After anyone repeats something disgusting that a Christian has said or done, a chorus of Christians rise to the call:
- They’re not REAL Christians, or they wouldn’t SAY that!
- They’re PRETENDING to be Christians!
- That doesn’t represent Christianity! They’re just young/hateful/angry.
- You judgmental atheists are just saying they’re Christians. No way!
The fallacy here, as many know, is called “No True Scotsman.” What does it take to show that a person is a Christian? What does it matter to other Christians, except that it shows Christianity does not, in fact, make one a good person?
The term “Christian” means, simply, a follower of Jesus Christ. One expects, perhaps naively, that a Christian knows the major parts of the Bible. One expects that a Christian goes to church. That a Christian prays and respects the prayer of others. The list can go on, but, most of all, since Christians admittedly are all sinners, a Christian is a person who claims to follow Jesus as the son of a Creator God and likely believes in concepts like Heaven and Hell.
So, on the front-end, it isn’t surprising that a number of people, after reading the vile harassment of Jessica Ahlquist by teenaged Christians (and some adults), began that same, tired song and dance: “They’re NOT REAL Christians!”
It appears the commenters themselves would likely tell you otherwise. Here are a few of the posts by the Twitter users (and some who agreed with them) expressing religious beliefs while spewing hatred or harassing Ahlquist, starting with TayCrocks (whose tweets were particularly vile). She claims to be going to Heaven and knows that she is due to a “near death experience”–not untypical of Christian arguments for faith.
So is it about religion? Yes. Is it about a religious group not getting their way? Yes. Are these people Christians? They say they are: Who is anyone else to say otherwise? Who believes in Heaven? Who claims “Team Jesus?” Who wears crosses? Who talks about a forgiving Lord? Who believes in Hell?
Do I judge all Christians by the actions a few? No, certainly not. There is something to be said by some reactions. Some claimed these were “kids being kids,” blamed the victim by saying Ahlquist (or her family) brought it on themselves, or even said these were just meant to be “funny.”
Disowning these individuals as members of a religious group is not enough. Silence on or even downplaying such hateful words and even threats from members of the religious community show only that many elements of the religious community are more concerned with preserving their reputation than with actually maintaining standards of civility. Members of the Christian community who do not believe these words are from “real” Christians should take the time to admit that bad people exist in every group (even Christianity). More importantly, admitting that this type of harassment and the threats are a recurring problem within the Christian community and should be quickly condemned by all who (who actually disagree) rather than being covered up or downplayed.