is full of boundary-setting. It's what we do. From the Old Testament where the chosen people were to set themselves apart from the other nations to today's Church with more flavors than Baskin-Robbins. I think that if this site is going to survive it must do so by recognizing, respecting, and allowing these boundaries, not ignoring or glossing them over.

    "Is X Christian?" questions may be off-topic because "Christian" as defined here is not in itself a meaningful boundary and the site cannot mandate a definition for that term. However in answering questions and identifying their views, users should be free use define their own boundaries and refer to other traditions and their views using whatever guidelines their own traditions provide. Again, I think this only works when POVs are honestly identified. It has to be done respectfully, but it shouldn't be taboo.

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Well said, and good points. I think I'm coming to the position we ought to focus more on the on-topicness/constructivism of our answers, more than of our questions, as it relates to beliefs/doctrines of "Christians." I think stating "According to X faith/tradition..." in our answers could go a long way. The reader can then decide which answer(s) they think are most applicable. –  Flimzy Aug 25 '11 at 23:28
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BTW, most members of the LDS faith would consider you a Christian if you believe in Christ and follow Him to the best of your ability. Not sure about the JWs. –  Jim McKeeth Aug 26 '11 at 17:07
    
@JimMcKeeth: Can I ask from what POV you make that statement? I have had (past tense because some have converted and others I now life far from to keep up with, not because we had a falling out) quite a few Mormon friends and they mostly agreed that my purely graced based understanding of salvation pretty much disqualified me from the running. I'm not saying that this is the officially sanctioned LDS view so much as that I have experienced being considered out. –  Caleb Aug 27 '11 at 22:09
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@Caleb: I am a member of the LDS faith and that is my opinion, but it may not be in agreement with everyone. I do know that our 11th Article of Faith plainly states: We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. If you follow the dictates of your own conscience to worship Christ, then by definition you are Christian. –  Jim McKeeth Aug 27 '11 at 22:23
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@Caleb: I'm late to the party, but as a member of the LDS faith, I gotta back Jim on this one. If you self-identify as a Christian, neither I, nor my church, will gainsay you. I'm grateful the courtesy on this site extends both ways. –  HTG Dec 23 '11 at 5:10
    
@Caleb: I'm WAY late to the party :), but also as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I concur with Jim and HTG: the impact of Christ's teachings on the lives of people who believe in Him is consistent across our various denominations: you'd see a humbling effect on anyone who wants to put God first in his or her life. –  Jake Toronto May 29 at 17:03

I think the question "Is X Christian?" is underspecified. The OP should provide the criteria for it, otherwise it is not answerable. Let me give an example:

Is Luther a Christian?

This is a bad question, it is not constructive, it is too subjective and depends on people's subjective opinion about who can be considered a Christian. Now one can ask the OP to be more specific and provide the criteria for the judgment, e.g.:

What are the current views of Catholic church about Luther? Do they consider him a Christian?

This is much better and can be answered (hopefully objectively). I don't think Catholics and Protestants would differ on the views of Catholic church about the matter. The same thing applies to similar questions, debate and disagreement can be avoided if the question is specific enough to make it answerable objectively without a debate and without appealing to personal opinions.

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This probably belongs as a comment rather than an answer, but it's too long... and furthermore, the original question isn't really a question, any way.

I would like to point out that asking "Are members of X-Movement Christian" is a rather different question than "Is X-Movement a Christian movement." Or rephrased "Do members of X identify themselves as Christian?" is different than "Does X identify itself as Christian?"

I agree we should not be in the business of "voting people off the island."

As an example, "Is X a Christian Rock band?" Some or even all of the members may identify as Christians, making X "a Rock band of Christians", but unless the band identifies itself as a Christian band, the answer to the original question would still be "No." There are many bands I can think of that would match this scenario.

I think the same distinction exists with many movements and other organizations.

This may not be an important distinction to make when deciding which questions are on- or off-topic, except that we may choose to allow questions asking "Does X identify itself as Christian?"


Edit

Case in point: This very web. It is comprised largely/mainly of Christians, but the web site does not identify itself as Christian. See here.

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I'm more so asking for a clarification here, because it seems there is some vagueness in what is or is not a Christian. This may be off topic, if so, just let me know, lol.

I would guess that a Christian would be defined as anyone who follows the teachings of Jesus and/or follows the doctrines of Paul about the divinity of Jesus. This would include the Ebionites, sometimes called "the Jewish Christians" who deeply influenced Islam's beliefs on Jesus (Isa), and is, as far as modern scholarship can tell, the closest belief-system to the actually beliefs and doctrines of Jesus and His disciples (see Tabor's or Ehrman's or many others work). It would also include the followers of Arius (Arianism) who taught that Jesus was separate from the Father (based on John 14: 28 - "The Father is greater than I"), sects that believe Jesus is only human like the Socianists (which, I have heard would include the modern day Unitarians and Jehovah's Witnesses), and those that believe Jesus was a wholly spiritual being (like some Gnostic sects, and docetists). But it would also include all miaphysite, monophysite, dyophysite, modalist, unitarian, trinitarian, ascetic, adoptionist, Orthodox, Catholic, manichaean, and gnostic, as well as personal, understandings of Jesus. Most of these groups have been labelled "heresies" throughout the ages and are still strongly debated.

I bring this up, mainly, because I would be curious as to how one would classify Theosophists, the various magical societies, especially the Ascended Masters oriented ones, and other such occult and esoteric groups. Most of those groups, at least most of the people from those groups I've met or come across, do not "self-identify" as Christian, but they still make use of Christ and/or Jesus as an object of reverence, aspiration, and even worship. This would also include Voodoo, Voudun, Hoodoo, Candomble and the orisha religions, like Yoruba, which have been heavily influenced by Catholicism and often times are syncretic versions of Christianity and African- or Afro-Caribbean- religions or Mexica religion based syncretic belief systems. How would these be classified? Many of the people that practice these systems worship Jesus, and especially Mary the Mother of Jesus, as Holy and/or Divine beings. However, most of the belief systems could not be remotely described as monotheistic (maybe henotheistic), and is quite a grey-zone, I would think. Plenty of these people, at least the ones I have met or come across, DO self-identify as Christians, at least in public. Also, some Japanese shrines have images of Jesus within them. I'm not sure if they are Buddhist or Shinto, but my friend from Japan sent me a picture of one because he was astonished by this, lol. Also, within Hinduism, considering Jesus as an avatar of Vishnu (or another aspect of God) would be acceptable to most forms of Hinduism. Even some Buddhists consider Jesus as a buddha (see Thich Nhat Hanh's work on the subject, like Going Home, Living Buddha, Living Christ, or others), even though most forms of their religion are agnostic.

So, can one by a polytheistic Christian? This sounds like a contradiction of terms to me. Or an agnostic Christian? So while I do whole-heartedly agree "Is X Christian?" or similar questions are in bad taste, I would personally like some clarification as to the scope of possible questions. Like, would asking, "What are the Voodoo understandings of Jesus?" or "Would Hinduism consider Jesus the Son of God?" be appropriate for this site?

I'm sorry this was so long, I was just looking for clarification and didn't quite find it appropriate for its own question. If you guys think it should be removed, I will happily. I would have just asked it in a comment if I wasn't such a verbose fool, lol. Thank you for your responses!

Edit Upon consideration, I'm thinking this may be best as a separate question, but I will leave it up until someone tells me to remove and/or move it.

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For this site, anyone taking the label Christian is considered a Christian and if there is proof of the existence of his beliefs being shared with a group of at least two or more persons, then what that group believes is on topic. Here's a very important historical meta post on this topic. –  fredsbend Jul 10 at 6:53
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If you are looking for clarification on this issue, please do post this as a separate question on meta where we can actually respond with more than a few characters. –  Caleb Jul 10 at 6:56

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