I don't think we've really decided what should be done to questions like What part did the Church play in slavery in the New World?

We did have Should history questions be on topic? but that only discusses questions more directly related to Christianity.

What should we do about questions about what Christians have done in history?

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I suggest if we close them, we choose one close reason instead of a combination of three! –  dancek Sep 8 '11 at 13:59
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The question you cite, which I asked, is directly related to Christianity. It's specifically about Christian attitudes to a specific issue, and one whose consequences are still with us today. Seriously, we're cutting ourselves off from a huge area if we reject history. –  DJClayworth Sep 8 '11 at 15:37
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+1 to DJClayworth. I believe 'christianity' includes christian behaviour, christian living, proper christian response, church through history and similar ones. –  Jamess Sep 8 '11 at 16:22
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2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It is restrictive and short-sighted to forbid questions about the history of Christianity. Like it or not, what Christians believe and do now is highly dependent on what was taught and believed in the past.

From a purely practical point of view, where are questioners going to go to get information about Christianity in the past? Are we going to need two separate sites, one for current Christianity and one for 'historical' Christianity? SE has shown many times that one site covering a wide subject works much better than many narrow sites.

Forbidding historical questions eliminates a lot of insight into current Christianity. Are we allowed to ask what John Wesley taught, or why he separated from the Anglican church? Whatever his reasons, they are relevant to Methodists today. What about the history of Bible translation? Is Augustine off-topic? Is Moody? How about Luther - he's historical, right?

And how far back does this ban go? Are we allowed to ask questions about Billy Graham crusades? They are in the past. How about the million man march? Last year's papal address?

No, questions about the history of Christianity are and should be on topic. Any other approach is going to make things much more difficult for us, and severely restrict the usefulness of the site. If you don't want to answer them, you can exclude questions with the history tag.

That is not to say that all historical questions are on-topic if they are vaguely related to Christianity. "How many Christians did the bubonic plague kill?" would be off-topic.

Finally here are a list of questions that are clearly historical but haven't been closed. Yet.

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I'm happy to discuss where the exact limit should be, but I think it should be a separate question. –  DJClayworth Sep 8 '11 at 17:42
    
OK. Posted: meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/472/… –  Richard Sep 8 '11 at 21:40
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The slavery question wasn't closed for being off topic, it was closed for being non-constructive (i.e. 5 people don't like it).

I think it's a good question though. I'd vote to reopen it if it were reworded so it wouldn't seem like anti-papist flamebait.

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Anti-papist flamebait? Are you kidding me? In what way is this meant to be flamebait? I'm looking for scholarly, factual information about what attitude the church took towards a specific question in a specific period of history, and I didn't restrict it to the Catholic church. Or even mention the Catholic Church. –  DJClayworth Sep 8 '11 at 14:38
    
It was actually closed as not constructive/off-topic/not a real question (not constructive got 2 or 3 of the close votes). –  dancek Sep 8 '11 at 15:06
    
@DJC I won't judge your intentions, but you attracted a fellow who seemed determined to go off on the Catholic Church. –  Peter Turner Sep 8 '11 at 15:28
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The fact that someone chose to give a biased answer is not a good reason to close a question. If that were the criterion many other questions would also be closed. I would be grateful if you could reopen this question. –  DJClayworth Sep 8 '11 at 15:32
    
@DJC, well, you did specifically mention the Catholic Church and I guess I can't fault you for not seeing the distinction between the slavery that was pretty much abolished by the Church and the slavery which was pretty much endured by the Church. –  Peter Turner Sep 8 '11 at 15:41
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Sorry, yes I did mention the Catholic Church, which was of course the dominant church of the time. But I didn't restrict answers to it. If you know the answer to the question, please post it as an answer rather than closing the question. Or are we only allowing questions from people who already know the answers now? –  DJClayworth Sep 8 '11 at 15:48
    
@DJC, I didn't vote to close it either, nor would I have. –  Peter Turner Sep 8 '11 at 15:52
    
You can vote to reopen it now. –  DJClayworth Sep 8 '11 at 15:52
    
@Peter Turner - I quess I'm "the fellow who seemed determined to go off on the Catholic Church"? :-) I was only stating what the Wikipedia article said. It's not my fault that the Catholic Church wasn't nice in that matter in those days. –  Kristof Claes Sep 8 '11 at 16:22
    
@kristof, well the problem with the answer is that you can't get all philosophical about slavery. It's universally condemned, but at one point it was universally accepted. The premise of the question is like Christianity must have went crazy after 1492. The truth is, it was never overtly condemned until recently. The Christian serfdom that replaced slavery in the middle ages went away for Europeans soon after the discovery of America, never to return. I'm not saying that the slaves had it bad, all I'm saying is that liberty took a beating on all fronts and it wasn't the Church's fault. –  Peter Turner Sep 8 '11 at 16:45
    
@Peter Whatever you think about what the church did, forbidding people to ask questions about it isn't making things better. –  DJClayworth Sep 8 '11 at 17:05
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@djc, dude, A. I did not vote to close and B. I did vote to reopen. I only think you should research the question a little better before asking it. What you call slavery in the years following colonialism bears little resemblance to what you call slavery that was effectively neutralized during the middle ages. Pagans took slaves of their own race, Colonialists took slaves of other races. I'm not defending it, it's just a difference that needs to be noted because it sounds like they were backtracking instead of just inventing new evils. –  Peter Turner Sep 8 '11 at 17:26
    
Thanks for the reopen. –  DJClayworth Sep 8 '11 at 17:31
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