So I've ran into an interesting problem. My sister who was raised largely in a secular manner is identifying as Christian. Not that she goes to church. Not that she reads the Bible. Not that she knows anything about the Bible. But she's becoming sensitive about any swipes I take at anyone who identifies as Christian. The last example was over Christmas when I brought up Huckabee blaming the Newtown shootings on lack of prayer in school. Her reaction was immediate as if it's a wound just waiting to be hashed out. I brushed it aside as my point was that there were more shootings in the 25 years prior to 1963 than in the 25 years after. But her assertion that I always hit Christians and her pain has stuck with me. It's left me with a question. When should I be respecting one's religion?
Some of you might not know me since I haven't been too active in the last couple of years. I'm anything but shy or reserved. But I'm not aggressive until my head is bleeding on the desk. What happens in the home where I grew up is anything is fair game for discussion. Usually politics while we drink beer around the fire. In the last decade that has certainly included many fervent Christians. I'm usually mocking something like the deciding factor for invading Iraq being Bush's apparent discussion with God on the matter. Or Palin lording her religion as the course to take in life while she has two grandchildren conceived out of wedlock. These jabs are sticking with my sister and clearly causing her some emotional pain. If she were ancillary in my life, I'd probably turn up the heat and watch her leave my life because I don't have need of those looking to defend Huckabee's or Bachman's. But this is my sister.
I would avoid hurtful discussions with people out of respect. If I run across a Muslim I'm not going to refer to their leader as a drunken repressed bi-sexual pedophile. I'd avoid that. In the same way, I'd not pick on Christianity until pushed if my sister were one. But she isn't one. She seems to be beginning to identify as one and is clearly starting to feel pain. So when do you respect it, even if she isn't being one? Does one need to know who Peter is before you give a crap about their position on Jesus? Does one need to know what Jesus said before you accept them as a Christian? When would you confer respect? This is for a family member and not a stranger on the street. And by respect, we're talking about avoiding legitimate points in discussions where Christians are often over the line saying stuff like theories are from the "pits of Hell". Where is your line?
Do you know for certain that she is not a Christian theist? She might be "in the closet" so to speak considering your strong assertions about Christianity/theism in general - especially if you are not the only one in the family that has such assertions.
I would recommend that you, in the politest manner you can (and one on one), ask her why she identifies herself as a Christian if, in fact, she doesn't do anything you identify as being Christian (i.e church, bible, prayer, etc.) Start from a place of curiosity in understanding her point of view, rather than jumping right out and challenging any viewpoint that asserts Christianity. You can attract more flies with honey than vinegar. After all, if you approach your sister from a place of love - even though you may disagree with her, she'll most likely open up to you.
Besides, I doubt you'll have to worry about conversion talk, since you have already strongly formulated your intellect on the matter. This is just my take, but what do I know? I am a theist.
Thanks Barry. I've contacted her on email and she hasn't responded. I'm not sure if she's chewing on my thoughts or just doesn't want to talk about it. I don't have any interest in changing her. Our family is very outspoken. All of us. If her desire is for me to ignore things done or said by Christians in the public square (the overtly ill-advised things or comments), then we have a problem. I read her position as being hurt somehow. Until she's ready to talk, I won't know what to do with her feelings on this matter. But these discussions are often about politics and the politics of religion is where the matter comes up. It isn't as if I look to bring up religion specifically.
My thought was centered on what is a Christian? Is a Christian really someone who just claims Jesus as their spiritual guide yet knows nothing about him,or either religion associated with him? Does one really need to take it easy with their opinions if the other person can't find the time to read, or attend church, or live a pious life, etc.? It seems to me that at some point there has to be a earning of the common respect as opposed to someone just claiming it.
My sister and I will be fine. The hardest part is finding a time to talk about it. We really only see each other as a group so maybe it should be a group discussion?
Knowing something about "coming out of the closet" discussions, having been part as the one receiving the news, I would say that a group discussion is probably not the best idea right off the bat - especially where strong opinions are known and present. She would need to be in an environment where she can trust not to be attacked for her views - if she is a closet Christian. Ultimately, she may not share anything with you or your family for fear of being an outcast. This would be a difficult thing to accept, but this might be her thought in coming from a family with strong opinions.
However, I would agree with you that you don't have to take it easy with your views regarding theism. There is a line between respecting someone's opinion and walking on eggshells, and there is nothing wrong with you expressing your viewpoint.
As for the questions centered around Christianity and identity, there are many people who identify as Christian, yet do not do anything with it. I have an anti-theist friend in Tasmania whose mom says she is Christian, but she does not do anything religiously identifiable as "Christian." In fact, she is quite secular in every way. Yet, she says she is Christian mainly because she fears the disapproval of her father.
As for what is a Christian - in the truest sense? Well, in my opinion, someone who claims Jesus as their spiritual guide. Do they need to know something about him and his teachings? Yes, otherwise it would be like calling someone who has no knowledge of Buddha Buddhist. Do they need to go to church? No. Do they need to know the whole bible or claim that the bible is inerrant? No. They just need to know and follow what is attributed to Jesus as his teachings. Ultimately, however, they should be informed about the religion they are claiming to be a part of if they wish to be known formally as a Christian. At least this is my view point.
Thanks. She wouldn't need to fear any attack. My Step-Father is a believer. My Step-Sister is a believer, Our Mom is a non-believer but I don't know that she even fully understands that and certainly wouldn't hold a side in the matter. We've discussed religion with beers in hand around the fire where I've just answered questions for all of them. The sister in question accused me of being a Scientologist as I advocated a science-based view of the world..It was cute. But that's her depth on the subject. She's my sister, I love her, and she isn't in any real danger other than she's sensitive so I must be cognizant of that.
Thanks for the bit of information on "being a Scientologist." That would leave me scratching my head too considering it's a comment way out in left field.
Is it possible she's dating a Christian?
Not that her husband is likely to be aware of. But good sleuthing.
The push may be reaching middle-age along with losing our father, grandmother, and three younger cousins int he last few years. I think she desires the hope and peace an afterlife gives one when faced with the harsh realities of life.
Ah then that explains it
Cramming for the final.
Is it possible that her husband is the one that is moving towards Christianity? I am asking because it sounds to me from your post that she is defending Christianity without any conviction - I think this is less symptomatic of a personal epiphany and more indicative of defending a close relationship persons status - so a really good friend, a child or a husband would qualify.
I think the recent increase in anti-Islamicism is polarizing those who otherwise wouldn't have a position on religion. I posted a video here called "What's so wrong about Blaphemy" (long) and it delves into the recent rise in Evangelical discontent.
Part of the problem is that cultural Christians see Muslims getting extremely outraged over blasphemies against Islam and they feel left out - some start to ramble about Sharia being adopted and how 'we' need to stand up against that sort of thing. Essentially it has been perfectly acceptable, for decades, to make fun of various Christian beliefs - especially if you singled out a particular sect. Until recently, no one knew a thing about Islam, and now that we do we're made to feel our lives would be in danger to tell the same jokes about Muslim doctrines/behaviors. This leaves 'cultural Christians' feeling that they've lost something - sort of how some people become far more patriotic/nostalgic about their homeland when abroad.