by Jay Johansen | Aug 3, 2016
It's popular today to ridicule people who are exclusive about their religion. That is, if someone calls himself, say, a Christian, no one has the right to question that. If he calls himself a Christian, than he is a Christian. If you say that you doubt that someone is really a Christian based on his actions or his stated beliefs, you are being narrow-minded and exclusive and intolerant.
Take the media's discussion of Mr Obama's religion as a case in point. As I write this, his term of office is just about over, so his religion will soon be a moot point to everyone but himself and God. I'm not going to discuss whether he is or isn't a Christian.
What I will discuss is the position of the media and others on discussion of Mr Obama's religion. They are quite adamant that no one is allowed to question Mr Obama's claim to be a Christian. For example, when a Washington Post reporter asked Wisconsin governor Scott Walker if Obama was a Christian, Walker said he didn't know because he has never discussed the subject with the man. That would seem to be reasonable statement: Yes, Obama says he is a Christian. I don't know if that claim is true or false, as I have not discussed it with him to see what he thinks being a Christian means. But the media pounced. Obama says he's a Christian, end of story, period! If you don't accept his self-identification, you are either ignorant or a bigot.
Would we apply this standard to membership in any other belief group?
I've often heard people say, "I'm not a racist, but ..." followed by some outrageously racist statement. Like, "I'm not a racist, I just think that African-Americans should stay in their place." (Usually they use another word instead of "African-Americans".) Does the fact that the person says he is not a racist mean that we cannot look at the rest of the sentence and say, "Yes you are"?
Suppose a factory owner was accused of illegally dumping toxic waste into the water supply. And suppose he defended himself by saying, "I'm an environmentalist. I would never do anything to harm the environment." Would you say that his claim to be an environmentalist cannot be challenged? If he says he is an environmentalist, than we must accept that he is an environmentalist. Any claim that his actions prove that he is not an environmentalist are narrow-minded and bigoted. How can you presume to define what an environmentalist is? Who says that your definition of environmentalism is right and his is wrong?
There are all sorts of reasons why a person might falsely claim to be a member of a group. He might not understand what the group really stands for. He might think there is some social advantage to being part of a large and popular group. That would surely especially applies to politicians.
Obama himself does not follow this principle with respect to others. He has repeatedly said that ISIS and other terrorist groups are not "true Muslims", because Islam is a religion of peace and no true Muslim would engage in terrorism. But they call themselves Muslim. The majority of Muslims world-wide accept them as fellow Muslims. Mr Obama says he is not a Muslim, but he knows what a "true Muslim" is better than any Muslim? Surely that is the height of arrogance. At least people who question Obama's Christianity mostly claim to be Christians themselves, and so maybe know something about what it means to be a Christian.
Who has the right to define what it means to be a member of a group? Well, words have meaning, so we might start with the accepted definitions of words. When there are one or more organizations built upon a belief system, those organization are generally recognized as defining it. Like if I wanted to know what a "real environmentalist" is, I might ask the Sierra Club. If I want to know what the real rules of football are, I might ask the National Football League. Etc.
The founder of a movement is often recognized as defining the movement. If I want to know what a "true communist" is, I might check what Karl Marx had to say on the subject. Unfortunately, this does not appear to work with Christianity. Jesus Christ was very confused and closed-minded on this point. He said, "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 7:21, NKJV) I guess Jesus Christ just doesn't know as much about what it means to be a Christian as reporters for the Washington Post do. He should have checked with them.
© 2016 by Jay Johansen
ralph lauren outlet Sep 15, 2017
My husband and i felt quite thankful Michael could do his preliminary research via the ideas he got from your own weblog. It's not at all simplistic to just continually be releasing secrets and techniques that a number of people could have been trying to sell. And we also remember we have you to thank for that. These illustrations you made, the simple website navigation, the relationships you will make it possible to create - it is all extraordinary, and it's facilitating our son in addition to us understand this subject matter is brilliant, and that is unbelievably serious. Many thanks for all the pieces!
coach outlet online Sep 19, 2017
I as well as my buddies appeared to be checking out the best secrets and techniques located on your site and all of a sudden developed an awful feeling I had not expressed respect to the website owner for those tips. All the guys were definitely warmed to study all of them and already have pretty much been tapping into them. Appreciate your truly being quite helpful and then for deciding upon this form of incredibly good themes millions of individuals are really needing to be aware of. Our honest apologies for not expressing gratitude to earlier.
oakley sunglasses Sep 22, 2017
I not to mention my guys ended up taking note of the excellent suggestions on your web page and so the sudden I had a terrible suspicion I never thanked the blog owner for those secrets. Those guys were absolutely passionate to read through all of them and have in effect undoubtedly been enjoying those things. Many thanks for being so considerate and then for finding this form of ideal things millions of individuals are really desperate to be informed on. Our own sincere apologies for not expressing gratitude to you earlier.