I am a Christian. You say you are. But we are not.1

It seems that a lot of folks are having a hard time wrapping their heads around the scope of this site. While I respect the SE staff2 and have been impressed with the effort they have taken (and judgement they have shown) in nurturing this site into existence, I think there is a sense in which -as outsiders- they lack the inside perspective and lingo necessary to communicate with and market to a Christian audience. I do not pretend to have a magic silver bullet that will convince everyone of the value of this site as they proposed it, but I hope my perspective will help at least a few others to grok where this is going and then make informed decisions about their participation.

Here is the my main point. Don't let the URL or title fool you. This is a secular site. This is not a church sanctioned or sponsored ministry site. It is a secular QnA site sponsored as a for-profit venture by a secular company.

This isn't a bad thing, in fact it might be a good thing, but we have to understand this point. SE has not been deceitful in any way nor have they tried to pull wool over our eyes; in fact I feel that they have shown considerable integrity in their dealings. However, we need to understand that this venture is a fundamentally different thing than what we would dream up and build for ourselves as a ministry or resource site.

I think SE sites are in a league of their own so this is not a comparison, but consider the question "What if this was Yahoo Answers?" for a second. As Christians we need to take a step back and realize that this is somebody else's commercial venture that they are inviting us to participate in. They are cooperative in tailoring it to our specific community needs but we still have to play by their rules.

In fact I think this realization makes it easier to participate. We are wading into a niche category on a secular QnA network where any viewpoint is fair game. Personally I am up for that. I hope some of you are too.

I'll spare you repeating the full rant, but for myself, as long as SE doesn't try to dictate or censor our respective beliefs, we religiously identify our respective viewpoints, and nobody tries to ascribe their personal views to a larger corpus of people than are willing to sign off on them, then there is a place in my life for participating here.

Here be dragons. Out spears, up shields, and onward! But we aren't pointing those things at each other.

If you are more inclined to resent rather than celebrate the differences between us, then this may not be the site for you.

Our differences are more than divisions between us, they are boundaries that define us. I think there are more boundaries than is necessary, but the only hope we have of crossing them is to identify and respect them.


1 Of course a fourth possibility exists: that you are here and don't claim to be Christian at all. In that case know that this meta post was not written with your issues in mind. This was specifically written to clear up a common misconception among professing Christians about the nature of this site. This was particularly an issue in the early days of beta as a high percentage of users saw this site as a potential mission field and some kind of fought the system when it didn't cater to that. This post was one attempt to bring those disenfranchised folks on board with what was actually happening here. As such I make no apology for using language to argue as one religiously minded man to other religiously minded men.

2 I think there is at least one staff moderator who is a professing Christian, but most are not.

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Crazy note: SE software apparently won't let you use an exclamation point at the end of a question title, it changes it to a question mark! –  Caleb Aug 27 '11 at 11:06
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It's correct in not letting you tack a ! at the end of a question... because then it's not a question. Or can you phrase and actual question that ends in an exclamation mark? No, your title doesn't count, because it is not a question (so what does it do here? ;-)) –  Jürgen A. Erhard Aug 28 '11 at 4:54
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I think this site is an awesome opportunity to "Show'em what Christians are" (...and they'll know we are Christians by our love). Our good questions are going to be tweeted, and show up on StackExchange.com right along with cherry pie filling recipes and ingenious perl scripts. –  Peter Turner Aug 29 '11 at 15:55
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for myself, as long as SE doesn't try to dictate or censor our respective beliefs, we religiously identify our respective viewpoints, and nobody tries to ascribe their personal views to a larger corpus of people than are willing to sign off on them, then there is a place in my life for participating here. Is sufficient. Why all the other blather at the top? Couldn't you shorten that? Please edit to make more concise since this is a top rated question on meta. Thanks. –  dongle26 Sep 30 '12 at 23:13
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@dongle26: I wrote this specifically because I thought setting the stage was important. You can get whatever you like out of it but don't you think maybe this became a top rated question because of the background it gives? Why would I butcher it up after it has already proved valuable in this form? –  Caleb Oct 18 '12 at 7:58
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perhaps "Sisters and Brothers" would be more appropriate? –  Alypius Feb 25 '13 at 19:32
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@Alypius. Sometimes there is more to be gained in literary value from not catering to politically correctness. Sisters are by no means excluded from the meaning here, and using PC speak would get in the way of what I was trying to say. See also, ἀδελφός. –  Caleb Feb 25 '13 at 19:58
    
I know you don't mean to exclude women. But it either does that, or it refers to women as brothers. I'm familiar with the background. The literary value is lost on women and men who don't know the literature or who disagree that it would be appropriate to this case. In this age, excluding one sex means something that it did not in ages past. The title seems at odds with a post that argues for a "secular" and inclusive approach. Yes, it might make the title sound less dramatic, and yes, people will brush it off as PC. But some others won't. –  Alypius Feb 25 '13 at 20:33
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@Alypius: It seems you missed the entire point of this post. I may be arguing for a secular approach, but I am arguing as one religiously minded man to other religiously minded men (in the general sense that includes woman). As such, I make no apologies for speaking using their own language, not that of secular outsiders. Even if I did, I think I can make a case that secular culture understands this sort of language perfectly. –  Caleb Feb 25 '13 at 20:43
    
Note that while the site is run by a for-profit company, the content is free (Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license) to read, use and distribute, and as such could be used in the future e.g. by a non-profit, religious organization. –  tricasse Oct 20 '13 at 2:03
    
Some of us aren't Christians at all. –  rpeg Jan 20 at 2:18
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@rpeg I have edited to note in the post body how this post relates to you. Hint: it was to address a problem you probably don't have. –  Caleb Jan 20 at 8:54
    
I propose the name of the site be changed to "Christian Doctrine" to be more accurate. It's kind of absurd really and not helpful. –  Stephen Jan 28 at 12:02
    
@Stephen This has actually been proposed before and rejected. In any event comments are not the place to make a proposal. If you would like to make one please search for related meta posts where a topic has been discussed and if you think it merits a fresh consideration open a new question here on meta with the idea and your argument for why it would be beneficial and why previous discussions should be reviewed. –  Caleb Jan 28 at 12:39
    
Thanks @caleb. Good to know. I'll look around. –  Stephen Jan 28 at 12:46

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Right... The site is named, "Christianity", not "Christians". It is, like most of the Stack Exchange sites, intended as a vessel for Q&A on a specific topic; who contributes to filling it, what they believe or how they identify themselves... We have no control over these, nor should we.

For the record, most of the SE staff were really hoping the Biblical Hermeneutics site would launch before (or instead of...) this one. Why? Because this is a Q&A system - it does not, and to a large extent cannot work as a tool for evangelism or ministry. The purpose is to make finding specific answers to specific questions quick and easy... If the "wrong" questions are asked, then this just speeds up finding "wrong" answers. (And by "wrong" here I mean questions that make no sense outside of a specific, non-universal doctrine)

The only thing that gives me hope for this is the continued existence of the Parenting site. Granted, parenting is probably less controversial in some ways, but there are similar issues with fundamentally incompatible beliefs as to what is correct; it's no mistake that the parent-child metaphor is so often used to describe our relationship with God.

Still, there's a sticking point: while I might be convinced to simply ignore questions from parents whose approach to parenting I see as fundamentally flawed, it is much more difficult to in good conscience ignore questions based upon what I believe is heresy, recognizing that unchallenged assertions may serve as a stumbling block to others.

Our differences are more than divisions between us, they are boundaries that define us. I think there are more boundaries than is necessary, but the only hope we have of crossing them is to identify and respect them.

This is... Roughly-speaking... The only thing that gives me any reason to be optimistic about the site. The chance that, out of love and respect for one another we might find it possible to tolerate problematic topics, not by making ourselves blind to them, but as opportunities to remove from our own eyes that which already blinds us.

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@Shog9 I disagree with it does not, and to a large extent cannot work as a tool for evangelism or ministry, while it is not a substitution for a church it does show that Christians can have open minds about ideas and have intelligent thoughts, questions, discussion about topics. I believe one big misconception of Christians is their lack of intelligence/reasoning skills. And those that want to find more info on Christianity can come here for straight answers, even though those answers can change depending on the answer's denomination. –  Patrick Aug 28 '11 at 21:25
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You know, you've got two only things that give you hope for this site in your answer. –  Wikis Apr 13 '12 at 10:44
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@Wikis: heh, yeah, that's unfortunate... I probably meant that Parenting offers an example of such a topic working on SE, and Caleb's attitude offers a way to avoid the pitfalls of not being Parenting. –  Shog9 Apr 13 '12 at 13:28
    
Jews have different beliefs too and that site made it out of beta. I think its enough that we state in our profiles what we believe. I know so much about the various Christian teachings that I can figure out what teaching they come from without them stating. People have a right to see all opinions and pick the one they want to accept. –  dongle26 Sep 30 '12 at 23:26
    
@Caleb - Would you consider accepting Shog's answer, so as to make the correct (and top-level?) answer? Thanks! –  Affable Geek Jul 22 '13 at 12:28

To me it looks like a really really terrible policy because it makes all of us here a bit hypocrites on this site. If I don't consider "Jehovah's witnesses" to be my brothers in Christ (because they don't pray to Christ and teach that praying to Him is wrong, while the Bible clearly shows us that the early followers WERE praying to Him (Acts 7:59) and were being killed for this practice (Acts 9:5,6,10,13,14,17,20,21), which means that it was a matter of life and death to them) why should I pretend as if I considered them to be Christians? And what's the main basis for this policy? Just the fear of having someone here voted down?! That looks to me like quite a pathetic reason, really! If you are really afraid of the voting war here - just completely shut down this possibility to vote on this site and that's it!

By the way, JW wouldn't consider me to be their brother in Christ either. What's the point to force them to be hypocritical here too? That just doesn't make any sense.

I don't see any problem in having this format:

Answerer 1: Hi, it's a great question. I am a Mormon, and according to our teaching we consider this matter in <this way> because <premise 1> and <premise 2> and so on.

Answerer 2: Hi, I liked your question. I am a Lutheran, and according to our teaching we consider this matter in <this way> because <premise 1> and <premise 2> and so on.

Answerer 3: Hi, I liked your question. I am a Christian atheist, and according to the teaching of the folks of my ilk this matter is viewed in <this way> because <premise 1> and <premise 2> and so on.

now if you are afraid that the answerer 1 will confront (in the comments) the answer 3 over his premise 2, and if you are afraid that the answerer 2 will start challenging answerer 1 on the point of his premise 1, then just forbid answerers to communicate with each other! Just block it on the site. Allow answerers only to communicate with OP and there will be no need for answerers to show respect toward each other, when in fact they don't have any mutual respect. Allow only answerer ⇌ OP communication and ban answerer ⇌ answerer communication

Lastly: We've even had witnessed here a lot of cases of having disagreements between two answerers belonging to the same Christian tradition or group, haven't we?

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What is a Christian atheist? –  quantumSoup Aug 3 '12 at 20:38
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@quantumSoup - Read my polemics with one of them here: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/5321/… To me, the concept of being a "Christian atheist" is almost as nonsensical as being a "non-Islamic Muslim". –  brilliant Aug 4 '12 at 1:49
    
That's one of the reasons we're doing the blog. Have you been reading it? Do you want to contribute :)? –  Peter Turner Aug 4 '12 at 3:43
    
@PeterTurner - No, I haven't read it. Where is it exactly? What is its purpose? –  brilliant Aug 4 '12 at 3:45
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it's here we call it the "Eschewmenical Blog". The purpose is for several authors from different denominations to tackle monthly subjects. This month is the "nature of biblical authority" I take the Catholic view point, Jon Ericson takes the Evangelical etc... It's pretty good, well I think so at least. –  Peter Turner Aug 4 '12 at 3:50

This is what the site currently says its about: 'Q&A for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more'. Above Caleb writes 'Brothers, we are not Christians!!' It seems at best misleading, at worst dishonest, and either way very weird to claim to be a site where committed Christians can ask questions but only receive answers that have been judged as acceptable by people who are not committed Chrsitians. Anyone reading the description of the site above would surely conclude that answers are provided by committed Chrsitians. Why would a committed Christian seek guidance on the Bible from someone who isn't a committed Christian? It's utterly preposterous. You do realise the Bible teaches that the whole world (that's everyone who isn't a committed Christian) is under the sway of the devil, don't you?

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Did you read the whole post or just the title? Need I remind you that this is the internet, not a church and we have no way to police who participates? –  Caleb Oct 11 '13 at 21:04
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I don't claim to have read the whole post, but it seems you do police the participants by prohibiting certain questions and answers. –  George Tomlinson Oct 11 '13 at 21:09
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Every website worth reading has guidelines concerning what is and is not acceptable content. We do not (and pragmatically, cannot) ensure only Christians answer, but it doesn't really matter. A correct answer is a correct answer, whether the person is a Christian or not. –  Ryan Frame Oct 12 '13 at 1:30
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I agree with your last statement. My main problem isn't that someone who isn't a Christian can answer a question, but that the most important questions can't be answered by anyone. –  George Tomlinson Oct 12 '13 at 8:21

Should you decide to have comfort saying a what I view as the blasphemous saying "we are not Christians" That is up to you. I am a Christian. Any statement involving me with a first person personal pronoun will include an affirmative to the status of Christ as our savior. I frequent sites which are secular like facebook and se but I do not belong there nor do I make it my goal for them to belong to me. I consider myself in this place but not of this place. (John 17:14-16) If you want to consider yourself in and of the this secular/worldly place that is your business but your views do not represent me at least. I come here to ask and answer questions about the word of God. I will not to have who I am stripped away to make intolerant/unkind people feel better for the hour of our lifelong interactions.

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OK, did you actually read the post? Because this answer shows a lack of comprehension both of what is says and means. "I am a Christian. You say you are. But we are not." Essentially this site, like the church visible is not completely composed of people who belong to the church invisible. The message of this post is that we have a lot of differences and if this place is going to work we have to respect and honor those differences. I think that last bold and italicized statement in the post really sums it up. I don't have the space to quote it in this comment so go read it. –  wax eagle Jul 20 '13 at 22:50
    
@waxeagle saying we are not Christians is blasphemous no matter how many words you surround it with. Denying the work of Christ in someone else is the worst insult you could possible give in a small society like this. Work to appease our doctrinal standards. meh. Furthermore You censor me. I'm sure you will censor others. We dislike you? we'll down vote you and ban you: low quality. –  caseyr547 Jul 20 '13 at 23:12
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As I've said abusing your authority by implying those who descent in some way from the majority should go away is rude, discriminatory and will foster a society of conformist leading to totalitarian tyrants at the helm. Democracy becomes a tyranny of the majority without a proper judicial system. –  caseyr547 Jul 20 '13 at 23:14
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"We" is not a third person pronoun. I used first person singular (me) to describe the state I know about myself, second person singular (you) to describe the state you profess for yourself and finally first person plural (we) to describe the mixed bag of states that is everybody collectively. Nowhere have I denied the work of Christ in you or anybody! What I have done is acknowledge that not all the users of this site are Christian. Many of them don't even claim to be. It would be silly to make any assertions other than the ones I made and correct categorization is not blasphemy in any way. –  Caleb Jul 21 '13 at 11:48
    
At the risk of threatened legal action, I am going to 'participate.' You said: "I will not to have who I am stripped away to make intolerant/unkind people feel better for the hour of our lifelong interactions." You seem to be the intolerant one here, being unable to accept the possibility you could be wrong. –  Affable Geek Jul 22 '13 at 12:30
    
It seems to me that being unable to accept the assertion that one is wrong needn't have anything to do with how tolerant one is. One could be certain one is right and very tolerant or certain one is right and completely intolerant. –  George Tomlinson Oct 11 '13 at 21:16
    
@bluesh34 thanks –  caseyr547 Oct 12 '13 at 5:22
    
How is this blasphemous: "we are not Christians"? I must say that it is straight and hopefully in any case honest. I am too a Christian. What do you mean: "Any statement involving me with a first person personal pronoun will include an affirmative to the status of Christ as our savior. " and also: " I will not to have who I am stripped away to make intolerant/unkind people feel better for the hour of our lifelong interactions. "? –  laovultai Jan 20 at 20:01

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