You’re Not a Real Christian!

Whenever Christians engage in an exchange on the Internet about anything of almost any substance whatsoever—gays, hell, universal salvation, infallibility of Scripture, women as clergy, cushions on pews, colognes worn by pastors, cookies vs. donuts, off-key hymn belters—it’s inevitable that some Christians will start declaring that other Christians in the conversation aren’t really Christian at all.

I can’t imagine being at an Elk’s Lodge meeting, and having one of the members stand up and say something about the minutes of the last meeting, or whatever—and then having another guy stand up, point at the first guy, and bellow, “You’re not a real Elk! You’re not Elkian!”

Right? You’d think that guy is crazy. Of course the first guy’s an Elk. He’s at the Elk meeting. He’s wearing a Fred Flintstone-style Elk hat. He’s fully Elkian.

If you’re a Christian who has ever declared that someone who says they’re a Christian isn’t, please stop doing that. It makes all us Christians seem just a little more stupid. You have no idea who is and isn’t a Christian, okay? Worry about your own soul. Let God worry about everyone else’s.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://www.epcomm.com/ddawson Dennis Dawson

    If you honestly feel that way, are you truly a Christian?

    Okay, kidding.

    We atheists are always giving each other crap during plane crashes and such when we start praying fervently, just in case.

    ~D

  • Sam

    A true Christian would have nothing to do with Fred "Flintsone" or typographical errors. Or point out spinters… Do the Elks argue over what version of their rules is best or conveys the truest meaning of their founders?

  • http://facebook Ray Wolff

    Hey John, good one. Matthew 7:1-5 says the same thing to me.

  • Greta Sheppard

    Good one, John!

    When will christians finally get it? When will they finally stop judging others based on that they see in them? For goodness sake…God looks at my heart….not my habits! None of us has been given the privilege of seeing what's inside the other person's real self. Only God knows the depth of the human soul/spirit. On the day of Calvary, two thieves hung, one on each side of Jesus. To the crowd, they were both thieves, but Jesus saw the heart of the one who asked forgiveness….and he was immediately accepted….."'…this day, you shall be with me in Paradise"…. I like to think he was Jesus' first convert!

  • CH

    A big Amen from the back pew on this one (you forgot to mention the all important seating grid). :) How effective we could be if we just loved our neighbors and left the judging to God? Not to mention how much happier, internally peaceful and worshipful…………we might even get some non-Christians to want what we've got.

  • http://jem-musings.blogspot.com/ Jeannie

    AMEN. If Christians would stop name calling and denying the Christianity of other Christians, we might just be a bit more like Jesus.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Thanks, all.

    Sam: good catch! I actually wrote that WHILE I was standing in line at a Starbuck's. Now corrected!

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com skerrib

    Where's the dang 'like' button??

  • http://www.steppingintothelight.net Diane L. Harris

    As my husband often preaches, "Don't ask me whether or not you're saved; ask the people who live with you."

  • Claudia S

    I like your point, CH, about getting non-Christians to want what you've got. Speaking as a non-Christian (okay, and an atheist) I think that's important. Having people tell me I simply ought to want what you've got because it's best for me is never going to cut it. On the other hand, seeing genuine freedom, happiness, peace, and so on, in other people, is bound to make me stop and think – do I have that? Do want it? And how do I get it?

    As it turns out, I am happy and peaceful even though I'm not a Christian, but the point remains.

    Thank you for your point too John. One of the reasons that made me leave my church years ago was their distasteful habit of going around telling people that failure to attend their church meant, in essence, failure to know God. It annoyed me no end and I fought it for as long as I was a member. It's nice to hear someone say: Worry about your own soul and leave everyone else's to God. If He does exist then I'm sure He's more than capable of handling it.

    And funny, Dennis! Although I wonder sometimes (like during turbulence) whether God, if He does turn out to be waiting, will say "Just in case isn't good enough" or not. Do you think He'll forgive the atheists John?

  • http://living3dfaith.blogspot.com/ Tim

    @men Greta—Christians on the whole, are no less the knuckle-headed dink-weeds, than the ones Jesus called over 2000 years ago. My heart toward the 'church' continues to improve when I resolve to see myself as God sees me. Giving fellow believers performance evaluations only belies my own sub-par performance. Familiarity breeds contempt

    Holding God responsible for other people's ill will and wicked choices, is just as ridiculous as holding God in contempt for my own shortcomings. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith"—Hebrews 12:2a.

  • http://jmjacob.blogspot.com jmj

    First, great post.

    Second, minor pet peeve of mine:

    You said, “declaring that other Christians in the conversation aren’t really Christian at all.” The 2nd use of the word ‘christian’ is an adjective, not a noun. If I read your post correctly, it should read

    “declaring that other Christians in the conversation aren’t really ChristianS at all.” (I’m not sure how to use html to emphasize it, but I added an ‘S’ in there.

    Just my $0.02.

  • http://www.andyinoman.wordpress.com Andy Brown

    Hi John,

    I think I understand what you're trying to say about the finger pointing but there are certain things that will be evident IF one is truly a Christian. "A good tree produces good fruit. A bad tree cannot produce good fruit…" For example, if one says that he loves Jesus and is a Christian and keeps living in a certain lifestyle that is obviously against the will of God, how on earth can you call that person a Christian and why wouldn't you try to correct them in the error of their ways? In the 2nd epistle of John, it is written, "Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. 11Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work." That is just one (of many!) biblical examples where we are TOLD to look out for false teachers (and therefore "false christians") and to guard against their doctrines of devils. Sounds like John, who has been called "the Apostle of Love", did a fair bit of "you're-not-a-christian-finger-pointing" himself in accordance with the Word of God.

    What about the person who does not accept that Jesus is Christ and Lord but yet considers themselves a "Christian". Do you not think one can tell that person honestly (speaking the truth in love) that they are in fact NOT a Christian? I believe one not only can, but must.

  • http://sparklingbytheway.wordpress.com sparklingbytheway

    I was just explaining this exact idea to my three kids….

  • http://thereisnogray.wordpress.com Jeff

    Should we define Christian, or would that be counter-productive here? I mean is there some Gold Standard we are striving for, or what? Where's the line? If we don't want to go that far, maybe we should define the term "real Christian' or perhas the contradictory evil twin: "fake" Christian…(would that be with lower case 'c' or upper case? hmmmm.) I mean how does one know if one is a Christian if one doesn't know where one stands?

    Oh, never mind.

  • http://autumn1976.wordpress.com skillets

    Why does ANYTHING pertaining to God have to be defined? Why must we call ourselves this or that, instead of simply feeling what we feel, and believing what we believe?

  • Tommy

    I'm not sure I get this. Aren't we told all throughout the New Testament that we are to delineate the difference between a "true believer" and one who is not? We are given warnings to watch out for false believers, and even given criteria by which to distinguish them: "By their fruit you will know them …" "be aware of false teachers …" "There are many who will come in my name, saying they are my disciples …" The very purpose of these admonitions were to help Christians distinguish between "true Christians" and false ones. And we can clearly see in a practical sense why this is so important. There are so many false teachers and doctrines … OF COURSE we are to know the difference! And thank God we have a criteria by which to make those distinctions! Albeit not always a clear line of demarcation — but nevertheless, we not only have Biblical permission to make the distinction — we have a mandate! Why do we then criticize those who simply apply the Biblical guide of discernment of truth? I'm sorry — I don't mean any disrespect — but I believe it is naïve and irresponsible to lead people into believing they DON'T need to be discerning of who is a "true believer." That's how cults are formed — "Just accept the word of anyone who says they are a Christian." Really??? Not me — before you tell me how I am supposed to live this Christian life — your life and words need to match the criteria set out in Scripture. I'm not going to accept it … just because you say so.

    I don't know how the analogy of the Elks applies; but to me, a more suited analogy would be if a person says they are a doctor who is going to cure me, I need to see a little evidence that they are who they say they are. Christianity is not a "pow wow club" of like-minded citizens — it is a belief system, that depending on your system, could mean the difference between life and death! I think we would be wise and Biblically astute to carefully evaluate who is REALLY speaking the truth!!

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    Thanks. Still have the urge to throw Cheetos at them, though.

    I did come close to this myself… in regards to Shelby Spong and people like him who openly don’t believe a lot of the basics of Christianity, a real God, or Jesus as real person. If they want to call themselves “Christian” that’s their thing, but my issue is “why subject yourself to this if you are just somene who enjoys myths without believing in any of it?” I’ve enjoyed Norse mythology – it doesn’t make me neopagan. To call yourself a Christian means to carry a lot of baggage, historical and even socially current and if one is essentially an atheist who likes stories, I don’t see why one wouldn’t call onself that, or differentiate oneself as “Christian by philosophy” rather than “Christian” and thus have to carry the load. When I ask about that, it’s a “for their sake” question. I wouldn’t carry a bag of manure on my back if I didn’t have to.

    But back to the original thing that promted the link here. I think that’s quite a bit different that someone judging my entire Christian experience because I admit to having a bit of agnostism. I think doubt can sharpen faith and admitting to it is just honest. It shouldn’t kick me out of Heaven because, if so, it’s gotta be a pretty empty place. Seriously, the person read *one* paragraph on the Internet. I once knew a Fundamentalist (fire and brimstone hell preachin’ ) pastor who told me it was his job to worry about my soul and he wasn’t worried about mine (was sure I was in the Heaven club) and I’m more inclined to believe him because he knew me personally than some Internet schmoe. Eh, I just figure the Internet-diagnoser is probably young, maybe hasn’t even had a “dark night of the soul” yet, in which case I feel sorry for them, because it’s a’comin and it’s gonna hurt.

    Thanks for this.

    • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

      I agree that Spong is a skeptic, but he still affirms a belief in God, just not our Sunday School version of God.

      • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

        I was never clear on his concept of God… maybe he’s a Deist?

        My “questioning Christianity” with him/his folks isn’t so much judging, as I said, as it is a “wondering why.” Minorities like Deists would probably like more people to admit membership in their club, for the first thing, secondly, Christianity’s baggage.

      • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

        Er, to clarify…

        As for me, I might have some “Deist” leanings myself – as in, I don’t believe in a God who looks like a Michelangelo painting – old Zeus in the sky ready to throw lighting bolts or to come down from the sky in his white robes to bother the Simpsons during their Halloween specials. God is more “incomprehensible” to me, or weirdly “author-like.”

        But I believe in Christianity’s core, sillier junk. Bodily ressurection. The last will be first and the first will be last. The meek shall inhert the Earth – all those nature-reversing things that current science/the current world says “wrong!” on. I keep hoping beyond hope after these kinds of things.

        And if I didn’t, I wouldn’t wear the bag of historical war and social injustice called “Christianity” on my back even as I try to change things.


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